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Neoliberalism and Democracy in Latin America: A Mixed Record

Kurt Weyland
Latin American Politics and Society
Vol. 46, No. 1 (Spring, 2004), pp. 135-157
Published by: Distributed by Wiley on behalf of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3177084
Page Count: 23
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Neoliberalism and Democracy in Latin America: A Mixed Record
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Abstract

This essay argues that neoliberalism has strengthened the sustainability of democracy in Latin America but limited its quality. Drastic market reform seems to have abetted the survival of competitive civilian rule through its external and internal repercussions. By opening up Latin American countries to the world economy, neoliberalism has exposed them to more of the international pressures for preserving democracy that intensified with the end of the Cold War. At the same time, the move to market economics has weakened leftist parties, trade unions, and other proponents of radical socioeconomic reform, reassuring elites and preventing them from undermining democracy. But tighter external economic constraints limit governments' latitude and thereby restrict the effective range of democratic choice; and the weakening of parties and interest associations has depressed political participation and eroded government accountability. The available evidence therefore suggests that neoliberalism has been a mixed blessing for Latin American democracies.

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