First things first, what is Latin America? Where is Latin America? I was very pleased that the lecture began with the definition of where in the world we would be basing our lecture. There is often confusion as to what is Central America, South America and Latin America, so I will not try and solve this argument here. Latin American is considered to be the American’s term for South America, so basically anything below Canada, USA and Mexico.. I think.

The history of this part of the world provides a great account for authoritarian rule for the best part of 200 years in such countries as Mexico, Venezuela, Columbia, Chile and Argentina.  Another interesting historical aspect is of ‘landed elites’ who immigrated from Italy, Spain and Portugal to South America after the abolition of slavery. The Pacific acted as a bridge from Europe to South America and maybe the beginning of our ever shrinking world.

I have a very limited knowledge of South America, especially in terms of political engagement however the cultural aspects have always been of great interest to me, so looking at the political history and present democracy sheds a sad light onto the rulings of populist democracies that are ever present, with Venezuela as the prime example. Democracy by populist voting – and who said money can’t buy you everything!

The 2010 Democracy Index ranks 36.5% of countries as authoritarian regimes and only 12.3% as full democracies. I have been studying Development Politics for 8 weeks and already I am a cynic as the sad reality is that these statics do no shock me, however does trigger my continuous need to ensure that people in these regimes are given a voice without fear of prosecution. What was a surprise was the number of authoritarian regimes had increase from 51 in 2008 to 55 in 2010 and a decline in full democracies from only 30 in 2008 to 26 in 2010. The efforts of democracy promotion have failed and a part of this is due to a decline in freedom media, due to this, countries such as France and Italy are now considered flawed democracies and rightly so, in my opinion.

Thomas Carothers looks at the influence of “sequential democracy” which looks two components that act as prerequisites for democracy – rule of law and state building. The Sequencing Fallacy states that without these two components being well established democracy will not work, and if it does it will largely ineffective. Carothers begins by making an interesting assessment that “democratising states are in fact more conflict-prone than stable autocracies”. This point would suggest that a well established rule of law and state building needs to be in place before the process of voting in a government through a free and fair election. As ideal as he sequential argument is, it is not totally realistic. An autocratic regime is likely to be uninterested in establishing the two conditions as they would, by definition, be self serving and uninterested. Unless, as pointed out by Carothers, they are interested in the potential for economic development, but again it would rely on such an assumption. He later gives an example of East Asian economic growth, which points out that this can be achieved without major progress towards rule of law. My favourite quote from the article nicely puts in place a realist view of the process of democratisation “Pursuing a sequential path promises to rationalise and defang democratic changes by putting the potentially volatile, unpredictable actions of newly empowered masses and emergent elected leaders into a sturdy cage built of laws and institutions.” The second component looks at state building but unlike rule of law the process toward state building is not as rapid, so to ensure functioning capacity, especially after a collapsed or failed state. The emphasis of Sequential Fallacy is so that the two components are complementary and mutually reinforced.

In terms of current affairs this paper provides an interesting insight into the importance of people pushing for a democratically elected party with a “now it’s our turn” mind frame – such as in Tunisia and Egypt, hopefully the rest that have followed will achieve similar outcomes. The paradox in this argument points out in one hand the West’s is unable to control the unpredictability of the democratic process and on the other hand have the power to convince  the people not to part take in the desire to part take in politics. I feel that the West should not be wholly blamed or totally responsible for the conditions of autocratic regimes, by doing this the Gaddafi’s and Mubarak’s of the world get away with their crimes while the West gets all the blame and the responsibility.