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Coopération dans les Amériques
Recueil de textes
Été 2015
Lectures obligatoires
PHILLIPS, Nicola, “The Rise and Fall of Open Regionalism?
Comparative Relections on regional Governance in the Southern Cone
of Latin America”, Third World Quarterly, 24, 2, 2003, pp.217-34.
MACE, Gordon et Jean-Philippe Thérien, “Inter-American Governance:
A Sysyphean Endeavor?”, dans Gordon Mace, Jean-Philippe Thérien et
Paul A. Haslam (Dir.), Governing the Americas : Assessing Multilateral
Institutions, Boulder : Lynne Rienner, 2007, pp. 45-67.
MACE, Gordon, Louis BÉLANGER et al., “Hemispheric Regionalism in
Perspective”, The Americas in Transition. The Contours of Regionalism,
Boulder, Lynne Rienner, 1999: pp. 1-16.
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Third World Quarterly, Vol 24, No 2, pp 217–234, 2003
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The rise and fall of open
regionalism? Comparative
reflections on regional governance in
the Southern Cone of Latin America
ABSTRACT This article argues that the original framework of ‘open regionalism’ underpinning the Mercosur is petering out, and consequently the regional
governance project in the Southern Cone is undergoing a process of redefinition.
The article seeks to understand the nature of this redefinition, and contends that
this task requires a re-orientation of some of the prevalent ways in which the
study of regionalism is approached. Specifically, it highlights the limitations of
an understanding of regionalism merely as a reflection of domestic processes,
and instead argues for a greater attention to processes of regionalisation and
their complex relationship with both regionalism and domestic political economy.
If the sceptics and doomsayers are to be believed, the prognosis for Latin
American regionalist projects is not encouraging. The limited achievements to
date of most subregional blocs, the continuing vitality of bilateralism, the threat
from the wider hemispheric integration project in the Americas, enduring
political instability in various countries across the region, the impact of global
financial volatility, and recurrent economic crisis are not, at least according to
dominant understandings, conditions conducive to the survival and health of
regional integration initiatives. The Mercosur1 is frequently seen as likely either
to disintegrate under its own weight or alternatively to be swallowed up into
whatever sort of Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) might come into being
in the next few years; likewise the Andean, Central American and Caribbean
blocs are commonly depicted as in a process of stagnation, and equally likely to
lose their rationale should hemispheric free trade be negotiated successfully.
Observation of the splintering of the Mercosur, particularly, has meant that much
of the hubris surrounding ‘new’ or ‘open’ regionalism in the early 1990s has
given way to a scepticism about its viability and future prospects. At least at this
level, the parallels with contemporary discussions about APEC and ASEAN ,
reflected in the present collection of papers, are striking.
What I wish to do here is not only take issue with the idea that the Mercosur is
at death’s door, but also to suggest that the endless arguments about whether it is
Nicola Phillips is in the Department of Government, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK. E-mail:
[email protected]
ISSN 0143-6597 print/ISSN 1360-2241 online/03/020217-18 ! 2003 Third World Quarterly
DOI: 10.1080/0143659032000074565
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or not are not the most fruitful way of understanding contemporary regional
governance in the Southern Cone. On an empirical level, I argue that, rather
than being in a process of obsolescence, the Mercosur project is undergoing an
important redefinition and that this is producing, with some parallels to the
process underway in Asia, a rather different kind of regionalism from the ‘open
regionalism’ model which prevailed in the 1990s. On a conceptual level, moreover, I suggest that understanding the nature of this redefinition demands a
reorientation of some of the prevalent ways in which the study of regionalism is
approached. Most especially, domestic political economy is usually taken as
constitutive of regional political economy and consequently regional political
economy is depicted simply as an extension, or a magnification, of domestic
processes. The result is the reinforcement of a rather narrow focus on formal
state-led regionalist projects, which obscures the social processes of regionalisation that surround and overlap with them,2 and indeed has been pivotal in
producing what I consider to be rather misleading accounts of the Mercosur’s
imminent demise. What is needed, I suggest, is an understanding of regional
political economy as involving a set of dynamics which reach beyond formal
regionalist, state-led processes, through which lens we can better understand the
reconfiguration of regional governance in the Southern Cone.
Open regionalism in the Southern Cone
As in Asia, the new regionalism in Latin America has conformed broadly with
a model of ‘open regionalism’, predicated on a perception of the merits of unilateral trade liberalisation for increased and more effective participation in the
global economy. The label ‘open regionalism’, however, does not tell us very
much else about the sorts of regionalism that have emerged on the basis of this
broad rationale. Here, as Kanishka Jayasuriya argues in his contribution to this
issue, a ‘regional governance’ framework offers significantly more value, particularly to a comparative exercise. Let us set out quickly the four central
elements he outlines as comprising a regional governance project:
1. a stable set of international economic strategies;
2. a distinctive set of governance structures which enables regional economic
3. a set of normative or ideational constructs that not only makes possible a
given set of regional governance structures but also makes possible the very
definition of the region;
4. a convergence of domestic coalitions and political economy structures across
the region, which would facilitate the coherent construction of regional
political projects.
When taken to the Southern Cone, these four components proffer not only useful
comparisons with Asian regionalism, but they also constitute a useful starting
point for looking at the pressures under which the Mercosur project laboured
during the 1990s. The first of these, as already suggested, offers a direct
similarity with the East Asian region in the adoption of an ‘open regionalism’
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model of trade liberalisation. Despite some significant sectoral variation, this
model filled its brief relatively well, especially in the early years of the Mercosur,
as a mechanism for reinforcing domestic trade liberalisation as well as spurring a
significant growth in intra- and extra-Mercosur trade. Between 1990 and 1995,
for example, exports increased by an annual average of 28.4% and imports by
27.8%. Between 1990 and 1996 Mercosur’s share of total regional exports
increased from 8.9% to 22.6% (INTAL, 1997: ii). Nevertheless, one of the most
notable features of the Mercosur is that it remains significantly inward-looking,
measured in terms of trade relative to GDP. While the percentages increased
consistently through the 1990s, the figures in Table 1 still demonstrate that the
impact of the ‘open regionalism’ strategy was not to make the region appreciably
more ‘open’ than in its pre-Mercosur days. In Brazil and Argentina especially,
the internal market remains considerably more important than the external sector.
The second element of the framework also suggests some similarities between
Southern Cone and Asian regionalism, in that the governance structures in both
have remained largely informal rather than rules-based. The Mercosur is institutional structure, as has often been noted, is wholly intergovernmental rather than
supranational, and does not rest on an extensive legal framework similar to that
of the NAFTA. Rather, while a number of treaties and agreements underpin the
Selected trade openness measures, 1990-99 (%)
W Hemisphere
excl. Mexico
W Hemisphere
excl. Mexico
1996 1997
Source: IDB Integration and Regional Programs Dept, Integration and Trade in the Americas,
December 2000.
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regional economic strategies of the Mercosur, the latter have been marked by an
important degree of ad hoc decision making, particularly in the progressively
frequent instances of violations by member countries of core agreements in times
of crisis. In part this highly politicised and unstable set of governance structures
is engendered by the customs union model which underpins the Mercosur project
approximates and which, in contrast to a ‘free trade area’ model, requires the
development of policy harmonisation beyond a commitment to the removal of
barriers to market access (Bernier & Roy, 1999: 73). Associated governance
projects are thus in theory defined largely by the political negotiation of policy
harmonisation and the construction of the institutions necessary to sustain such
an arrangement. In good part also, the intergovernmentalism of the Mercosur
reflects an ingrained Brazilian reticence on the matter of institutionalisation, as
well as the anti-statist thrust of the manner in which neoliberalism was pursued in
Argentina under the Menem governments of the 1990s. The point, at any rate, is
that the Mercosur project lacks any form of robust institutionalisation that might
facilitate a more rules-based governance structure.
The third and fourth elements of Jayasuriya’s framework—relating to
ideational constructs and domestic political economy structures—are the most
important for our purposes here, and can be taken in conjunction with each other.
In contrast with the East Asian region, the definition of the Southern Cone
‘region’ has not been approached in cultural terms; indeed, one of the notable
features of Southern Cone regionalism has been the absence of the sort of underlying regional ‘identity’ which is found, to a greater or lesser extent, in a number
of other regional governance projects in the Americas.3 The ideational constructs
that have underpinned Southern Cone regionalism have been of the sort which do
not lend themselves obviously to the task of defining a region—namely, the ideological constructs that derive from the broadest of commitments to democracy
and neoliberalism. Particularly in respect of the neoliberal ideational framework,
moreover, the divergences between Southern Cone countries have been central to
the fragmentation of the incipient project of regional governance and, indeed,
have been inimical to a convergence of domestic political economy structures
and domestic coalitions of the sort envisaged in Jayasuriya’s point 4. Notwithstanding important points of diversity within the Asian region, the emergence of
a model of ‘embedded mercantilism’ represented a relatively robust uniformity
between domestic political economies. While the same might be said of the Latin
American region in the widespread adoption of a roughly Anglo-American
neoliberalism, a suggestion of uniformity is highly misleading, and particularly
so in the context of the Southern Cone, reflecting both historical–institutional
specificities and the highly variegated relationships of the national economies
with the world economy and globalisation processes. A full account of these
divergences between domestic political economy structures is beyond the scope
of this paper, but the relevant point is that they have been constitutive of sharply
contrasting visions of regionalism between the member countries of the
Mercosur, to the extent that there has not been a solid underlying ideational or
normative foundation for the regional governance project.
In this respect one of the principal cleavages relates to the nature of the
Brazilian political economy. On the one hand, the relationship of the state with
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foreign capital has been significantly at variance with that of neighbouring
countries, in that external financing over the course of the 1990s was more
abundantly and readily available to Brazil than to most other Latin American
economies. While most countries were obliged to exercise fiscal responsibility in
order to attract capital, investment flowed into Brazil irrespective of conditions in
which bankrupt state banks continued to issue credit and in which the Central
Bank remained one of the least independent in the region (Kingstone, 1999: 136).
Given that the rationale for regionalism rested on the twin pillars of commercial
expansion and the attraction of foreign investment funds, the impulsion towards
the Mercosur was thus notably less strong for Brazil than it was for its partners.
On the other hand, Brazil is distinguished in the subregion by its diversified trade
structure and the volume of its extra-regional trade, to the extent that even its
commercial interests are much less linked with the regional marketplace than
those of neighbouring countries. For these reasons, the new multilateral round of
trade negotiations is of considerably more concern to Brazil than regional
integration. Indeed, the reticence of the Brazilian government in the early days of
the Mercosur—and more recently towards the hemispheric integration project—
can be explained in large part by the potential trade-off it represents with
multilaterally agreed liberalisation provisions in the World Trade Organization
( WTO ) (de Paiva Abreu, 2003: 23). Brazilian engagement with regional
integration, in this sense, needs to be understood as motivated by strategic and
political goals, most of which relate to the construction of subregional leadership
as a means of mediating the hegemony of the USA in the hemispheric and multilateral arenas. Certainly this strategic vision of the Mercosur became considerably more robust as the hemispheric integration project picked up speed in
the later part of the 1990s, along with negotiations for economic co-operation
with the European Union (EU). The Brazilian indifference to regionalism of the
mid-1990s has thus been progressively replaced by an activism orientated
towards strengthening the Mercosur as a strategic and political platform (see
Phillips, 2000: 393–394).
In Argentina and the smaller member countries, as suggested, the much greater
dependence on the regional marketplace, together with the more pronounced
dependence on and vulnerability to external capital flows, have meant that
participation in the Mercosur has been dictated far more by economic necessity
than was the case for Brazil. The Argentine vision of regionalism consequently
has been expounded by governmental actors as resting on the expansion of the
membership of the regional bloc, and the widening in this sense of the open
regionalism project. While sharing the goal of ‘deepening’ regionalism,
Argentine positions have consistently been orientated also towards an extension
of the Mercosur market, or conversely towards opening extra-regional markets
by means, primarily, of inter-bloc negotiations. The Uruguayan and Paraguayan
focus has fallen somewhere between the ‘deepening’ and ‘expansion’ options,
but their principal concern, not surprisingly, has been with the need for institutionalisation in order to ensure adequate representation of their interests in a
process dominated by the interaction of Argentina and Brazil. The dominance
of primary and agricultural exports in the three smaller member countries, in
addition, shapes a rather different set of structural and negotiating imperatives in
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the regional project from those of the Brazilian government and sections of the
Brazilian business community. In a nutshell, the interests of the latter are tied
principally to trade concerns, conforming closely with the ‘open regionalism’
rationale of using unilateral bloc-driven liberalisation to propel reciprocal liberalisation in other markets and at other levels. The interests of the Argentine,
Uruguayan and Paraguayan governments are dictated by a broader set of
developmental imperatives, of which the attraction of capital and the promotion
of industrialisation are foremost.
The upshot, in sum, is that there has been little convergence of domestic
political economy structures in the Mercosur, and certainly no underlying
‘model’ such as that of embedded mercantilism from which a coherent and stable
set of associated international strategies might have arisen. Indeed, the acceleration of political conflict and dispute over the course of the 1990s suggests that, if
anything, the underlying divergences between domestic coalitions and political
economy structures have become more, rather than less, pronounced, to the
extent that the associated strategies of open regionalism have become less, rather
than more, viable. Certainly the progress made over the 1990s towards a stable
regional governance project was not impressive. By the start of the 2000s, the
Mercosur still constituted a very imperfect customs union, which had made
significant strides in the removal of tariff barriers to trade and the attraction of
FDI, but precious little progress in basic areas such as the harmonisation of
customs procedures, and in important areas such as trade in services, exchange
rate co-ordination, intellectual property, government procurement, the free movement of workers, and institutionalisation (Phillips, 2001: 568). For a time in the
latter part of the 1990s, the movement by the Brazilian government towards a
greater privileging of the Mercosur in its foreign and foreign economic strategies
suggested a convergence, at least, on a commitment to the regional governance
project. Given that this commitment was premised on significantly divergent
motives and interests, however, it did little to paper over the evident fissures in
the bloc and certainly did not approximate a convergence of the disparate visions
of regionalism. To this extent, in some similarity to the manner in which
responses to financial crisis in Asia pulled apart the domestic commonalities
underpinning APEC and the East Asian region, the lack of any such robust
commonalities in the Southern Cone region has meant that the regionalist project
has remained distinctly shallow and fragile.
Two more conjunctural factors come into play at this point. The first relates to
the financial and economic crises that have dominated the landscape of the
Southern Cone since the late 1990s, first with the Brazilian devaluation of 1999,
and then more profoundly with the Argentine default and devaluation of 2001,
and its knock-on effects in Uruguay and Brazil in mid-2002. The effect has been
to undermine further the prospects for a convergence of domestic coalitions, and
also to fracture further the consensus surrounding the Mercosur itself. The
Uruguayan government, particularly, appears to have started down a ‘Mercosursceptic’ path, opening a rift with the rather more optimistic Brazilian vision of
the future of regionalism. Uruguayan President Batlle has branded ideas of a
common currency for the Mercosur as ‘absolutely impossible’ (La Nación, 27
March 2002), and the government showed little hesitation in 2002 in imple222
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menting counter-measures against the impact of the Argentine devaluation.
Moreover, the Uruguayan government became more strident in its preference for
an FTAA over the subregional bloc at the start of 2002, and in the interim for
bilateral relations with the USA. An eagerness to engage in bilateral negotiations
has also been in evidence in Argentina, and Chile signed a bilateral agreement
with the USA in December 2002.
The second conjunctural pressure on subregionalism stems from the hemispheric integration project. If existing subregional arrangements are based on the
extension of trade preferences to member countries, the construction of an FTAA
will necessarily and logically remove the rationale for the smaller trade blocs it
encompasses. The upshot, according to this argument, is that the loss of their
economic rationale will generate a process by which the structures of preferences
and tariffs that define these blocs are gradually or suddenly erased by the
provisions of hemispheric free trade. Such is certainly the vision that the USA
brings to the negotiating table: especially for business and members of Congress,
subregional blocs are perceived to be simply the forerunners and facilitators of
the ‘levelling’ of the hemispheric playing field implied by the FTAA. This vision
of ‘hemispheric globalisation’ thus brings with it the redundancy of subregional
blocs (SELA, 1999: 36–37). While this latter argument should be challenged (see
Phillips, 2003), nevertheless an FTAA does necessarily augur a reconfiguration of
the nature of subregionalism in order to accommodate the rules agreed at the
hemispheric level, and consequently the function of blocs such as the Mercosur
becomes open to considerable question. In a situation in which the Mercosur is
already beset by myriad internal tensions, including preferences for bilateralism
and an ambivalent leadership, the threat to subregionalism from an FTAA has been
seen by many to augur its demise. As Paul Cammack (2001) argues, for instance:
Mercosur … is an ineffective regional association with little remaining capacity to
contribute to regional or global integration, and little capacity to promote other
goals. It is likely to be marginalised by profound differences of perspective between
its major partners, and overtaken by broader processes such as the move towards a
Free Trade Area of the Americas.
I suggest, however, that such a vision issues from a particular way of thinking
about regionalism, and specifically from a focus on the formal, regionalist
processes associated with the regional governance project. It would seem that
much of the problem emerges from the tendency to view regions as simply
‘nations writ large’,4 in the sense that regionalism is portrayed simply as the
magnification of domestic economic activity or sets of policy priorities. In other
words, such a perspective assumes that the regional arena is a modus operandi for
domestic modes of capitalist organisation. The ‘nation writ large’ understanding
of regionalism might identify ways in which domestic policy strategies can be
influenced by the existence of a regional bloc, but allows limited room for the
notion that strategies might be informed, shaped and determined by the processes
associated with the regional project. For this we need an understanding of
processes of regionalisation, parallel to our analysis of formal regionalist
processes. In the context of the Southern Cone, these processes of regionalisation
are significantly stronger than the processes of state-led regionalism, but more223
over serve to buttress the regionalist governance project in ways which cast doubt
on its envisaged obsolescence.
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The contours of market-led regionalisation
Regionalisation, like globalisation, is not a state-led project but rather represents
‘combinations of historical and emergent structures—a complex articulation of
established institutions and rules and distinctive new patterns of social interaction
between non-state actors’ (Gamble & Payne, 1996: 250). The relevant processes
of regionalisation are thus manifold, and cannot all be covered in a single article.5
Our concern here, in the first instance, is with processes of market-led regionalisation, which are grounded specifically in the gradual regionalisation of the
strategies and structures of firms. This re-organisation of capital has propelled the
construction of a genuinely regional market, which crystallises around the
Mercosur, though does not correspond exactly with the borders of its membership. It rests, on the one hand, on the transnationalisation strategies of domestic
firms, and on the other on the strategies of foreign investors and corporations
aiming to erase the limitations to their activity posed by national boundaries
within the Mercosur.
Corporate strategies linked to the Mercosur divide into two groups, the first
relating to purely commercial strategies, found particularly in capital goods
sectors, the second to more direct productive strategies. The latter strategies have
been most characteristic of transnational corporations (TNCs) with operations in
Argentina and Brazil, while complementation between local firms in these two
countries has been concentrated in production activities linked with consumer
and intermediate goods (López & Porta, 1995: 255–256). In many respects it
is the market strategies of TNCs that have been most pivotal in carving out
regionally defined modes of business organisation in the wider Mercosur arena,
and in turn the investment strategies of these corporations have largely been
shaped by the existence of a subregional bloc. While foreign investment in
Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean over the 1990s was directed
predominantly at generating international competitiveness (particularly in firms
and sectors exporting to the USA), across the Southern Cone the target of capital
inflows was consistently local and subregional markets were constructed—and
comparatively protected—by regional integration projects (ECLAC, 2001: 55). In
other words the focus of transnational capital in the Southern Cone has been the
possibilities afforded by investment in local markets to make inroads into the
Mercosur itself, along with the advantages proffered by the subregional economy
of scale. In some cases, in addition, TNCs have sought to take advantage of the
special provisions afforded to certain sectors—most notably the automotive
sector—in the Treaty of Asunción which founded the Mercosur in 1991.
The strategies of foreign-owned TNCs, as a result, have moved consistently
away from a national focus to a regional one. Recent survey data gathered by
Oliveira Holzhacker and Guilhon Albuquerque (2002) suggest, for instance, that
about 85% of EU TNCs (and 63% of the largest Brazilian firms) have elaborated
strategies aimed at the Mercosur market. The clearest dimension of this shift is
reflected in the rationalisation of operations in the Southern Cone, in terms both
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of activity and of management structures. The aim and result of rationalisation
has been that the subsidiaries of TNCs in various parts of the region have become
significantly more specialised, and production activities progressively defined in
regional rather than national terms. Examples include firms such as Nestlé,
Unilever, General Motors, Coca Cola, and Procter and Gamble (ECLAC, 2001:
96). Similar processes are visible in the restructuring of the pharmaceuticals
industry, for instance, and especially in the automobile sector. Along with such
rationalisation strategies, investment strategies over the 1990s also became more
conditioned by the notion of regional expansion, and in national markets thus
became styled as stepping stones to the rest of the Southern Cone, or indeed
Latin America. The example of services markets in Chile stands out in this regard
(ECLAC, 2001: 100). Conversely, the appeal of a Mercosur market has bolstered
the appeal to TNCs of maintaining a presence in various national economies. This
is most especially the case for Argentina, in particular in the automobile, capital
goods and household appliances sectors (López & Porta, 1995: 258).
Likewise, the transnationalisation strategies of Southern Cone firms have been
focused to a preponderant extent on the regional marketplace and have only
exceptionally been genuinely ‘global’ in character. These regionalisation
strategies are particularly pronounced in Argentina, where Mercosur countries
(including Chile and Bolivia) constitute the primary destination for firms’ foreign
direct investment strategies. Take the example of the firm SOCMA.6 While its
activities are still concentrated in Argentina, its presence in Brazil (probably the
strongest of Argentine firms) has steadily and significantly increased since about
1994, and its organisational and management structures are gradually being
reconfigured to take account of this ‘bi-national’ profile. 7 Its operations in
Uruguay have similarly gained in prominence in a number of sectors,8 but
crucially the automotive sector has been dominant in both SOCMA’s own regional
expansion and in the broader processes of corporate regionalisation that have
crystallised in the Mercosur arena since the mid-1990s. The importance of other
Latin American markets should not be overlooked, but here there is a clear
distinction between Argentine firms’ commercial strategies, on the one hand,
and, on the other, investment strategies involving the physical establishment of
industrial operations. Destinations for the former are more regionally diversified
than for the latter, for which Southern Cone economies are overwhelmingly
preponderant. Companies such as Bagó, IMPSAT and the oil company YPF have
industrial operations in North America (mainly in Mexico) and the latter two
indeed might qualify as operational on a ‘global’ stage, but an altogether
much greater number (including Arcor, IMPSA, Pérez Companc, Sancor, and
SOCMA) have an almost exclusively ‘South American’ profile in terms of physical
operations, in which Mercosur countries again are overwhelmingly preponderant
(see Chudnovsky et al, 1999: 123–124).
While in Argentina the focus has fallen emphatically on Mercosur markets, the
profile of Chilean firms’ strategies has been one dominated rather more by
the wider Latin American market, although within this rather more diversified
structure Southern Cone economies still stand out. The Latin American market
has been especially pivotal in the turn towards non-natural resource-based
exports, encompassing both manufactured products and non-financial services
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(Chudnovsky et al, 1999: 266), and the Mercosur market has been particularly
important given the lack of competitiveness of such export products in both
wider regional and global arenas. With regard to Chilean investment, moreover,
Southern Cone economies overshadow destinations in both Latin America and in
the rest of the world. Argentina constitutes the most important destination,
accounting in 1997 for some 43.6% of total Chilean investment, followed by
Peru and then Brazil, the latter accounting for 10.8% in the same year
(Chudnovsky et al, 1999: 281).
Such strategies have been less common in Brazil, where TNCs remain more
dominant and the majority of domestic firms have been absorbed by transnational
interests (Chudnovsky et al, 1999: 9). It is notable that the activities of a good
number of these TNCs in Brazil are orientated towards the domestic market rather
than towards external trade. One side-effect of this comparatively low level of
internationalisation is that the onslaught of competitive pressure for Argentine,
Uruguayan and Paraguayan firms was considerably greater than for Brazilian
firms (as demonstrated by Oliveira Holzhacker and Guilhon Albuquerque’s
(2002) data), given both the relatively protected nature of the Brazilian market
and the fact that Brazilian industrial products were already competitive in the
Southern Cone arena. As we have seen, it is also the case that the attraction to
Brazil of Mercosur economies as trading partners is significantly less than vice
versa. Nevertheless, leaving aside questions of volume, over the course of the
1990s the Mercosur market was the most dynamic destination for Brazilian
exports, growing at an annual average of 26.9% against an annual average
growth rate of only 6.3% for total exports. Exports to Mercosur countries were
also concentrated in manufactured products, which accounted for about 70%
of total exports to Mercosur countries in 1998. Southern Cone economies are also
important as sources of imports, among which Argentine agricultural products
stand out, along with cars, footwear and food products (see da Motta Veiga,
1999: 315, 325). Brazilian foreign investment in services is concentrated overwhelmingly in Mercosur markets, and furthermore Brazilian investment in
Mercosur economies is dominated by investment in services sectors, accounting
for two-thirds of total Brazilian investment in Uruguay and almost 100% of the
total directed from Brazil to Paraguay. Argentina is the preponderant destination
for Brazilian investment in financial services (Page, 2001: 56). Crucially, taking
us back to earlier points in this section, this expansion of both commercial and
investment engagement with the Mercosur arena has been notable for the growth
of the participation in it of TNCs, which increased by an annual average of 56%
over the 1990–97 period (da Motta Veiga, 1999: 329).
For their part, the attitude to the Mercosur of small and medium sized enterprises (PYMEs, in Spanish) across the region has been, inevitably, mixed. On the
one hand, the threat from imported goods has produced caution and, in some
cases, hostility to the liberalisation of regional trade and the construction of a
regional market place. This has been particularly the case where mechanisms of
compensation or active state promotion strategies are lacking, or alternatively in
situations in which the liberalisation of regional trade entails the likely or actual
retraction of state promotion mechanisms. Antipathy to the Mercosur over
the 1990s was also found predominantly in those national firms that were not
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regionally competitive in their particular sector, and this wariness found special
expression, not surprisingly, in those firms and sectors faced with significant
competition from their Brazilian counterparts. For many—perhaps most—PYMEs,
the extraction of meaningful value from the Mercosur was thus at best difficult.
On the other hand, many PYMEs over the 1990s saw the Mercosur as proffering
important opportunities for the expansion of their commercial activity and,
consequently, their competitiveness. Given that participation in the wider ‘global’
economy was not a feasible option for the vast majority of PYMEs, the Mercosur
was thus both a logical strategic focus and a springboard for the future development of more active internationalisation strategies. Francisco Gatto’s (1995)
surveys of Argentine PYMEs in the mid-1990s, for example, revealed that over
half were committed to precisely such an expansion of their exchange with
Mercosur countries, above all with Brazil, although proactive strategies of this
sort remained in rather short supply. He also detected, moreover, a generalised
perception of the potential benefits to be derived from co-operation between
PYMEs in the region, particularly in the interests of enhancing productive specialisation. Such perceptions notwithstanding, it should be emphasised that corporate
strategies aiming at the Mercosur market remain predominantly the preserve
of larger regional and transnational firms. Similarly, the process of market
integration, while still in its early stages, remains driven by big business, often to
the exclusion of smaller firms.
We should take care not to exaggerate the extent of inter-firm co-operation,
whether we are talking about PYMEs, domestic firms or TNCs. Certainly the sorts
of regional production networks that had emerged by the end of the 1990s in the
NAFTA were not mirrored in corporate development in the Mercosur (UNCTAD,
cited in Klein, 2000: 141). The point, nevertheless, is two-fold. First, the
attraction of FDI is vital for the emerging internationalisation strategies of local
firms, and the regional market constitutes a central incentive to inflows of FDI.
Second, evidence suggests that the Mercosur arena is utilised increasingly as a
‘stepping stone’ to more global production strategies, and styled as an ‘incubator’
of industrial competitiveness for this purpose. With the launching of the FTAA
project, this notion of the comparatively protected regional market as an
‘incubator’ has become particularly important. This is so primarily because of the
lack of competitiveness of the bulk of Southern Cone products in both global and
wider hemispheric marketplaces. Particularly in an FTAA in which minimal
liberalisation is envisaged in agricultural trade or other key sectors, the lack of
industrial competitiveness brings with it considerable adjustment costs for almost
all economies. In Brazil the emerging form of hemispheric free trade is seen by
some (particularly smaller and domestic-orientated) business sectors and the state
to represent a sizeable threat. In Argentina as well, the emphasis has fallen on the
costs of adjustment implied by hemispheric free trade for domestic and subregional economic interests. A survey by the Unión Industrial Argentina
(Argentine Industrial Union, UIA) in 1998, for instance, suggested that 70% of
Argentine firms did not feel prepared for an FTAA, and one assumes that the
impact of the current crisis will have increased that proportion. It goes without
saying that the subregional market remains crucial for the smaller economies.
Towards the end of the 1990s the emphasis thus fell on the subregional arena
(protected putatively by a common external tariff) as a site for the adjustment
necessitated by a wider regionalist project.
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States and the reconfiguration of the regionalist project
The result of these processes of market-led regionalisation—in conjunction with
the various other social processes of regionalisation at work—has been not only
the emergence of a new form of regional political economy in the Southern Cone,
but also the reconfiguration of the regionalist governance project. Its significance
thus lies, both empirically and conceptually, in the relationship it signifies
between the regionalist project and broader regionalising processes: in other
words, between the increasingly beleaguered and ponderous formal intergovernmental dimensions of the Mercosur, on the one hand, and on the processes
of market regionalisation, on the other. Rather than advancing alongside the
regionalist project, these regionalising trends have developed a marked independent momentum. The construction of a ‘region’, in this sense, is proceeding
on a number of fronts, of which the formal intergovernmental front became
perhaps the least robust over the course of the 1990s. It is in good part for this
reason that the Mercosur project retains its rationale and utility, despite the
profuse political obstacles to its further consolidation, and indeed despite
the challenges issuing from an eventual FTAA. Crucially also, the regionalist
dimensions of the regional governance project are increasingly orientated to
underpinning these processes of market-led regionalisation, as a result of which
they feature an important shift away from a dominant preoccupation with ‘open
regionalism’ as a strategy of trade liberalisation, towards a set of regionalist
strategies more attuned to the attraction of investment flows, and to industrial
strategies to fostering the competitiveness of indigenous firms. Recent efforts to
so redefine the Mercosur—such as its relaunching of 2000 and the flurry of talks
in the early months of the Argentine crisis—can thus be seen as pointing towards
the consolidation of an environment conducive to the entrenchment of the rules
that undergird this form of regional governance structure.
The reconfiguration of the regionalist project, however, has at its root a
reorganisation of the dominant form of state, which of course drives regionalist
processes. In this regard, our above argument has a good deal in common with
recent currents in the broad study of states and state strategies, in which the
‘regulatory state’ model has become one of the most favoured frameworks. This
model has been applied most frequently to European states (McGowan &
Wallace, 1996; Wilks, 1996; Burnham, 1999), but increasingly to a number of
Asian states (Jayasuriya, 2001) and further to the Chilean case (Muñoz Goma,
1996). In its broadest sense it refers to a process by which economic management
becomes ‘depoliticised’ or else ‘proceduralised’: it is characterised by an increasingly rules-based and technocratic approach to economic governance, in which
there is a greater emphasis on the operational independence of key institutions
such as Central Banks. The functions of such a state are seen to be two-fold: first,
to underpin markets and, second, to address market failures through the provision
of various rights and goods (McGowan & Wallace, 1996: 562). As such,
the notion of the regulatory state has been developed in order to understand a
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situation characterised not by complete deregulation but rather also by key areas
of re-regulation, particularly of financial markets (Gamble, 2000: 114; Burnham,
1999: 46). The regulatory state in this sense is fundamentally an enabling—rather
than a planning or interventionist—one.
At first glance the regulatory state label seems rather problematic as a
descriptor of the changing nature of states in the Southern Cone region. The
implementation of neoliberal strategies both preceded and outstripped the
development of regulatory regimes and capacities, reflecting enduring and
pervasive institutional weakness. Privatisation took place without the previous
preparation of the state to assume the role of regulator of competition and, except
in Chile, central banks have not been accorded significant independence. The
institutional realignments and operational independence associated with the
depoliticisation of policy management and moves towards regulatory governance
elsewhere thus find minimal expression in the Southern Cone. Nevertheless, the
model is useful in identifying a particular mode of economic governance,
notwithstanding the lag in the emergence of the appropriate state structures at the
domestic level. Emerging elements of a depoliticised or regulatory style of
economic management are especially visible in the elements of the model which
emphasise external mechanisms of policy validation and the acceptance of
binding rules for limiting government room for manoeuvre (see Burnham, 1999:
49). In the Southern Cone cases, such mechanisms most obviously include
agreements with multilateral and financial institutions. While they are important
to establishing credibility as well as necessary financing, however, it should be
noted that these mechanisms of external validation remain perceived more as
signs of weakness than as signs of economic health or as manifestations of an
overall ‘depoliticisation’ of economic governance, and that their record of effectiveness has been a rather unhappy one. Mechanisms of external validation which
have found rather firmer ground relate to the implantation of a rules-based
policy-making environment. So-called codes of fiscal responsibility were agreed
in Argentina and Brazil in the late 1990s; the regulatory characteristics of the
Chilean state, which in any case approximates the model most closely, rest
similarly on the principle of fiscal responsibility, along with a structure of
financial regulation. Apart from being politically charged, especially in times of
crisis, the implementation of such laws of fiscal responsibility is complicated by
the aforementioned levels of institutional weakness, but nevertheless the drift at
the domestic level has been towards the elaboration of such mechanisms, which
aim to lay the foundations of a rules-based mode of economic governance.
Moreover, a central avenue by which such institutional and political obstacles
are progressively addressed relates to strategies of regional co-ordination. On
the one hand, such strategies are designed to reinforce rules-based economic
governance by removing discretionary policy-making authority from individual
national governments, and to compensate the institutional weaknesses at the
domestic level which hamper the development of states’ regulatory capacities.
Of course, regional-level co-ordination is in itself a ‘mechanism of external
validation’, and is a key feature of regulatory styles of economic management.
On the other hand, the process of market regionalisation of the sort we have
described—resting heavily on the appeal of a regional economy of scale to TNCs
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and transnationalising domestic firms—requires both the maintenance of the
rules governing such an arrangement between constituent countries, and the
further harmonisation of domestic policies in order to increase the stability and
attractiveness of this marketplace for private sector activity. The bulk of relevant
regional initiatives in the late 1990s and early 2000s were tied up with the
nascent progress of policy harmonisation, a first step towards which was
statistical harmonisation in order to increase the accountability and transparency
integral to regulatory styles of economic governance, and then progress towards
the negotiation and agreement of common fiscal targets among Mercosur
member countries. The issues of taxation and other economic policies that are
necessary accompaniments to fiscal reform are also part and parcel of the
emerging process of macroeconomic convergence. Most importantly, the negotiation of common investment rules and competition policy has been identified as
central to the process of deepening and redefining integration in the Mercosur,
and these are pivotal in constituting the emerging regional governance structure.
Early movements in the area of competition policy turned out to be largely
illusory—the 1996 Protocol for the Defence of Competition is still awaiting
congressional approval to make it legally enforceable—but there has been a
handful of subsequent initiatives which indicate some (slow) progress towards
the agreement of some regional norms. Examples include the establishment in
2000 of a working group on investment incentives, and Argentina’s 1999
Defence of Competition Law, which aligned Argentine competition policy more
closely with Brazil’s and is likely to facilitate the advance of harmonisation
(Chudnovsky & López 2003: 151). The consequence is that a movement towards
a rules-based style of economic governance is reinforced by the imperative of
maintaining for investors the coherence of the regional market and transparency
in the policy rules which govern it.
The key point in all of this, however, relates not only to the ways in which
regional co-ordination facilitates the elaboration of various state strategies, or
to the ways in which the reorganisation of the state propels and underpins the
reconfiguration of the regionalist project, but also to the ways in which the shape
of domestic political economy is moulded by processes of regionalisation. As
suggested earlier, this dimension of the relationship between domestic and
regional processes is neglected as a consequence of the ‘nation writ large’ framework which pervades much of the study of regionalism. In other words, alongside
our understanding of the ways in which regionalist projects emerge from and
reinforce domestic processes, we need an understanding of the impact of
regionalising forces on the shape of domestic political economies and processes
of change within them. Our attention here to the reorganisation of the dominant
form of state in the Southern Cone, propelled by processes of market-led
regionalisation and manifested in the form of the regionalist project, thus
suggests the need to dispense with the ‘nation writ large’ assumption and to seek,
instead, to understand a much more complex relationship between regional and
domestic political economy. It also underlines our earlier argument that a focus
merely on formal regionalist processes is inadequate for understanding either the
regional governance project underpinning the Mercosur, or indeed its viability.
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As in Asia, the original project of open regionalism in the Southern Cone
appears effectively to have petered out. This is not, like in Asia, the immediate
consequence of financial crisis: rather, it reflects a more protracted process of
internal fragmentation which has stunted the evolution of the regionalist project
beyond its early successes in the area of trade liberalisation, and which issues
predominantly from the entrenched divergence of domestic political economy
structures—and consequently what we have called ‘visions of regionalism’—
among member countries. Although for different reasons, then, regionalism in
both Asia and the Southern Cone is in a state of flux, and I have argued that a
‘new’ regional governance project is crystallising in the latter which represents
quite a significant departure from the regionalism of the early 1990s. Pulling
together the strands of the above arguments, I suggest that the ‘new’ regional
governance project in the Southern Cone has three essential characteristics:
● The constitution of the region primarily through market-led and other
regionalisation processes, which lend rationale and impetus to the maintenance of the regionalist project of the Mercosur.
● The reorganisation of the regionalist project to privilege investment attraction
and industrial competitiveness, and to construct a rules-based governance
foundation for the emerging regional marketplace.
● The dominance of strategic and political objectives in visions of the Mercosur
project, focused on external negotiations, and reflected particularly in the
articulation of Brazil’s subregional leadership role.
This reorganisation of the regionalist project has taken place against the backdrop
of an increasingly complex wider regional context, of which the negotiations for
an eventual FTAA are the most salient dimension. The hemispheric project augurs
a more messy and overlapping pattern of regionalist arrangements (which in
many ways resembles patterns in the Asian region), and not, as the ‘hemispheric
globalisation’ rhetoric suggests, an absorption of the existing patchwork of
regionalist projects into a single FTAA. Accommodation between these contending
projects is consequently the primary challenge for regionalism, and indeed the
contours of the Southern Cone project that have been sketched here reflect this
context. There is a sense in which an FTAA represents an alternative regionalist
project which will compensate for the numerous deficiencies of the Mercosur.
Certainly a good number of the most obvious sticking points, such as services
and investments, will be negotiated at the hemispheric level. This might well be
used as part of an argument that the Mercosur will lose validity as much of the
policy framework becomes standardised outside its borders. However, it is
important to recognise that the Mercosur and FTAA processes are separate from
one another, and are treated as such within the Mercosur. The central aims are
similar—namely to eliminate export subsidies and to restrict the use of measures
such as anti-dumping in trade relationships—but it is precisely these issues that
might best be treated in the Mercosur, especially given the reluctance of the USA
to open them for negotiation at the hemispheric level or in the WTO. Furthermore,
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there is no necessary correspondence between internal Mercosur policy and
negotiating positions in the FTAA, and the activities of the national working
groups and institutions that are involved in the FTAA negotiations are aimed
exclusively in this direction. Consequently, in areas such as industrial policy,
treatment of smaller and poorer economies, anti-dumping and restrictive trade
practices, perhaps social policy, and perhaps even dispute resolution, the
Mercosur presents an arena in which regionally appropriate policies (or those
which fill the gaps left at the hemispheric level) might be designed. The contours
of the new regional governance project, in this sense, are both compatible with,
and shaped by, its emerging relationship with the wider regionalist process in the
In conceptual terms, I have argued that an understanding of contemporary
regional governance in the Southern Cone, and indeed elsewhere, requires a
much closer attention to processes of regionalisation and their relationship with
the formal regionalist project. Regionalisation cannot be understood in the
absence of a conception of regionalism: on the one hand, the latter seeks to
accelerate, modify, or perhaps reverse these processes of social change and, on
the other, it is pivotal in the continual reproduction of these structures (Gamble &
Payne, 1996: 250). What regionalism means, in essence, is that strategies of
national economic management and the processes by which accumulation occurs
(as well as the type of accumulation that is privileged) can be expected to
undergo a redefinition. This redefinition involves a reconfiguration of social
relations occurring over a regional, rather than a domestic, terrain and the
emergence of common forms of market organisation and economic strategy.
However, regionalisation also needs to be conceptualised as constitutive of
regionalism, and indeed the case of the Southern Cone suggests that, increasingly, it is the emerging dynamics and architecture of regionalisation that have
lent rationale to the ailing regionalist project and have shaped the domestic and
international strategies it represents. While the dynamism of regionalisation thus
clearly depends on the articulation of a viable regionalist project which underpins
the associated processes, progressively, the regionalist Mercosur project derives
its meaning and impetus from these non-state and market-driven dynamics.
Mercado Común del Sur, or Southern Common Market, comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and
Uruguay, with Chile and Bolivia currently as associate members.
I draw here on Anthony Payne and Andrew Gamble’s (1996: 2) definitions of regionalism and
regionalisation, the former referring to ‘a state-led or states-led project designed to reorganise a
particular regional space along defined economic and political lines’, and the latter to ‘a social process
manifest at the regional level’. Following their lead, I use the adjective ‘regionalist’ specifically to
refer to regionalism, and the adjective regional to denote the much broader context of both region and
the conjunction of processes associated with regionalism and regionalisation.
It is interesting, in this regard, that one of the principal pillars of the Brazilian-driven push towards
closer integration in the region was the creation of a South American—as opposed to Latin American
or indeed hemispheric—identity, which would facilitate the construction of a South American Free
Trade Area (SAFTA).
This phrase is borrowed from Hugo Radice (2000: 8), who uses it in the different context of the treatment of regions in the globalisation literature, referring to the tendency to treat a region as a nation in
order to assert that globalisation can be condensed into a notion of regionalisation, and thereby to
question the existence of the former.
These myriad processes of regionalisation, and their constitution of a new regional political economy,
are elaborated in my forthcoming The Southern Cone Model: The Political Economy of Regional
Capitalist Development. The material in this section draws on this source.
Sociedad Macri. SOCMA classifies its activities principally in the fields of public services and infrastructure, automobiles, construction, food and information technology. See
for a profile of its interests, assets and activities.
‘SOCMA: taking Mercosur seriously’, Argentina Monthly, August 1999, at
See interview with Francisco Macri (president of SOCMA) for the Uruguayan radio station Radio El
Espectador, 6 October 1999, at
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Bernier, I & Roy, M (1999) NAFTA and Mercosur: two competing models?, in: G Mace, L Bélanger &
contributors (eds), The Americas in Transition: The Contours of Regionalism, pp 69–91 (Boulder,
CO: Lynne Rienner).
Burnham, P (1999) The politics of economic management in the 1990s, New Political Economy, 4 (1),
pp 37–54.
Cammack, P (2001) Mercosur and Latin American integration, in: K Radke & M Wiesebron (eds),
Competing for Integration: Japan, Europe and Latin America (New York: ME Sharpe).
Chudnovsky, D, Kosacoff, B & López, A (1999) Las Multinacionales Latinoamericanas: Sus Estrategias
En Un Mundo Globalizado (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica).
Chudnovsky, D & López, A (2003) Policy competition for foreign direct investment, in: D Tussie (ed),
Trade Negotiations in Latin America: Problems and Prospects, pp 135–154 (Basingstoke: Palgrave).
Da Motta Veiga, P (1999) Brasil en el Mercosur: política y economía en un proyecto de integración, in: J
Campbell (ed), Mercosur: Entre la Realidad y la Utopía, pp 299–373 (Buenos Aires: Grupo Editor
de Paiva Abreu, M (2003) Latin American and Caribbean interests in the WTO, in: D Tussie (ed), Trade
Negotiations in Latin America: Problems and Prospects, pp 19–31 (Basingstoke: Palgrave).
ECLAC (UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) (2001) Foreign Investment in
Latin America and the Caribbean, 2000 Report (New York: United Nations).
Gamble, A (2000) Economic governance, in: J Pierre (ed), Debating Governance: Authority, Steering,
and Democracy, pp 110–37 (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Gamble, A & Payne, A (1996) Conclusion: the new regionalism, in: A Gamble & A Payne (eds),
Regionalism and World Order, pp 247–264 (Basingstoke: Macmillan).
Gatto, F (1995) Las exportaciones industriales de pequeñas y medianas empresas, in: B Kosacoff (ed),
Hacia una nueva estrategia exportadora: La experiencia argentina, el marco regional y las reglas
multilaterales, pp 133–173 (Buenos Aires: Universidad Nacional de Quilmes).
INTAL (1997) Informe Mercosur No 3, 1996–1997 (Buenos Aires: BID-INTAL).
Jayasuriya, K (2001) Globalisation and the changing architecture of the state: regulatory state and the
politics of negative coordination, Journal of European Public Policy, 8 (1), pp 101–123.
Kingstone, P (1999) Constitutional reform and macroeconomic stability: implications for democratic
consolidation in Brazil, in: P Oxhorn & PK Starr (eds), Markets and Democracy in Latin America:
Conflict or Convergence?, pp 133–160 (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner).
Klein, W (2000) El Mercosur: Empresarios y sindicatos frente a los desafíos del proceso de integración
(Caracas: Editorial Nueva Sociedad).
López, A & Porta, F (1995) Nuevas modalidades de inserción internacional: el Mercosur’, in: B Kosacoff
(ed), Hacia Una Nueva Estrategia Exportadora: La Experiencia Argentina, El Marco Regional Y Las
Reglas Multilaterales, pp 231–277 (Buenos Aires: Universidad Nacional de Quilmes).
McGowan, F & Wallace, H (1996) Towards a European regulatory state, Journal of European Public
Policy, 3 (4), pp 560–576.
Muñoz Gomá, O (1996) Hacia el estado regulador, in: O Muñoz Gomá (ed), Después de las
Privatizaciones: Hacia el Estado Regulador, pp 19–47 (Santiago: CIEPLAN/Dolmen Ediciones).
Oliveira Holzhacker, D & Guilhon Albuquerque, JA (2002) Attitudes and strategies of multinational
enterprises about regional integration in Brazil, mimeo (Research Centre for International Relations,
University of São Paolo), March.
Page, S (2001) Regional integration and the investment effect, in: V Bulmer-Thomas (ed), Regional
Integration in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Political Economy of Open Regionalism,
pp 45–64 (London: Institute of Latin American Studies).
Payne, A & Gamble, A (1996) Introduction: the political economy of regionalism and world order, in:
A Gamble & A Payne (eds), Regionalism and World Order, pp 1–20 (Basingstoke: Macmillan).
Phillips, N (2003) Reconfiguring subregionalism: the political economy of hemispheric integration in the
Americas, International Affairs, 79 (2), pp 257–279.
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Phillips, N (2001) Regionalist governance in the new political economy of development: ‘relaunching’
the Mercosur, Third World Quarterly, 22 (3), pp 565–583.
Phillips, N (2000) Governance after financial crisis: South American perspectives on the reformulation of
regionalism, New Political Economy, 5 (3), pp 383–398.
Radice, H (2000) Responses to globalisation: a critique of progressive nationalism, New Political
Economy, 5 (1), pp 5–19.
SELA (Sistema Económico Latinoamericano) (1999) Reflexiones sobre la dinámica de las relaciones
externas de América Latina y el Caribe, Capítulos del SELA, 55, pp 7–57.
Wilks, S (1996) Regulatory compliance and capitalist diversity in Europe, Journal of European Public
Policy, 3 (4), pp 536–359.
MACE, Gordon et Jean-Philippe Thérien, « Inter-American Governance: A Sysyphean
Endeavor? », dans Gordon Mace, Jean-Philippe Thérien, et Paul A. Haslam (Dir.), Governing
the Americas : Assessing Multilateral Institutions, Boulder : Lynne Rienner, 2007: pp. 4567.
Inter-American Governance:
A Sysyphean Endeavor?
Gordon Mace & Jean-Philippe Thérien
In the early 1980s the inter-American system went through a period of such turbulence
that some observers believed its main institutional base – the Organization of American States
(OAS) – was on its last legs (Bloomfield and Lowenthal 1990, p. 869; Gannon 1984; Vaky 1993,
p. 11). The Falkland crisis, the unending civil wars in Central America, the perpetuation of
authoritarian regimes in a number of countries, and the disinterest of political elites appeared at
the time to be insurmountable obstacles to the development of dynamic hemispheric cooperation.
Due largely to the end of the Cold War, this climate of pessimism shifted in a
surprisingly short space of time. Held in Miami in December 1994, the first Summit of the
Americas ushered in a new era in inter-American relations amidst feelings of shared values, new
and renewed friendships 1 , and revitalized hope in the future of regional cooperation. A high
point of that new era came in September 2001 with the adoption of the inter-American
Democratic Charter on the very day the United States was hit by extreme terrorist attacks. Yet,
within a year after the agreement on the Democratic Charter was reached, the general impression
was that the inter-American system had re-entered a period of relative paralysis, which the
Fourth Summit of the Americas, held in Mar del Plata in November 2005, did little to attenuate.
Broadly speaking, this chapter seeks to better elucidate why hemispheric relations
constantly oscillate between periods of innovative institution-building and periods of nearstagnation. Within this general context, our more specific objective will be to provide an analysis
of the current state of inter-American governance, and explain why the new institutional design
introduced in 1994 did not achieve the success that had been anticipated.
Our study is grounded on three key ideas that can be summarized as follows. First, it is
important to acknowledge that since the first pan-American conference of 1889-90 the history of
the Americas has been characterized by the slow construction of a hemisphere-wide system of
governance. Granted, this construction has always been a conflict-ridden process, strewn with
stumbling blocks. Evidently, the inter-American regime of governance is not as strong as that
associated with European integration. In comparison with the European experience, dominated
by the European Union, the inter-American system is limited by its allowing the co-existence of
several levels of inter-State governance in the region: a hemispheric structure under the aegis of
the OAS and its related agencies, and a variety of sub-regional structures such as NAFTA,
CARICOM or the incipient South American Community of Nations. Yet inter-American
governance involves a complex set of institutions, norms and rules that cover almost every
aspect of international relations. That is why the Americas provide a potentially fertile source of
instruction for anyone interested in the development of "sub-global international societies"
(Buzan 2004, p. 18).
Secondly, our analysis is based on the observation that the inter-American system of
governance has evolved in a cyclical rather than a linear fashion. The notion of “cycles” was
notably used by historian Arthur Schlesinger (1986) who suggested that the foreign policy of the
United States underwent profound changes roughly every thirty years. More closely related to
the theme of this chapter, the concept of “cycles” was recently taken up by Javier Corrales and
Richard Feinberg, who described hemispheric cooperation in terms of its "many-steps-forwardsome-steps-backward trajectory" (1999, p. 9). Opinions naturally vary concerning the
periodization of this trajectory, but there is a fairly widespread agreement on three moments of
significant consolidation of hemispheric governance – 1889, 1948 and 1994 – which represent
turning points on the road to an institutional and normative renewal of the inter-American
system. Although the regression of the recent years was certainly not unavoidable, it is consistent
with a logic of déjà vu that has continued to render the advances of regional cooperation in the
Americas highly tenuous.
Thirdly, our analysis stresses the idea that inter-American governance is to a large extent
shaped by the social and political environment. Of course, institutional variables also exercise a
decisive influence on hemispheric politics. In this regard, it is clear that the introduction of
summitry in 1994 generated a strong impulse for the renewal of the governance of interAmerican relations by creating a new institutional design (Aggarwal 1998). In addition, the
notion of “nesting” proposed by Aggarwal provides a stimulating insight for an account of some
recent difficulties of inter-American governance. Nevertheless, as we shall see, the divergence of
values and the absence of political will no doubt do more than any institutional variables to
explain, ultimately, the hindrances blocking the development of inter-American cooperation.
The rest of the chapter is divided in two parts. The first looks at the 1889-1994 period,
and examines how inter-American governance underwent two distinct cycles of expansion and
decline. The second part of the chapter focuses on the latest cycle of hemispheric cooperation,
which began in 1994. Following an analysis of the new institutional design that was established
at that time, the section examines four variables to account for the current paralysis of interAmerican cooperation: the inefficiency of the institutional design, the confusion in priorities, the
lack of resources, and the absence of democratic legitimacy.
Inter-American Governance until 1994
A) A Cyclical Evolution
For the past 100 years or so, inter-American relations have evolved in cycles. Each cycle
was composed of a short period of institution-building which was followed by a longer period of
paralysis. In each case, institution-building was made possible by a combination of several
factors in which three elements seem to have been particularly decisive: a favorable international
context, U.S. leadership, and the capacity to reach a “historic compromise” in U.S.-Latin
American relations. Stagnation, on the other hand, arose from a blend of misperceptions and
divergent expectations regarding what inter-American cooperation implied in terms of rights and
The first cycle started with the first International Conference of American States that took
place in Washington from October 1889 to April 1890, and lasted until the end of the 1930s.
Although limited, institution-building lasted twenty years. It ended with the fourth Pan-American
conference of 1910, which transformed the Commercial Bureau of the American Republics into
the Pan-American Union. The emergence of an inter-American system of governance resulted
essentially from the ascendancy of the United States on the international scene as of the end of
the 19th century. Propelled by the determination of the Secretary of State James Blaine, the U.S.
government played an instrumental role in the organization of the first Pan-American
conference. Most importantly, Washington proved able to convince Latin American countries
that they could enhance their status in world politics by joining in a regional system of the
Despite its promising beginnings, hemispheric cooperation subsequently went through a
long period of stagnation in which, to quote the respected historian Gordon Connell-Smith, “PanAmericanism had not achieved a great deal”. (1974, p. 127). The perception of shared interests
that may have existed on the eve of the 1889 conference had all but disappeared in the 1930s,
after years of U.S. unilateralism and military interventions in the region. U.S. behavior served
only to illustrate the ambiguities of the 1889 compromise: whereas Washington had hoped for
the establishment of a regional customs union, Latin American leaders were mostly interested in
an agreement that would have made the right of conquest illegal (Moreno Pino 1977, pp. 75-6;
Corrales and Feinberg 1999, pp. 5-7). The ensuing events left both parties with the confirmation
that their feelings of disappointment had been justified.
B) Post-1948 Institution-building
The second cycle of inter-American cooperation lasted over 45 years, starting in 1947-8.
The period of institution-building, however, lasted only seven years, ending more or less with the
U.S.-supported coup in Guatemala in 1954. The transformation of Pan-Americanism in the
1940s was again engineered by the United States. In fact, the restructuring of hemispheric
cooperation was part and parcel of the new world order established after World War II under
U.S. leadership. The new order was of course largely shaped by the East-West divide, but it also
very quickly came to be distinguished by the burgeoning of international institutions. Beginning
with the establishment of the UN system, this phenomenon soon spread to the regional level. It is
against this background that the OAS was founded in 1948, becoming the world's first regional
organization. The “historic compromise” on which the OAS was based took the form this time of
an agreement by which Latin American governments accepted to take part in a regional security
regime in return for the U.S. support in favor of the principle of non-intervention.
From 1945 to 1948, five conferences enabled the governments of the region to create a
complex set of institutions that would govern inter-American relations (Atkins 1989, p. 207-36).
With its Council, its Meeting of Consultation of Foreign Ministers and its Specialized
Conferences, the OAS emerged as the main political component of this new system. The OAS
nurtured extremely high expectations: Its Charter, adopted in 1948, declared that America's
"historic mission" was to "offer to man a land of liberty and a favorable environment for the
development of his personality and the realization of his just aspirations" (OAS 1989).
It also became possible in the 1940s to consolidate the inter-American architecture
through the addition of regional norms in the areas of security and human rights. With respect to
security, the 1947 Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty) instituted a
system of regional collective security, and the 1948 Inter-American Treaty on Pacific Settlement
(Pact of Bogotá) committed the parties "to settle all disputes without resort to force" (Ball 1969,
p. 426). Concerning human rights, the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man,
adopted in 1948, earned the distinction of being the first legal instrument designed to set up an
international regime in this sphere of activity (Stoetzer 1993, p. 245).
Overall, quite a lot was done between 1945 and the end of the 1950s to restructure interAmerican governance around a dense network of institutions and norms. But institutions do not
automatically equate with cooperative behavior. Many analysts have argued that inter-American
governance, and particularly the OAS, entered a state of crisis starting in the 1950s (Stoetzer
1993, p. 295). Again, the “historic compromise” behind hemispheric cooperation appeared to be
fraught with ambiguity. From the Latin American viewpoint, the OAS was supposed to be a
shield against U.S. hegemony, whereas for the U.S. the organization was perceived as a vehicle
for its foreign policy interests (Thérien, Fortmann and Gosselin 1996, p. 232). Because of these
differing outlooks, hemispheric governance was stymied for three decades.
C) Towards the Paralysis of the Inter-American System
The period from the mid-fifties through 1985 was a difficult period for the interAmerican system. Regime-building did occur in some areas, as witnessed by the creation of the
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB 1959), the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights (1959) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (1978). Treaties were signed and
conferences were held. In particular, the 1967 Meeting of American Heads of State in Punta del
Este attracted the attention of the diplomatic community and the media. But this gathering, which
was supposed to relaunch hemispheric cooperation and help Latin American economic
integration (Connell-Smith 1974, pp. 248-9), simply confirmed that the OAS and the interAmerican system had little relevance for regional politics.
A number of reasons explain this long period of decline in hemispheric governance. A
major factor had to do with the U.S. interventions in Guatemala in 1954 and in the Dominican
Republic in 1965. These reminded Latin Americans that U.S. unilateral behavior was still a
dominant form of Washington’s foreign policy in the region. Each time the United States
considered its national interests to be at stake, the logic of power prevailed over the principles of
international law. Some observers have summed up this situation by stating that the OAS was
governed by the principle of “la mayoría de uno” (Ezeta 1992, 25).
Other factors linked to the international context were also at work. One of them was the
Cuban Revolution of 1958, which introduced a Cold War dynamics in the Americas, thereby
creating a difficult environment for regional cooperation to develop. From then on, the Cold War
poisoned inter-American relations for a whole generation. Blinded by its East-West reading of
the civil wars that ravaged El Salvador and Nicaragua during the 1980s, American diplomacy
sought for a long time to resolve these conflicts through military rather than political means. As
this strategy had practically no support elsewhere in the hemisphere, it greatly contributed to
undermining any form of inter-American dialogue.
Another international factor was the nascent North-South confrontation over a new
international economic order. In the various forums where economic issues were heatedly
discussed, the Unites States was on one side of the fence and Latin American governments were
on the other. The North-South cleavage, along with the mood of economic nationalism spreading
in many sub-regions of the Americas, had a structuring effect on diplomatic relations across the
hemisphere. Regional integration schemes were flourishing while Latin American governments
created sub-regional institutions, such as the Special Commission for Latin American
Coordination (CECLA), the Economic System for Latin America (SELA) and the Rio Group, to
better defend their own specific interests. For Latin American governments, these organizations
rapidly came to be seen as more appropriate instruments of representation and expression than
hemispheric institutions, whose legitimacy was significantly reduced.
The external environment thus goes a long way to explain the paralysis of inter-American
governance that started in the second half of the 1950s. International rigidities might have been
reduced if initial expectations had been fulfilled, but that was never the case. Washington used
hemispheric institutions as a way to legitimize its own unilateral behavior in pursuit of its
interests while equitable economic partnership never succeeded. The “historic compromise” had
failed again, and the hopes that had emerged in the 1940s for a new era for inter-American
cooperation were shattered.
II Understanding the Present Cycle of Inter-American Governance
A) A New Institutional Design
A new cycle of inter-American cooperation was made possible by a series of events that
occurred in the 1980s, both at the international and at the regional levels. The end of the Cold
War and the implosion of the Soviet Union had a significant impact on inter-American
dynamics. These events considerably strengthened the United States’ hegemonic position in
world affairs and limited the options for anti-U.S. policies in Latin America. The perception of
emerging trade blocs, particularly in Europe, also played a catalytic role in the renaissance of
hemispheric cooperation. But the external debt crisis of the early 1980s was probably the main
engine for change because of the tremendous effect it had on economic policies in all of Latin
America and the Caribbean (ECLAC 1992, 1994).
The debt crisis not only had severe economic consequences for the populations involved,
but it also caused a psychological shock. Under strong pressure from international financial
institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, decision-makers in most countries of the region
had to rethink the old ways of doing things and to adopt new patterns of behavior. All over the
hemisphere, neo-liberal policies replaced economic protectionism, and representative democracy
became the political model to follow.
The victory of "market democracy" was warmly received by the U.S. administrations of
the first part of the 1990s. The U.S. discourse on inter-American politics was studded with
references to “shared values” and a “convergence of interests,” and unrealistic expectations
emerged. From Washington’s point of view, policy-makers all over the Americas now had to
“seize the moment” and use the “window of opportunity” so that the new regional consensus
could become instrumental in remodeling hemispheric relations (Aronson 1996, p. 184; Bush
1989, p. 505; Gore 1994; Christopher 1993, p. 625; Watson 1995; see also Leiken 1994 and
Shaw 2004, pp. 1-5). More than anything else, it is this apparent consensus that explains the
upsurge of hemispheric regionalism during the 1990s and the introduction of a new institutional
design for inter-American governance. This design created two parallel structures: a political,
decision-making structure centered on the Summit of the Americas (SOA), and a technical,
administrative structure centered on the OAS and other bodies involved in regional affairs (Mace
and Loiseau 2005, pp. 124-9).
Given the dismal record of the OAS up to the 1980s, the U.S. policy-makers – who were
the prime movers of summitry – did not feel that the OAS had the organizational capacity to
support and sustain by itself the renewal of inter-American regionalism (Feinberg 1997, p. 101).
Consequently, they convinced their counterparts in the hemisphere to create a twin-structure
where the general orientations of inter-American governance would be adopted during summits
of Heads of State. Closely integrated to the leaders summits, sectoral ministerials in the fields of
Defense, Justice, and Labor for instance, would act as a kind of follow-through mechanism and
take care of decision-making in specific areas.
Alongside this decision-making structure would be another one of a more administrative
nature. Composed of the OAS, its specialized agencies and other regional organizations such as
the IDB and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), this technical structure would be
charged with implementing the decisions made during summits and ministerials, as stipulated in
the Plans of action adopted by the Heads of States at each summit. Though the new institutional
design might regrettably weaken the OAS as the only permanent diplomatic forum of the region,
many gains were expected from the new organizational architecture of hemispheric regionalism.
Indeed, the introduction of summitry in hemispheric affairs in 1994 had four very
positive effects. The first was the personal involvement of the Heads of State. From 1948
through 1994, with few exceptions, the OAS had dramatically failed in its role as the driving
political force behind inter-American governance. Rosenberg (2001, p. 83) has noted that the
organization was perceived by many as “a ‘talk shop’ for unqualified diplomats sent to pasture in
a place where nothing meaningful could or would be done”. Summitry had the potential to
change that perception dramatically by having the presidents and prime ministers define the
course of hemispheric regionalism and, in so doing, provide greater authority and legitimacy to
inter-American cooperation.
A second effect of summitry was to give unprecedented visibility to the inter-American
system. Up to 1994, public interest concerning OAS affairs was essentially limited to the small
policy community around the organization. What summitry did was to put regional affairs on
television and in front-page news, thereby placing hemispheric issues before the public of the
Americas as never before. A third, related effect was to foster civil society involvement in interAmerican governance. Before the Miami meeting, interest groups and non-governmental
organizations were largely ignored by governments and regional bodies in the conduct of
hemispheric politics. By institutionalizing mechanisms for civil society participation, the summit
process sent a message that civil society should be considered as a legitimate partner in the
management of inter-American affairs.
Finally, summitry breathed new life into the whole of inter-American cooperation. Not
only did it generate discussions on the machinery of inter-American governance, but it also
developed an agenda for various dimensions of hemispheric regionalism in relation to the
economy, the environment, security, health, education and so on. While hemispheric relations
had begun to warm up as of the late 1980s, it was the Summit process that justified the
references to a “new cycle” in inter-American cooperation.
The introduction of hemispheric summitry in 1994 had all the potential to create a
“nested substantive linkage” as defined by Aggarwal (1998, pp. 20-1). It could have allowed the
reconciliation of a new institution (summitry) with an older one (the OAS and related agencies) 2 ,
thereby modifying inter-American governance so as to give a new impetus to cooperation in the
Americas. As we shall see in the next section, however, the promise was not fulfilled.
B) Roadblocks to Hemispheric Cooperation
After more than ten years of coexistence between the SOA and the OAS, the efficient
merging of these two structures remains problematic. In fact, the new institutional design of
inter-American governance is affected by at least four significant problems.
1- Inefficiency of the Institutional Design
When one examines the organizational charts of inter-American governance, there is
some logic to the institutional design that has been adopted. In principle, coordination between
the SOA and the OAS structures is carried out in the following way. The agenda of hemispheric
regionalism is determined primarily by the summits. With its Declaration and its Plan of action,
each summit sets the course of action for the period leading up to the next summit. In ten to
twelve policy areas, ministerial meetings are held periodically 3 in order to set a more specific
agenda. Regional organizations and national governments are then responsible for the concrete
implementation of summit mandates. Implementation is monitored by the Summit
Implementation Review Group (SIRG), which reports annually to Foreign Ministers. Finally, the
Summits of the Americas Secretariat, hosted by the OAS, acts as an information clearinghouse
by collecting, archiving and disseminating information related to implementation. On paper,
then, the “nesting” operation alluded to above makes sense, and the new institutional architecture
seemed promising at first. The results, however, have been mixed at best.
On the plus side, it is true that under the stewardship of Secretary General César Gaviria,
the OAS made substantial efforts to adapt itself to the new division of labor among regional
institutions. By becoming the main administrative arm of inter-American governance the OAS
turned into a much more results-oriented organization (Rosenberg, 2001). Among the important
changes initiated by Gaviria were the creation of thematic “units” directly accountable to the
OAS Secretary-General and the establishment of the Office of Summit Follow-Up, which was
transformed into the Summits of the Americas Secretariat in 2002 (OAS 2002a, p. 2). In 2001,
the OAS was also instrumental in establishing a Joint Summit Working Group comprising the
OAS, the IDB, the PAHO, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
(ECLAC), and the World Bank. Finally, the Summits of the Americas Secretariat was afforded a
special link to the Office of the Secretary General in 2005 after a reform which had somewhat
downgraded the Secretariat as a sub-unit of the new Department for Democratic and Political
On the minus side, however, the new institutional design is weakened by two significant
problems. The first, arising largely from lack of resources, is the difficulty to coordinate the
behavior of the main actors of inter-American governance. Connection either between the
summits and the ministerials or between the ministerials themselves is not always self-evident.
The link between the summits and sub-regional groupings such as CARICOM or MERCOSUR
also appears to be non-existent, while the relationships between the summits, national
governments, and the OAS remain dramatically weak.
The other problem lies in the major discrepancy between the coordination role given to
the Summits of the Americas Secretariat and the resources provided by member states. With a
staff of less than 10 officers and an annual budget of $700,000, the Secretariat has to accomplish
several key functions, which include providing technical and administrative support to the SIRG,
managing the Summit of the Americas Information Network, coordinating with other OAS
organs on the execution of summits mandates, acting as secretariat of the Joint Working Group,
and coordinating civil society participation in the summits process. Clearly, there is a major gap
between the funds available and the tasks to be fulfilled by the Summits of the Americas
The new institutional design of hemispheric regionalism has not been able to deliver on
its initial promises. The impact of this situation appears all the more serious when it is examined
within the context of the implementation of summit decisions and the overall funding of inter-
American governance.
2- Confusion of Agenda-setting and Lack of Implementation
Confusion of agenda means that goals are often undefined, and that the mandates given
by the summits and the ministerials to regional institutions and national agencies lack clearly
identified priorities. A good illustration of this problem is provided by Mace and Loiseau (2005,
pp. 115-21) in relation to the three Plans of Action issued by the Miami, Santiago (1998) and
Quebec City (2001) summits. With these three documents, the Heads of State gave mandates
concerning more than 550 action items covering more than 40 policy areas ranging from
transparency and good governance to corporate social responsibility and management of
disasters. In all three documents – and the same can be said for the Plan of action that came out
of the 2005 Mar del Plata Summit – one finds something for everyone but no pinpointing of the
priorities during the period leading up to the next summit (Fourth Summit of the Americas
Furthermore, what became apparent during the drafting of the Declaration and of the Plan
of action of the Mar del Plata Summit was the widening divergence between the priorities of the
United States on one hand and those of Latin America and the Caribbean on the other. While
Washington wanted to put the accent on economic growth, democratic governance, private
enterprise and the fight against corruption, Latin American and Caribbean governments insisted
on employment, reduction of inequalities, the role of the State, and the responsibility of
industrialized countries to adopt concrete measures, such as the elimination of agricultural
subsidies, as a contribution to Third World development (U.S. Government 2005; SIRG 2004).
Given such a polarized environment it is hardly surprising that the Mar del Plata Summit has
been described as "the least successful" of the four summits held since 1994 (Graham 2005a, p.
A related issue is the lack of implementation of decisions. This situation has already
drawn some attention (Leadership Council 2001) but needs to be restated if only briefly. The
problem is that around one half of the summits’ mandates are given to regional bodies while the
other half must be acted upon by national governments. In the first case, it was only in June 2001
that regional institutions started to coordinate their actions through the establishment of the Joint
Working Group. Results so far have been limited, as shown by Feinberg and Haslam in their
chapter herein, because the resources needed to implement the mandates can come only from the
IDB, an institution whose agenda is set independently from that of the summits. In any case, the
performance of the Joint Working Group is hard to assess because of the lack of guidelines to
monitor the implementation of the mandates. 4
In the second case, tracing the implementation of summits mandates at the domestic level
is well-nigh impossible. Even though summitry recognizes the “primary role of governments” in
the implementation of the plans of actions, in 2003 only half the countries had submitted a
national report on summit implementation to the SIRG (Summits of the Americas Secretariat
2003b, p. 137). In addition, when national reports on implementation have been submitted, the
link between national actions and summits mandates has been left largely unexplained (see for
example Summits of the Americas Secretariat, 2003c). Such a lack of information clearly
suggests that some of the member states do not take their participation in the process of
summitry very seriously.
3- Lack of Resources
Funding has been a problem throughout the history of the OAS (Ball 1969, p. 465;
Scheman 1988, pp. 40-1; Vaky 1993, pp. 39-40; Feinberg 2004, p. 26). In one way the OAS is
not very different from other international bodies where burden-sharing among member states is
always the result of delicate arbitration. Yet the OAS remains in a class of its own due to the
particular weight of the United States within the institution. One can understand, for instance,
how a crisis arose in the 1980s following Washington's unilateral decision to reduce its portion
of the OAS budget. In the space of a few years, the U.S. share of total assessments dropped from
66% to 59.5% (Vaky 1993, p. 39). With the introduction of summitry and the new role given to
the OAS in that context, the financial problems of inter-American cooperation have only grown
From 1996 to 2006, the annual regular budget of the OAS was frozen at $76 million. To
put the OAS budget in perspective, it is useful to recall that in the last few years U.S. bilateral
assistance to Colombia alone amounted to more than $700 million annually (U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops 2006). It should furthermore be stressed that the bulk of the organization’s
budget is earmarked for staff salaries and pension plans (OAS 2004b). As a consequence, several
inter-American programs can survive thanks only to special contributions (Graham 2005b). In a
surprising show of candor, the acting OAS Secretary General Luigi Einaudi put the
organization’s financial situation in 2005 in these stark terms: "everybody knows that the
Organization is largely bankrupt" (Einaudi 2005, p. 3). A year after this urgent appeal, the
member states agreed to increase the OAS’s budget to $81.5 millions in 2007 (OAS, 2006b, 1).
Though most welcome, the OAS budget increase will obviously not suffice to meet all the
funding requirements of inter-American cooperation. Under the present circumstances, the IDB
is the only regional institution to have at its disposal the resources necessary to make a
difference. For the moment, however, the IDB’s involvement in the mandates defined by the
summits remains timid.
In sum, the institutional design put in place in 1994 in order to renew hemispheric
regionalism runs the risk of becoming completely irrelevant because of a serious lack of
resources. What Viron Vaky wrote in the pre-Summit era remains valid today: If regional
governance is not supported financially, "it cannot be effective" (Vaky 1993, 40). In other words,
if inter-American governance is to have any impact in the future, governments will need to
provide hemispheric organizations with a capable bureaucracy and adequate funding.
4- Democratic Deficit
Be it on the national, global, or regional level, governance needs legitimacy in order to be
socially relevant. Compared to the pre-1994 period, important steps have been taken in
hemispheric governance to achieve such legitimacy. Several recent initiatives thus encourage the
participation of civil society in OAS and summit-related activities. These initiatives include the
adoption of the Guidelines for Participation by Civil Society Organizations in OAS Activities
(1999), the establishment of the Committee for Civil Society Participation (1999), which was
transformed into the Committee on Summits Management and Civil Society Participation
(2002), the adoption of the Strategies for Increasing and Strengthening Participation by Civil
Society Organizations in OAS Activities (2003), and the creation of the Inter-American Civil
Society Partnership Initiative (2004) (OAS 2004e).
These measures expressed the will of the OAS and its member states to open up the
process of regional governance to non-governmental actors. And indeed, they succeeded in
generating some innovative inputs from civil society actors during summits, OAS General
Assemblies, and other hemispheric meetings. But as Smith and Korzeniewicz argue elsewhere in
this book, the net effect of OAS initiatives on democratization and access to decision-making
still remains extremely limited, in terms of both participation and influence.
Regarding participation, only 165 civil society organizations (CSO) were registered at the
OAS by 2006. Not only is this number very low in comparison with the number of CSOs
throughout the Americas, but their attendance at specific events has also been small as reported
by the Summit of the Americas Secretariat (Cole 2003, p. 17). Furthermore, these organizations
are not representative from a geographical point of view, and many among them lack the
information and resources needed to be really effective.
With respect to influence, several observers share Grugel's position that CSOs can have
no more than a minor influence on regional decision-making processes (Grugel 2004, p. 2). It
seems that many government officials attribute no great value to CSO participation in summits or
OAS-related events. In this connection, in 2005 the International Coalition of Human Rights
Organizations of the Americas circulated a document among all the CSOs registered in the OAS,
by way of protesting the indifference displayed by government representatives toward the
process of consultation with civil society. Until now the openness of inter-American governance
regarding civil society often appears to be more an exercise in public relations than a genuine
effort at democratization.
CSOs are not always authentic democratic representatives of the societies they come
from, and some of them promote narrowly defined interests. But in the absence of parliamentary
representation, civil society participation, however imperfect, is the only mechanism currently
available for societal intervention in inter-American governance. One of the obvious challenges
facing hemispheric regionalism is thus to carve out more adequate channels for the expression of
public concerns. Otherwise, regional governance will remain weakened by a democratic deficit
that will undermine the legitimacy of the whole enterprise.
Three years into his term as Secretary General of the OAS (1994-2004), César Gaviria
was extremely optimistic about the future of hemispheric regionalism:
“The good news is that fresh evidence is being produced every day, and in places
like the OAS, that each government in the Hemisphere is engaged in actively
seeking solutions to the issues that either (1) affect the health of their country
directly or (2) help to improve the environment in which the Hemisphere is
already beginning to build its place in the 21st century” (Gaviria 1997, p. 10).
At the end of his mandate, however, Gaviria's judgment was far more sober concerning
the possibility of deepening hemispheric governance. Criticizing the deficiencies in regional
cooperation, the Secretary General stated, for example, "We cannot say that we have a system
that operates with solidarity" (Gaviria 2004, p. 361). But even more fundamentally, César
Gaviria went so far as to query the true objectives of the inter-American project: "Perhaps the
final question we have to ask ourselves is: Do we really want to unite our peoples in a common
destiny?" (Gaviria 2004, p. 362).
More than ten years after the first Summit of the Americas, hemispheric relations are
once again confronted with a grim prospect. In a curious repetition of history, a third phase of
institution-building has again been followed by a period of stagnation and, according to a
longtime observer, the decline is unlikely to end any time soon (Hakim 2006, p. 41). It is thus
unavoidable to ask why inter-American governance is so difficult to construct.
Analysts have identified many factors explaining the slow progress of hemispheric
cooperation. The political, social, and economic heterogeneity of the region itself and of its subregions is often mentioned (Banega, Hettne, Söderbaum 2001, p. 247). Some experts have also
pointed to the cultural divide between North America and the rest of the region (Harrison 1997),
and to the persistence of “contrarian ideas” against hemispherism (Corrales and Feinberg 1999).
Looking at the recent evolution of inter-American relations, a factor that needs to be
emphasized is Washington’s gradual loss of interest in the region since 9/11 (Hakim 2006, p.
39). This has been fueled in part by the Bush Administration’s perception of a lack of support
from many Latin American governments for U.S. foreign policy and especially the intervention
in Iraq. On the other side of the equation there is a sense of estrangement, of being left out, on
the part of Latin American governments who believe that their views – on the economy,
immigration, drugs or aid for instance – are given short shrift by Washington. Ultimately,
however, as John Graham has pointed out (2005b, p. 4), the fundamental problem of interAmerican cooperation, now as in the past, has to do with the lack of political will of
governments. This in turn is a direct result of the ambiguities of the consensus that is supposed to
underpin inter-American cooperation.
This ambiguous consensus can be explained by two patterns of behavior, one associated
with the United States and the other with Latin American governments. In the first case, what
readily comes to mind is the U.S. policy-makers’ misreading of beliefs and attitudes in Latin
American countries. Periodically, but most particularly during phases of inter-American
institution-building, decision-makers in Washington have believed that a “convergence of
values” had appeared. In these periods of rapprochement, it is falsely assumed that Latin
American and Caribbean governments have come to accept the U.S. vision of the problems of
the hemisphere and the solutions that are needed. Such misperceptions naturally create
expectations that cannot be met, leading the U.S. government, again, to lose faith in hemispheric
The other pattern of behavior involves what Hakim (2006, p. 53) fittingly calls the
“fundamental ambivalence” of Latin American and Caribbean governments toward U.S. policies
in the region. Most governments south of the Rio Grande are attracted by the U.S. market and the
potential benefits that could result from closer economic ties with the United States. That
attraction prompts gestures of compromise suggesting that things have changed fundamentally in
U.S.-Latin American relationships. But when the hope of commercial and diplomatic gains
fades, attitudes of compromise are replaced by benign opposition or, as can be seen in
Chavez’sVenezuela, by more confrontational gestures. Latin America’s ambivalence toward
U.S. policies then leads to non-commitment toward hemispheric governance.
The U.S.’s paternalistic self-assurance and the absence of commitment among Latin
American countries go a long way to account for the current period of stagnation in interAmerican cooperation. The way out of this situation is far from self-evident. For hemispheric
regionalism to regain legitimacy among the governments and the publics of the Americas,
stopgap measures to fix the institutional workings of inter-American governance will certainly
not suffice. Sooner or later, two fundamental issues will have to be addressed.
The first of these issues has to do with regional inequality. No other region in the world
features such a high level of economic disparities as the Americas. The experiences of small
countries such as Luxemburg and Denmark within the European Union have demonstrated that
regional cooperation can adapt to a considerable asymmetry in structural power. On the other
hand, it remains to be seen whether regional governance can be extended in an environment
where the economic asymmetry is as pronounced as that which exists between the United States
and Haiti or Bolivia. It is difficult to imagine that a “true community of nations” could emerge in
the Americas until the unequal distribution of wealth is dealt with more seriously. Of course, the
redistribution of wealth will for a long time continue to be above all a national and not a
hemispheric responsibility. This being so, it is hard to see how American states could share their
values if they can't share their wealth. Thus, the needs targeted by US President John F.
Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress or, more recently, by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez’s
Social Fund are far from having disappeared.
The other unavoidable issue concerns democracy. The promotion of democracy has been
a centerpiece of hemispheric regionalism and of U.S. policy in the region since the early 1990s.
But the United States – along with a few other countries like Canada and Chile – can hardly push
for democracy at the national level and not support it at the regional level. Granted, efforts have
been made in the framework of the new institutional design of inter-American governance to
respond to this challenge. The results, however, are still a long way from being satisfactory. If
the social groups and the citizens of the Americas cannot find a proper channel to support the
initiatives they like or oppose those they dislike, then regionalism will severely lack the
legitimacy it needs to develop and flourish. So long as inter-American governance fails to
become a more transparent, more inclusive process, its future will no doubt remain very bleak
Canada and the English-speaking Caribbean States had become active participants in
hemispheric affairs since the start of the 1990s.
The situation of the IDB is quite different as shown in the Feinberg/Haslam chapter
elsewhere in this book.
Many are held every two years.
For an illustrations, see (Summits of the Americas Secretariat, 2003a).
MACE, Gordon, Louis BÉLANGER et al., “Hemispheric Regionalism in Perspective”,
The Americas in Transition. The Contours of Regionalism, Boulder, Lynne Rienner,
1999: pp. 1-16.
1. Hemispheric Regionalism
in Perspective
Gordon Mace and Louis Bélanger
Regionalism, as we understand it, is a multidimensional political process of integration
occurring between two or more countries in a given geographical region. In the long
term, such a process seldom leads to the creation of a new political unit, but it should
result in a higher level of cohesion between the countries involved in the process and
some form of joint management of regional problems. Regionalism is a social construct
devoid of automaticity in the sense that it is a product of human agency, not of some sort
of natural evolution. In other words, regionalism is a response to economic, geographic,
and other conditions without any deterministic force behind it.
This absence of automaticity means that progress in one area of a regional process of
integration will not necessarily entail progress in another area and that progression in a
particular dimension may be halted and reversed. All is well and integration can take
place when, in a particular regional scheme, major actors share similar perceptions,
attitudes, and behavior. However, integration can be halted or reversed when actors have
opposing points of view and adopt confrontational policies or behavior. Like any other
social and political construct, regionalism is determined by the behavior of the multiple
actors involved in the process and by the way regionalism converges with their different
interests and strategies. Once launched, regionalism itself becomes part of the strategic
environment of these actors, as well as others. This interplay of actors’ strategic behavior
and the processes of regionalism is what this book proposes to study.
Having made some conceptual clarifications, we certainly agree with Andrew Hurrell’s
comment that the words “region” and “regionalism” are “ambiguous terms” (Hurrell
1995b: 38). That ambiguity, understandable given the complexity of the subject matter,
appears in the way various authors over the past forty years have used almost
interchangeably the terms “political integration,” “regional integration,” “regionalism,”
“regionalization,” “regionness,” and “new regionalism” to identify a phenomenon that
may have taken different forms along the years, but that in essence remained the same.
This ambiguity also appears in definitions found in the literature throughout the years. 1
This listing of definitions makes two points: (1) it underlines the literature’s difficulty in
arriving at conceptual clarity when trying to circumscribe a phenomenon as complex as
regionalism; and (2) it shows that, nevertheless, some recurrent themes or
characterizations do emerge such as the idea that (i) regionalism is a process; (ii) the
phenomenon is multidimensional; and (iii) it is constructed by actors involved in the
process, most particularly state actors. Our conceptual definition tries to stay as close as
possible to these basic characterizations.
That being said, the phenomenon of regionalism is not something new. Its rediscovery
should not conceal the fact that it has been one of the main structuring forces of the
international system over the past forty years. Indeed, since the 1950s, the tension
between the global and multilateral and the regional levels of governance has always
been present, particularly in trade and commerce (Anderson and Blackburst 1993), but
also in general economic activity (Oman 1994) and in broader strategic terms. Some
scholars even view the region as the most significant future matrix for the regulation of
political and economic activity and the central strategic space in the global system (Badie
1995; Laïdi 1994: 217). Although this view may be an exaggeration, the fact remains that
regionalism became a significant feature of the international system with the thrust
toward European unification in the 1950s. In this introductory chapter, we survey these
early manifestations of regionalism in the Americas and elsewhere in order to situate the
phenomenon within a historical context. We then review the pertinent theoretical
literature addressing regionalism and propose our own actor-focused perspective. Finally,
we briefly explain the outline of this book.
Regionalism Since 1945
The creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1952 and the
establishment of the European Economic Community (EEC) by the Treaty of Rome in
1957 were fundamental manifestations of strategic regionalism. Although its security
aspect was often overlooked later on, one of the main achievements of the ECSC was
preventing further European wars between France and Germany (Axline 1995: 2) and
transforming a historically confrontational relationship into a cooperative one to create
the core area around which European unification could develop. The EEC, for its part,
enabled the Western European countries to foster a political space of their own between
the all-pervasive superpowers of the Cold War era. Finally, the progressive
transformation of the EEC into the European Union resulted in the creation of a new
global actor (Piening 1997; Rhodes 1998), confirming the wisdom of David Mitrany’s
precepts and reestablishing some of the legitimacy of the neofunctionalist approach to
regional integration, at least for the analysis of that particular phenomenon (Mutimer
Experiences at regional integration were not limited to the European continent, however.
The EEC soon became a model or a goal for other countries, particularly in what was
then called the Third World. In Asia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) was established in 1967 primarily as a response to a perceived communist
threat coming from China, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Like the EEC, ASEAN was an
example of strategic regionalism and resulted in a loose political and economic
arrangement whose objective was to develop free trade among member countries, but
also to establish a forum for political consultation in the event of a reduced U.S. presence
in Asia as a result of the Vietnam War. In Africa, in the meantime, regional integration
was also very much on the agenda as one of the instruments to help African countries get
a better deal in the anticipated new international economic order. The Customs and
Economic Union of Central Africa, 2 the East African Common Market, and the West
African Economic Community, 3 to name a few, were economically oriented, whereas
groupings such as the Community of West Africa’s States 4 had more political objectives
in mind.
Apart from Europe, however, the thrust toward regionalism was most profound and
diverse in the Americas during the 1960s and 1970s. The push toward integration in the
hemisphere was influenced by two contending paradigms. In the first, the main emphasis
of Latin American integration went from political unity to economic integration under the
influence of what could be called the developmental philosophy of the recently created
Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA, later to become ECLAC after the
inclusion of the Caribbean and better known by its Spanish abbreviation CEPAL). In the
second, the Pan-American paradigm sought to revive the “Western Hemisphere idea”
leading to continental integration.
The ECLA doctrine was based on the ideas of its first secretary-general and respected
Argentinian economist Raúl Prebisch. What became known as the Latin American
structuralist school of development theory sought to explain underdevelopment in Latin
America essentially as the result of an international system composed of a center and a
periphery. This underlying international structure was the cause as well as the result of an
international division of labor wherein the center produced and exported manufactured
goods while the countries of the periphery produced and exported raw materials and
commodities. The fact that historically the price of manufactured goods has risen faster
than the price of raw materials created a situation of deteriorating terms of trade as the
basis of the “unequal exchange” between North and South. Unequal exchange was the
main cause of Latin American underdevelopment, a situation that could be overcome
only by industrialization based on import substitution. But national markets were too
small and the strategy of industrialization by import substitution at the local level had
reached its limits. Only regional integration schemes could provide the larger markets
and the accompanying economies of scale necessary for industrialization.
Industrialization would then take place in an economic environment constrained by state
regulation, and when necessary, state intervention would lead to the modernization of
Latin American societies and, eventually, their inclusion in the First World (W. Baer
1962; ECLA 1950).
On the basis of these precepts, in the 1950s and early 1960s ECLA became extremely
active in supporting efforts at regional integration (Mitchell 1967), most notably in
Central America, where such efforts led to the establishment of the Central American
Common Market (CACM). ECLA ideas were also influential to a certain extent in the
discussions leading to the creation of the Andean Group and the Caribbean Community
and Common Market (CARICOM). However, both integration schemes, particularly the
Andean Group, went much further than what was presented in the ECLA doctrine
(Axline 1979; Fontaine 1977; Mace 1981).
Consequently, by the first half of the 1970s, the Latin American and Caribbean landscape
was covered with integration schemes varying in both form and content. In addition to
the CACM, the Andean Group, and CARICOM, there was also the Latin American Free
Trade Association (LAFTA) 5 and the Latin American Economic System (SELA). 6
Although SELA was more a forum supporting economic integration than a real
integration scheme, LAFTA was an integration process that had little to do with the
ECLA doctrine. An extension of a Southern Cone project devised by governments
opposed to ECLA’s intervention and supported by the United States, LAFTA was
essentially a loose free trade arrangement based on two limited mechanisms: annual
negotiated tariff reductions and industrial complementary agreements. The region hosted
all three types of integration schemes identified by Lynn K. Mytelka (Mytelka 1979: 10–
21) in the developing world: laissez-faire integrative systems (LAFTA), laissez-faire with
elements of compensation through planning (CACM and CARICOM), and interventionist
integrative systems (the Andean Group).
At the end of the 1970s, however, regional integration in Latin America and elsewhere in
the developing world was in a state of crisis. A combination of factors contributed to the
situation, including specific events related to each integration scheme, for example,
Chile’s withdrawal from the Andean Group and the refusal of LAFTA’s larger member
countries to adopt compensation mechanisms favorable to the less developed members of
the integration process. But without a doubt, what most affected regionalism in the 1970s
was the oil crisis of 1973–1974 and the resulting economic stagnation worldwide. This
new turn of events had a negative impact on regional integration in developing countries
in two major ways. The recession in industrialized countries increased protectionism,
making access to their markets more difficult for developing countries. At the same time,
the North-South dialogue came to an end, the 1981 Cancún conference being the last of
its kind. The oil crisis also created severe budget deficits for most oil-importing
developing countries, which in a matter of months had to face huge increases in the price
of oil products and derivatives. The resulting fiscal deficits required huge loans from
international money markets, directly causing the debt crisis of the early 1980s.
Moreover, the economic downturn reinforced inward-looking attitudes and put an end to
the spirit of cooperation needed for the give-and-take approach that could ensure the
success of regional integration.
Hemispheric regionalism, the other integration paradigm in the Americas, was reactivated
in 1948 at the Bogotá conference. With the signing of the charter establishing the
Organization of American States (OAS), the new inter-American system experienced a
promising debut. It was hoped that the OAS, with its network of specialized conferences
and agencies, later complemented by the Inter-American Development Bank, would
become the main diplomatic forum for inter-American affairs as well as the major
regional institution for cooperation in areas such as health, education, and culture. In
matters of security, the contours of a regional system were established with the signing in
1947 of the Rio Treaty, providing for collective defense against aggression either from
outside or from within the region. The major drawback, however, concerned economic
affairs; the failure to ratify the economic agreement signed at the Bogotá conference
brought the dream of a free trade area in the Americas to a standstill.
But on balance, there might have been enough support for continental integration in the
early 1950s if U.S. attention had not been concentrated in other regions of the world and
if positive gestures had been made, such as the adoption of an aid package similar to the
Marshall Plan. Such aid was what Latin American governments were hoping for, but it
never materialized. On the contrary, when U.S. attention was diverted back to the
Americas, it resulted essentially in unilateral interventions or ill-fated policies such as the
1954 Guatemalan episode, the Bay of Pigs episode and the embargo against Cuba, and
the 1965 intervention in the Dominican Republic. Even the 1961 Alliance for Progress
failed to repair the damage, and by the mid-1960s, hemispheric regionalism had become
an agonizing process.
For the Johnson administration, the Meeting of American Chiefs of State at Punta del
Este, Uruguay, in April 1967 was supposed to encourage Latin American integration,
revitalize the Alliance for Progress, and improve inter-American relations generally
(Connell-Smith 1974: 248). Instead, it proved to be the last meeting of its kind for many
years to come. As it turned out, a combination of factors pushed inter-American relations
into a period of decline lasting almost twenty years. The war in Vietnam had the effect of
diverting U.S. attention away from Latin America for several years. Subsequently, the
U.S. government and its Latin American counterparts had very divergent views on issues
such as control over natural resources, treatment of foreign investments, the external
debt, and the crisis in Central America, to name but a few.
Consequently, both paths toward regionalism (the Latin American and the PanAmerican) had come to a dead end by the early 1980s. As was the case with regionalism
elsewhere in the Third World, Latin American and Caribbean integration schemes had
become empty shells, barely surviving. Hemispheric regionalism, for its part, was almost
nonexistent, as Latin American governments had lost all faith in the OAS. How is it,
then, that at the end of that same decade, regionalism had made a stunning comeback not
only in the Americas but in Europe and Asia as well, again becoming a central feature of
contemporary international relations?
Of course, this evolution cannot be explained by any single factor, and in the Americas
the combinations of factors vary from country to country. 7 However, three elements
seem to have played a central role in the analysis put forward by decisionmakers
throughout the region. The collapse of the Soviet empire and the implosion of the Soviet
Union meant an important victory for the Western-based model of democracy and
economic development. These events also confirmed the status of the United States as the
only remaining superpower. The modernization of the former Eastern bloc countries also
meant that Latin America as a whole would have to compete with Eastern Europe for
development funds. A second reason had to do with the perception that the world
economy was in the process of being reorganized around three major economic blocs:
Western Europe, North America, and Asia (Belous and Hartley 1990; Brand 1992;
Buelens 1992). Latin America could not afford to be excluded from the principal axes of
economic transactions. Finally, the effects of the external debt crisis on the psyche of
Latin American elites must not be underestimated. The results of the crisis led to an
important change in their values and perceptions with regard to the traditional economic
development model, the role of the state in the economy, political behavior, and the
nature of their relationship with the United States (ECLAC 1992, 1994).
These factors are at the root of the significant reemergence of basic patterns of
regionalism in the Americas, the subregional Latin American and Caribbean integration
schemes, and the U.S.-led thrust at continental integration. In the case of Latin America
and the Caribbean, the adoption of new forms of regional integration throughout the
subregion, starting in the second half of the 1980s, can be explained by the combination
of fundamental attitudinal changes resulting from the debt crisis and the perception of an
emerging world order dominated by three blocs of mostly industrialized countries, which
generated an acute fear of marginalization. The Southern Cone Common Market
(Mercosur), the Group of Three (Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela), the Andean
Community (reformed Andean Group), and, moving in the same direction, the CACM
and CARICOM now represent what Klaus Peter Fischer has called in Chapter 10 the
“integrationist/competitive” model of integration. Supported by liberal democracy and
market economics, this new form of integration favors elements such as financial
liberalization, limited protection for local industries, and a weak presence of the state in
the economy, among other things. It is what ECLAC has called “open regionalism” and it
represents a fundamental shift in the way Latin America and the Caribbean address
In the case of U.S.-led hemispheric regionalism, this third attempt at continental
integration was launched by Washington as one of the measures to strengthen the United
States’ global influence in the context of the new post–Cold War international order. It
was also a response to a very strong belief in Washington’s administrative branch that the
changes in political behavior and economic policies throughout Latin America during the
1980s created a historic moment of a convergence of values and a window of opportunity
that had to be seized. With the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the
background, the building blocks of continental integration were the Enterprise for the
Americas Initiative, announced by President George Bush on June 27, 1990, and the
Summit of the Americas, attended by thirty-four countries of the hemisphere in Miami in
December 1994. The documents produced in the context of these two major diplomatic
initiatives trace the contours of a hemisphere-wide integration process whose highlight is
the proposal to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). But as we will see
in Chapter 2, what is involved in the so-called Miami process goes beyond free trade; it is
really a multidimensional integration process involving issues in many areas of
hemispheric cooperation.
This book is essentially a study of the contours of hemispheric regionalism as it shapes
the future of the Americas. The literature on the subject has been growing steadily over
the past few years (Grugel 1996; Hurrell 1995a; Mace and Thérien 1996b; Muñoz and
Rosenberg 1993; Nishijima and Smith 1996; Payne 1996; P. Smith 1993a; Weintraub
1994a). However, a considerable portion of this literature has focused on trade and the
FTAA, whereas other contributions deal with specific issues without attempting a general
examination of the whole process. This book is an attempt to assess the hemispheric
integration project by trying to understand its specific nature, by locating it in its
immediate environment, and by examining the strategies of the actors involved in the
Analyzing Hemispheric Regionalism
How should one analyze contemporary regionalism as applied to the Americas? The first
wave of theoretical studies on regional integration was centered more or less on three
analytical frameworks that were strongly influenced by the European unification process.
The neofunctionalist school (Haas 1958, 1964; Haas and Schmitter 1964; Nye 1968a,
1970) basically understood integration as a process leading to the formation of a new
political unit superseding the nation-states participating in it. The creation of a new
political unit resulted from a shift in loyalties and expectations from the national to the
supranational level, along a continuum from economic to political integration through a
movement of spillover. Analytically, the research strategy involved examining and
measuring background conditions and process mechanisms in order to explain the
evolution of integration and to arrive at projections concerning the future state of the
integration process.
The transactionalist/communications approach (Deutsch 1954, 1964; Deutsch et al. 1957;
W. Fischer 1969; Puchala 1970) constructed a logic of integration that in essence was not
very different from that of the neofunctionalist school. Integration was conceived as a
process leading to the establishment of a security community, be it pluralistic or
amalgamated. Provided that certain essential background conditions are present, takeoff
can occur and integration will move forward on the basis of shared values and
transactions among the communities being integrated. In this conception, increased
transactions and growing value compatibility reinforce each other, contributing to the
development of mutual trust, which generates support for economic integration, which in
turn builds support for political integration. The research strategy of this approach
consists of measuring flows of transactions and value compatibility in order to arrive at
conclusions on the evolution of the integration process. Compared with the other
theoretical perspectives, the transactionalist/communications approach places less
emphasis on institutions and on the political aspects of the integration process.
The third theoretical framework, particularly attuned to the realities of the European
integration process, could be called the decisionmaking perspective (Lindberg 1963,
1967, 1970; Lindberg and Scheingold 1970). In a way, it is an expanded adaptation of
David Easton’s input-output model for the analysis of regional integration. Integration is
conceived as a process in which actors of national systems are progressively led to
redirect their demands and support to a higher-level political system that will transform
these demands into decisions whose binding character is accepted by the communities
participating in the process. The ultimate test for regional integration therefore consists in
its collective decisionmaking capacity, that is, its ability to process more and more
decisions. The research strategy is centered on the analysis of the collective
decisionmaking apparatus in relation to which three groups of properties (level,
animators, consequences) are measured and conclusions are drawn concerning the
progress of integration or lack thereof.
By the early 1970s, these first attempts at theory building in the field of regional
integration were rejected by those who had originally proposed the theoretical constructs
(Haas 1975b) 8 as well as by the larger scientific community. First, these original
theoretical perspectives were believed to be inadequate for the study of regionalism
mainly because the dependent variable had never been adequately conceptualized.
Second, the assumption of automaticity in the continuum from economic to political
integration was also proved false by the observation of the actual functioning of regional
integration schemes. Third, a close examination of the analytical frameworks and their
empirical applications revealed problems associated with conceptualization,
operationalization, and measurement (De Vree 1972; Pentland 1973). Finally, the fact
that these theoretical constructs did not easily adapt to the realities of regionalism outside
Europe, particularly in the Third World, also constituted a major handicap.
The more recent literature on regionalism contrasts dramatically with earlier writings on
regional integration. In general, it appears less preoccupied with problems related to
conceptualization, theory formation, and the empirical investigation of regionalism.
There are, however, some exceptions in which analysts have tried to provide insights for
a theoretical understanding of regionalism. Björn Hettne, for one, has tried to construct a
structural explanation of what he calls the “new regionalism” (Hettne 1994). Essentially,
he seeks to understand the relationship between regionalism and world order and, more
precisely, how the world order is being shaped by a process of regionalization. To
understand this relationship, he starts by identifying two processes or levels of
regionalism: macroregionalism (transnational or supranational) and microregionalism
(subnational). There are three types of macroregionalism: trading blocs, power blocs, and
“transnational formations,” the last being a process of regional integration and the new
regionalism on which Hettne focuses. Regionalism or regional integration is therefore
viewed as a process with a variety of dimensions, “the most important being culture,
security, economic policies, development, and political regime” (Hettne 1994: 8). Finally,
regionalism is animated by a dynamics whose central element is the “dialectical
relationship between the two logics, the forces of market expansion and the need for
political control” (Hettne 1994: 3).
Little more is said on how to carry out a structured observation of the dynamics of
regionalism. It is also unclear how dynamics relate to the dimensions identified or, for
that matter, how dynamics of the new regionalism differ from the dynamics of, let’s say,
trading blocs. But Hettne’s theoretical reflections do constitute an interesting starting
point for a structural analysis of contemporary regionalism, particularly as it relates to
hegemony and world order.
In the same line of thought, but focused more specifically on the relationship between
regionalism and globalization, James Mittelman proposes analytical parameters for the
understanding of regionalism and eventually for the comparison of regionalist
experiences (Mittelman 1996b). These parameters are the pattern of production and how
it is related to the international division of labor; the way neoliberalism is ingrained in a
particular regional context; the configuration of power relations; the social-cultural
networks being developed in the regional framework; and the actors, institutions, and the
nature of global governance involved in an integration process.
These variables cover many aspects of the dynamics of regionalism. They lay the
foundation for the comparative analysis of regionalism and for the examination of how
regionalism both participates in and is influenced by globalization. However, Mittelman’s
analytical categories appear more useful for telling us where to look than how to observe.
More theoretical refinements are needed to determine how each analytical category is
related to regionalism. For instance, how are power relations connected to regionalism?
What should we analyze and how? What does a particular configuration of power
relations mean for the evolution of regionalism? In order for the analytical framework to
be used to provide explanations, such questions need to be answered.
Working from another angle and recognizing, as does Peter Robson (1993: 330), that
theoretical and conceptual work on regionalism since the late 1980s “has been relatively
modest,” Andrew Hurrell attempts an examination of how sets of international relations
(IR) theories could be used to explain the dynamics of regionalism (Hurrell 1995b). He
starts by looking at systemic theories that offer an outside-in perspective for the study of
regionalism. Included here are what Hurrell calls structural theories, which he divides
into two sets: neorealism, with its significant variant hegemony, and the approaches
related to structural interdependence and globalization. These systemic or structural
theories are said to have an outside-in perspective because they seek essentially to
analyze and understand regionalism in relation to the broader international system.
Theories of hegemony, for example, may help explain how regionalism can act as a
response to a perceived threat from a hegemonic power or as an attempt to restrict the
power of a hegemony through the creation of regional institutions. They could also be
useful in analyzing situations in which a hegemony is pushing regionalism as a way to
enhance its global influence. Approaches to globalization may help explain better the
interrelations between the regional and global spaces. However, as Hurrell himself
emphasizes, the link between regionalism and globalization is often quite complex and
ambiguous (Hurrell 1995b: 55).
The second cluster of theories identified by Hurrell are those that concentrate on the link
between regionalism and interdependence at the regional level. Included here are
neofunctionalism, neoliberal institutionalism, and constructivism. This set of theories is
different from the previous set in that it focuses essentially on the regional construct
itself. Neofunctionalism and neoliberal institutionalism could be used to examine the way
states and regional institutions move toward interdependence by fostering and developing
regional cohesion. Hurrell admits, however, that the relevance of neofunctionalism to the
analysis of regionalism outside Europe is not clear (Hurrell 1995b: 60). He maintains
that, for its part, constructivism could be useful in examining how regional identity and
community building are developed.
Finally, domestic-level theories form a third group of theoretical frameworks that can
provide tools for the analysis of domestic attributes or characteristics. According to
Hurrell, theories dealing with state coherence, types of political regimes and
democratization, and convergence in relation to domestic policy preferences could all
provide interesting insights to the analysis of regionalism at the level of national or
domestic policies and strategies.
Hurrell’s presentation is certainly interesting and thought provoking. The problem,
however, is that apart from neofunctionalism, which may not apply to regionalism
outside Europe, none of these theoretical frameworks have been constructed for the
analysis of regionalism or regional integration. It would be a demanding enterprise to
make these frameworks operational, thus facilitating the systematic analysis of regional
integration processes and generating significant findings. Another problem is the
difficulty of approaching a relatively specific subject matter (regionalism) from such a
vast array of theoretical angles.
This general and brief examination of the theoretical literature on regionalism and
regional integration points to two basic conclusions. First, in the case of the first wave of
theoretical frameworks proposed for the study of regional integration, the literature
contains many basic concepts, central ideas, and insights that are fundamental to the
explanation of regionalism today. However, as analytical models per se, early theoretical
proposals have proved problematic in terms of both operationalization and measurement.
Furthermore, the usefulness of these models for the analysis of regional experiences
outside Europe remains unclear.
Second, the contemporary literature on regionalism, as noted by Hurrell and others,
remains relatively weak on the conceptual and theoretical levels. The rare attempts at
theory building do point in some interesting directions, but it is clear that they need
further conceptual refinements. The work of Hettne and Mittelman has demonstrated that
the literature emphasizes a structural explanation of regionalism by seeking essentially to
understand it in relation to larger structures or phenomena such as world order or
globalization. This theoretical perspective is in line with current trends in IR studies that
seek to move away from statist or national-level explanations, focusing instead on
transnational or subnational forces (Badie and Smouts 1992; Keohane and Nye 1971;
Risse-Kapen 1995; Taylor 1984) and larger structures such as world systems, regimes,
production systems, hegemony, interdependence, and globalization (Chase-Dunn 1989;
Cox 1987; Gill and Law 1988; Keohane 1984; Keohane and Nye 1977; Krasner 1983a;
Mittelman 1996a; Rittberger 1993; Rosenau 1990; Rupert 1995; Wallerstein 1974). Still,
the structural explanation, however necessary for the understanding of human activity
and international events, is by itself incomplete as an explanatory construction.
An Actor’s Perspective
The outside-in or top-down perspective implicit in the structural explanation must be
complemented by an inside-out or bottom-up perspective that focuses attention on how
international phenomena are dependent on the way they are used by actors. An analysis
based on an actor’s perspective is therefore an appropriate complement. Since the advent
of behaviorism, the social sciences, and IR studies in particular, have increasingly
focused on actors. This focus has always been one of two basic approaches to the study
of international relations used to construct explanations (Hollis and Smith 1992: 1–12). It
is still central to the discipline in regard to theory building, as evidenced by discussions
on the agent-structure problem (Buzan, Jones, and Little 1993; Carlsnaes 1992; Wendt
In this book we propose a study of regionalism and an examination of hemispheric
regionalism based on an actor’s perspective. We identify three main categories of
actors—states, regional organizations, and civil society actors—and try to analyze their
strategies, policies, and behavior. Our decision to focus on actors to observe and study
hemispheric regionalism is based on the belief that it is not possible to understand
regionalism (or any other international phenomenon, for that matter) if we do not start by
examining the actions of the actors involved in the process and their motivations or
calculus. It is the actors who, by their respective appropriation of regionalism, essentially
determine the evolution of the integration process. It is only when we have an
understanding of this perspective that we can carry out a broader examination of how
regionalism is related to larger phenomena. In other words, we think that the best way of
analyzing how regionalism interacts with other structuring features of the world system is
to look at how actors use these different realities simultaneously.
Naturally, our first category of actors is states. Nation-states have always been recognized
as the central political actors of regional integration processes in first-generation
analytical models on integration, particularly the neofunctionalist school and Leon
Lindberg’s model. This category also features prominently in the most recent definitions
of regionalism, which is still considered essentially a states-led project. Normally, the
literature refers to state actors in general without introducing distinctions between
categories of states.
We feel that the state actor in an integration process must be conceptualized differently,
more precisely. Depending on their size, weight, and capacity, states behave differently
and do not have the same impact on the evolution of the integration process. As W.
Andrew Axline has pointed out, there are at least two categories of states in a regionalist
project: the large states (the “makers”) and the small states (the “takers”). In general, the
small states, precisely because of their limited resources, cannot hope to have a
significant impact on the integration process, and their options are limited. Sometimes
their only choice is whether or not to participate in the process, as illustrated by the case
of Paraguay and Uruguay in the Mercosur project. Although the analysis of the strategies
of small states in relation to hemispheric regionalism is far from uninteresting, space
limits have precluded us from examining their behavior in this book.
Our focus is on large states, particularly the United States and Brazil, whose strategies
and actions reflect the power relationship in the context of continental integration. As an
American and world hegemony, the United States is central to the success or failure of
hemispheric regionalism, so much so that we felt it necessary to dedicate two chapters of
the book to the United States. Chapter 5 focuses on Washington’s foreign policy toward
the Americas, and Chapter 6 examines the role of Congress, which is significant in the
formulation of foreign policy, particularly foreign economic policy (Brewer and
Teitelbaum 1997: 115–137; Mastanduno et al. 1988). The role of Brazil is examined in
Chapter 7.
But large and small states are not the only categories of state actors, either in general or in
the specific context of inter-American affairs. There are medium-sized states whose
power base and diplomatic skills give them greater room to maneuver than smaller states
may have. These states are an interesting study because the options available to them are
more diverse and because they have the potential, individually or collectively, to
influence regional outcomes. Chapter 8 takes a closer look at these states through a
comparative analysis of Argentina, Canada, and Mexico.
Alongside the nation-states is a second category of actors: regional institutions. They are
at the heart of Lindberg’s model as applied to the European integration process in which
both the Commission of the European Communities and the European Parliament are
strategic in policy formulation and as a regional decisionmaking apparatus. But policy
formulation and decisionmaking are carried out by regional organizations only in the
more structured or advanced integration processes such as the European Union or the
former Andean Group. In most regionalist projects, regional institutions essentially play
two roles. They serve as a forum wherein issues are raised and discussed by states in
order to arrive at a consensus on which collective action can develop. Regional
institutions can also intervene as active participants in their own right when proposing
courses of action, defining norms, or implementing collective decisions. In both
instances, their role is complex because they are often subjected to opposing points of
view and divergent demands. How they cope with the situation may significantly
influence the evolution of the integration process, because whether or not support is given
to other categories of actors may determine specific outcomes and, more generally, the
regional project itself. An examination of the role of regional institutions is therefore an
important part of the study of regionalism. In the context of hemispheric regionalism, the
Organization of American States is a central regional institution and the subject of
Chapter 9.
The third important category of actors in the context of regionalism is what is now called
civil society. This term refers to the myriad of subnational actors who, from corporate
businesses to labor unions to women’s associations, form an extremely diverse
collectivity. Quite different in nature, organization, and objectives, these actors can
influence the evolution of the integration process as they support or oppose the ideas,
proposals, and actions of the other two categories of actors. They do so by acting
individually or collectively and by selecting channels of intervention in national settings
or at the regional level. For example, they may include an Argentinian business firm that
pressures its government to approve or oppose a specific proposal related to continental
free trade or a loose regional grouping of aboriginal associations supporting or opposing
OAS behavior in the area of human rights or health programs.
Among the many subnational actors involved in hemispheric regionalism, the decision to
focus on Latin American businesses in Chapter 10 and new social movements in Chapter
11 seemed particularly appropriate in the sense that both subjects are on opposite ends of
a continuum: Business is among the oldest and best-organized subnational actors in the
context of integration in the Americas, whereas new social movements represent a more
recent and, up to now, less structured type of interlocutor.
The first part of this book traces the contours of hemispheric regionalism as it is currently
unfolding and situates the project in its immediate environment, in a sense, the situation
within which actors must operate. After a presentation of the nature and scope of existing
initiatives of hemispheric regionalism in Chapter 2, the focus of Chapter 3 turns toward
the structural contexts conditioning the integration process. Then Chapter 4 presents a
comparative analysis of integration models as represented by NAFTA and Mercosur.
This is a logical end point for the first part of the book, since our observations lead us to
the conclusion that hemispheric regionalism, in its current form, rests on two nuclei:
NAFTA and Mercosur. Whether they come together or move apart will determine the
future of continental integration.
In the second part of the book, attention is drawn to the strategies and actions of our three
categories of actors. On the basis of the analyses conducted on our selection of actors, we
draw conclusions regarding the current state of hemispheric regionalism and its prospects
for the near future.
Note 1: A sample would include the following:
The process whereby political actors in several distinct national settings are persuaded to
shift their loyalties, expectations and political activities toward a new centre, whose
institutions possess or demand jurisdiction over the pre-existing national states. The endresult of a process of political integration is a new political community, superimposed
over the pre-existing ones. (Haas 1958: 16)
By integration we mean the attainment within a territory of a “sense of community” and
of institutions and practices strong enough and widespread enough to assure, for a “a long
time,” dependable expectations of “peaceful change” among its populations. (Deutsch et
al. 1957: 5)
Political integration will be defined as a process, but without reference to an end point. In
specific terms, political integration is (1) the process whereby nations forgo the desire
and ability to conduct foreign and key domestic policies independently of each other,
seeking instead to make joint decisions or to delegate the decision-making process to new
central organs; and (2) the process whereby political actors in several distinct settings are
persuaded to shift their expectations and political activities to a new center. (Lindberg
1963: 6)
I will use “regionalism”... to mean a set of policies by one or more states designed to
promote the emergence of a cohesive regional unit, which dominates the pattern of
relations between the states of that region and the rest of the world, and which forms the
organizing basis for policy within the region across a range of issues. (Hurrell 1992: 123)
There are four levels of political integration.... Institutional integration occurs when states
agree to engage in collective decision-making and develop institutions which formulate
and implement the required rules and regulations.... Policy integration concerns the
transfer of policy to a higher level of government onto a jointly-managed or coordinated
level of policymaking and implementation.... Attitudinal integration assesses public
support for integration at the state level.... Security integration is evident when there is a
commitment and expectation among states of nonviolent relations. (Rogers 1995: 17–18)
The new regionalism can be defined as a multidimensional process of regional integration
which includes economic, political, social and cultural aspects. It is a package rather than
a single policy. Whether concerned with economics or foreign policy. (Hettne 1994: 11)
Formally speaking, we define economic integration as a series of voluntary decisions by
previously sovereign states to remove barriers to the mutual exchange of goods, services,
capital, or persons.... Integration is not the same as intergovernmental cooperation....
Integration entails the creation of a new entity... that provides a recognized framework for
accommodation among member states on issues relating to the mutual exchange of
goods, services, capital, or persons.... Intergovernmental cooperation, on the other hand,
results from ad hoc bargaining between sovereign states; it does not necessarily occur
within a framework of long-term expectations, convergent interests, and shared benefits.
(P. Smith 1993b: 4–5)
The authors of this book... adopt an approach which... conceives of regionalism as a stateled or states-led project designed to reorganise a particular regional space along defined
economic and political lines. (Payne and Gamble 1996: 2)
Note 2: Union Douanière et Économique de l’Afrique Centrale. Back.
Note 3: Communauté Économique de l’Afrique de l’Ouest. Back.
Note 4: Communauté des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest. Back.
Note 5: Modified in 1980 to become the Asociación Latinoamericana de
Integración. Back.
Note 6: Sistema Económico Latinoamericano. Back.
Note 7: For an overview of these factors as they relate to the major American countries,
see the contributions in Mace and Thérien (1996b). Back.
Note 8: See also the Fall 1970 special issue of International Organization, considered by
many as the testament of this special group of dynamic and dedicated regional integration
scholars who then moved on to other fields of inquiry. Back.
The Americas In Transition: The Contours of Regionalism
Lectures obligatoires
THÉRIEN, Jean-Philippe, Gordon MACE et Myriam ROBERGE, « Le
Canada et les Amériques : la difficile construction d’une identité
régionale », Canadian Foreign Policy, Spring 2004, Vol. 11, Iss. 3, pp.
MACE, Gordon, Jean-Philippe THÉRIEN et Paul HASLAM, « Assessing
Hemispheric Institution Building », dans Gordon Mace, Jean-Philippe
Thérien et Paul A. Haslam (Dir.), Governing the Americas : Assessing
Multilateral Institutions, Boulder : Lynne Rienner, 2007, pp. 255-265.
Jean-Philippe Thérien, Gordon Mace, Myriam Roberge. Canadian Foreign Policy. Spring 2004.
Vol. 11, Iss. 3; pg. 17, 21 pgs
Full Text (10862 words)
Copyright Carleton University, Norman Paterson School Spring 2004
Cet article analyse la politique canadienne à l'égard du système interaméricain. Il cherche ainsi à mieux
comprendre comment les relations entre le Canada et les autres pays de l'hémisphère occidental prennent
forme à travers un cadre multilatéral de type régional. En tant que noyau institutionnel du multilatéralisme
interaméricain, (Daudelin et Dosman 1998 : 228-229) l'Organisation des États américains (OEA) sera tout
naturellement au coeur de notre étude mais, étant donné leur importance grandissante, les Sommets des chefs
d'État et de gouvernement des Amériques et le processus de la Zone de libre-échange des Amériques (ZLÉA)
seront également pris en compte afin de donner une vue plus large du rôle que le Canada joue à l'échelle
Sur le plan conceptuel, l'article se situe dans la mouvance constructiviste, selon laquelle la politique, autant
nationale qu'internationale, repose ultimement sur la manière dont les agents sociaux construisent le monde qui
les entoure en lui donnant une signification. Bien que le constructivisme soit loin d'être un courant théorique
homogène, ses deux traits les plus distinctifs peuvent se résumer comme suit. Premièrement, l'analyse
constructiviste insiste sur le rôle primordial des idées - telles les valeurs, les normes, les croyances et les désirs
- comme moteurs de la vie politique.1 En termes empiriques, l'un des intérêts les mieux reconnus de cette
approche est d'avoir favorisé un renouvellement de la réflexion sur l'identité des acteurs sociaux.
Deuxièmement, le constructivisme met en relief l'importance du discours comme mode d'expression des
rapports politiques. (Onuf 2001: 245-248) Entre autres particularités, le langage apparaît en effet comme
l'élément constitutif de base des règles qui structurent tout ordre politique. Partant de ces prémisses, les
constructivistes font valoir que la politique étrangère peut être étudiée comme un discours qui construit l'identité
politique d'un État à l'échelle internationale.2 Inspiré par cette dernière intuition, le fil directeur de notre étude se
déroule autour des principales politiques que le gouvernement canadien a mises de l'avant en vue de projeter
une certaine identité du pays dans les Amériques.
Depuis son adhésion à l'OÉA en 1990, le Canada s'est tellement investi dans tous les domaines de la
coopération interaméricaine que, dans les cercles diplomatiques, on a pu prétendre qu'il avait réussi à modifier
la dynamique même des relations continentales. (OAS 200Ia) Malgré le caractère emphatique de cette dernière
conclusion, il est en tout cas clair que la participation du Canada au système intcraméricain est nettement plus
grande aujourd'hui qu'avant. La signification véritable du 'parti pris hémisphérique' du Canada ne peut
néanmoins être bien comprise sans une prise en compte des grandes tendances qui façonnent l'ensemble de
la politique étrangère du pays. Or, pareille démarche amène à constater que le récent activisme du
gouvernement dans les affaires régionales contraste avec l'incertitude générale qui caractérise la place du
Canada sur la scène mondiale. En dernière analyse, la politique interaméricaine du Canada reste
profondément marquée par le contexte de remise en question dans lequel elle s'inscrit.
La politique extérieure canadienne traverse actuellement une période de doute sans précédent, d'abord et
avant tout à cause des transformations structurelles de l'ordre global contemporain. De ce point de vue, tous
les États font aujourd'hui face à une situation inusitée. Pour la première fois de l'histoire, le système mondial se
caractérise par une structure unipolaire dans laquelle la puissance des États-Unis est absolument sans rivale.
Par ailleurs, l'accélération de la mondialisation réduit la marge de manoeuvre des gouvernements dans la
mesure où ceux-ci ont un contrôle de moins en moins grand sur les décisions qui affectent leurs populations.
Enfin, les événements du 11 septembre 2001 ont remis les questions de sécurité à l'avant-scène de l'agenda
international, tout en renforçant le spectre d'un choc des civilisations. Face aux récentes turbulences du
système international, tous les États sont obligés de revoir leur politique étrangère et le Canada n'échappe
évidemment pas à cette exigence.
Au Canada, cependant, les interrogations sont plus fondamentales qu'ailleurs parce que le pays apparaît à bien
des égards comme étant en déclin à l'échelle internationale.3 D'abord, la population canadienne représente
une proportion décroissante de la population mondiale. Il est en effet prévu qu'entre 1975 et 2015, cette
proportion sera tombée de 0,57% à 0,47%. (UNDP 2003 : 250-253 - tableau 5) Ensuite, sur le plan
économique, le PlB de pays en développement comme le Brésil, la Chine et le Mexique a désormais rejoint - ou
presque - celui du Canada.4 Au niveau financier, la récente hausse du dollar canadien ne peut masquer le fait
que, depuis une génération, la chute de la devise canadienne témoigne d'une diminution de la compétitivité
internationale du pays. Du point de vue géopolitique, alors que le Canada souhaiterait diversifier ses relations
extérieures pour mieux répondre aux défis de la mondialisation, sa dépendance vis-à-vis des États-Unis croît
"par défaut", (Brunelle 2004 : 3) notamment aux chapitres de l'économie et de la sécurité. La crise de l'identité
internationale du Canada a finalement été aggravée par le manque de ressources financières qui a affecté les
ministères des Affaires étrangères et de la Défense ainsi que l'Agence canadienne de développement
international à partir du milieu des années 1990. La politique de restrictions budgétaires du gouvernement a
indéniablement contribué à creuser un fossé entre la volonté et la capacité du pays d'intervenir sur la scène
Certes, le Canada demeure un pays riche, qui est membre du G8 et qui dispose d'un corps diplomatique fort
compétent. Mais c'est également un pays auquel il manque une vision précise du rôle qu'il pourrait jouer dans
le monde. Dans ce contexte, la politique interaméricaine que le Canada s'est efforcé de développer depuis plus
d'une décennie repose sur des bases fragiles. Étant donné que la dernière révision en profondeur de la
politique étrangère canadienne remonte à 1995, on doit s'attendre à ce que le gouvernement s'adonne bientôt à
un tel exercice. Au début de 2004, le nouveau premier ministre Paul Martin laissait d'ailleurs explicitement
entendre que l'une de ses priorités serait de rehausser l'image du Canada dans le monde. Pour l'heure,
cependant, l'ordre de priorité qui sera accordé aux Amériques dans la politique étrangère canadienne du futur
demeure une énigme.
En vue de contribuer au débat sur la place du Canada dans l'hémisphère, l'article décrit et explique comment
l'identité interaméricaine du pays s'est progressivement construite. La première section s'appuie sur une
approche historique pour donner une vue d'ensemble des relations entre le Canada et les Amériques au cours
du 20^sup ème^ siècle. La seconde partie montre ensuite comment, depuis 1990, la politique régionale du
Canada s'est surtout concentrée sur deux enjeux: la promotion de la démocratie et la libéralisation du
commerce. Il ressort de l'analyse que la politique canadienne à l'égard du système interaméricain demeure
confrontée à de persistantes interrogations.
Le Canada a longtemps adopté une "attitude ambivalente" à l'égard des Amériques.5 Même si, poussés par
l'espoir de voir le Canada participer aux institutions régionales, les membres de l'Union panaméricaine avaient
réservé un fauteuil à son nom et une hampe pour son drapeau dès 1910, (Roussin 1959 : 205-206) ce n'est
que huit décennies plus tard que le pays intégra pleinement le système interaméricain en adhérant à l'OÉA.
Jusque là, le Canada s'était montré peu attiré par le panaméricanisme. Indifférente à l'idée qu'il puisse exister
un intérêt commun à l'échelle du continent, la population canadienne n'éprouvait aucun véritable sentiment
d'appartenance à l'hémisphère. Pour une majorité de Canadiens, le panaméricanisme se résumait à "une
couverture pour l'hégémonie et l'impérialisme yankee". (Humphrey 1942 : 5) Conformément à cette attitude
générale, l'Amérique latine ne fut longtemps qu'une préoccupation secondaire de la politique étrangère du
Canada. À une certaine époque, les diplomates canadiens refusaient même d'occuper les postes qu'on leur
proposait dans cette région. (McKenna 1995 : 82) Fondamentalement, le gouvernement estimait que les
institutions hémisphériques étaient inutiles pour gérer les relations bilatérales qu'il entretenait avec les pays
d'Amérique latine ou avec les États-Unis. Craignant qu'une participation trop active dans les affaires
hémisphériques ne le prive de son rôle traditionnel de médiateur sur la scène internationale, le Canada
privilégiait les forums globaux au détriment des structures régionales.
Cette position longtemps dominante n'a tout de même pas empêché que la question de l'adhésion aux
organisations interaméricaines ne soit une source de débats récurrents au sein de la diplomatie canadienne.
Ainsi, au cours de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale, le Canada entreprit de se rapprocher des pays d'Amérique
latine afin d'écouler les marchandises qui ne pouvaient être exportées en Europe en raison du conflit et, dans
ce contexte, il envisagea sérieusement de devenir membre de l'Union panaméricaine. (Mace et Roy, 2000 :
261; Humphrey 1941: 6-7) Ce projet fut bloqué à cause de l'opposition des États-Unis, mais les discussions sur
l'adhésion du Canada aux institutions du système interaméricain n'arrêtèrent pas pour autant. Incapable de
surmonter toutes ses hésitations, le gouvernement canadien prit tout de même l'initiative, en I960, de créer une
division de l'Amérique latine au sein du ministère des Affaires étrangères. Un autre pas décisif fut ensuite
franchi en 1972, lorsque le Canada décida de joindre les rangs de l'Organisation panaméricaine de la santé et
de la Banque interaméricaine de développement, et de devenir observateur permanent à l'OÉA.
En dépit de ces diverses mesures, il est clair que, jusqu'à la fin des années 1980, l'implication du Canada dans
les institutions hémisphériques est demeurée très limitée. Les décideurs canadiens croyaient que les coûts
d'une adhésion pleine et entière au système interaméricain seraient plus élevés que les bénéfices qui
pouvaient en être tirés. Ils craignaient que le Canada ne soit perdant à tout coup: en appuyant les États-Unis, le
Canada risquait de s'aliéner les pays latino-américains, et en appuyant les pays latino-américains, il risquait de
s'aliéner les États-Unis. De toute façon, dans un environnement international dominé par la guerre froide, le
gouvernement canadien préférait se tenir à l'écart des affaires d'un continent perçu comme la cour-arrière des
États-Unis. Comme il a été suggéré plus haut, Washington a d'ailleurs longtemps été réticent à l'idée de voir le
Canada participer au système interaméricain. Le Canada étant membre du Commonwealth, les États-Unis
craignaient que son adhésion aux institutions interaméricaines n'ouvre la porte à une trop grande ingérence
britannique dans la région.
Malgré son absence de l'OÉA, il faut tout de même reconnaître que le Canada était parvenu à développer une
politique latino-américaine originale. Les positions qu'il a adoptées à l'égard de Cuba dans les années I960 et
de l'Amérique centrale dans les années 1980 ont particulièrement bien illustré le caractère distinct de sa
politique étrangère. Le gouvernement canadien n'a jamais été un chantre de la démocratie socialiste à la
cubaine mais il a très tôt reconnu le droit du peuple cubain à définir "ses propres solutions". (Ogelsby 1976 :
178) Opposé à la stratégie d'isolement politique et économique prônée par les États-Unis, le Canada fut, avec
le Mexique, le seul pays des Amériques à ne pas rompre ses relations diplomatiques avec le régime de Fidel
Castro. Lors d'une visite officielle effectuée en 1976, le premier ministre Trudeau n'hésita d'ailleurs pas à saluer
"l'amitié canado-cubaine". (Rochlin 1994 : 97) Quelques années plus tard, fortement encouragé par les
organisations non gouvernementales canadiennes, le gouvernement participa à la mesure de ses moyens au
règlement des guerres civiles qui ravageaient l'Amérique centrale. Bien que la politique canadienne ait été
marquée par de nombreuses hésitations, plusieurs observateurs ont soutenu qu'elle avait contribué à la
démocratisation de la sous-région. (Spehar et Thede 1995 ; 143) L'apport du Canada s'est surtout matérialisé
par son appui diplomatique et technique aux processus de Contadora et d'Esquipulas II, sa participation aux
missions de paix ONUSAL et ONUCA, et ses programmes d'aide au développement. (Spehar et Thede 1995 :
À la fin des années 1980, la chute du communisme, l'universalisation du modèle démocratique, la montée du
néo-libéralisme et le développement d'un 'nouveau régionalisme' poussèrent le système interaméricain à se
renouveler. Ce contexte allait inciter le Canada à réviser définitivement sa position à l'égard des Amériques, et
à finalement devenir un membre en règle de l'OÉA. Pour certains, la décision prise par Ottawa était assortie
d'énormes attentes. Elle devait tout à la fois permettre d'établir un contrepoids face aux États-Unis, de profiter
de l'ouverture économique de l'Amérique latine et de mieux faire face aux défis de la mondialisation. L'adhésion
du Canada à l'OÉA était également chargée d'une dimension symbolique que le ministre des Affaires
étrangères, Joe Clark, a su traduire avec éloquence au moment même où il annonçait la nouvelle politique
canadienne: "Depuis trop longtemps, les Canadiens ont vu cet hémisphère comme notre maison; il est
maintenant temps que nous en fassions notre foyer". (DFAIT 1989) Le Canada paraissait ainsi vouloir rompre
avec le mythe qu'il était un pays sans région.
Plus d'une décennie après l'entrée du gouvernement canadien à l'OÉA, sa participation à la dynamique
interaméricaine se prête à des bilans contrastés. Loin de se cantonner à un poste d'arrière-scène, le Canada a
clairement cherché à montrer qu'il entendait se tailler une place de choix sur la scène régionale. La vigueur de
son leadership s'est particulièrement bien illustrée par la tenue de trois événements-clés dont le gouvernement
canadien a été l'hôte entre 1999 et 2001: la cinquième réunion ministérielle de la ZLÉA (Toronto, 1999); la
trentième Assemblée générale de l'OÉA (Windsor, 2000); et le troisième Sommet des Amériques (Québec,
2001). En revanche, il est évident que le Canada n'a nullement réussi à transformer ni l'agenda interaméricain
ni les rapports de force régionaux. Et malgré son expérience reconnue du multilatéralisme, la diplomatie
canadienne n'est pas parvenue à maintenir le momentum qui avait marqué la coopération hémisphérique au
début des années 1990.
Depuis son adhésion à la 'famille' interaméricaine, le Canada s'est investi dans tous les champs de la
coopération régionale. Il participe ainsi à tous les débats stratégiques, politiques, économiques,
environnementaux, juridiques, sociaux et culturels qui préoccupent les États américains. À ce jour, deux enjeux
ont cependant reçu une attention plus particulière de la part d'Ottawa: la promotion de la démocratie et la
libéralisation du commerce.6 La promotion de la démocratie, rappelons-le, constitue un enjeu qui fait partie du
mandat de l'OÉA depuis la création de l'organisation. Quant à la libéralisation du commerce, il s'agit d'un thème
qui est apparu à l'ordre du jour interaméricain en 1990 avec l'Initiative pour les Amériques du président George
Bush Sr., et qui a pris son véritable envol en 1994, avec le projet de création d'une ZLÉA annoncé lors du
Sommet de Miami. Bien que la promotion de la démocratie et la libéralisation du commerce renvoient à des
questions techniques très différentes, les deux objectifs n'en demeurent pas moins étroitement reliés du point
de vue du gouvernement canadien. En bref, la démocratie est vue comme étant le système politique permettant
de créer l'environnement le plus favorable au développement des échanges dans la région.
La promotion de la démocratie
Dans le débat sur la promotion de la démocratie dans les Amériques, on oppose souvent les pays 'activistes'
aux pays 'non-interventionnistes'. En dernière analyse, ce clivage concerne la vision différente que les États ont
de la souveraineté nationale. Alors que les 'activistes' considèrent le maintien de la démocratie comme étant
une responsabilité collective, les 'non-interventionnistes' y voient un enjeu qui relève des affaires internes de
chaque État. Depuis son entrée à l'OÉA, le Canada s'est résolument engagé dans le premier camp en mettant
l'accent sur trois priorités parallèles: le renforcement de normes, le développement de nouvelles institutions et
la résolution de crises ponctuelles. (Mace et Roy 2000 : 274-278)
Au chapitre des normes, le Canada est apparu comme l'un des principaux promoteurs des résolutions,
déclarations et amendements à la Charte de l'OÉA qui, au cours de la dernière décennie, ont été adoptés à
l'échelle interaméricaine dans le domaine de la démocratie. Ainsi, presque tout de suite après son entrée à
l'OÉA, le Canada appuya activement la Résolution 1080 lors de l'Assemblée générale de Santiago, en juin
1991. Cette résolution demande aux ministres des Affaires étrangères des membres de l'OÉA de se réunir
d'urgence en cas d'interruption de la démocratie dans un pays de la région, et d'entreprendre des actions
collectives pour corriger la situation. En 1992, le gouvernement canadien a aussi fermement soutenu l'adoption
du Protocole de Washington, un texte qui s'inscrit dans le même esprit que la Résolution 1080. Le Protocole de
Washington a en effet amendé la Charte de l'OÉA afin de permettre à une majorité des deux tiers des membres
de l'organisation de suspendre un État dont le gouvernement aurait été renversé par la force. Le gouvernement
canadien fut d'ailleurs le premier à ratifier le Protocole de Washington.
Le leadership canadien en matière de promotion de la démocratie se trouva raffermi lors du Sommet de
Québec, souvent désigné comme le "Sommet de la démocratie". (Cooper 2001; Wilson-Forsberg et Roy 2000 :
1, 3) À l'initiative du Canada, la rencontre a permis l'adoption d'une "clause démocratique" pour les Amériques.
Cette clause a élargi la sphère d'intervention des États de l'hémisphère en établissant qu'une simple altération
de l'ordre démocratique dans un pays de la région pouvait entraîner une réaction collective. Elle stipule en
particulier que toute interruption ou altération de la démocratie dans un État constitue un "obstacle
insurmontable" à la participation du gouvernement de cet État au processus du Sommet des Amériques.7 La
clause démocratique est constamment décrite par le gouvernement comme l'un des grands succès de la
politique étrangère canadienne des dernières années et comme l'une des plus importantes contributions du
Canada à l'évolution récente des rapports interaméricains.
C'est aussi au Sommet de Québec que le Canada a commencé à s'impliquer dans la rédaction de la Charte
démocratique interaméricaine,8 le document le plus ambitieux que les États de l'hémisphère aient adopté à ce
jour dans le domaine de la démocratie et des droits humains. Bien qu'elle n'ait pas le poids d'un traité
international, la Charte démocratique revêt néanmoins une portée symbolique et une signification politique non
négligeables. Au plan symbolique, elle réaffirme que les peuples des Amériques ont un "droit à la démocratie",
en plus de reconnaître le rôle de la société civile dans le développement d'une culture démocratique. (OAS
2001b) Au plan politique, elle reprend les termes de la clause démocratique tout en renforçant les sanctions
possibles contre les États où il y aurait interruption ou altération de la démocratie. En vertu de la Charte, un État
non démocratique pourrait se voir empêché de participer à toute activité du système interaméricain, incluant les
négociations de la ZLÉA.9 Favorable à l'accord dès l'origine, le gouvernement canadien a décrit la Charte
démocratique comme "[l']une des plus grandes réalisations" de l'OÉA, et comme un "mécanisme politique" qui
"indique bien l'importance que nous, citoyens des Amériques, attachons à la démocratie et aux bienfaits qui
l'accompagnent". (MAECI 2002b) Soucieux d'éviter toute accusation de néo-impérialisme, le Canada insiste de
façon répétée sur l'idée que la Charte démocratique a été adoptée dans un esprit préventif et correctif plutôt
que punitif.10
Au-delà de ces instruments légaux, le Canada a contribué au développement d'une autre norme, moins stricte
mais néanmoins réelle, relative à la nécessité de démocratiser les processus interaméricains de prise de
décision. Selon la plupart des observateurs, l'OÉA a traditionnellement été une organisation internationale peu
transparente, et elle n'a jamais bénéficié d'une très grande légitimité populaire. Transposant à l'échelle
régionale son discours sur la nécessité de démocratiser sa propre politique étrangère, le Canada a milité en
faveur d'une plus grande ouverture des institutions interaméricaines aux groupes de la société civile. Il a
notamment apporté son soutien à l'élaboration de lignes directrices en vue de permettre à des organismes non
gouvernementaux d'obtenir un statut d'observateur à l'OÉA. C'est en vertu de cette innovation institutionnelle
que le Canada a accueilli la première Assemblée générale de l'OÉA (Windsor, juin 2000) où des représentants
de la société civile ont été invités à partager leurs points de vue avec des représentants officiels des États
En plus de sa contribution à l'adoption de nouvelles normes régionales, le Canada a été actif dans le
développement d'institutions chargées de promouvoir la démocratie dans les Amériques. Par exemple, c'est
largement à l'initiative du gouvernement canadien que l'OÉA établit une Unité pour la promotion de la
démocratie (UPD) en 1990. (Molot 2001: 2) Tirant parti de son expertise dans le domaine électoral, le Canada
joua un rôle important dans la définition du mandat de l'institution, qui inclut l'organisation et l'observation
d'élections, la promotion des droits humains, et le développement institutionnel. Il est aussi révélateur qu'à ce
jour, l'UPD ait toujours été dirigée par un ressortissant canadien. Bien que l'UPD reste sujette à des
accusations d'interventionnisme et que son impact sur l'évolution de la démocratie dans les Amériques reste
minuscule par rapport aux besoins du continent, le gouvernement canadien tient manifestement à faire de cette
institution une vitrine bien en vue de ses intérêts multilatéraux.
Soucieux de renforcer la légitimité des décisions prises au sein du système interaméricain, le Canada a aussi
favorisé une plus grande participation des parlementaires nationaux aux affaires régionales. Il a ainsi agi
comme chef de file dans la création, en mars 2000, du Forum interparlementaire des Amériques (FIPA), un
réseau qui vise à faciliter le dialogue entre les législatures nationales des membres de l'OÉA afin de "raffermir
les valeurs, les pratiques et les institutions démocratiques dans l'ensemble de l'hémisphère". (MAECI 2001a :
57) Ces objectifs en apparence très louables ne peuvent toutefois être bien compris qu'à la lumière de tensions
politiques internes. Il convient à cet effet de rappeler que la création du FIPA fut en fait une réponse d'Ottawa à
la mise sur pied de la Conférence parlementaire des Amériques (COPA) par le gouvernement du Québec en
1997. Contrairement à la COPA qui est ouverte aux parlementaires des États fédérés, le FIPA est réservé aux
parlementaires des États souverains. En dépit du manque de coopération ayant marqué leurs origines, les deux
initiatives semblent malgré tout avoir contribué à une meilleure communication et à un certain rapprochement
entre parlementaires de l'hémisphère.
Sur un autre registre, le Canada a systématiquement défendu l'action de l'OÉA en vue de résoudre diverses
crises régionales. Par exemple, il a soutenu l'utilisation de la Résolution 1080 lorsque la démocratie a été
interrompue à Haïti (1991), au Pérou (1992), au Guatemala (1993) et au Paraguay (1996), ainsi que l'invocation
de la Charte démocratique lors de la tentative de coup d'État qui a secoué le Venezuela en 2002. De ces cinq
situations de crise, c'est assurément le cas de Haïti qui a reçu le plus d'attention de la part des autorités
canadiennes. Rappelons que le Canada avait été fortement impliqué dans l'organisation des élections
haïtiennes de 1990, les premières élections libres de l'histoire du pays. Il fut l'un des premiers pays à réagir au
coup d'État de septembre 1991 en coupant ses liens commerciaux et ses programmes d'aide bilatéraux. Suite
à l'échec des sanctions prises par l'OÉA contre le régime putschiste du général Raoul Cédras, le gouvernement
canadien s'est rallié derrière la stratégie américaine visant à chercher une solution à la crise haïtienne à travers
l'ONU. Le Canada accepta ainsi de devenir membre de la mission civile internationale (MICIVIH) créée en 1993
et de paiticiper aux trois autres missions des Nations Unies déployées à Haïti depuis 1996. À la suite des
élections contestées de 2000, le premier ministre Chrétien a profité du Sommet de Québec pour demander au
Secrétaire général de l'OÉA, César Gaviria, de relancer la diplomatie interaméricaine en vue de trouver une
solution à la crise haïtienne. (MAECI 2001b) Dans la foulée de cette initiative, le Canada est devenu membre
du Groupe des amis d'Haïti qui regroupe d'autres membres de l'OÉA (Argentine, Bahamas, Belize, Chili, EtatsUnis, Guatemala, Mexique, République dominicaine et Venezuela) et des observateurs permanents auprès de
l'organisation (Allemagne, Espagne, France et Norvège). Puis, en 2002, c'est un ancien diplomate canadien qui
a été nommé chef de la mission spéciale de l'OÉA chargée de renforcer la démocratie à Haïti. Compte tenu des
dérapages incessants du processus de démocratisation, force est cependant de conclure que, dans le dossier
haïtien, la diplomatie canadienne se trouve confrontée aux mêmes blocages que l'ensemble de la diplomatie
Le Canada s'est par ailleurs distingué dans la résolution de la crise péruvienne de 2000. Par un hasard du
calendrier, l'élection contestée d'Alberto Fujimori au printemps 2000 survint quelques jours seulement avant la
première Assemblée générale de l'OÉA à se tenir en territoire canadien. Cette rencontre allait offrir au ministre
des Affaires étrangères, Lloyd Axworthy, l'occasion de mesurer les capacités de conciliation du Canada. Bien
qu'ils refusèrent d'utiliser la Résolution 1080, les membres de l'OÉA chargèrent le secrétaire général de
l'organisation et le ministre canadien d'entreprendre une mission de haut niveau afin d'évaluer la situation
politique au Pérou. La mission en question réussit à mettre sur pied une table de concertation où le
gouvernement péruvien, les partis d'opposition et la société civile négocièrent un important programme de
réformes politiques. Certes, on ne doit pas surestimer ni le rôle de la mission de l'OÉA dans la chute du
gouvernement Fujimori, ni le rôle que le Canada a pu jouer dans l'ensemble du processus. (Cooper 2002 : 296)
De plus, le fait que les membres de l'OÉA aient rejeté l'idée de recourir à la résolution 1080 pour faire face à la
crise péruvienne illustre bien les limites du consensus régional en matière de démocratie. Cela étant, l'épisode
péruvien a tout de même permis au gouvernement canadien de démontrer ses capacités d'initiative sur la
scène interaméricaine.
Sans aucun doute sensible aux ambivalences de l'administration américaine, le Canada a adopté une position
plus discrète dans la gestion de la crise vénézuélienne qui a fait suite à la tentative de coup d'État commise
contre le président Hugo Chávez en avril 2002. Cette crise a fourni à l'OÉA la première occasion d'utiliser la
Charte démocratique interaméricaine adoptée quelques mois plus tôt. Davantage à l'arrière-plan des débats, le
Canada est "resté solidaire"11 des membres de l'OÉA en appuyant le recours à l'article 20 de la Charte
démocratique pour condamner l'altération de l'ordre constitutionnel qui venait de se produire. Le gouvernement
canadien dit en outre avoir songé à invoquer la clause démocratique pour exclure le gouvernement du
Venezuela du processus du Sommet des Amériques. (MAECI 2002c) Étant donné que le président Chávez a
été rétabli dans ses fonctions en moins de 48 heures, cette dernière mesure est toutefois rapidement apparue
hors d'ordre. Relégué à un rôle de spectateur du fait qu'il ne fait pas partie du Groupe des amis du Venezuela
(qui comprend le Brésil, le Chili, l'Espagne, les États-Unis, le Mexique et le Portugal), le Canada s'est
finalement contenté d'insister sur l'importance des efforts de médiation entrepris sous l'égide de l'OÉA pour
faire face aux suites de la crise vénézuélienne.
Malgré le leadership dont le Canada a parfois fait preuve, son engagement envers la promotion de la
démocratie dans les Amériques a suscité des critiques de fond récurrentes. La contradiction qui existe entre le
discours du gouvernement en faveur du renforcement de la démocratie et son attitude à l'endroit du régime
interaméricain des droits humains est à cet égard souvent dénoncée. À l'instar des États-Unis, le Canada n'a
jamais cru bon de ratifier la Convention américaine des droits de l'homme ni de reconnaître la juridiction de la
Cour interaméricaine des droits de l'homme. Le gouvernement soutient que la Convention contient des
dispositions qui contredisent la loi et la jurisprudence canadiennes, notamment en ce qui a trait au droit à
l'avortement et au droit à la liberté d'expression. (DFAIT 2001 : 6) Cette interprétation rigoriste est non
seulement contestée par les groupes de droits humains, mais elle a même été récemment remise en question
par un comité de la Chambre des Communes, selon lequel le gouvernement du Canada devrait étudier "divers
mécanismes, par exemple un protocole d'entente ou une réserve, susceptibles de lui permettre de ratifier la
Convention dans un avenir proche".12 Nombreux sont ceux qui estiment que l'attitude du gouvernement à
l'égard du droit interaméricain des droits humains est paradoxale, et qu'elle affaiblit le soft power que le Canada
souhaite exercer dans le champ de la promotion de la démocratie.
Une autre critique fréquemment adressée à la politique canadienne a trait à sa définition étroite de la
démocratie. Le Canada défend une conception de la démocratie essentiellement fondée sur la tenue
d'élections libres et une compétition ouverte entre partis politiques. Cette conception largement procédurale ne
laisse que peu de place à la prise en compte des droits économiques et sociaux. Commentant, en 2001, le
projet mexicain de créer un Fonds social de développement destiné à faciliter l'intégration des pays les plus
pauvres à la ZLÉA, le ministre canadien du Commerce international, Pierre Pettigrew, a bien résumé la position
de son gouvernement en déclarant: "Nous libéralisons le commerce, mais nous laissons les gouvernements
redistribuer les richesses". (Krol 2001 : A8) Ainsi, tout en disant prôner un renforcement de la démocratie, le
gouvernement canadien se sent assez peu concerné par l'absence d'une véritable égalité des chances au
niveau régional. Cette attitude illustre particulèrement bien la fracture Nord-Sud qui caractérise l'hémisphère.
Les Latino-américains soulignent de façon assez unanime que la pauvreté est une menace à la démocratie
aussi sérieuse que les coups d'État.13 Or, c'est là un point de vue auquel Ottawa - comme Washington n'accorde au mieux qu'une importance symbolique. De manière révélatrice, l'engagement financier du Canada
envers la promotion de la démocratie et des droits humains dans les Amériques demeure fort modeste. Notons
par exemple que la Suède, qui a le statut d'observateur permanent auprès de l'OÉA, contribue davantage que
le Canada au budget - pourtant peu élevé - de l'UPD.14
À maints égards, le Canada aime à se poser en missionnaire de la démocratie et des droits humains dans les
Amériques. Et de fait, ces deux enjeux représentent sans doute le champ d'activité dans lequel le
gouvernement canadien a le plus systématiquement cherché à mettre en relief son influence idéologique et
politique depuis l'entrée du pays à l'OEA. Dans ces conditions, le Canada figure tout naturellement parmi les
pays ayant le plus contribué au développement récent d'un régime interaméricain de citoyenneté. (Thérien et al
2002) Mais en définitive, ce qui caractérise peut-être le plus la politique canadienne, c'est l'écart qu'elle
maintient entre les dichos et les hechos. Comme l'ont conclu deux observateurs, "En ce qui concerne la
démocratie dans les Amériques, il apparaît que le discours du gouvernement canadien (...) ne se traduit pas
dans ses actions concrètes". (Mace et Roy 2000 : 284) Les ambiguïtés du comportement du Canada sont en
bonne partie indissociables de la priorité qu'accordé la politique étrangère du pays au maintien d'un ordre
international stable, dominé par les États-Unis. Certes, la politique canadienne dans le domaine de la promotion
de la démocratie et des droits humains dans les Amériques ne peut être assimilée à une simple copie conforme
de la politique de Washington. Il reste cependant que les Valeurs canadiennes' que le gouvernement dit
promouvoir sont finalement très proches des positions défendues par les États-Unis dans la région. À ce titre,
s'il est vrai qu'elles aident à consolider l'État de droit dans le Sud de l'hémisphère, elles contribuent aussi à
légitimer la nature hégémonique de l'ordre régional et à nourrir le scepticisme croissant des Latino-américains
face au processus de démocratisation.
La libéralisation du commerce
On dit parfois que la politique étrangère d'un pays se résume à sa politique commerciale. Bien que cette thèse
soit évidemment réductrice, il n'empêche qu'elle apporte un éclairage utile à l'analyse de la situation
canadienne. Le gouvernement du Canada se plaît à répéter que "plus de 40% des biens et des services que
nous produisons sont exportés, et [qu'un] emploi sur trois (...) dépend du commerce international". (MAECI
2000a : 1-2) À l'évidence, la croissance de l'économie du pays s'avère largement tributaire des échanges
extérieurs, un contexte qui explique bien pourquoi le Canada s'est très tôt montré favorable à l'idée d'établir une
ZLÉA. S'il est certain que le projet de ZLÉA n'a pu voir le jour que parce qu'il correspondait à une priorité de la
politique étrangère des États-Unis, il est tout aussi clair que le Canada est apparu comme l'un des plus proches
alliés de Washington dans ce dossier.
L'appui qu'Ottawa donne depuis le départ à l'idée de créer une ZLÉA comporte deux volets, l'un économique et
l'autre politique. Au plan économique, la position canadienne est justifiée par le fait qu'en inscrivant les
échanges régionaux dans un nouveau cadre réglementaire, la ZLÉA offrirait au Canada une occasion de
diversifier ses partenaires commerciaux.15 En ayant accès plus facilement à de nouveaux marchés, le Canada
espère stimuler ses exportations de biens et services, et réduire le degré de sa dépendance commerciale face
aux États-Unis.
Sur le plan politique, la ZLÉA présente d'abord l'intérêt de venir étayer la stratégie canadienne à l'égard des
négociations de l'OMC, et ce d'une double manière. D'une part, étant donné les incertitudes qui ont marqué les
travaux du GATT et de l'OMC depuis vingt ans, le gouvernement considère la ZLÉA comme une police
d'assurance contre un dérapage toujours possible du système commercial multilatéral. D'autre part, comme le
font régulièrement remarquer les Latino-américains, les autorités canadiennes voient la ZLÉA comme un levier
pour élargir les engagements des pays de l'hémisphère en matière de services, de propriété intellectuelle et
d'investissements au sein de l'OMC.16 Par ailleurs, la ZLÉA est aussi vue par le gouvernement canadien
comme une protection pour la souveraineté nationale. En effet, le Canada tient à éviter un scénario bub-andspoke où les États-Unis bénéficieraient d'accords bilatéraux privilégiés avec l'ensemble des pays de la région,
parce qu'un tel scénario conduirait à l'isolement économique et diplomatique du Canada en Amérique du Nord.
(Mace et Thérien 1996 : 65) Du point de vue gouvernemental, la ZLÉA apparaît donc comme une bonne chose
étant donné qu'elle permettrait d'accroître la marge de manuvre de la politique étrangère canadienne.
Malgré son enthousiasme relatif à l'égard du projet, le gouvernement canadien ne constitue pas pour autant un
acteur central dans les négociations sur la ZLÉA. D'abord, en termes absolus, le commerce canadien avec
l'Amérique latine ne touche de façon significative qu'une poignée de pays: le Mexique, le Brésil, le Venezuela,
la Colombie et le Chili. Puis, en termes relatifs, il importe de noter que le Canada ne représente un partenaire
commercial majeur pour aucun des pays de la région. Signalons de plus qu'à cause de la forte concentration du
commerce canadien sur le marché des États-Unis, en 2002, l'ensemble des pays latino-américains absorbaient
à peine 1,54% des exportations totales du Canada (et 1,77% de ses exportations hémisphériques). Ces
données renforcent avant tout l'idée que l'implication du Canada dans le projet de la ZLÉA découle en bonne
partie de "visées politiques" (MAECI 2002a : 1) qui dépassent les simples considérations économiques. Elles
laissent également penser que le gouvernement canadien ne peut au mieux exercer qu'une influence limitée
sur l'orientation des débats.
Compte tenu de cet environnement défavorable, il est remarquable que le Canada soit tout de même parvenu à
jouer un rôle actif dans le déroulement des discussions sur la ZLÉA. Ainsi, durant la période de pré-négociation
qui s'est échelonnée de 1995 à 1998, (Mace et al 2003) les diplomates canadiens ont mis de l'avant toute une
série de propositions concernant l'organisation et l'échéancier des pourparlers, dont l'impact sur la trajectoire
institutionnelle de l'accord ne doit pas être minimisé. C'est le Canada, par exemple, qui a suggéré que les
négociations soient formellement lancées lors du Sommet de Santiago (1998), et que celles-ci portent
simultanément sur tous les sujets. De plus, les représentants canadiens comptent parmi ceux qui ont le plus
insisté pour que l'on négocie une toute nouvelle entente, au lieu d'envisager une simple extension de l'ALÉNA,
ou encore une fusion ALÉNA-MERCOSUR. (Mace et al 2003:154) Après leur ouverture officielle à Santiago, le
Canada a par la suite présidé les 18 premiers mois des négociations de la ZLEA. La présidence canadienne a
surtout été marquée par la tenue de la rencontre ministérielle de Toronto, en 1999, au cours de laquelle le
gouvernement s'est notamment distingué par l'intérêt qu'il a porté aux discussions sur les économies de petite
taille et la coopération technique. De façon plus large, le Canada a alors cherché à profiter du "leadership
hésitant" des États-Unis pour tenter de promouvoir son propre agenda en matière d'intégration économique
régionale. (Monfils et al 1999-.65)
La politique canadienne à l'égard de la ZLÉA porte à la fois sur des éléments de substance et des éléments de
procédure. En termes de substance, le gouvernement soutient avoir développé une approche équilibrée qui
tient simultanément compte du potentiel et des limites des forces du marché. Comme le révèle la proposition de
préambule à l'accord de la ZLÉA qu'il a soumise en 2000, le Canada estime que "le libre-échange et une
intégration économique accrue sont des facteurs-clés pour accroître le niveau de vie, améliorer les conditions
de travail de toute la population des Amériques et mieux protéger l'environnement", (MAECI 200Ob) mais il
juge par ailleurs que la défense de l'intérêt public ne peut être laissée aux mains des seuls marchés.
Autrement dit, bien qu'il ne fasse aucun doute, le parti pris libre-échangiste du Canada comporte tout de même
d'importantes nuances. D'abord, même si le gouvernement canadien souhaite que les droits et obligations de la
ZLÉA soient appliqués de façon aussi uniforme que possible, il reconnaît qu'à cause de leur faible niveau de
développement, certains pays de l'hémisphère font face à des défis particuliers. Ceci est surtout le cas des
économies de petite taille qui représentent les trois quarts des États de la région. À cause de leurs ressources
humaines et financières limitées, les économies de petite taille n'ont pas les mêmes capacités de négociation
que les autres pays et pourraient se trouver incapables de mettre en uvre le futur traité de la ZLÉA. Sensibles à
ces problèmes, Ottawa a soutenu la mise au point d'un programme d'assistance technique ayant pour but
d'aider les petits pays à participer de façon plus efficace aux discussions sur la ZLÉA.17 Le Canada s'est
également montré disposé à envisager, au cas par cas, un certain nombre de mesures d'exception à durée
prédéterminée. Ainsi, du point de vue des principes, la vision canadienne du libre-échange accepte que
certains États puissent bénéficier d'un traitement préférentiel à l'intérieur du cadre de la ZLÉA. Dans la pratique,
cependant, il convient de souligner que l'esprit de générosité qui anime le Canada demeure au total fort limité.
D'autre part, le Canada fait valoir que certains enjeux devraient rester à l'écart des discussions de la ZLÉA. La
santé, l'éducation, les services sociaux et la culture constituent autant de secteurs d'activités qui ont été
décrétés 'non-négociables' par le gouvernement canadien. Ancrée dans la conviction que les biens et les
services culturels jouent un rôle essentiel dans l'identité des sociétés, et conformément aux idées qu'elle
promeut auprès de l'OMC, la politique canadienne s'est tout particulièrement attachée à défendre la spécificité
du secteur de la culture dans le commerce interaméricain. Pour conserver une certaine autonomie dans ce
domaine d'activités, le gouvernement a formulé une demande d'exception et suggéré d'inclure une référence au
principe de "diversité culturelle" dans le préambule de l'accord. (MAECI 200Ob)
Le Canada reconnaît par ailleurs que le besoin d'attirer des investissements pourrait conduire certains
gouvernements de la région à abaisser leurs normes nationales en matière de travail et d'environnement. Il
affirme donc souhaiter que la ZLÉA prenne forme dans le plein respect des droits des travailleurs, et qu'elle
donne lieu à la mise en place de politiques commerciales et environnementales qui "se soutiennent
mutuellement". (MAECI 200Ob) Conscient du fait que plusieurs pays latino-américains craignent que l'inclusion
des thèmes du travail et de l'environnement dans l'accord de la ZLÉA serve surtout à justifier des mesures
protectionnistes de la part des deux pays développés de la région, Ottawa n'a jamais favorisé la signature
d'accords parallèles semblables à ceux que l'on retrouve dans l'ALÉNA. Cela dit, le gouvernement canadien a
ici aussi proposé d'utiliser le préambule de l'accord pour y inscrire une référence générale aux enjeux du travail
et de l'environnement, tout en insistant pour que des questions environnementales plus spécifiques puissent
être prises en considération par chacun des groupes de négociation. Quelle que soit la nature de l'accord final,
le Canada a de toute façon déclaré qu'il "n'abandonnera pas son droit d'établir ses propres lois et règlements
dans le domaine de l'environnement". (MAECI, site internet)
En somme, le modèle de ZLÉA prôné par le Canada repose sur une conception du libreéchange qui, tout en
favorisant une libéralisation accrue, laisse à l'État un certain rôle de régulation sociale. D'une part, le
gouvernement canadien reconnaît que le commerce de la plupart des biens et services de consommation
devrait suivre les lois du marché. D'autre part, il estime qu'il serait inapproprié, voire dangereux, d'appliquer les
mêmes règles aux biens et services qui, par leur impact possible sur la culture, la santé ou l'environnement,
façonnent le plus décisivement le bien-être des peuples. Pour reprendre une formule mise au point dans un
autre contexte, on pourrait conclure que le gouvernement est favorable à l'économie de marché et qu'il reste
méfiant vis-à-vis de la société de marché. À droite comme à gauche, l'approche poursuivie est dénoncée à
cause de son manque de clarté; au centre, elle est présentée comme un habile compromis.
On doit en tout cas noter que les nuances de la politique canadienne s'accordent assez bien à l'ambivalence
d'une opinion publique qui appuie le libre-échange tout en se montrant préoccupée par la mondialisation. Selon
une étude de Mendelsohn, Wolfe et Parkin, une nette majorité de la population canadienne approuve la
signature de nouveaux accords commerciaux par le gouvernement (66%), ainsi que la création d'une ZLÉA
(67%). (Mendelsohn et al 2002 : 353) Les Canadiens jugent que la libéralisation des échanges est bénéfique
tant pour la croissance de l'emploi au pays que pour l'amélioration des droits de l'homme à l'étranger. De façon
générale, ils tendent à interpréter la conclusion de nouveaux accords commerciaux comme étant une autre
expression de l'internationalisme de la politique étrangère canadienne. En même temps, Mendelsohn, Wolfe et
Parkin montrent que la population canadienne fait preuve de grandes hésitations vis-à-vis du phénomène de la
mondialisation. Une majorité de citoyens (55%) se rangent soit parmi ceux qui s'opposent au phénomène
(17%) ou parmi ceux qui se disent indécis (38%). De nombreux Canadiens semblent donc penser que la
mondialisation constitue une menace au maintien de leur style de vie. En conclusion, l'étude de Mendelsohn,
Wolfe et Parkin suggère que la politique du gouvernement à l'égard de la ZLÉA correspond assez bien aux
divisions de l'opinion publique; il reste à voir avec quelle vigueur elle sera défendue.
Sur le plan de la procédure, le Canada a contribué à une certaine démocratisation des négociations de la
ZLÉA. Impulsée par la mobilisation de nombreux groupes sociaux, cette volonté d'ouverture s'est tout
naturellement articulée aux efforts canadiens déjà décrits en vue de conférer au système interaméricain une
plus grande légitimité populaire. Le gouvernement a ainsi soutenu l'adoption de diverses mesures pour mieux
inclure la société civile et le milieu des affaires dans les négociations commerciales en cours. En fait, de tous
les États américains, le Canada est peut-être celui qui a le plus pris au sérieux l'idée de favoriser la participation
des acteurs non gouvernementaux dans le débat sur l'intégration économique régionale. Le ministère des
Affaires étrangères a par exemple créé en son sein une direction - la Direction des consultations et de la liaison
- spécialement chargée de prendre le pouls de la société civile et du milieu des affaires. Au niveau régional, le
Canada a joué un rôle décisif dans la mise sur pied, en 1998, d'un Comité des représentants gouvernementaux
de la ZLÉA pour la participation de la société civile. Ce comité vise à mieux faire connaître le processus de
négociation de l'accord et à établir un espace de dialogue entre les gouvernements de l'hémisphère d'une part,
et le secteur des affaires, les syndicats, les groupes environnementaux et le milieu académique d'autre part.
L'engagement du Canada en faveur d'une plus grande transparence des négociations de la ZLÉA s'est par
exemple traduit par l'organisation d'un premier Forum de la société civile des Amériques lors de la rencontre
ministérielle de Toronto. (Common Frontiers 2000) Il s'est de nouveau exprimé à la rencontre ministérielle de
Buenos Aires, tenue juste avant le Sommet de Québec, lorsque le gouvernement canadien s'est fait l'ardent
défenseur de l'idée de publier les textes préliminaires de l'accord de la ZLÉA. (Molot 2001: 3) La diplomatie
canadienne a alors aidé à surmonter les réticences de plusieurs pays de la région qui doutaient de la
pertinence de rendre public les documents de travail qui étaient à ce moment-là en discussion.
Le débat reste évidemment ouvert quant à savoir si les efforts déployés par la diplomatie canadienne pour
démocratiser les négociations sur la ZLÉA reflètent un véritable souci de consultation ou s'ils répondent plutôt à
une simple opération de relations publiques. Là-dessus, le gouvernement et les trente mille manifestants qui
sont descendus dans les rues de Québec en avril 2001 afin d'exprimer leur opposition à la ZLÉA ont des points
de vue bien sûr opposés.18 Il importe en tous les cas de souligner que tant le milieu des affaires que les
organisations de la société civile se plaignent du fait que les mécanismes de consultation actuels demeurent
nettement insuffisants.19 Vu ce climat de mécontentement, l'une des rares certitudes qui se dégagent de la
politique canadienne concernant la procédure de négociation de la ZLÉA, c'est qu'elle a réussi à stimuler la
réflexion publique sur l'imputabilité des structures décisionnelles du système interaméricain.
Malgré les différents efforts investis à ce jour par le Canada dans les négociations commerciales régionales, il
apparaît cependant que l'évolution récente de la conjoncture politique remet sérieusement en question la place
que le pays souhaiterait occuper dans le système interaméricain. Certains ont pensé un moment que l'échec de
la conférence de l'OMC qui s'est déroulée à Cancun en septembre 2003 allait favoriser le projet de ZLÉA en
revalorisant les processus d'intégration régionale. (Weintraub 2003 : 2) Mais au lieu de cela, la huitième
rencontre des ministres du Commerce des Amériques, tenue à Miami en novembre 2003, a plutôt montré que
les négociations de la ZLÉA étaient également dans l'impasse, et que l'échéance de 2005 était de plus en plus
irréaliste. La Déclaration ministérielle adoptée à cette occasion n'a pu cacher les profondes dissensions entre la
position des États-Unis, qui désiraient exclure l'agriculture et les mesures anti-dumping des négociations, et
celle du Brésil, qui refusa en contrepartie de discuter des "thèmes de Singapour" concernant l'investissement,
les politiques de concurrence, les achats gouvernementaux et la facilitation du commerce.20 En fait, la
rencontre de Miami eut comme principal résultat de réorienter la trajectoire institutionnelle de la ZLÉA vers un
accord minimal et à la carte. Plus précisément, le compromis de Miami ramène la future ZLÉA à une simple
entente sur la réduction des barrières tarifaires; pour le reste, les gouvernements pourront décider du niveau
d'engagement qu'ils désirent prendre sur une base individuelle ou bilatérale.21 L'idée initiale d'aboutir à un
accord de portée générale devant servir de modèle pour la communauté internationale paraît de plus en plus
hors d'atteinte.
Le Sommet extraordinaire des Amériques qui a eu lieu à Monterrey, au Mexique, les 12 et 13 janvier 2004 n'a
pas permis d'éliminer les blocages apparus à Miami deux mois plus tôt. Bien que les États-Unis aient réussi à
faire inclure dans la Déclaration finale du sommet un paragraphe sur l'engagement des signataires à conclure
les négociations de la ZLÉA selon l'échéancier prévu à l'origine,22 la rencontre de Monterrey a surtout mis en
évidence la profonde divergence de vue entre Washington d'une part, et les gouvernements de l'Argentine, du
Brésil et du Venezuela d'autre part.23
Il est clair que l'accentuation de la division Nord-Sud apparue à Miami et à Monterrey soulève d'énormes défis
pour l'avenir de la politique hémisphérique du gouvernement canadien. À cet égard, le principal danger que
l'environnement post-Miami pose au Canada tient au probable repli du gouvernement américain sur une
stratégie commerciale bilatérale.24 En reprenant le modèle hub-and-spoke, une telle stratégie risque d'avoir
des résultats désastreux pour Ottawa dans la mesure où, étant surtout intéressés à profiter du marché
américain, les pays latino-américains pourraient n'accorder qu'une importance tout à fait marginale au
développement de leur commerce avec le Canada.
Au total, il ressort de cette analyse que le sort qui sera réservé au projet de ZLÉA façonnera en grande partie
l'identité interaméricaine du Canada. Du point de vue économique, la ZLÉA serait susceptible de favoriser une
expansion des échanges de toutes sortes entre le Canada et l'Amérique latine. En s'ajoutant aux règles de
l'OMC, un accord hémisphérique permettrait en outre de mieux contraindre la politique commerciale des ÉtatsUnis. Du point de vue politique, on peut faire valoir que sans la ZLÉA, le régionalisme interaméricain risque de
tourner à vide car ni Washington ni les gouvernements d'Amérique latine ne verront l'intérêt de sortir du cadre
traditionnel des relations bilatérales ou mini-latérales. Pour le Canada, un tel scénario aggraverait
l'enfermement nord-américain dans lequel l'ont de plus en plus confiné sa relation économique dominante avec
les États-Unis, les difficultés économiques internes du pays ainsi que la nouvelle configuration du système
international. Au contraire, une ZLÉA dynamique renforcerait le multilatéralisme régional et augmenterait la
marge de manoevre de l'ensemble de la politique extérieure canadienne.
Après une valse-hésitation qui dura près d'un siècle, le Canada a finalement décidé d'associer son destin à
celui des Amériques. Cette "découverte" (Rochlin 1994) de l'hémisphère représente un tournant majeur dans la
politique étrangère du gouvernement canadien puisque celui-ci s'était traditionnellement montré beaucoup plus
à l'aise dans les forums globaux que dans les forums régionaux. La plupart des observateurs s'entendent pour
dire que, depuis son entrée à l'OÉA, le Canada a parcouru "beaucoup de chemin en peu de temps", (Cooper
1997 : 270) dans le sens où il a pris une part active à tous les grands débats de l'agenda interaméricain.
À long terme, la portée de l'activisme canadien dans les Amériques reste toutefois difficile à évaluer. Cette
difficulté tient avant tout à la morosité du climat général qui prévaut actuellement dans la région. Plusieurs
experts remettent désormais en question le succès des discussions sur la ZLÉA.25 Le peu de progrès réalisé
lors des plus récentes négociations démontre que l'intérêt des dirigeants de l'hémisphère pour cet accord
commercial est à la baisse. À Washington, l'énorme déficit commercial du pays alimente les pressions
protectionnistes. De plus, depuis les attaques terroristes du 11 septembre 2001, le gouvernement américain a
redéfini ses priorités internationales autour des questions de sécurité, au détriment de l'intégration régionale.
De leur côté, certains pays latino-américains, notamment le Brésil, hésitent à s'engager dans la ZLÉA car ils
doutent de la volonté des États-Unis de véritablement ouvrir leur marché. Sur le terrain plus politique, la région
est confrontée à une désillusion de l'opinion publique face aux ratés du processus de démocratisation. De
récents sondages montrent en effet que, depuis le milieu des années 1990, l'appui à la démocratie a diminué
presque partout en Amérique latine.26 Cette situation est préoccupante parce qu'elle porte à conclure que,
même si elles sont réelles, les récentes avancées du régime interaméricain de citoyenneté sont insignifiantes
par rapport aux attentes et aux besoins des populations de la région.
Dans un environnement aussi volatil, la politique interaméricaine du Canada ne dispose que de rares points de
repère pour s'orienter. Parmi ceux-ci, on peut tout de même compter sur le fait que, pour l'avenir immédiat, la
question de la libéralisation des échanges va dominer tous les autres enjeux sur l'agenda hémisphérique.
Partant de là, on peut penser que le plus grand défi à surmonter viendra de la fracture Nord-Sud que le récent
sommet de Monterrey a plus que jamais mise en évidence. Compte tenu du climat de tension qui prévaut, la
diplomatie canadienne ne manquera pas de défis à relever dans l'avenir immédiat. A cet égard, deux tâches
pressantes devraient logiquement s'imposer. Il s'agirait, d'une part, de répondre aux initiatives mexicaines en
faveur d'une plus grande institutionnalisation de l'ALÉNA et, d'autre part, d'animer une coalition de
gouvernements désireux de ne pas aggraver la séparation des Amériques entre un Nord riche et un Sud
Au-delà des questions liées à la conjoncture, il convient de souligner que la difficulté de cerner l'identité
interaméricaine du Canada tient aussi au contexte d'incertitude qui plane sur l'ensemble de la politique
étrangère du pays. Pendant un certain temps, on aurait pu penser que le régionalisme allait s'imposer comme
le nouveau fil conducteur des relations extérieures canadiennes. Or, ce n'est pas ce qui s'est passé. Selon un
expert, l'option régionale s'est en fait introduite dans la politique étrangère du Canada beaucoup plus comme
un outil de protection contre la menace d'une marginalisation que comme un objectif en soi. (Cooper 1997 :
273) On doit également constater que la vocation interaméricaine du Canada est en compétition avec une foule
d'autres priorités que le pays souhaite apparemment maintenir: son alliance avec les ÉtatsUnis, son intérêt
pour le développement d'une communauté nord-américaine, sa tradition atlantiste, son ouverture sur le bassin
du Pacifique, sa nordicité, ses liens historiques avec le Commonweath et la Francophonie, et son parti pris pour
l'ONU. Face à ces multiples sources d'identification collective, il est clair que le Canada hésite à faire des choix.
En dernière analyse, le Canada apparaît comme un pays désespérément à la recherche d'un nouvel équilibre
entre bilatéralisme, régionalisme et multilatéralisme pour guider son action internationale face aux défis du
21^sup éme^ siècle. Et pendant que le Canada s'interroge, le reste du monde bouge.
1. Voir, par exemple, Wendt 1999.
2. Voir Kubálková 2001.
3. Voir Hillmer et Molol 2002; et Cohen 2003.
4. Selon les données exprimées en parité de pouvoir d'achat. Voir UNDP 2003 : 278-281 - tableau 12.
5. McKenna 1995 : 65. Pour un examen approfondi de l'histoire des relations entre le Canada et les Amériques, voir
aussi Humphrey 1942; Roussin 1959; Rochlin 1994; Stevenson 2000; Mace 2000.
6. Évidemment, il n'est pas impossible que ces deux thèmes soient un jour remplacés par d'autres. À cet égard, le
nouvel intérêt accordé par IOÉA au terrorisme et lo récente adhésion du Canada à l'Organisation interaméricaine de
défense laissent penser que les questions de high politics pourraient éventuellement bouleverser les priorités de la
politique interaméricaine du Canada.
7. Déclaration de Québec, avril 2001, disponible à
8. Graham 2002 : 3-5. Pour une discussion approfondie de la Charte démocratique, voir aussi le numéro spécial de
Canadian Foreign Policy/La politique étrangère du Canada, 2003, 10(3); et Cooper 2004.
9. Le gouvernement canadien admet néanmoins "qu'il sera difficile à court terme de s'entendre sur une clause
fonctionnelle de la démocratie dans l'accord de la ZLÉA". Voir MAECI 2002a : 23.
10. Voir MAECI 2002b.
11. Selon les termes utilisés par le ministre Denis Paradis dans MAECI 2002c.
12. Comité permanent des affaires étrangères et du commerce international 2001.
13. Cette thèse est explicitement défendue dans Muñ : 82. Voir aussi Petrash 2001.
14. Pour la période 1990-2001, les contributions de la Suède et du Canada à l'UPD se sont élevées à US $16 millions
et US $6,3 millions respectivement. Voir OAS 2001c.
15. Voir MAECI 2002a: 1.
16. Sur ce dernier point, voir par exemple Botto et Tussie 2003 : 10.
17. Comité permanent des affaires étrangères et du commerce international 2002 : 37-39.
18. Voir Drainville 2001 : 15-42.
19. Voir Mackoy 2002 : 8; Botto et Tussie 2003 : 2.
20. On peut consulter le texte de la Déclaration ministérielle de Miami sur le site internet de IOÉA.
21. The Economist 2003 : 33-34. Voir aussi sur ce sujet le numéro spécial de FOCAL Point 2003 : 1-6.
22. Le texte de la déclaration du Sommet (Déclaration de Nuevo Léon) est disponible à
23. Voir par exemple Unomasuno 2004 : 1 ; ainsi que El Norte 2004 : 1.
24. Voir Washington File 2003.
25. Voir Mackay 2002; Weintraub 2004; Andersen 2001; et Mace el Ouellet 2002.
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Wendt, Alexander (1999). Social Theory of International Politics. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.
Wilson-Forsberg, Stacey et Martin Roy (2000). "Le Sommet de la démocratie?" Sommet 2001(3) : 1-3.
[Author Affiliation]
[Author Affiliation]
* Jean-Philippe Thérien est professeur titulaire au Département de science politique de l'Université de Montréal et
Directeur scientifique adjoint du Centre d'études et de recherches internationales de l'Université de Montréal. Gordon
Mace est professeur titulaire au Département de science politique de l'Université Lavai et Directeur du Centre
d'études interaméricaines de l'Institut québécois de hautes études internationales. Myriam Roberge détient une
Maîtrise en science politique de l'Université de Montréal. Les auteurs remercient Marjolaine Pigeon pour son travail à
titre d'assistante de recherche.
Assessing Hemispheric Institution Building
Gordon Mace, Jean-Philippe Thérien and Paul Haslam
When it comes to grasping the nature of inter-American institutions, Craig Murphy’s
comparison of the building of international organizations to the construction of cathedrals in
medieval Europe is particularly instructive. (Murphy 1994, 33.) Contemporary hemispheric
institutions do not derive from an ideal model established over a hundred years ago. They are,
rather, the complex result of various designs applied at different periods during the last century,
with each new design modifying the preceding institutional layout.
The first Summit of the Americas in 1994 undoubtedly represented one such reorientation
of hemispheric regionalism. The principal innovation of this third phase of institution-building
was the introduction of a two-level structure for governing the Americas. At the executive level,
the Summits of Heads of State, supported by a dozen ministerial conferences and a Summit
Implementation Review Group, sought to enhance the legitimacy of inter-American governance
and to give it a renewed sense of direction. Existing regional bodies such as the OAS and the
IDB took on an administrative role, ensuring follow-up to the mandates formulated at the
summits and the ministerials.
There are of course several factors explaining the shift that occurred in 1994 after more
than 25 years of relative paralysis in inter-American cooperation. Some factors were external to
the region and had to do with the end of the Cold War and the rise of what was then perceived as
competitive trade blocs. But certain factors, perhaps more important than the external ones,
were at work within the region itself. The most salient of these was the external debt crisis of the
early 1980s that produced a change of mentality among Latin American elites and was
responsible in many ways for the turn towards democracy and market-based economic policies.
These changes in political and economic orientation were seen by policy-makers in the United
States as evidence of a real convergence of values between the U.S. and the rest of the Americas.
The “historical moment” had to be seized so as to usher in a climate propitious to a new era in
inter-American politics.
The renaissance that took place in the mid-1990s demonstrated the remarkable resilience
of hemispheric institutions and their ability to overcome moments of crisis as well as long
periods of stagnation. It also held out significant promise for the future of inter-American
relations insomuch as it showed a capacity to accommodate the various, sometimes opposing
interests and aspirations of the governments of the region. After giving rise to vast expectations,
however, the institutional renovation of the inter-American system has, in the final analysis,
produced only limited results. While it is true that the last decade has witnessed some progress,
hemispheric cooperation continues to encounter stubborn obstacles. This ambivalent situation is
inherent to each of the four issues that now comprise the core of the hemispheric agenda:
governance, democracy, security, and the economy.
1) Governance
The institutional reorganization of the 1990s did breathe new life into the governance of
regionalism in the Americas. By making it possible for heads of state to engage in a direct
dialogue, the regular holding of Summits invested the inter-American system with greater
political meaning. The establishment of ministerials in a number of sectors resulted in a higher
degree of cooperation among ministers and government officials from all countries of the
hemisphere. The creation of a Joint Working Group assembling all the major agencies involved
in regional cooperation has, moreover, provided a useful instrument for improving the circulation
of information and raising the efficacy of hemispheric governance. In addition to allowing better
coordination of national policies, the multiplication of diplomatic communication channels has
fostered the emergence of a common hemispheric agenda. And by facilitating the negotiation of
new agreements, this common agenda has contributed to a notable broadening of the interAmerican normative order.
It should also be pointed out that the new architecture of regional institutions has made it
possible for non-governmental actors to participate more extensively in hemispheric politics.
While William Smith and Roberto Patricio Korzeniewicz’s distinction between “insiders” and
“outsiders” must be kept in mind, it is clear that inter-American diplomacy has today become
more receptive to the views expressed by civil society and the business community. Through its
efforts to become more inclusive, regional cooperation has furthered the empowerment and
networking of social groups that had traditionally been left on the periphery of hemispheric
public debate. In the long run, this innovation may turn out to be the main benefit accruing from
the recent reform of the functioning of regionalism in the Americas.
Notwithstanding the progress described above, inter-American governance continues to
confront a number of barriers. All in all, the advances have fallen well short of the hopes that
seemed altogether justified in 1994. For one thing, summit diplomacy has not succeeded in
gaining the momentum that many had predicted. Instead of being held annually or bi-annually, as
had been proposed initially, the Summits of the Americas have taken place every 3 or 4 years.
And, despite four years of preparation, the latest of these high-level meetings at the time of
writing — the Mar del Plata Summit of 2005 — has generally been deemed a failure. At the
operational level, the inter-American system of governance has been incapable of clearly
identifying priorities for action. The Plans of Action produced by the Summits, which enumerate
hundreds of objectives, have not been able to impart a specific direction to hemispheric
diplomacy. Ironically, the most publicized item of this multifarious agenda, the FTAA, currently
finds itself in a stalemate. Moreover, the division of labor among the principal actors concerned
— the OAS, other regional institutions, and national governments — has proven to be a constant
source of confusion.
A tangible expression of the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of hemispheric
governance is the underfunding of inter-American bodies. Despite its recent increase, the OAS
budget remains altogether inadequate for the political, economic, social, and cultural mandates of
the organization. Of course, the situation would improve somewhat if member states accepted to
make their quota payments in time but the fundamental problem of regional cooperation
financing cannot be resolved without a considerable infusion of political imagination. One
avenue to explore would certainly be the pooling of the resources made available to the interAmerican institutions as a whole. In this perspective, some observers have noted that a transfer
to the OAS of only 1% of the annual loan disbursements of the IDB would double the OAS
Finally, inter-American governance remains permanently confronted with the difficulty
of enforcing collective decisions. The Summit process and the OAS can "encourage" and "urge"
members to behave in a certain way but they cannot constrain them.
The source of this
institutional weakness is well known: founded on inter-governmentalism and the sovereign
equality of states, the political architecture of the inter-American system does not recognize any
supra-national authority. As a consequence, hemispheric governance suffers from a flagrant lack
of legitimacy. Under current conditions, it is difficult to imagine that a renewal of the legitimacy
of inter-American governance could result from a spontaneous change of attitude among the
governments of the region. In the short or medium-term, if such a change in attitude were to
materialize, it would more likely be the product of political pressure from regional non-state
actors or from those inter-American institutions, such as the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights, that are not state-dominated.
2) Democracy
There is no question that the institutional shift of 1994 advanced the cause of democracy
in the Americas. Many diplomats and observers agree that the strengthening of democracy is
henceforth the primary mission of the OAS. While the ongoing consolidation of democracy in
Latin America is by all accounts due more to domestic than to external factors, inter-American
norms and practices have had a real impact on this process.
With respect to norms, the most important development of the last decade was certainly
the adoption in 2001 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. This agreement made it
possible, in particular, to advocate the idea that only democratic governments may participate in
hemispheric affairs. In a region historically subject to authoritarianism and coups d’état, the
consensus achieved on this norm represents a substantial change in attitude. It should be stressed
as well that the Democratic Charter proposes an innovative definition of democracy. It
recognizes, specifically, that the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and that,
beyond the mere holding of elections, democratic values must include justice and the
transparency of the political system.
With regard to practices, the OAS now plays a key role in electoral processes. Since
1990, the organization has been invited to observe more than 80 elections throughout the
hemisphere. Between elections, the OAS promotes dialogue among parliamentarians, political
parties, and members of civil society. Over the past fifteen years the OAS has furthermore
intervened in a number of domestic crises. Until 2001 these interventions usually took place
within the framework of Resolution 1080 adopted in 1991; since 2001, most interventions have
been carried out under the Democratic Charter. Reference to the Charter in dealing with the
conflicts in Venezuela (2002), Nicaragua (2005), and Ecuador (2005) has sent a clear signal that
the fate of democracy in the Americas can no longer be determined solely through the principle
of national sovereignty.
Yet, despite all these positive developments, the state of democracy in the hemisphere
remains fragile. The inter-American system apparently lacks the political and financial resources
to ensure the achievement of the ambitious goals outlined in the Democratic Charter. The
Charter could not avert, for example, recent outbursts of political violence in Haiti and Bolivia.
This is one of the factors that has prompted Tom Legler to ask, in his chapter, whether the
Democratic Charter is ultimately no more than an “empty piece of paper.”
The inter-American democratic regime does, in fact, suffer from a long list of
shortcomings. First, noble intentions aside, its vision of democracy is centred essentially on the
electoral process. The Democratic Charter’s statement on the interdependence between
democracy and social and economic rights — the importance of which was emphasized by
Bernard Duhaime — amounts to hardly more than a rhetorical turn of phrase. In addition, if
something of a consensus does exist as to the appropriate attitude to adopt toward a coup d’état,
the inter-American community continues to be divided with regard to the threat an
“unconstitutional alteration” of the democratic order might pose. No criteria have been provided
for defining what such an alteration might consist of. Furthermore, the denunciation of an
alteration of the democratic order remains an inter-governmental procedure from which the civil
society is completely excluded.
From a broader perspective, the punitive approach far outweighs prevention in the interAmerican doctrine on democracy. This tendency has spawned distrust among certain Latin
American states that are afraid the promotion of democracy could be used as a political pretext
justifying U.S. intervention in the region. One of the effects of this prevailing climate of distrust
is that the conditions for accessing democracy remain ambiguous. The Secretary-General of the
OAS, José Miguel Insulza, aptly expressed this ambiguity when he declared that although the
Democratic Charter “must be adhered to unconditionally”… “there are different paths for
achieving our objectives.” (Insulza 2005, 2.) Ultimately, the inter-American democratic regime
rests on a set of ever more sophisticated norms; however, this codification has not prevented a
multiplicity of interpretations as to what the “right to democracy” actually means.
3) Security
Security issues have long dominated the inter-American agenda and its cycles of
institution building and decline. By 1994, many of the traditional hemispheric security
institutions were viewed as vitiated (the Rio Pact), obsolete (the Inter-American Defense Board
and College) or ineffective and irrelevant (the Pact of Bogotá). The end of the Cold War, which
had caused so much conflict between Washington and Latin America, represented a new
opportunity for cooperation, as did the emergence of new non-traditional security threats. As a
result, the Summit era witnessed the development of (1) a new agenda; (2) new institutions; (3)
and the participation of new actors.
The agenda moved from a traditional military perspective focussed on external threats or
internal subversion to an approach broadly based on the concept of human security. This
movement has been institutionalized in the Declaration on Multidimensional Security adopted in
2003. The Declaration codified the “new security agenda”, identifying as security issues civilmilitary relations, terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, and environmental and health
threats, among others.
The Declaration is only the culmination of broader post-Cold War institution building
and cooperation. The OAS Committee on Hemispheric Security has met since 1991 as a working
group to discuss common security problems. Since 1995, the hemisphere’s Ministers of Defense
have held ministerials, intended to improve the coordination of regional security institutions.
Specialized OAS organs have been created such as the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security
and the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE). In addition, one may point to the
proliferation of formal and informal confidence building measures (CSBMs), particularly at the
sub-regional level, but also endorsed by the Summit process.
While the management of military and potentially militarized disputes in the Americas
has become increasingly institutionalized, perhaps most importantly, the Summit-era has also
implicated new actors in security matters. Indeed, one fundamental change in recent interAmerican affairs has been the subordination of military and security issues in general to civilian
authority. This is in marked contrast to Cold-War practices in which a “club of generals”
atmosphere pervaded the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) and kept this institution
stubbornly autonomous from the democratic structures of the OAS.
More than ever, the Western Hemisphere conforms to Arthur Whitaker’s ideal of a
hemisphere of peace, where the peaceful settlement of disputes is the norm rather than the
exception. (Whitaker 1954)
Nonetheless, the apparent agreement on the concept of
“multidimensional security,” as David Mares points out, actually represents the lowest common
denominator of agreement on priorities and institutional reform. Above all, discussions in the
Committee on Hemispheric Security have failed to develop an integrated framework among
security institutions that relates the Rio Pact and the IADB to the new institutional developments.
A lack of coordination persists between the Foreign Ministers responsible for Summit objectives
and the Ministers of Defense. Also in Latin America, suspicion continues to exist between the
military and civilian authorities, contributing to a lack of leadership on security issues.
Furthermore the limited application of new norms to a number of resilient cases of conflict
(Haitian instability, Colombian civil war, Bolivia-Chile border dispute) tends to undermine the
consolidation of common hemispheric security. As Margaret Daly Hayes puts it, “It is time to
end the debate and begin action toward a more secure hemisphere.”
The institutional consequence of the post-1994 period is, therefore, a proliferation of new
institutions that overlap with existing ones – each set with a different raison d’être. The Summit
process has encouraged dialogue, contributed to the adoption of a new agenda, and strengthened
civilian control of the military. In the final analysis, however, hemispheric security is still
dominated by bilateral relationships, illustrated by the ample US funding for its military
assistance programs (Plan Colombia being the most obvious example). In this sense, over a
decade of reform has failed to change the underlying structure of hemispheric security relations.
4) Economy
The difficulties faced in the post-1994 round of institution building are most evident in
the area of economic governance. Although the Summits addressed a number of regional issues,
the promised Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was the economic linchpin of the
Summit process. It was the mirage of access to the US market that brought Latin America to the
table to discuss a broader range of cooperative strategies. Following the Miami Ministerial of
November 2003, the unravelling of this option undoubtedly contributed to the polarization and
failure of the Mar del Plata Summit.
The importance of this ephemeral idea of an FTAA should not be underestimated.
Because 1994 marked the first time since 1889-90 that hemispheric free trade found itself on the
inter-American agenda, this constituted an advance over past practices. Participants agreed on
the desirability of free trade, the issues to be negotiated, and a time frame that envisioned
completion by 2005. Although progress on the FTAA text had ground to a halt by 2004, the
process had been accompanied by the significant development of support institutions. The Trade
Unit (later OAS Trade Section) of the OAS was charged with disseminating information on trade
and investment and the state of negotiations of FTAA. It also sought to build negotiating
capacity in small economies through training workshops and related activities. As Richard
Feinberg and Paul Haslam noted, the FTAA process also strengthened the trade unit of the IDB.
Furthermore, the growing acceptance of the free trade idea was confirmed by the
proliferation of bilateral free-trade agreements (FTAs), bilateral investment treaties (BITs), and
sub-regional and extra-regional trade agreements. In fact, Maryse Robert’s analysis reveals a
dynamic process at the sub-regional level where policy coordination and harmonization pushed
economic integration and institutional development forward despite stalemate at the region-wide
FTAA negotiations. These agreements are investment-driven, aim to deepen economic
integration, and cover new issues such as intellectual property, investment and services.
Ultimately, however, efforts to institutionalize a single hemispheric regime in trade and
investment have reached an impasse. Despite broad support for the free trade ideal, sub-regional
agreements are sufficiently incompatible in terms of disciplines and legal style to complicate
their harmonization in an FTAA. As Louis Bélanger has pointed out, the precise legalized style
of NAFTA limits its ability to evolve. But more fundamentally, the US penchant for legalization
is at odds with the greater flexibility of intra-Latin American trade agreements, which allow for
an evolution over time that is in keeping with the changing political priorities of member
governments. The Mar del Plata Declaration illustrated this North-South divide on the FTAA
between a US-led vision of NAFTA plus, and a South American vision reflecting the interests of
Brazil and its allies. The United States and 28 other countries signed a statement affirming their
will to “advance the negotiations within the framework adopted in Miami in November 2003.” In
contrast, Mercosur plus Venezuela asserted that “the necessary conditions are not yet in place for
achieving a balanced and equitable free trade agreement with effective access to markets free
from subsidies and trade-distorting practices, and that takes into account the needs and
sensitivities of all partners, as well as the differences in the levels of development and size of the
economies” (Summit Declaration 2005, para 19a,b).
The North-South divide over trade is also applicable to other areas of economic
governance, particularly economic development. Here also, there is an absence of consensus,
especially on the fundamental questions of how to address poverty, inequality, and the
availability of decent work. Al Berry has argued that the current institutional framework is
inappropriate to the particular challenge of development in Latin America. Institutions such as
the IDB, International Monetary Fund and World Bank adopted without question or empirical
evidence the policy prescriptions of the Washington Consensus. The relative lack of success of
almost two decades of neoliberal economic reform has further underlined this divide.
The rigidity of the North American attitude towards state intervention in a region where
market forces alone have been unable to assure growth with equity complicates the march to
hemispheric economic integration. In this respect, the institutions of economic governance in the
Americas reflect divergent foundational ideas regarding the relationship between state and
A Mixed Picture
The preceding assessment of the post-1994 phase of institution-building in the Americas
bespeaks the altogether mixed record of hemispheric regionalism. On the one hand, interAmerican institutions have displayed an unmistakable robustness through their proven ability to
address problems of collective action, to reduce transaction and information costs, and to
facilitate agreements. But on the other hand, regional institutions have often remained
ineffective, failing to resolve many of the issues deemed important by participating governments.
This in turn has generated a high level of dissatisfaction due to unfulfilled expectations. The
dichotomy between the robustness and the effectiveness of inter-American institutions is an old
and recurring problem caused by a number of structural characteristics of the inter-American
system, a very complex regime, as Kenneth Abbott has reminded us. Among the major obstacles
to improved performance are those associated with asymmetry, inequality and identity.
Asymmetry, or the uneven distribution of power, has always been a central feature of
inter-American relations not only at the hemispheric level but also at the sub-regional level.
Each sub-region of the Americas faces a situation of asymmetry that governments have
addressed but never to the complete satisfaction of all the countries involved. Certain integration
schemes did achieve some success in dealing with an asymmetric situation. The Andean Group
of the early years, for instance, adopted various measures in favor of Bolivia and Ecuador:
longer time-periods for imposing tariffs, special treatment in the context of the common
industrial policy, more money from the regional bank, etc... However, other integration projects,
such as the Latin American Free Trade Association, failed precisely because of asymmetry.
Of course, it is at the hemispheric level that asymmetry in the Americas is the most
problematic. The Western Hemisphere is the only region in the world where a superpower on the
scale of the United States coexists with an array of small and middle powers. The asymmetry of
this situation makes cooperation much more complicated because the imbalance in overall
capacity makes it difficult for weaker parties to have a significant impact on the regional agenda.
The effectiveness of the institutions in dealing with the specific problems of the low-capacity
countries depends heavily on the attitudes of the larger countries, particularly the largest of all.
Another structural characteristic of the region concerns the unequal distribution of
wealth. Latin America and the Caribbean is the region of the world where inequality is the most
acute. Poverty and inequality are complex phenomena that must be tackled chiefly at the national
level. But regional institutions have a strategic supporting role in helping governments and local
communities in the fight against poverty and inequality. Unfortunately, inter-American
institutions have a poor record in reducing inequality in the region despite the progress registered
at the macroeconomic level. Lack of consensus concerning the most appropriate strategies
explains why, in spite of the large amounts of money spent over the years, results have been
Regional institutions, however, can do only so much in the fight against inequality, and
the resulting North-South cleavage is never absent from the dynamics of hemispheric integration.
A more fundamental way of dealing with this problem would be to design a free trade area
project involving measures that take into account the enormous economic disparities between the
large and small economies of the region.
If hemispheric regionalism fails to address the problem of inequality, it will not succeed
in instilling a widespread sense of belonging and loyalty. Gordon Mace and Jean-Philippe
Thérien have reminded us that this eventuality is entertained even by hemispheric elites, who
have echoed former OAS Secretary-General César Gaviria's "final question", formulated in his
farewell report: "Do we really want to unite our peoples in a common destiny?" (Gaviria 2004;
361-2) Gaviria's reflection was made only one year before Enrique Iglesias, a respected figure of
inter-American cooperation and longtime head of the Inter-American Development Bank, left the
IDB to take charge of the Secretariat of the Ibero-American Summits. The symbolic significance
of Iglesias's move cannot be ignored. Along with Gaviria’s statement, it illustrates a loss of faith
in the Western Hemisphere Idea and in hemispheric regionalism as an integral part of the identity
of most citizens of the region.
The Americas is a region where multiple and competing loyalties exist. To date, interAmerican institutions have not been able to generate a strong sense of identity among their
participating communities. The ensuing dearth of legitimacy may be the fundamental reason why
national governments lack the political will to sustain hemispheric integration by making the
compromises needed to further the process.
Thus, with hemispheric regionalism once again experiencing a phase of stagnation, we
may well ask what lies ahead for inter-American cooperation in general and hemispheric regionbuilding in particular. Basically, there are two possible attitudes when considering the limited
results of the current phase of hemispheric regionalism. The pessimistic attitude would lead one
to entirely lose faith in the system, and to conclude that region-building is not possible in the
Americas given the opposing interests of the major actors and their unwillingness to work
together towards a community of the Americas. A more optimistic approach would be to see
region-building – whether in the Americas or elsewhere – as a learning process, and to
acknowledge that more time will be needed to reach the level of confidence required to sustain a
robust cooperative endeavour. The ghosts of the past must make way for new, more openminded attitudes on the part of the United States and its Latin American neighbors. Newcomers
to the inter-American system such as Canada and the Caribbean countries could make a useful
contribution in this regard.
One question thus becomes central: how to stop the current period of stagnation and
relaunch inter-American cooperation? Surely, what is at stake here involves attitude and vision
more than bargaining and short-term gains. If hemispheric regionalism is to survive as a relevant
channel for collective, legitimate action, it will need to address much more seriously the issue of
inequality. This implies policy initiatives in at least two important and related areas. One is
development assistance, multilateral and bilateral, which must be made more efficient as
suggested by Ronald Scheman. The other concerns trade and economic relations in general,
which also have a direct and probably more important bearing on everyday life in the
hemisphere. Governments of the larger economies must display more flexibility in negotiating
regional trade rules so as to provide developing countries with an adequate policy space to
reduce poverty and inequality. In this connection, the social cohesion fund put in place in the
European Union could serve as a useful model for the Americas.
In order to coexist with other spaces for collective action, hemispheric regionalism and its
institutions must be perceived as producing added-value benefits that the communities cannot
find at the national or sub-regional levels. And this can only be achieved if inter-American
cooperation truly takes into account the interests and preferences of all the societies involved. In
the 19th century, Simon Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson each envisioned a community of nations
of the Americas. The visions differed but they could very well coexist (Mace and Thérien 1996,
3-7). Today's challenge is to create an integrated space for cooperation in the hemisphere. It
remains to be seen whether inter-American regionalism will become that space or ultimately
prove to be nothing more than a chimera.
Lectures obligatoires
“Multilateralizing RTAs in the Americas : State of Play and Ways
Forward”, Paper presented at the Conference on Multilateralising
Regionalism, Sponsored and organized by WTO – HEI, Co-organized by
the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), Genève, Suisse, 1012 septembre 2007, 53 pages.
RYNERSON, Paul, “The Free Trade Area of the Americas: Dead Before
it Was Ever Born”, Law and Business Review of the Americas, vol. 13,
2007, pp. 183-208.
FANDL, Kevin J., “Bilateral Agreements and Fair Trade Practices: A
PolicyAnalysis of the Colombia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement”, Yale
Human and Rights & Development L.J., vol. 10, 2007, pp. 64-87.
Multilateralizing RTAs in the
State of Play and Ways Forward
Antoni Estevadeordal
Inter-American Development Bank in Washington DC
Matthew Shearer
Inter-American Development Bank in Washington DC
Kati Suominen1
Inter-American Development Bank in Washington DC
Paper presented at the Conference on
Multilateralising Regionalism
Sponsored and organized by WTO - HEI
Co-organized by the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
10-12 September 2007
Geneva, Switzerland
The authors are Manager, Economist/Statistician, and International Trade Specialist, respectively, at
the Integration and Trade Sector (INT) of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington DC.
Corresponding author: Suominen ([email protected]). The authors wish to thank Naoko Uchiyama,
Santiago Florez Gomez, and Maria Jose Casanovas for research assistance and Sara Marzal Yetano for
an outstanding analysis of services and investment provisions. The opinions expressed herein are those
of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDB or its member countries
Multilateralizing RTAs in the Americas:
State of Play and Ways Forward
Antoni Estevadeordal, Matthew Shearer, and Kati Suominen*
Prepared for WTO/HEI/NCCR Trade/CEPR Conference
“Multilateralizing Regionalism”
10-12 September 2007, Geneva, Switzerland
The authors are Manager, Economist/Statistician, and International Trade Specialist, respectively, at
the Integration and Trade Sector (INT) of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington DC.
Corresponding author: Suominen ([email protected]). The authors wish to thank Naoko Uchiyama,
Santiago Florez Gomez, and Maria Jose Casanovas for research assistance and Sara Marzal Yetano for
an outstanding analysis of services and investment provisions. The opinions expressed herein are those
of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDB or its member countries.
Multilateralizing RTAs in the Americas:
State of Play and Ways Forward
Antoni Estevadeordal, Matthew Shearer, and Kati Suominen
The countries of the Americas1 have been key drivers of the now global spree of
regional trade agreements (RTAs). Collectively, the regional economies have notified
three dozen intra- and extra-regional RTAs to the World Trade Organization (WTO)
(figure 1), and are negotiating several further ones. Major contributors to the global
spaghetti bowl of RTAs and the source of nearly a fifth of global trade, the countries
of the region can also play a major role, if not serve as the focal point, in the search
for options for multilateralizing RTAs—for arriving at global free trade by way of
Figure 1 – RTAs Notified to the WTO in the Americas and
around the World, 2007
RTAs with a Country of the Americas
Due to methodological issues, “Americas” and “hemispheric” refer in this paper to a group composed
of Canada, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Central and South America, and the United States.
Conceptually, multilateralization can be accomplished through two alternative (yet
also complementary) measures: (1) deepening liberalization by RTA members vis-àvis each other while also reducing discrimination toward non-members until it
becomes inconsequential; and/or (2) incorporating non-members to an RTA until all
countries are members. The latter measure in particular would by default eradicate
one of the key potential problems of the RTA spaghetti bowl of overlapping
agreements, namely differences in rules between the various RTAs. Simply put,
multilateralization would “flatten” and expand RTAs; this would also tame the RTA
rule tangle.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent of liberalization in RTAs in the
Americas in comparison to agreements in other world regions, and to put forth policy
recommendations for multilateralizing the regional RTAs. While primarily focusing
on market access in goods—and tariff lowering schedules, in particular—we also
explore the regional RTAs’ employment of rules of origin, investment, and services
provisions. While the analysis centers on the depth of liberalization accomplished by
the region’s RTAs, we preliminarily investigate the extent to which the regional
RTAs feature “open regionalism”—liberalization vis-à-vis third parties.
Our main finding is that the Americas is a highly liberalized region in terms of the
maturity, geographical coverage, and depth of its RTAs. Rather than the pursuit of
new negotiations, the region’s main challenge today is to further synergies between
the existing agreements, all the while forging extra-regional ties with Europe and
countries of Asia and deepening liberalization vis-à-vis third parties.
The following section takes stock of the advance of regional integration in the
Americas, and details the “state of liberalization play” in the RTAs formed by the
countries of the Americas. The third section surveys the extent of open regionalism in
the Americas. Section four examines investment and services provisions. The fifth
section puts forth policy proposals for further multilateralizing RTAs formed by
countries of the Americas; section six concludes.
Liberalization in RTAs in the Americas
This section focuses on the depth of liberalization in RTAs formed by the countries of
the Americas in a comparative perspective over the past decade and into the next 20
years. The first part describes the advance of integration in the regional economies’
trade policy portfolios. The second part centers on the liberalization statistics.
A. RTA Pathways in the Americas: From Intra-Regionalism to TransContinentalism
Countries in different regions of the world have had distinct RTA paths over the past
two decades among four main “stations”: intra-regional blocs, intra-regional bilateral
RTAs, continental megablocs, and trans-continental RTAs. In the Americas, the
common path has been from intra-regional blocs to an attempted megabloc,
accompanied and followed by intra-regional bilateral agreements and, subsequently,
trans-continental RTAs.
The first RTAs were intra-regional customs unions formed (or reformed) in the early
1990s—Andean Community, Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Central American
Common Market (CACM), and the Southern Common Market (Mercosur). The North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) launched in 1994 connected Canada,
Mexico, and the United States. The same year, the first Summit of the Americas
launched the 34-country negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas
(FTAA), which was to merge the aspiring customs unions and NAFTA under a single
umbrella. The FTAA process was paralleled by bilateral agreements particularly
between Mexico and Chile on the one hand, and numerous other countries of the
region, on the other. The stagnation of the FTAA talks in 2003 furthered and
“regionalized” the quest for bilateral intra-regional FTAs. Among the most recent
highlights are the Mercosur-Andean Community FTA of 2004, the US-Central
America-Dominican Republic FTA (DR-CAFTA) of 2005, and the culmination of the
US-Colombia, US-Peru, US-Panama, Chile-Peru, and Chile-Colombia FTA
negotiations last year.
Intra-regionalism is today yielding to trans-continentalism. Many regional countries
have sought to establish an early foothold in Asia’s fast-growing RTA panorama. In
2003, Chile and South Korea signed the Asian country’s first comprehensive bilateral
FTA, and in 2005, Chile concluded negotiations for a four-partite FTA (P-4) with
Brunei Darussalam, New Zealand, and Singapore. An FTA between Chile and
China—the East Asian economy’s first extra-regional FTA—went into effect in
October 2006, and in November 2006 Chile became the second country of the
Americas to reach an FTA with Japan. The United States and Singapore reached in
2003 one of the first agreements of Singapore’s now extensive network of RTAs, and
the US-Australia FTA entered into force in 2005. The Mexico-Japan Economic
Partnership Agreement, Japan’s first extra-regional free trade agreement, also took
effect in 2005. The same year, Peru and Thailand signed a bilateral FTA, while FTAs
between Taipei, China on the one hand, and Panama and Guatemala, on the other,
took effect in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Panama concluded FTA negotiations also
with Singapore in 2006.
Trans-Pacific agreements are poised to expand: for instance, the United States has
concluded negotiations with Korea, and Chile has launched talks with Malaysia.
Furthermore, five countries of the Americas—Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and the
United States—are pursuing closer ties with Asia in the context of the Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum founded in 1989.
Countries of the Americas have also been reaching across the Atlantic for agreements
with the European Union (EU). Mexico launched an FTA with the EU in 2000, as did
Chile in 2003. In May 2006, the EU and CACM countries announced the launch of
comprehensive Association Agreement negotiations, while the EU-CARICOM talks
have entered the final phase. The EU and the Andean Community have explored the
opening of Association Agreement negotiations. Furthermore, besides the transPacific and trans-Atlantic fronts, Mercosur has concluded an agreement with India,
and the United States is building a network of agreements with selected Middle
Eastern countries.
The geographic composition of trade flows of the countries of the Americas appears
to have followed the advance of regionalism (table 1ab). The most notable change in
Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) export profile is the decline on Europe and rise
in the importance of the intra-hemispheric market, as well as a moderate increase in
the share of Asia-Pacific as an export destination. To be sure, there are wide intraregional differences; countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru have seen
their commodity exports to China surge markedly in their export baskets.
Western Hemisphere exports, which include those of the United States and Canada,
have grown particularly in the North American market. On the import side, however,
Asia has penetrated LAC market forcefully, contributing today about a fifth of the
region’s imports. This appears to have come at the expense of Europe, whose import
share in LAC has been eclipsed to some 14 percent of the region’s total imports.
Table 1a – Destination of Western Hemisphere Exports, 1990-2006
Destination of LAC Exports:
European Union
Rest of World
millions of $US
% of Exports to World
% of Exports to World
Destination of Western Hemisphere Exports:
European Union
Rest of World
millions of $US
Table 1b – Origin of Western Hemisphere Imports, 1990-2006
Origin of LAC Imports:
European Union
Rest of World
millions of $US
% of Imports from World
millions of $US
% of Imports from World
Origin of Western Hemisphere Imports:
European Union
Rest of World
Source: INT calculations based on data from IMF Direction of Trade Statistics.
While trade per se has surged in importance in the regional output in the past two
decades, so has the relevance of RTAs in governing the regional economies’ trade.
For instance, the share of imports with RTA partners of total imports was 85 percent
for Chile, 74 percent for Mexico, 45 percent for Argentina, and more than 30 percent
for the United States in 2006 (figure 2). Of the total intra-Americas trade, the share of
trade among countries with a common RTA is today above 90 percent of the total
intra-regional trade; the level is still three-quarters of all trade when NAFTA is not
taken into account. While these figures do not capture the level of trade that enters
under the RTA regime (as opposed to MFN or other regimes), they are indicative of
the fact that a sizable share of the hemispheric economies’ trade is with their RTA
partners—as well as that countries of the region have forged ties with some of their
leading trade partners.
Figure 2 – Trade with RTA Partners of Total Trade in 2006, Selected Countries
El Salvador
Costa Rica
United States
% of Imports from RTA Partners of Total Imports
State of Integration in the Americas in a Comparative Perspective
This section strives to break new ground in dissecting the liberalization state of play
in RTAs in the Americas. We focus on tariff liberalization schedules of 76 parties in
38 RTAs (Appendix I table 1).2 Much of the data here draw on IADB (2006).3 The
first part of this section surveys the overall approach of the tariff liberalization
regimes—divided here into basket, sectoral and preferential tariff approaches—in the
38 RTAs.4 The second part analyzes tariff-line data from the RTA parties’ tariff
The tariff liberalization schedules were obtained from the Foreign Trade Information System at and some national sources, including websites. Some tariff data was obtained
from TRAINS. The study also maps out the coverage in RTAs of four trade disciplines besides tariffs,
including non-tariff measures, rules of origin, special regimes, and customs procedures.
There are a handful of other studies on tariff liberalization in RTAs. The World Trade Organization
(2002) carries out an extensive inventory of the coverage and liberalization of tariff concessions in 47
RTAs of a total of 107 parties. The data cover tariff treatment of imports into parties to selected RTAs,
tariff line treatment as obtained from individual countries’ tariff schedules, and tariff dispersion for a
number of countries. Scollay (2005) performs a similarly rigorous analysis of tariff concessions in a
sample of 18 RTAs. The IADB (2002) presents an exhaustive survey of market access commitments of
RTAs in the Americas, while the World Bank (2005) carries out a more general mapping of the various
disciplines in RTAs around the world.
Various prior studies characterize tariff elimination as carried out on the basis of a positive or a
negative list, or as based on a certain formula. This study strives to abstract from these characteristics
liberalization schedules, and also examines tariff rate quotas and exceptions and
exclusions. The third part explores alternative measurements—share of liberalized
tariff lines trade-weighted by Harmonized System chapters, and share of trade that is
liberalized from the RTA partner in a given year—in sub-samples of 27 and 23
RTAs, respectively. We examine three sets of agreements—those formed in the
Americas (here, “intra-regional”), those formed between a country of the Americas
and a partner in another region (“inter-regional” or “Americas as Partner”), and
agreements not involving any countries of the Americas (“extra-regional”).
Empirical Survey: Tariff Liberalization Regime Models
Basket Approach
The basket approach assigns all products into a set of distinct categories in the tariff
elimination program. The categories provide a time frame and trajectory towards
complete elimination of tariffs (as opposed to providing only an end-point
preferential tariff or preferential margin). Also included are any TRQs, typically with
a reference to an appendix with the quantities, as well as exceptions to preferential
treatment (that are typically entered into a basket of continued MFN treatment).5
The United States tends to follow the basket approach, generally subjecting nearly the
entire tariff universe to eventual full tariff elimination. Some of the less visible
“action” in the US agreements can be found in the annexes on TRQs, where tariff
liberalization generally takes place over longer time horizons and is accompanied by
increasing in-quota quantities. Even sugar, a sensitive product from the US
perspective that usually receives continued MFN treatment in most agreements,
typically receives an increasing in-quota quantity (albeit from a small starting point).6
Sector Approach
The sector approach, typically favored by the EU, subjects all industrial products to a
general tariff elimination schedule.7 A separate list for exceptions and separate
and classify liberalization programs by their categorization of goods into distinct paths of
liberalization. To be sure, some of the categories are more aligned with a positive list approach, while
others lend to a negative list approach.
Thailand-Australia and Thailand-New Zealand FTAs defy easy categorization, as they do not use any
clearly defined baskets, but, rather, implement staging simply by cross-tabbed reduced tariff rates. This
lends itself mostly to the basket approach, due to the use of comprehensive schedules. However, there
are a large number of case-by-case trajectories, which suggests a preferential tariff approach, as well.
It should be noted that the in-quota quantities (and even the existence of in-quota treatment) in these
agreements differ greatly within CAFTA. Although the United States has given the same schedule with
the same baskets to the other countries, the treatment within these baskets differs greatly between
countries. So although the statistics will reflect identical treatment of all Central American countries,
this will not be the case, especially when considering that a number of the products subject to TRQs
are those where Central America will have a strong comparative advantage (such as in sugar).
The recent EU-Chile FTA that entered into effect in 2003 diverged from the EU’s standard practice
of dividing tariff elimination into separate venues by establishing a single schedule for each party that
contains all products. In its category column, the schedule includes various measures that will be
annexes or protocols govern the treatment of such products as agriculture, fish, and
processed agricultural goods. The protocols tend to be quite complex and feature
various regimes, such as end-point preference margins or residual preferential tariffs,
TRQs, reference quantities, and a phased reduction of tariffs to a final level (which is
often non-zero). The sections referring to the scope of the agreement and definitions
of certain product categories are as important to understanding the process of tariff
reduction as is the section on the tariff reduction program. The agreements negotiated
by the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) follow this model, as well. 8
Preferential Tariff Approach
Some agreements, such as those forged under the Latin American Integration
Association (LAIA) framework, emphasize the end-point preferential tariff or margin
of preference. The Bangkok Agreement also focuses on the end-point preferences,
with additional concessions provided to less developed RTA members. These models
take a positive list approach to the concessions, whereby the schedules contain the
products to which the market access provisions of the RTA apply (as opposed to the
negative list approach, which catalogues the products to which the market access
provisions do not apply).
Tariff Liberalization Statistics
This part turns to analyzing tariff-line data developed on the basis of the tariff
liberalization schedules of 76 parties in 38 RTAs. An introductory set of general
indicators strives to capture the share of each individual RTA party’s tariff lines that
are accorded some tariff reductions, and the share of lines that are duty-free by certain
benchmark years (generally 1, 5, 10, and 15 or 20) after the launching of the RTA.9
Year 1 refers here to the year of entry into force.
maintained, such as TRQs, elimination of only the ad-valorem component of a mixed duty (including
in cases where the non ad-valorem component is linked to an entry price), products subjected to a tariff
concession of 50 percent of the basic customs duty, and cases where no liberalization takes place, for
instance due to “protected denominations.”
Tariff liberalization in EFTA’s agreements tends to be presented as a general tariff elimination
program and separate schedules for fish and agriculture. In these sectors, rather than having a single
tariff liberalization schedule, EFTA’s agreements include country-specific schedules. In this paper, the
data on tariff elimination in the EFTA-Mexico FTA is based on Switzerland’s tariff schedules.
Dummies are assigned according to when a product becomes duty-free (whether or not in year 1, 5,
10, or 15). The dummies are subsequently multiplied by the number of lines with that treatment, and
then divided by the total number of lines to obtain the percentage incidence. The total number of lines
includes all tariff lines regardless of whether that line was duty-free prior to the entry into force of the
agreement. Split products or products partially covered by an agreement, as a general rule are
accorded a reduction at the first date at which any of the various baskets accord a reduction, but a
treated as having tariffs eliminated at the last date at which any of the various baskets accorded
elimination, i.e., a line on which tariffs are eliminated on part one year but not the rest is treated as
having the least generous duty-free treatment, as duty-free treatment must cover a product in its
entirety). The analysis includes lines subject to TRQs, based on when out-of-quota tariff rates are
reduced or phased out. For example, where tariff eliminations are made on in-quota tariff rates, the
product in question is treated as not receiving full tariff elimination. Products subject to entry prices
are, when relevant, are counted as receiving tariff reduction, but not as having tariffs eliminated.
Figure 3 provides an overview of the share of tariff lines liberalized by the partners in
the 38 RTAs by mapping out the shares of national tariff lines that become duty-free
in year 1, years 2-5, years 6-10, years 11-20, and more than 20 years into the RTA.
The three-letter ISO code of each country giving the concession (i.e., the importing
country) precedes the arrow, while the code of the partner country follows the arrow.
Agreements formed in the Americas and particularly those signed by the NAFTA
members generally liberalize trade relatively fast, with some 75 percent or more of
lines freed in the first year of the agreement. On the other hand, some of Mercosur’s
agreements have somewhat more backloaded liberalization, with a large share of lines
being liberalized between years 6-10 into the agreements. Asia-Pacific RTAs stand
out for being particularly frontloaded: they liberalize the bulk of the tariff universe in
the first year of the RTA; this is in good part due to Singapore’s according duty-free
treatment to all products upon the entry into force of its agreements.
Safeguards are not taken into account here (i.e., as interfering with tariff elimination). Other sidenotes
are dealt on an ad-hoc basis. Any TRQ, regardless of whether reductions occur on the in-quota or outof-quota tariff rate, are counted in the TRQ incidence measure. Note that for the CAFTA agreement,
indicators for the Dominican Republic and each of the five Central American countries were calculated
individually and then averaged together to create a single, indicative partner to the United States.
Similarly, for NAFTA, Canadian and US concessions to Mexico are averaged together to make a
single US-Canada partner to Mexico, and Mexico’s concessions to the two countries are averaged
together to make a single representative concession to US-Canada. Where possible, similar averaging
is performed for other agreements with more than two signatories.
National Tariff Lines (%)
Figure 3 - Percent of Tariff Lines Duty Free, by Selected Benchmark Years
Agreement / Concession
Year 1 (EIF)
Years 2-5
Years 6-10
Years 11-20
>20 Years or Never
Figures 4a and 4b assess the extent of reciprocity in tariff elimination between RTA
parties by years 5 and 10. They are sorted in a descending fashion from the least to
the most reciprocal. While the parties’ respective product coverages often diverge
markedly in year 5, with some partners (such as Korea) liberalizing up to twice as
many lines as their partners (such as Chile), the differences shrink considerably by
year 10. The wider gaps in concessions among a pair tend to owe to north-south
differences in liberalization—a pattern that is evident nearly throughout the sample in
all regions.
Figure 4a - Reciprocity of Concessions: Year 5
-C U
C- I
A- 3
M -B
% of lines duty-free .
Descending Percentage Point Difference Between Parties (Ordinal Scale)
Figure 4b - Reciprocity of Concessions: Year 10
C D3
M -.U
-C L
M -C
% of lines duty-free .
Descending Percentage Point Difference Between Parties (Ordinal Scale)
Figure 5 disaggregates the liberalization schedules between three sets: those in RTAs
signed in the Americas, RTAs between countries of the Americas and extra-regional
partners, and extra-regional agreements. The 90 percent threshold, which is often
used as a benchmark for “substantially all trade”, is marked with a horizontal line.
The figure echoes the prior findings in two ways. First, it shows that while some
countries employ a “stair-step” approach to tariff liberalization (stemming from the
use of various gradual baskets), others have a constant percentage coverage of tariff
lines in what could be characterized as a “now-or-never” approach. Still others start
from a low coverage, proceeding through one or two jumps to a near-100 percent
Second, the averages of the three samples (in bold) reveal differences. Intra-regional
agreements start from a relatively low level of liberalization, but accelerate in the
fourth year, surpassing the liberalization in extra-regional agreements by year 9. The
inter-regional agreements start off more boldly, but are met by the intra-regional
agreements in year 10.
On average, a substantial part of liberalization in the intra-hemispheric agreements
takes place in the interim period following entry into force (especially in years 5-10)
as opposed to up front. This is due not only to a greater use of the stair-step approach,
but also to the heterogeneity of the sample. Agreements among Central America,
Mexico, and the United States tend to be characterized by a large number of small
steps, as are US agreements with Peru and Colombia. However, Mexico’s agreements
with Chile and Uruguay frontload concessions. The Chile-Central America FTA and
Canada’s agreements with Chile and Costa Rica fall somewhere between the two
The Southern Cone’s approach is different still. ACE 58 and ACE 59, the agreements
between Mercosur and the Andean Community, start at a very low share of duty-free
lines, and then increase substantially with a small number of large jumps after year 5.
This is most pronounced in Mercosur’s earlier agreements with Bolivia and Chile,
where duty-free coverage is minimal through around year 8, and then quickly jumps
to around 90 percent or more, followed by an eventual progression towards nearly
100 percent coverage over time.
Most of the inter-regional agreements follow the stair-step model. In agreements
involving a northern and a southern party, the latter generally starts at a lower initial
point and takes larger steps than the northern counterpart. This is particularly clear in
the Korea-Chile FTA (with Korea classified as north), and US agreements with
Jordan and Morocco. However, there are exceptions. Concessions are much more
even in the EU-Chile agreement; in the EFTA-Mexico FTA, Mexico’s schedule starts
at around 40 percent of lines duty-free and achieves over 90 percent mark (marked
here with a horizontal line) within 10 years by means of a few jumps, actually
surpassing Switzerland’s constant coverage of slightly less than 80 percent of lines.
Extra-regional agreements exhibit a larger dispersion in tariff lowering. This can be
explained in part by two counter-balancing forces. For one, the sample includes a
number of agreements involving Singapore, where Singapore gives duty-free access
to 100 percent of lines as of entry into force of the agreement.10 However, the
countervailing force is agreements with low initial coverage and large jumps; once
again these tend to be caused by the southern parties in North-South agreements.
China’s concession to Hong Kong is one such case, with duty-free coverage starting
around 4 percent and then jumping to 100 percent in year 3. Accentuating the flatness
of the extra-regional average are Japan’s schedule for Singapore, and the EU’s
concessions to Morocco and Lithuania. Since the “flat” schedules in these agreements
entail coverage well below 100 percent, they serve to moderate the behavior of the
overall extra-regional average, as well.
In the case of Australia and New Zealand’s agreements with Singapore, both parties provide
immediate duty-free access to 100 percent of tariff lines.
Figure 5 - Evolution of Duty-Free Treatment in Selected RTAs
% of Lines Duty-Free .
Americas as Partner
Agreement Year
Table 2 presents the same information in a “real time state of play” matrix. Gray
boxes indicate FTAs; the numbers therein denote the share of liberalized tariff lines
between the countries in 2007.11 Boxes in gray without numbers are FTAs for which
liberalization statistics are currently lacking in the study. The black boxes indicate
common customs unions; liberalization in these agreements can be seen as nearly full
and complete. Within the Americas, 57 percent of the total possible 380 pairs of
countries have no comprehensive RTA,12 a third of all pairs feature a comprehensive
FTA, while twelve percent of pairs shared a customs union.
The main finding is the extent of deep liberalization throughout FTAs of the
Americas: most members have liberalized more than four-fifths of the tariff items to
their intra-regional partners. To be sure, liberalization in the 2004 Mercosur-Andean
agreement, which is an amalgam of bilateral agreements among the groups’ members,
is only incipient.
Importantly, the matrix is not intended to present the state of play of FTAs worldwide. The primary
focus of this study is the Western Hemisphere, thus the matrix contains the countries of the Americas,
those countries with which the Americas have signed an agreement, plus a few countries that are party
to a small number of select agreements outside the Hemisphere. Thus, the matrix is not representative
of the scope of involvement of extra-regional countries in FTAs in the sense that it is not fully
I.e., an RTA that liberalizes more than 4,000 tariff lines.
Chile, Mexico, and the United States are the main drivers of the inter-regional
agreements formed by the countries of the Americas. The liberalization in these
agreements is generally somewhat lower than in the intra-regional RTAs.13
The apparent clustering in the southeast corner of the matrix is of interest as well. This clustering is
particularly pronounced for a subset of the Asia-Pacific countries in the sample, both in terms of the
prevalence of agreements (proximity of gray cells, as well as the depth of the agreements (statistics
within cells).
Table 2 – RTA Liberalization State of Play in 2007, Americas and Beyond
Country Giving Preference
Country Receiving Preference
Costa Rica
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
United States
EFTA (Switzerland)
Hong Kong
New Zealand
South Africa
X 97.9 CU
98.0 12.2
92.4 X 92.4
CU 97.9 X
98.0 33.9
X 97.9
97.7 97.3 X 96.8 94.9
10.9 CU 25.6
65.2 82.5
X 98.0
98.3 X
21.6 CU 22.0
91.6 CU
CU 98.0
CU 98.0
99.3 99.3 95.8 98.8
CU 97.5
4.7 CU
CU 92.4
20.2 CU
85.2 96.1 94.1 97.7 94.3
CU 21.0
25.0 76.0
CU CU 97.6 CU
98.3 98.3
CU 19.4
CU 76.0 CU
X 63.0 CU
93.9 83.3 X 99.4
93.6 95.4 99.8
CU CU 98.8 X
10.4 CU 9.8
85.1 CU
59.4 77.6
CU 97.9 CU
96.3 14.8
15.5 X
CU 98.0
CU CU 76.1 CU
CU 97.9 CU
98.0 12.1
65.3 CU
98.0 95.5 98.0* 97.9 97.9
97.9 97.9 98.8 97.9 n.a.* 98.0*
8.7 n.a. 10.9
n.a. 10.0
74.6 74.6
74.6 74.6
n.a. 100
68.9 68.9
n.a. n.a.
66.2 83.4
Note: includes only customs unions (black cells) and free trade agreements (grey cells), not unilateral preferences.
Numbers in cells show percentage of total national tariff lines duty-free in 2007.
n.a. = not available at this time
* Signed but not yet entered into force as of 7/31/2007. Assuming entry into force in 2007.
Figure 6 goes beyond the 2007 snapshot to exploring an entire period of 1994-2026.
The bold line maps out the simple average for the intra-regional sample from 2007
onward (i.e., during the period during which all agreements considered here are
expected to have entered into effect). The main finding is the extent of deep
liberalization throughout the Americas: as of today, most RTA members have
liberalized more than four-fifths of the tariff items to their partners; some of the
newer FTAs will attain this level by 2010. Liberalization in the recent MercosurAndean agreements is more limited, reaching about a fifth or a quarter of tariff lines
by 2010.
Overall, the figure conveys the maturity of liberalization in intra-regional agreements
in the Americas: even with the slower pace of the Mercosur-Andean agreements, the
regional agreements will have freed more than 90 percent of lines by 2012 and more
than 95 by 2015. To be sure, the extra-regional agreements lag this only by a year;
however, the on-going proliferation of FTAs in Asia would pull the average down if
the newer agreements were included. In contrast, Americas is a rather saturated
region in terms of intra-regional agreements, which means that the figure provides a
particularly accurate reflection of the future of liberalization in the case of the intraregional agreements.
Figure 6 – Evolution of Duty-Free Treatment in RTAs, 1994-2006
Americas as Partner
% of Lines Duty-Free .
Calendar Year
Laggards and Leaders in Liberalization
The aggregate tariff reduction statistics disguise what could be expected to be
important variation in the speed of liberalization across product categories.14 Which
products are the laggards and which leaders in liberalization?
Figures 7a and 7b take the first stab at the cross-sectoral patterns by displaying the
degree of dispersion of liberalization in the 97 Harmonized System chapters within
the liberalization schedules of 64 RTA parties. Parties in the southeast corner feature
deep liberalization across-the-board. Meanwhile, those in the northwest corner are
marked by limited liberalization and high dispersion of liberalization across chapters.
Dots in red indicate RTAs formed by countries of the Americas, while green are
agreements where a country of the Americas is a partner and blue are extra-regional.
The bulk of countries approach across-the-board liberalization by year 10.
Overall, intra-regional agreements feature not only the deepest liberalization, but also
the least dispersion across chapters in tariffs, particularly by year 10—which means
that even sectors that have yet to be free of duty have rather low tariffs.15 Even for
those schedules that exhibit substantial average share of lines that are not fully
liberalized, the standard deviation tends to fall below those agreements involving
extra-regional parties with similar averages. However, outlier sectors persist in many
extra-regional agreements, in particular. The most marked dispersion occurs in
Morocco’s and South Africa’s schedules in their FTAs with the EU, a pattern that
reflects sensitivities in the agricultural and textile sectors, respectively.16
Viewing the percentages of lines that are duty-free by a certain benchmark year (e.g., year 10)
disaggregated by two-digit HS chapters may be ideal given that the level of disaggregation is detailed
enough to provide distinct product categories. Furthermore, 2-digit chapters tend to be more stable
across time, i.e., between various versions of the HS. A four-digit approach may be useful as well, but
can be excessively complex and disguise the more general trends. The best method could be to identify
some two-digit chapters that have the least comprehensive tariff elimination, and then use these as
priors to conduct four-or six-digit analysis within these chapters.
Of course, an average liberalization level of one (100 percentage coverage) will necessarily be
accompanied by a standard deviation of zero, but there are cases where one chapter may exhibit a
higher standard deviation (dispersion among agreements) than another for a given level of average
liberalization, or vice versa.
Note however, the outlier behavior exhibited by Mercosur-Bolivia and Mercosur-Chile at the fiveyear benchmark, evidencing a uniformly low duty-free statistic. However, these four dots have moved
to the southeast corner by year 10. This raises an important point regarding the sample set. Mapping
out the myriad relationships entailed within the Mercosur-Andean agreements was not feasible at this
stage. However, from the aggregate numbers we can deduce that the average chapter coverage would
be low, mitigating to some degree the findings that the intra-regional agreements were more
Figure 7a - Distribution of Liberalization of Chapters in RTA Parties’
Schedules, Year 5
StDev of Chapters
Average of Chapters
Figure 7b - Distribution of Liberalization of Chapters in RTA Parties’
Schedules, Year 10
StDev of Chapters
Average of Chapters
Americas as Partner
Agriculture is one of the main laggards in liberalization. Figure 8 maps out the
evolution of duty-free treatment for agricultural and industrial products (as grouped
by the WTO) by the three main regional samples. As expected, in each region
agricultural products are more protected more and longer than industrial products are.
On average, for the full sample of all agreements together, RTAs explored here
liberalize only 61 percent of tariff lines in agriculture by year 5 and 78 percent by
year 10, while reaching duty-free treatment for 77 and 94 percent of industrial goods
by the same points in time.
However, notably, intra-regional FTAs in the Americas take off in agricultural
liberalization in year 10, surpassing the other regional groups. This is largely due to
very large jumps (in the order of 60 percentage points or more) in agricultural dutyfree coverage in the Mercosur-Bolivia and Mercosur-Chile agreements, as well as
smaller increases in coverage in Mexico-Nicaragua and Mexico-Costa Rica FTAs and
the representative average Central American countries’ schedule in CAFTA vis-à-vis
the United States. Peru’s agricultural concession to Mercosur also increased
substantially that year.
The inter-regional average also sees a meaningful, though smaller jump in year 10.
This is due primarily to increases in coverage that year by Jordan and Morocco in
their agreements with the United States, China’s concession to Chile, and Panama’s
to Singapore. Extra-regionally, the jump is less substantial and comes earlier, driven
mainly by increases in coverage in the China-Hong Kong schedule in year 3, and
Morocco-EU, South-Africa-EU, and EU-South Africa schedules in year 4.
In industrial goods, both intra-regional and FTAs with a country of the Americas as a
partner feature progressively deeper liberalization, with the take-off again occurring
in year 10. In fact, the trajectories of the agricultural versus industrial goods for the
three subsets of agreements almost appear as parallel lines, with industry simply
starting at a higher intercept on the vertical axis. In the intra-regional sphere, the jump
in year 10 is in part due to Mexico’s industrial coverage rising from 72 to 100 percent
that year. In Americas as partner, there is a very large jump in Mexico’s coverage of
Japan’s industrial products that year. The patterns driving the extra-regional average
still hold, with the exception that South Africa’s industrial concession to the EU does
not change to the same extent in the early years as in agriculture.
Figure 8 - Evolution of Sectoral Duty-Free Treatment in Selected RTAs
% of Lines Duty-Free
Agriculture: Intra-Americas
Agriculture: Americas as Partner
Agriculture: Extra-Regional
Industry: Intra-Americas
Industry: Americas as Partner
Industry: Extra-Regional
Agreement Year
Figures 9a and 9b provide further nuance by measuring the average liberalization (xaxis) and dispersion of liberalization (y-axis) across 64 RTA partners’ (in a total of
32 RTAs) liberalization schedules in the 97 Harmonized System chapters. The dots in
red indicate chapters generally consisting of agricultural products, while dots in blue
refer to chapters consisting of mostly industrial products.17 The chapters in the
southeast corner are those in which all RTAs analyzed here feature deep
liberalization, with negligible dispersion values resulting. Chapters in the northwest
corner indicate limited liberalization across RTAs and particularly shallow
liberalization in some RTAs, with high dispersion resulting.
For ease of presentation, in these figures chapters 1-24 (excluding chapter 3) are highlighted as
agriculture. However, in the analyses of tariff liberalization statistics, agricultural and industrial
products are defined at the 6-digit HS level.
Figure 9a - Distribution of Liberalization by RTA Parties in Chapters, Year 5
Ch 24
Ch 04
Ch Ch
19 18
Ch 17
Ch 64
Ch 02
Ch 20
Ch 16
Ch 07
Ch 10
Ch 15 Ch 22
Ch 21
Ch 60
Ch 57
Ch 52
Ch 46
Ch 65
Ch 55
Ch 58 Ch 54
Ch 94
Ch 68 Ch 66Ch 67
08 Ch 39
Ch 23
Ch 56Ch 06
72Ch 82 Ch 93
Ch 69
Ch 03
Ch 41
Ch 95
Ch 36 Ch 86
Ch 92
Ch 76
Ch 74Ch
Ch 35
Ch0584 Ch 90
Ch 53Ch
Ch 51 Ch 40
Ch 33
Ch 88
Ch 50
Ch 71
31 81
Ch 47
Ch 25 Ch
Average of Agreements
Figure 9b - Distribution of Liberalization by RTA Parties in Chapters, Year 10
Ch 04
Ch 17
Ch 11
Ch 24
Ch 19
Ch 18
10 02
StDev of Agreements
StDev of Agreements
Ch 61
Ch 62
Ch 42
Ch 63
Ch 11
Ch 15
Ch 20
Ch 16
Ch 22
Ch 21
Ch 23
Average of Agreements
Ch 64
Ch 07
Ch 42
Ch 08
Ch 01
Ch 03
Ch 60
Ch 62
Ch 61
06 46
Ch 09 Ch
Ch 65
Ch 35 Ch
Ch 57
Ch 87
Ch 53
Ch 76
Ch 93
Ch 72
Ch 45
Ch 51
Ch 82
Ch 85
Ch 91
Ch 79
Ch 37
Ch 84
Ch 31
Ch 92
Ch 97
The pattern is clear: agricultural chapters in RTAs feature the least liberalization and
also the highest dispersion of liberalization across RTAs, indicating that these
chapters are particularly protected in some RTA parties’ schedules. The figures also
show the relatively slow pace of liberalization: on average, RTA parties liberalize
well below 50 percent of tariff lines in the most sensitive chapters—dairy (ch. 04) and
sugars (17) by the fifth year of the agreement, and less than 55 percent in several
others, including meat, cocoa, prepared cereals and baked goods, tobacco, and
footwear (02, 17, 18, 24, and 64, respectively), while sugar and dairy still remain
below 60 percent at year 10.
When the figures are analyzed at the intra-regional level (not shown here), a very
distinct picture emerges. For one, it is intra-regional agreements that are driving much
of the overall protectionism in dairy, sugar, and footwear.18 Moreover, there is great
variation in the treatment of chapters at the intra-regional level—even in the case of
chapters that are relatively liberalized. Meanwhile, the extra-regional sample even at
the five-year benchmark resembles the overall findings at year 10: there is a crescent
of points stretching from the highly liberalized southeast to the more protected
northwest. The inter-regional sample falls somewhere in between. Agreements
involving Singapore tend to increase the averages of all chapters in the extra-regional
sample, and to a lesser extent, in the inter-regional sample.
Encouragingly, however, RTA parties on average liberalize more than 75 percent of
tariff lines in the bulk of chapters by year 5 and more than 90 percent of tariff lines in
most chapters by year 10. The fastest and deepest liberalization is effected in such
non-sensitive products as ores (ch. 26), fertilizers (31), pulp of wood (47), and some
base metals (81); perhaps one of the reasons is that these are intermediate inputs into
other products. There is, however, notable variation across countries of the Americas
in these goods as well as in leather (ch. 42). However, overall, the intra-regional set
now resembles the 10-year figure for the full sample.
Notably, there is significant movement in the textile chapters between the 5- and 10year benchmarks; by the same measure, dairy and sugar show little additional
liberalization. The persistent variation in agriculture owes largely to EU’s agreements
where liberalization tends to be postponed—at times in perpetuity, as is the case, for
example, for certain live animals, fish, meat, dairy, grains, and sugar products
originating in South Africa in the EU-South Africa RTA.
Trade-Weighted Tariff Liberalization
Simply measuring the share of liberalized tariff lines fails to capture the full effects
stemming from the exclusion of sensitive products from RTAs if those products are
covered in a very small number of tariff lines. Does the picture of integration in the
Americas change with alternative measures?
Notably, dairy has the lowest standard deviation of all of the chapters, showing that the low dutyfree share of products in this chapter is relatively common across agreements in the Americas.
We strive to shed light on this question by combining the data on liberalization as a
share of tariff lines with data on trade flows. In particular, we introduce two
alternative methods of exploring the depth and speed of liberalization in RTAs:
liberalization statistics examined above as weighted by trade at the HS chapter level,
and the actual percentage of total trade (imports) from the RTA partner that is
liberalized of total trade.19
Figure 10 takes the first cut, examining the evolution of duty-free treatment as tradeweighted share of tariff lines. There are general similarities with the unweighted data
in Figure 5; however, it is notable that the initial point at year 1 is higher in the tradeweighted dataset than in the unweighted tariff lines. This is hardly surprising: most
trade occurs in sectors that are opened up rapidly, while sectors with backloaded
liberalization tend to have very little trade (precisely because they are protected). To
be sure, while the bolded averages in the two figures are also similar, they are not
immediately comparable due to different numbers of observations—38 vs. 27 RTAs.
In the intra-regional sample, one of the most striking results is the high degree of
liberalization in the early years (as opposed to the finding in figure 5). However, this
is mainly due to methodological reasons: the more backloaded agreements involving
Mercosur were excluded from the sample, which flattens the average.20
The calculations are based on data from United Nations Comtrade database, DESA/UNSD.
For the extra-regional case, the average is higher in Figure 13 than in Figure 5. There are two
reasons for this. The most obvious is that EU-Lithuania and Thailand-Australia were excluded from
the sample, and thus the agreements involving Singapore, where one or both countries provided
immediate duty-free access, became more highly weighted. Second, all of the remaining schedules left
in the trade weighted sample exhibited higher duty-free statistics (or the same when they reached 100
percent coverage) than in the unweighted sample where only tariff lines were analyzed. This was
especially true of the EU-South Africa agreement, where both schedules returned a positive difference
of around 20 percentage points in the first three years, while South Africa’s schedule maintained this
difference throughout the 20-year period under study.
Figure 10 - Evolution of Duty-Free Treatment as Trade-Weighted % of Tariff
% of Tariff Lines Duty Free (Trade-Weighted by Chapter)
Americas as Partner
Agreement Year
Figure 11 measures the evolution of duty-free treatment as a share of imports from
the partner that are liberalized. By this measure, RTA partners in all regions on
average reach the 90 percent mark right in year 10.21 Moreover and importantly, the
figure does not capture the potential trade among the RTA partners. This is due in
part to the endogeneity of trade flows: even if the share of actual trade excluded from
an RTA were very small, the potential trade could be very significant in the absence
of policy barriers.22
Ideally, imports were averaged over a three-year period immediately prior to the entry into force of
the agreement. However, due to data availability constraints as well as to ensure consistency between
versions of the Harmonized System, the number of years taken as well as the years themselves varied
somewhat from party to party.
That the extra-regional sample has a higher average in figure 14 than in 13 is partially due to the
sample set: here the EU-Morocco agreement was additionally excluded from this sample, increasing
the average somewhat. The change in measurement method also had a strong positive effect on
coverage in the two early years of the China-Hong Kong concession, flattening the initial part of the
Figure 11 - Evolution of Duty-Free Treatment as % of Imports
% of Imports Duty Free .
Americas as Partner
Agreement Year
TRQs and Exceptions
While RTAs around the world are encompassing and liberalizing, it is also the case
that they carry provisions that could potentially be classified as “other restrictive
regulations of commerce” under Article XXIV, such as TRQs, exceptions, and
demanding rules of origin (RoO). Such provisions can qualify the market access
provided for in the tariff lowering schedules—and, as such, affect the degree of
liberalization conferred by RTAs.
TRQs in RTAs are usually additional to TRQ entitlements under the WTO
Agreement on Agriculture, so that the RTA parties’ existing entitlements are not
affected.23 Figure 12 maps out the use of TRQs in the three sets of data. Countries of
GATT Article I establishes disciplines on general most favored nation treatment and for preferential
margins in arrangements that are mentioned in the article. The Appellate Body in the dispute Turkey –
Restrictions on Imports of Textile and Clothing Products found that a dispensation could be available
in cases where it could be shown that the proposed measure is essential to the formation of the PTA,
but did not set the criteria by which this condition could be fulfilled in practice. Nevertheless, in quotacontrolled markets where the Agreement on Agriculture allocates quotas to several supplying
countries, the expansion of the quota of one supplying RTA partner will put downward pressure on
prices, causing some erosion in the quota rents available to all quota-holders, while only the RTA
partner is compensated by increased market access. Given the possible negative impact on other quota-
the Americas, like extra-regional agreements, are frequent TRQ users particularly in
agriculture, and also employ TRQs in textiles (where extra-regional agreements do
not apply TRQs). In the Americas, US agreements drive the TRQ incidence in
agriculture, with Canada and Mexico contributing to a somewhat lesser extent. Box 1
details the operation of TRQs in CAFTA.
Figure 12 – % of RTAs with TRQs, by Region and HS Section
Live Animals/Products
Vegetable Products
Animal/Vegetable Fats
Processed Foods/Tobacco
Mineral Products
Chemical/Industrial Products
Animal Hides/Skins
HS Section
Wood/Wood Articles
Paper/Cellulose Material
Americas as Partner
Footwear/Misc. Articles
Precious/Semiprec. Mat.
Base Metals
Machinery/Electrical Equip.
Motor Vehicles/Vessels
Precision Instruments
Misc. Manufactured Articles
% of Agreements with Tariff Rate Quotas
holders, it is not clear that TRQs in RTAs are consistent with the WTO rules on quotas. It is also
unclear whether Article XXIV provides a dispensation from those rules—or from GATT Article I.
Box 1: Tariff Rate Quotas in CAFTA
The United States presented a single schedule of tariff concessions to the Central American
countries and the Dominican Republic in CAFTA. However, there are some differences in the
actual concessions to each Latin American party. The differences in treatment arise from the
granting of immediate elimination of duties for finite quantities of some goods by means of a
tariff rate quota. While some of the parties receive duty-free access under a quota, others do not,
and while the products subject to quotas are similar across the parties, the quantities vary widely
among them (table 3).24 The differences can have substantial implications, as the products in
question are among the most sensitive, and as the tariff reduction takes a long time and may be
subject to grace periods before actual reductions begin.
Each of the Central American parties and the Dominican Republic have their individual schedules
on products entering from the United States. The concessions are rather similar for the various
product categories among these countries. Table 4 displays the TRQs by the Central American
countries and the Dominican Republic on the United States.25 Indeed, while there are some
differences in the tariff elimination treatment within Central America for individual products and
for the in-quota quantities, the products on which the Central American parties open TRQs tend to
be very similar. The Dominican Republic has a slightly different list of products than the Central
American parties do; however, the differences can in part be explained by the aggregation of the
TRQ in terms of product coverage.
Table 3 - Products Subject to Tariff Rate Quotas in CAFTA: US Tariff Quotas
on Products Entering from Central America and the Dominican Republic
Product Category
Sugar (Organic)4
Peanut Butter
Milk Powder
Other Dairy Products
Ice Cream
Fluid Fresh Milk and Cream, and Sour Cream
Ethyl Alcohol (Central America originating)
Ethyl Alcohol (non-Central America originating)
Out-of-Quota Tariff Elimination Treatment
15 year
Continued MFN
Continued MFN
15 year, non-linear, 6 year grace period
15 year
20 year, 10 year grace period
20 year, 10 year grace period
20 year, 10 year grace period
20 year, 10 year grace period
20 year, 10 year grace period
20 year, 10 year grace period
Most Favored Nation
110 (2206)
Initial Quantity
625 (2505)
Metric tons
Metric tons
Metric tons
Metric tons
Metric tons
Metric tons
Metric tons
Metric tons
Metric tons
Source: Adapted from: Tripartite Committee, Comparative Guide to the Chile-United States Free Trade Agreement and the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement ,
based on TRQ Annexes to CAFTA Agreement.
1 In-quota imports shall be free of duty as of entry
2 With the exceptions of imports of "Sugar (Organic)" and "Ethyl Alcohol (non-Central America originating)" from Costa Rica, which remain fixed, access quantities will be subject to growth over time.
3 TRQ access based on trade surplus condition.
4 A fixed 2,000 MT TRQ was allocated by the U.S. to Costa Rica for organic sugar under the U.S. specialty sugar TRQ, and applies to tariff lines AG17011110, AG17011210, AG17019110,
AG17019910, AG17029010, and AG21069044.
5 In the case of Nicaragua, an additional initial quantity of 250 metric tons applies to 5 tariff lines of the 52 total tariff lines making up the entire Cheese TRQ.
6 In the case of the Dominican Republic, an additional initial quantity of 220 metric tons applies to 4 tariff lines of the 46 total tariff lines making up the entire Other Dairy Products TRQ.
7 Or 10 percent of the base quantity of dehydrated alcohol and mixtures established under Section 423, whichever is lesser.
*No TRQ.
These tables are summary versions of those used in the Comparative Guide to the Chile-United
States Free Trade Agreement and the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade
Agreement, a joint project of the Tripartite Committee (IDB, OAS, and ECLAC). The categories in
the US table are in order of appearance in the US General Notes, while those for the Central
America/Dominican Republic table are an alphabetized common set.
TRQs between the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica and Nicaragua are also part of the
Agreement, but are not shown in these tables.
Table 4 - Products Subject to Tariff Rate Quotas in CAFTA: Central American
and DR Tariff Quotas on Products Entering from United States
Product Category
beef, prime and choice
beef, trimmings
20 year, 10yr GP
10 year
15 year
15 year
15 year
10 year
buttermilk, curdled cream, and yogurt
cheese, cheddar
cheese, mozzarella
cheeses, other
chicken meat, mechanically de-boned
chicken leg quarters
corn, white
corn, yellow
20 year, 10yr GP
17 year, NL, 10yr GP
Con't MFN
Con't MFN
5 year
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
15 year, 6yr GP
20 year, NL, 10yr GP
20 year, NL, 10yr GP4
15 year
20 year, NL, 10yr GP
10 year
10 year
20 year, NL, 10yr GP
12 year
12 year
10 year
20 year, 10yr GP
12 year
15 year, NL, 6yr GP
20 year, NL, 10yr GP
20 year, NL, 10yr GP
12 year
20 year, 10yr GP
fresh onions
fresh potatoes
frozen french fries
ice cream
liquid dairy
liquid milk
milk powder
other dairy products
pig fat
pork cuts
rice, brown
rice, milled
rice, rough
turkey meat
Out-of-Quota Tariff Elimination Treatment1
15 year, NL, Special3 10 year
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
18 year, NL, 10yr GP
18 year, NL, 10yr GP4,5
20 year, 10yr GP
18 year, NL, 10yr GP
Con't MFN
10 year
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
10 year
15 year
18 year, NL, 10yr GP
18 year, NL, 10yr GP4
20 year, 10yr GP
18 year, NL, 10yr GP
Con't MFN
15 year, NL, 6yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
15 year, NL, 6yr GP
18 year, NL, 10yr GP
18 year, NL, 10yr GP4
20 year, 10yr GP
18 year, NL, 10yr GP
Con't MFN
15 year, NL, 6yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
15 year
18 year, NL, 10yr GP
18 year, NL, 10yr GP4
15 year
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
18 year, NL, 10yr GP
Con't MFN4
15 year, NL, 6yr GP4
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
20 year, 10yr GP
15 year, NL, 6yr GP4
Initial Quantity in Metric Tons2
Source: Adapted from: Tripartite Committee, Comparative Guide to the Chile-United States Free Trade Agreement and the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free
Trade Agreement , based on TRQ Annexes to CAFTA Agreement.
GP = grace period; NL = non-linear.
1 With the exception of Milk Powder in the Dominican Republic, in-quota imports shall be free of duty as of entry into force of the Agreement.
2 With the exception of imports of "Chicken Leg Quarters" by Guatemala from the United States, where there are reductions in the duty-free quantity in several years, followed by
unlimited access in year 18, access quantities will be subject to growth over time.
3 Duties in this category shall be reduced to 15% in year 1.
4 May be subject to performance requirements.
5 The aggregate quantity of goods entered into El Salvador from the United States under SAC provision 1006 shall be free of duty in any calendar year specified, "and shall not exceed
3,000 MT for 'parboiled rough' rice or its equivalent 'parboiled milled' rice quantity in any such year. Parboiled milled equivalency shall be calculated according to a 0.7 conversion factor,
where 1 MT of parboiled rough rice is equivalent to 0.7 MT of parboiled milled rice."
6 Quantities are measured in Liters for the Nicaragua Ice Cream TRQ.
*No TRQ.
Figure 13 turns to exceptions, defining the share of product categories in which at
least one of the parties to an RTA has placed an exception (i.e., does never bring the
tariff on the product to zero) or an exclusion (i.e., has exempted a product from the
RTA concessions altogether). Exceptions in most RTAs fall on the most protected
sectors—agricultural products, food preparations, chemicals, and textiles and apparel.
In the Americas, Mexico’s agreements are the main drivers of exceptions in
agriculture. Mexico-Northern Triangle, Chile-Central America, and Canada-Costa
Rica FTAs contribute to the count in a broad number of sections. CAFTA exceptions
in figure 14 illustrate further. At the extra-regional front, EU agreements and JapanSingapore FTA drive the figures.
Figure 13 – % of RTAs with Exceptions or Exclusions, by Region and Section
Live Animals/Products
Vegetable Products
Animal/Vegetable Fats
Processed Foods/Tobacco
Mineral Products
Chemical/Industrial Products
Animal Hides/Skins
Americas as Partner
Footwear/Misc. Articles
Precious/Semiprec. Mat.
Base Metals
Machinery/Electrical Equip.
Motor Vehicles/Vessels
Precision Instruments
Misc. Manufactured Articles
% of Agreements with Exceptions or Exclusions
Figure 14 – Exceptions to Tariff Liberalization in CAFTA
United States
Beans, Rice, Onions
Chicken, Milk Powder, Beans, Rice, Wheat Flour
Chicken, Milk Powder, Beans, Rice, Wheat Flour
ra -C
All CACM Countries
Source: DR-CAFTA Agreement, Annex 3.3.6, Appendix,
and Signatory Country General Notes to Tariff Schedules
No additional Exclusions to those
below between NIC-DOM
Beer, Alcohol, Tobacco,
Sugar, Coffee
Dominican Republic
o ns
to D
ar ( D
to U
Chicken, Milk Powder, Beans, Rice, Wheat Flour
White Corn
White Corn
White Corn
White Corn
Fresh Potatoes,
Fresh Onions
(USA to DOM)
Sugar (All CACM to USA)
HS Section
Wood/Wood Articles
Paper/Cellulose Material
In sum, the analysis of liberalization in RTAs yields three main results:
RTAs formed by the countries of the Americas are unique in three ways in
comparison to other regions: they are mature, most of them are encompassing
in terms of product categories that are negotiated, and particularly RTAs
signed by the original NAFTA members liberalize most products rapidly
(usually some 70 percent in the first year), while the South American FTAs
are somewhat more backloaded. In contrast, agreements in Asia are rather
young, less encompassing, and, like European agreements, more backloaded.
Singapore is a clear exception; it liberalizes basically all goods in the first
There are similarities between the Americas and the extra-regional sample.
Most extra-regional agreements, like those formed by countries of the
Americas, liberalize 90 percent of tariff lines (as well as trade-weighted lines)
by year 10 into the agreement. As such, the coverage of products in all RTAs
tends to become rather homogeneous by the end of the first decade.
All three regional samples carry a number of outlier RTA parties (often
southern parties) and product categories (particularly in sensitive sectors—
agricultural products, food preparations, textiles and apparel, and footwear)
that trail the overall trend of liberalization. Many agreements in the Americas
also carry provisions that could potentially be classified as “other restrictive
regulations of commerce”, such as tariff rate quotas and exceptions. Such
instruments appear to capture the price the region’s integrationist interests are
to pay for the liberalizing and encompassing RTAs.
Open Regionalism in the Americas?
The Americas is one of the most integrated regions in the world. Liberalization within
the regional RTAs is deep and many countries of the Americas are connected to most
others in the region. But how discriminatory are agreements formed by countries in
the Americas? Are RTAs in the region based on “open regionalism”—i.e., has
regional liberalization been paralleled by multilateral liberalization—and have the
region’s RTAs created, rather than diverted, trade? The first part of this section
examines this question in a preliminary fashion by engaging applied external tariffs
and rules of origin. The second part discusses some recent empirical findings on the
trade effects of RTAs in the Americas and beyond.
Multilateral Tariffs in the Americas
In the 1990s, MFN liberalization in the Americas proceeded in lock-step with RTA
liberalization, with preferential margins remaining rather unchanged during the
period. Indeed, in the late-1980s, many countries of Latin America started MFN
liberalization from average levels as high as 40 percent or more. However, the more
recent period has seen fewer changes in the Western Hemisphere countries’ external
tariffs: the proliferation of RTAs has been accompanied by little additional downward
movement on external tariffs.
Figures 15a and 15b take a snapshot of the regional economies’ and China, EU, India,
and Japan’s applied tariff profiles, and the tariffs applied by these countries in the
various HS chapters, respectively. The median chapter average of applied external
tariffs in Latin America ranges from around 14 percent (Colombia) to 6 percent
(Chile). The regional median is not very different from that of China; however, all
Latin American countries have a lower median than is applied by India. US and
Canadian tariffs are 2.8 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.26 Tariff dispersion in
the region is rather moderate, barring extreme outliers particularly in Mexico (meat,
cereals, and tobacco), and Costa Rica and Panama (dairy). As for dispersion across
countries by chapter (figure 15b), the dispersion is rather moderate across the tariff
universe; yet, outliers persist in textiles (Mexico) and agriculture (India, EU, Mexico,
and the United States, among others). Averages are also higher in these sectors.
Figure 15a - Applied MFN Tariffs in 24 Countries, 2006
Ch_17 Ch_16
Ch_17 Ch_04
Ch_04 Ch_04
It should be noted that these averages that non ad-valorem tariffs are not included in the averages
(i.e., calculations do not include ad-valorem equivalents). Since non ad-valorem tariffs are generally
more highly protective, the actual level of protection applied by the US and Canada would be slightly
higher. Mexico, EU, and Japan also apply non ad-valorem tariffs to some degree.
Figure 15b – Applied MFN Tariffs by Chapter among 24 Countries, 2006
HS Chapter
Note: Boxplots represent interquartile ranges. The line in the middle of the box
represents the median 50th percentile of the data. The box extends from the 25th
percentile to the 75th percentile, or through the so-called inter-quartile range
(IQR). The whiskers emerging from the boxes extend to the lower and upper
adjacent values. The upper adjacent value is defined as the largest data point less
than or equal to x(75) + 1.5 IQR. The lower adjacent value is defined as the
smallest data point greater than or equal to x(25) + 1.5 IQR. Observed points more
extreme than the adjacent values are individually plotted (outliers and extreme
values are marked using “x” and “o” symbols, respectively).
Source: INT calculations based on UNCTAD TRAINS data
Whether the Americas features less or more discrimination than in the late 1990s
requires a more detailed analysis than performed here. It is the case that the advance
of RTA liberalization has been accompanied by a more modest liberalization of
external tariffs in the past few years than was the case in the 1990s. In general,
however, it can also be said that the region’s most liberalized countries in the RTA
sphere also have the lowest MFN tariffs and least MFN tariff dispersion. Moreover,
the formation of new RTAs has alleviated discrimination vis-à-vis the new partners
(while also accentuating the disadvantages of remaining outside the RTA spaghetti
Rules of Origin
Rules of origin arbitrate the discriminatory impact and trade-creating potential of
RTAs. Since a failure to meet the RoO disqualifies an exporter from the RTAconferred preferential treatment, RoO can and must be seen as a central market access
instrument reigning over preferential trade. The potential effects of RoO accentuate
over time: RoO remain in place even after preferential tariffs have been phased out.
RoO are widely considered a trade policy instrument that can work to offset the
benefits of tariff liberalization in RTAs.27 RoO in effect set up walls around RTA
members that prevent them from using some inputs in each final product. This can
limit the access of member country producers to inputs from the rest of the world, as
well as input providers’ sales to the RTA region. When rules are more restrictive, the
walls are higher, and efficient allocation of resources is even more difficult Moreover,
multiple overlapping RTAs with divergent origin regimes entail many such walls to
free and efficient sourcing of inputs. The multiple criss-crossing RTAs in the
Americas make RoO of particular importance in the region.
Particularly agreements forged by the original NAFTA partners carry some of the
most complex and restrictive rules of origin (figure 16).28 Encouragingly, however,
unlike the straitjacket RoO model that the EU uses in all of its RTAs, agreements in
the Americas are marked by diversity in RoO that suggests not only political
economy forces but also accommodation of RTA-specific idiosyncrasies. The
regional countries have also employed such measures as short supply clauses to help
producers adjust to shocks in availability of intra-regional inputs.
Furthermore, particularly in North America is marked by a trend toward marketfriendly rules of origin. US RoO regimes have evolved toward a more liberal
framework from NAFTA to US-Chile FTA, CAFTA, and US-Colombia and US-Peru
FTAs; in the meantime, NAFTA RoO regime itself has been under a liberalization
process, with more flexible RoO being adopted in as varied sectors as alcoholic
beverages, petroleum, chassis fitted with engines, photocopiers, chemicals,
pharmaceuticals, plastics and rubber, motor vehicles and their parts, footwear, copper,
and others.
Most prominently, RoO can be employed to favor intra-RTA industry linkages over those between
the RTA and the rest of the world, and, as such, to indirectly protect RTA-based input producers vis-àvis their extra-RTA rivals (Krueger 1993; Krishna and Krueger 1995). As such, RoO are akin to a
tariff on the intermediate product levied by the country importing the final good (Falvey and Reed
2000; Lloyd 2001).
See Suominen (2004), Estevadeordal and Suominen (2006), and Estevadeordal, Harris, and
Suominen (2007).
Figure 16 – Restrictiveness of Rules of Origin in RTAs, by Region
Restrictiveness of RoO
Americas as Partner
Economic Effects of RTAs in the Americas: Trade Creation or Trade
Academic literature remains divided as to whether RTAs are ultimately trade-creating
or trade–diverting—and whether RTAs are a stepping stone or a stumbling bloc to
global free trade.29 Deardorff and Stern (1994), Baldwin (1993, 2006), Wei and
Frankel (1995), Bergsten (1995), Frankel, Stein, and Wei (1997), Ethier (1998),
Cadot et al. (2001), Freund (2000) and Ornelas (2005), and, on the political science
side, Oye (1992) and Kahler (1995), provide grounds for believing that RTAs can be
ever-expanding and propel strategic interactions conducive to global free trade. In
contrast, Bhagwati (1993) argues that reduced protection between RTA members will
be accompanied by increased protection vis-à-vis outsiders, with RTAs ultimately
undermining multilateral liberalization. Cooper (2004) holds that FTAs can deviate
attention and resources from accomplishing multilateral liberalization.
For early works on the welfare effects of RTAs and customs unions, in particular, see Viner (1950),
Meade (1955), Lipsey (1960), Johnson (1965), Mundell (1964), Corden (1972), and Kemp and Wan
(1976). Richardson (1994) and Panagariya and Findlay (1996) extend the political economy analysis of
PTA formation to looking at welfare implications of endogenously determined RTAs.
For many authors such as van der Mensbrugghe et al. (2005) and Schott (2004), much
depends on the exact characteristics of RTAs. Aghion, Antràs, and Helpman (2006)
arrive at two equilibria: one in which global free trade is attained only when
preferential trade agreements are permitted to form (a building bloc effect), and
another in which global free trade is attained only when preferential trade agreements
are forbidden (a stumbling bloc effect). To be sure, while seeing RTAs as the secondbest option to multilateral free trade, most analysts view them as superior to not
liberalizing at all.
There are few studies that engage tariff concessions. Limão (2006), examining
concessions, finds that the United States and the EU have limited their multilateral
tariff liberalization in goods traded with the RTA partners. Limão and Olarreaga
(2006) make a similar finding in the case of import subsidies afforded to RTA
partners by the United States, EU, and Japan.
However, Estevadeordal and Robertson (2004) and Estevadeordal, Freund and
Ornelas (2005), operationalizing tariff liberalization in a number of Western
Hemisphere RTAs, find that RTAs in the Americas have not only been liberalizing
and conducive to trade in the region, but also helped further multilateral
liberalization. The latter examine the effects of RTAs on external trade liberalization
using industry-level data on applied MFN tariffs and bilateral preferences for ten
Latin American countries from 1989-2001. The results show that the greater the tariff
preference that a country gives to its RTA partners in a given product, the more the
country tends to reduce its MFN tariff in that product. The authors conclude that
RTAs can further open regionalism and set in motion a dynamic that attenuates their
potential trade diversionary effects.
Suominen (2004) and Estevadeordal and Suominen (2006b) find that while RTAs
help create trade, restrictive RoO embedded in them dampen their trade-creating
potential. Meanwhile, restrictive RoO in final goods encourage trade in intermediate
goods, and can thus entail trade diversion in inputs. Estevadeordal, López-Córdova
and Suominen (2006) extend the analysis of the effects of RoO to investment flows in
manufacturing industries in Mexico, finding that investment in Mexico during the
NAFTA era has been attracted to sectors with flexible RoO—RoO that allow
industries to establish production and supply networks of global reach, and thus also
import supplies from around the world (rather than from the NAFTA market alone, as
they would have to do in the presence of restrictive RoO).
Overall, the empirical evidence of RTAs’ trade-creating effects remains mixed. Much
appears to depend on the instrument (tariffs, RoO etc.), time period, and set of
countries and product categories that are analyzed. Nonetheless, the continued drive
toward RTAs even among distant partners should help ensure, barring the
implications of RoO, that blocs become increasingly connected to the rest of the
world if not by multilateralism then by way of regionalism, evolving to an
increasingly “fuzzy” and “leaky” format (Baldwin 2006).
Beyond Market Access: Services and Investment
Analyzing tariffs and other instruments governing trade in goods provides at best a
limited view of RTAs’ anatomy and effects. RTAs formed by countries in the
Americas, much like RTAs around the world, contain a host of disciplines beyond
tariffs ranging from investment to competition policy; from labor issues to dispute
settlement; from standards to government procurement and transportation. These can
provide for important complementarities, such as between tariff, services, and
investment liberalization.
This section strives to supplement the tariff liberalization statistics by providing a
brief comparative analysis of the coverage (rather than depth of liberalization) of
investment and services provisions (listed in Appendix II) in agreements formed by
countries of the Americas in a comparative context as well as vis-à-vis multilateral
agreements (General Agreement on Trade in Services, GATS, and Agreement on
Trade-Related Investment Measures, TRIMS). The main question examined here is
not the extent of liberalization by RTAs, but, rather, the extent of their
comprehensiveness. As such, this analysis can also help elucidate the extent to which
RTAs are “WTO+” in terms of incorporating a larger number and/or more specific
provisions than are present in the multilateral regime.
Services chapters in RTAs usually only cover modes 1 and 2 and are, therefore,
separate from RTAs chapters on investment and temporary entry of business persons.
RTAs generally cover a large number of services provisions, particularly most
favored nation treatment, national treatment, market access, local presence, domestic
regulation, recognition of qualifications, transparency, restriction of transfers and
denial of benefits. Many RTAs also contain (whether in different chapters or in
annexes to the services chapters) specific provisions for telecommunications and
financial services.
Intra-hemispheric RTAs are particularly comprehensive and often go well beyond
GATS provisions (figures 17 and 18). Older agreements such as NAFTA, the first
agreement to cover services in an exhaustive manner, cover MFN treatment, national
treatment, market access, local presence, domestic regulation, recognition of
qualifications, transparency, restriction of transfers and denial of benefits, as well as
certain provisions for telecommunications and financial services. The coverage of
services in these two sectors has accentuated in recent US agreements with Chile,
Peru, Colombia and Panama, and, at the inter-regional front, with Australia,
Singapore, and Morocco. In contrast, most South American agreements do not have
specific services provisions.
Overall, this entails that more than 60 percent of inter- and intra-regional agreements
cover MFN treatment, national treatment, market access, and unnecessary barriers to
trade, and prohibit discriminatory treatment—all areas addressed by fewer extra-
regional agreements, which are in general much thinner with the exception of JapanSingapore FTA, which covers national treatment, market access, domestic regulation,
recognition of qualifications, transparency and restriction of transfers, as well as
certain provisions on telecommunication and financial services.
Mexico and Chile’s agreements with the EU differ from each other. The EU-Chile
FTA covers national treatment, market access, domestic regulations, recognition of
qualifications, transparency and restrictions of transfers, and also contains a thorough
regulation of telecommunications and financial services. The EU-Mexico FTA covers
only MFN treatment, national treatment, market access, restrictions of transfers, and
denial of benefits, while sporting no provisions on telecommunications and covering
financial services only rather marginally.
Figure 17 – Coverage of 29 Services Provisions in Selected RTAs
MERCOSUR - Andean Community (ACE 59)
Singapore - Australia 2003
New Zealand - Singapore 2001
Japan - Singapore 2002
Canada-Costa Rica 2002
EU - Morocco 2000
EU - South Africa 2000
China - Hong Kong 2004
Australia - Thailand 2005
Chile - China
Panama - Singapore
Mexico-Costa Rica 2005
Uruguay-Mexico 2004
Central America- Republic of Chile 2002
Central America-Dominican Republic 2001
Mexico-Northern Triangle 2001
Mexcio-Nicaragua 1998
P-4 2005
Mexico-Colombia-Venezuela 1995
EFTA - Mexico 2001
Chile - Korea 2004
Mexico - Japan 2005
EU - Chile 2003
US - Jordan 2001
US - Morocco 2006
US - Australia 2005
US - Singapore 2004
Mexico-Bolivia 1995
Canada-Chile 1997
Chile-Mexico 1999
US-Chile 2004
NAFTA 1994
CAFTA 2005
US - Peru (not yet in force)
US - Colombia (not yet in force)
Figure 18 – Coverage by of Selected Services Provisions in Selected RTAs,
by Region
ti o
Americas as Partner
As in services, the latest RTAs’ investment chapters tend to be encompassing,
extending to such areas as MFN treatment, national treatment, transparency, denial of
benefits and restriction of transfers, nationality of management and board of directors,
performance requirements, expropriation, and investor–state disputes.
It is intra-hemispheric RTAs, and US RTAs in particular, that are comprehensive—
and often extend well beyond GATS and TRIMs (Figure 19).30 Indeed, all RTAs
forged in the Americas apply the four modalities of investment—establishment,
acquisition, post-establishment operations and resale—and also cover such disciplines
as MFN treatment, national treatment, and dispute settlement (figure 20). Eighty
percent or more also cover transparency, denial of benefits and restriction of transfers,
nationality of management and board of directors, performance requirements and
expropriation. In inter-regional agreements, the coverage is somewhat lower due to
the limited coverage of disciplines in the EU-Mexico and EU-Chile agreements, as
An FTA’s investment provisions are coded when there is an investment chapter in an RTA or when
the RTA refers to a bilateral investment treaty as the agreement applicable to the RTA. When no such
mentioning is made, a zero value is assigned (even if the RTA partners were connected via a BIT.
well as in Chile-China FTA, P-4, and US-Jordan FTA. On the extra-regional front,
Singapore and Australia’s agreements are more encompassing, but other agreements
have scant coverage.
Figure 19 – Coverage of 17 Investment Provisions in Selected RTAs
EU - Morocco
EU-South Africa
Canada-Costa Rica
Mexico-Costa Rica
China-Hong Kong
Central America- Republic of Chile
Mexico-Northern Triangle
Panama - Singapore
Chile - China
Chile - Peru
Mexico - Japan
US - Peru
US - Colombia
US - Morocco
Figure 20 – Coverage of Selected Investment Provisions in Selected RTAs, by
ta b
n ts
a tm
s tr
s fe
e st
Americas as Partner
In sum, there is marked variation across RTAs in the coverage services and
investment provisions. Yet, the analysis also communicates clustering of RTAs by
main world regions—Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. A closer
inspection of the data also suggests the exportation of RTA models from one region
to the next through trans-continental RTAs, such as “borrowing” of some of the USChile RTA’s market access provisions in the Chile-Korea RTA. Many US RTAs in
particular could be viewed as WTO+ in terms of incorporating a larger number and/or
more specific provisions than are carved in the multilateral regime. This indicates the
perceived usefulness of rule-making in the RTA context, perhaps both as a means of
overcoming slow multilateral negotiations and as a way to deepen and appropriately
mold provisions that are particularly pertinent to the RTA relationship—as well as a
tool to attain greater synergies across the various RTA disciplines.
Furthering Multilateralization in the Americas
Countries of the Americas are at a crossroads: their intra-regional integration is
increasingly complete and mature, and many regional countries have already
established ties with numerous extra-regional partners. As such, the key challenge for
many countries of the region is not as much the negotiation of new agreements as it is
optimizing the benefits of their existing RTA portfolios. One key measure for doing
that is to address the domestic supply-side constraints to trade. But another has to do
with the external environment, where one policy option is multilateralizing the
regional RTAs.
Conceptually, multilateralization can be achieved through pulling three alternative
(yet complementary) levers: multilateral, regional and two-way.
The multilateral lever could entail changing, and/or making more precise, the
multilateral rules governing RTAs, particularly the rather vague requirement of the
GATT Article XXIV that RTAs liberalize “substantially all trade” among the partners
and eradicate “restrictive regulations on commerce” within a “reasonable length of
time”, and not raise new barriers to trade vis-à-vis non-members. For transparency
purposes, the multilateral path could also entail strengthening the notification of
RTAs to the WTO and deepening the incipient multilateral examinations of RTAs’
compliance with Article XXIV.
The regional lever could be applied within each individual RTA or among groups of
RTAs. The former would mean driving down intra-RTA barriers and lowering
discrimination toward non-members (or incorporating new members). The latter
would entail convergence—merging RTAs together in broader cumulation zones
through the adoption of common rules and regulations—while driving to the lowest
common denominator in external protection.
The two-way lever would entail using what is “regional” to shape what is
“multilateral”, and vice versa. For instance, it could mean using the empirical
measures of liberalization and external discrimination in RTAs, something this paper
has sought to establish, as a revealed regional preference and reality check in
multilateral rule-making on RTAs, and as an agreed-upon benchmark for new RTAs
to aspire to. It could also mean employing tested and tried trade-related disciplines in
RTAs that currently go beyond multilateral rules in coverage and/or precision in
crafting new multilateral trade rules.
Conversely, the two-way lever could be pulled to incorporate new multilateral rules
governing RTAs in the texts of new RTAs, and even involve some mechanisms to
enforce compliance with multilateral mandates at the regional level. It could also
bring some multilateral rules to govern regional convergence processes to ensure that
expanded RTA zones would not result in discrimination vis-à-vis non-members or
systemically problematic scenarios along the lines of Krugman’s (1991) three-bloc
Besides the political opposition to multilateralization, however accomplished, the risk
to be managed in any of these processes would be one of incentives. Stronger
multilateral monitoring of RTAs could turn countries away from regionalism, while
doing little to guarantee that they would turn their energies to multilateralism.
Regional convergence among RTAs could yield trade-diverting megablocs should it
raise effective barriers vis-à-vis non-members. Pulling the two-way lever risks
straitjacketing regions with unsuitable one-size-fits-all multilateral rules and,
conversely, succumbing to the political economy of RTAs at the multilateral level.
More concretely, what might be some of the regional levers countries of the Americas
could pull (a process over which countries of the region have control) as opposed to
the multilateral levers (that they do not fully control)?
The first alternative is an “all countries-all disciplines” approach: pursuit of a broad
integration scheme in the Americas that, essentially superceding the RTAs crisscrossing the region, would open all regional trade channels and streamline the
regional trade architecture. Traders, investors, and customs authorities would have
needed to refer only to one single agreement on such issues as market access and
rules of origin, services and investment regulations, standards, dispute settlement, and
so on. Akin to the FTAA, a region-wide RTA would also help circumvent the rise of
intra-regional RTA-induced hub-and-spoke systems—and further trade creation when
based on open regionalism (external tariff lowering by the members and RoO that
result in lower effective restrictiveness than those of the existing regional RTAs).
The second and seemingly more feasible alternative would be a “selected countriesselected disciplines” convergence approach. This would at first instance mean
knitting sub-sets of the existing RTAs together and allowing for cumulation among
them. The initial focus of such a convergence could be market access provisions and
rules of origin, in particular; again, the drive should be toward the least restrictiveness
RoO.31 The convergence packet could be gradually expanded to incorporate further
disciplines and/or further countries (i.e., move toward an all countries-all disciplines
model), perhaps with some form of variable geometry. While differing in process
from that aiming at a mega-regional agreement, convergence would have effects
similar to those of a single integration agreement among the set of RTAs pursuing
it—open the current non-RTA channels and make the whole of the regional RTA
spaghetti simpler (and likely also greater in terms of the economic impact than the
sum of the parts).
The third and again more feasible alternative would be a “case-by-case” approach:
accelerating liberalization within each individual RTAs (as well as vis-à-vis nonmembers) for instance by reducing the restrictiveness of rules of origin, as has been
pursued in the NAFTA context since 2003.
There are other, shorter-term, more piecemeal tactical measures that could be taken.
One possibility would be to liberalize goods (both in RTAs and vis-à-vis third parties)
in product categories that countries in the region have already liberalized to major
exporters in or outside the region, so that the marginal pain of liberalization in these
sectors is small if not inexistent. For example, in CAFTA, Central American
countries freed photographic or cinematographic goods (HS chapter 37) and fruit and
nuts (08) to imports from the United States, the key source of their imports in the two
sectors, yet they also maintain positive applied MFN rates in these sectors. Another
example is wood pulp (47) for Chile in the Chile-US FTA.
VI. Conclusion
The underlying notion of this paper is that there are no clear and simple answers to
whether RTAs are “multilateralized” or “multilateralizable”: much depends on the
RTA, RTA partners, and product categories under analysis. We have found that
RTAs in the Americas are among the most mature and liberalized in the world.
However, as in other regions, in the Americas there are some outlier RTA parties and
product categories that remain closed for extended periods of time. RTAs formed by
the countries of the Americas also carry a number of trade policy instruments, such as
TRQs and exclusions, that can curb liberalization among the parties, and restrictive
rules of origin, that can undermine trade between RTA members and non-members
(as well as between RTAs).
Overall, however, the findings of paper are encouraging: particularly the manifold
RTAs formed by the original NAFTA partners liberalize the bulk of goods and do so
rapidly. Furthermore, the region’s integrationism was especially in its early days
accompanied by forceful multilateral tariff liberalization—the slowing of which may
today be in part compensated by the regional economies’ seemingly incessant RTA
spree with partners around the world. Countries of the Americas and the United
States, in particular, have also pushed the frontiers of such RTA disciplines as
services and investment. Today’s challenge for the region is managing the risks of the
See Estevadeordal, Harris and Suominen (2007) for details.
regional lever: pursuing a path that is good both for the regional countries and for the
multilateral trading system.
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Appendix I - Table 1 – RTAs Considered in the Study
Mexico-Northern Triangle
Chile-Central America
Central America-DR
Canada-Costa Rica
United States-Chile
Mexico-Costa Rica
ACE 58
Peru - Mercosur
ACE 59
United States-Israel
United States-Jordan
United States-Singapore
United States-Australia
Chile-New Zealand-SingaporeBrunei
United States-Bahrain
United States-Morocco
Refer to ratification dates.
Year of Entry into Effect
03/15/2001 (SV, GU), 06/01/2001 (HO), 03/14/2001 (MEX)
02/15/2002 (CR), 06/03/2002 (SV)
03/07/2002 (CR),10/04/2001 (SV), 10/03/2001(GU),12/19/2001
12/17/04 (SV), 03/03/2005 (HO), 03/10/05 (GU), 10/11/05 (NI),
07/27/05 (US) *
ARG (12/14/2005); BRA (12/29/2005); PRY (02/15/2006); PER
(12/12/2005); 12/16/2005)
(04/01/2005); BRA-VEN (02/01/2005); COL-ARG(02/01/2005);
VEN-ARG (01/05/2005); VEN- UR (01/05/2005).
Australia-New Zealand
EC- South Africa
New Zealand-Singapore
China-Hong Kong, China
New Zealand-Thailand
Appendix II - Table 1 – Main Services and Investment Provisions
Considered in the Study
MFN Treatment
National Treatment
Market Access
Local Presence
Domestic Regulation:
Objective administration of measures
Tribunals and procedures for the review of administrative decisions
Duty to inform of the status and final decision on applications
Measures do not constitute unnecessary barriers to trade in services
Transparency provisions:
Prior comment
Duty to publish
National inquiry point
Duty to provide information to other members
Recognition of qualifications:
Adequate opportunity for other interested members
Prohibition of discriminatory recognition
Restrictions on transfer or payments
Denial of benefits
Particular services
Competitive safeguards
Universal Service Obligations
Allocation of scarce resources
Financial Services:
Prudential carve-out
Provision for recognition of prudential measures
NT for access to payments and clearing systems
New financial services
Data transfer
Scope of application:
Post-establishment operation
MFN treatment
National treatment
Nationality of management and board of directors
Performance requirements
Transparency provisions:
Prior comment opportunity
Duty to Publish
Duty to Publish
Denial of benefits
Minimum standard of treatment
Treatment in case of conflict
Expropriation and compensation
Transfers restrictions
Investor-State disputes
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Lectures obligatoires
BARANYI, Stephen, “Inter-American Institutions and Conflict
Prevention”, Document de politique, Focal, mars 2005, 16 pages.
EINAUDI R. Luigi, “Trans-American Security: What’s Missing?”
Strategic Forum, 228, September 2007, pp.1-8.
KLEPAK, Hal, “Hemispheric Security After the Towers Went Down”.
Document de politique, Focal, février 2002, 8 pages.
Inter-American Institutions and Conflict Prevention
Stephen Baranyi
In the context of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), civil society
organizations (CSOs) in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean have been engaged in dialogue
about the specificities of conflict prevention challenges and options in the Western Hemisphere. This
paper opens with a review of the evolution of inter-American norms and institutions that deal, directly or
indirectly, with conflict prevention in the hemisphere. It looks at four pillars of conflict prevention
practices: i) the peaceful settlement of inter-state disputes and the new hemispheric security agenda; ii)
the protection of human rights; iii) the defense and promotion of democracy; and iv) other aspects of
structural prevention, especially the work of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Free Trade
Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) as a catalyst for conflict. The review finds that regional mechanisms for
conflict prevention have improved, but there are still many deficits and weaknesses that need to be
addressed. Based on these findings, the paper suggests five aspects of inter-American relations that could
be the focus of common CSO engagement over the coming years. Promising strategies for hemispheric
level conflict prevention include the Organization of the Americas States (OAS) mechanisms for the
peaceful settlement of inter-state disputes; the OAS defence of democracy regime; early warning
mechanisms of the inter-American human rights machinery (including norms and mechanisms related to
the responsibility to protect); policies of the IDB; and activities aimed at creating a coherent approach to
conflict prevention in the hemisphere. The evidence suggests that some inroads have been made already.
Recently, there has been an emergence of CSO networks committed to conflict prevention providing a
space to engage CSOs and officials working on more traditional development and security issues; this has
helped to foster the synergies required to build a true culture of prevention in the Americas.
Dans le contexte du Partenariat mondial pour la prévention des conflits armés (PMPCA), les organisations
de la société civile (OSC) en Amérique du Nord, en Amérique latine et dans les Caraïbes se sont engagées
dans un dialogue sur les spécificités des défis et options relatifs à la prévention des conflits dans
l'hémisphère occidental. Ce document débute par une analyse de l'évolution des normes et institutions
interaméricaines qui traitent, directement ou indirectement, de la prévention des conflits dans
l'hémisphère. Il examine les quatre piliers des pratiques en matière de prévention des conflits i) le
règlement pacifique des conflits internationaux et le nouveau programme hémisphérique sur la sécurité; ii) la
protection des droits humains; iii) la défense et la promotion de la démocratie; et iv) les autres aspects de la
prévention structurelle, en particulier le travail de la Banque de développement interaméricaine (BID) et l'Accord de
libre-échange des Amériques (ALEA) comme catalyseurs en cas de conflits. Le document explique que les
mécanismes régionaux de prévention des conflits se sont améliorés, mais qu'il persiste encore de nombreux
manques et faiblesses qu'il faut régler. À partir de ces conclusions, le document propose cinq aspects des relations
interaméricaines qui pourraient devenir le pivot de l'engagement commun des OSC au cours des prochaines années.
Les stratégies prometteuses en matière de prévention des conflits au niveau hémisphérique comprennent les
mécanismes de l'Organisation des États américains (OEA) pour le règlement pacifique des conflits internationaux et
la défense des régimes démocratiques; les mécanismes d'alerte rapide du système interaméricain en matière de
droits humains (y compris les normes et les mécanismes relatifs à la responsabilité de protéger); les politiques de la
BID et les activités visant à élaborer une approche cohérente pour la prévention des conflits dans l'hémisphère. Les
observations montrent que des progrès ont déjà été réalisés. La récente émergence de réseaux d'OSC engagées dans
la prévention des conflits a fourni un espace où les OSC et les responsables peuvent travailler sur des questions plus
traditionnelles de développement et de sécurité et a favorisé les synergies nécessaires pour bâtir une véritable
culture de la prévention dans les Amériques.
Como parte de las actividades de la Global Partnership on the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC – Alianza
Internacional para la Prevención de Conflictos Armados), un grupo de organizaciones de la sociedad civil (OSC) de
América del Norte, América Latina y del Caribe se han unido en un diálogo sobre las particularidades de los desafíos y
opciones para la prevención de los conflictos armados en este hemisferio. Este trabajo comienza con un análisis de la
evolución de las normas e instituciones interamericanas que se ocupan, directa o indirectamente, de la prevención
de conflictos en el hemisferio. Asimismo, se distinguen los cuatro pilares sobre los que descansan los procedimientos
empleados para la prevención de conflictos, a saber: 1) la solución pacífica de los conflictos interestatales y la nueva
agenda sobre seguridad hemisférica; 2) la protección de los derechos humanos; 3) la defensa y promoción de la
democracia; y 4) otros aspectos de prevención estructural, en especial la labor catalizadora del Banco Interamericano
de Desarrollo (BID) y del Área de Libre Comercio de las Américas (ALCA) para la aparición de conflictos. Este estudio
concluye que los mecanismos para la prevención de conflictos han mejorado; sin embargo, aún existen numerosas
deficiencias por resolver. A partir de los resultados hallados, recomendamos cinco aspectos de las relaciones
interamericanas hacia los cuales las organizaciones de la sociedad civil de conjunto podrían dirigir sus esfuerzos en
los próximos años. Entre las instancias propicias para la elaboración de estrategias encaminadas a la prevención de
conflictos en el hemisferio se encuentran los mecanismos de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) para la
solución pacífica de controversias interestatales; los dispositivos de la OEA para la defensa de la democracia; los
instrumentos de advertencia temprana del sistema interamericano de derechos humanos (incluyendo normas y
mecanismos asociados a la responsabilidad de proteger); las políticas del BID; y las actividades dirigidas a crear un
enfoque coherente en favor de la prevención de conflictos armados en el hemisferio. Existen pruebas de que se han
logrado algunos avances hasta la fecha. Se ha notado un resurgimiento de redes de OSC comprometidas con la
prevención de conflictos las cuales ofrecen un espacio para agrupar a las OSC y a aquellos funcionarios que se
encargan de cuestiones de desarrollo y seguridad en un sentido más tradicional. Esto ha contribuido a fomentar
complementariedades útiles para crear una verdadera cultura de prevención en las Américas.
In the mid-1990s, particularly in certain UN and OECD
circles, there was a growing awareness of the need to
shift from a culture of reaction to a culture of
prevention in order to stem the spread of large-scale
violent conflicts across the world. In UN parlance this
enormous challenge was recognized as having two
basic components:
democratic development, and had become involved in
several postwar peacebuilding processes. The InterAmerican Development Bank had also engaged in
peacebuilding and had developed programs to
promote the “modernization of the state”. In addition,
the IDB had begun to examine the linkages between
security and development.
Many global institutions were also involved in parts of
this agenda, from the UN's pivotal role in the
! “Operational prevention”: the use of early
mediation and verification of the Salvadoran and
warning mechanisms, diplomacy, sanctions and
Guatemalan peace accords, to the IMF and World
other instruments to defuse political crises and
Bank's roles in promoting macro-economic
prevent their escalation into armed violence.
stabilization programs and broader market-oriented
! “Structural prevention”: the longer-term
reforms across the hemisphere. Several sub-regional
promotion of reforms to the institutions of
institutions had also taken on conflict prevention
political governance, rule of law, economic, social
roles: for example the Eastern Caribbean Regional
and cultural development to address the soSecurity System coordinated island states' responses
called underlying causes of conflict.(UNSG, 2001)
to new security threats such as drug trafficking, while
the Framework Treaty for Democratic Security in
The Carnegie Commission on the Prevention of
Central America provided a basis for
Deadly Conflict played a key role in
collaboration on a range of security
galvanizing global support for an
there was a growing issues.
integrated approach to conflict
prevention.(1997) From the outset many
awareness of the
Does this mean that there has been
recognized that this agenda would
need to shift from a steady movement towards a culture of
require the combined efforts of
prevention in the Americas, albeit under
culture of reaction
international, regional, government,
different guises? What role have interto a culture of
private sector and civil society
American institutions played in conflict
organizations. Yet the extent of
prevention? Why have certain parts of
movement towards a culture of
the agenda advanced while others have
prevention, and the exact division of
not? What does this mean for the
labour that is emerging between
possible emergence of an effective
different institutions, varies from one region to
conflict prevention regime in the hemisphere?
This paper offers tentative answers to these questions
In Americas the concept of conflict prevention arrived
based on a scan of changing practices in the
in the late-1990s to a context where there were
hemisphere. It is based mainly on desk research,
already sophisticated institutions practicing conflict
focuses on inter-American institutions and merely
prevention under different guises. An inter-American
glances at the UN for comparative purposes. It does
infrastructure for the “pacific settlement of disputes”
not examine the roles of sub-regional organizations,
between states had been built on the basis of the 1948
governments, the private sector or civil society. A
Bogotá Pact. There was a human rights system linking
complementary paper written by distinguished Latin
key inter-American institutions to governmental and
American colleagues provides more extensive
NGO mechanisms across the hemisphere. To these
comparisons of UN and OAS conflict prevention roles,
pillars the Organization of American States had added
and looks in detail at prospects for partnerships with
a “defense of democracy regime” in the 1990s,
civil society organizations [CSOs].(Jacome et al, 2004)
enabling it to respond proactively to major threats
This paper was written mainly to inform CSOs
against democratically elected governments. The OAS
strategizing in the context of the Global Partnership
had also established the Unit for the Promotion of
for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), not to
Democracy to provide technical assistance for
feed directly into inter-governmental processes.
The conflict prevention roles of inter-American
institutions can be separated into four pillars: a) the
peaceful settlement of disputes and hemispheric
security; b) the protection of human rights; c) the
defense and promotion of democracy; d) other
aspects of structural prevention.
The peaceful settlement of inter-state disputes, and
hemispheric security
The Americas have a highly developed regional
regime for the peaceful resolution of inter-state
disputes. This regime emerged in the nineteenth
century to manage post-colonial territorial conflicts
and, particularly after the War of 1898, to manage an
increasingly challenging relationship with the United
States. During World War Two the US sponsored the
establishment of the Inter-American Defense Board
to coordinate defense against the Axis powers. After
the war it spearheaded the codification of collective
security arrangements through the Rio Treaty, and
the establishment of the Organization of American
States. The OAS Charter enshrined the principles of
non-intervention, juridical equality and the peaceful
settlement of disputes between states.
In 1948 the Bogotá Pact further specified the
normative framework and operational mechanisms
for the pacific resolution of disputes. The SecretaryGeneral of the OAS was mandated to keep a watch on
inter-state disputes in the region, and use his good
offices to facilitate the peaceful resolution of
controversies. He is accountable to the Permanent
Council, which provides a forum for the discussion of
differences between member states. The General
Assembly and the Council of Ministers provide
additional fora for such discussions. Disputes can also
be referred to the International Court of Justice.
These mechanisms were sidelined during the Cold
War because of the emphasis on “internal threats to
national security”. The OAS was unable to prevent US
subversive operations against Cuba or Cuban support
to insurgent movements throughout Latin America
from the 1960s onward. Nor was it able to prevent the
Argentine-UK War of 1982, the US-led invasion of
Grenada in 1983, or the US invasion of Panama in 1989.
Yet in the 1990s these mechanisms enjoyed a revival
in lower-profile disputes. By 2000 the Office of the
OAS Secretary-General was involved in the mediation
of three territorial disputes. This has included a field
presence and active engagement in the BelizeGuatemala dispute.(Soto, 2004) Box 1 summarizes the
record in the Honduras-Nicaragua dispute, a conflict
that has been diffused partly as a result of OAS
Box 1: Mediating the Honduras-Nicaragua dispute
! November 1999: Longstanding maritime border
dispute threatens to escalate into armed
conflict. The parties request OAS mediation. OAS
Permanent Council mandates Secretary-General
to act.
! 2000: OAS Special Representative facilitates
agreements on confidence-building measures.
Parties submit dispute to International Court of
! 2001: ICJ rules on disputes. Parties invite OAS to
deploy Civilian Verification Mission.
! December 2001: CMV reports on compliance and
dispute formally ends.
Source: Soto, 2004 and
In recent years there has also been progress on wider
measures to prevent the escalation of inter-state
disputes into war.(Millet, 2004 and 2005,
forthcoming) In the context of the “new hemispheric
security agenda” that emerged in the 1990s, OAS
members agreed to:
! Establish the Committee on Hemispheric
Security (CHS) to provide civilian leadership on
the coordination of security policy in the
! Implement confidence and security-building
measures (CSBMs) such as exchanging
information on arms inventories and military
! Discuss a “multidimensional” conception of
security that goes beyond traditional threats to
territorial integrity to encompass issues like drug
! Examine options for reforming institutions like
the Inter-American Defense Board, to make them
more relevant to contemporary needs.(Kreimer,
At the Special OAS Conference on Security in October
2003, member states issued a declaration recognizing
that “Conflict prevention and the peaceful settlement
of disputes between states are essential to the stability
and security of the Hemisphere.”(OAS, 2003: II.4;
emphasis added) While reaffirming the role of the UN
Security Council as the primary organ responsible for
international peace and security, they reaffirmed that
the OAS “should make every effort to achieve the
peaceful settlement of local disputes.”(Ibid.: II.4.z) The
Declaration also committed members to strengthen
efforts to address the political, economic and social
dimensions of insecurity. It mandated the Committee
on Hemispheric Security to coordinate these
activities, and recommended that the General
Assembly strengthen the Secretariat's capacity in this
The US-Cuba dispute is another pending challenge for
the pacific settlement of disputes. Though it has been
a low-intensity conflict for two generations, this last
major leftover from the Cold War could easily escalate
into war in the coming years. Indeed, domestic
conflict during a change of leadership in Havana and
the Bush Administration's stated desire to see
“regime change” could converge to generate open
warfare. The inability of the OAS to deal with the USCuba conflict since the expulsion of Cuba over 40
years ago does not put it in a strong position to act as a
third-party mediator. Yet other international
organizations, including the UN, do not have
impressive records of managing armed conflicts
between the US and its neighbours either.(Baranyi,
1995) This is a major, urgent gap in the conflict
prevention infrastructure that is emerging in the
Measures such as CSBMs could have a significant
impact on the prevention of inter-state violence. Yet
The protection of human rights
there is still no clear consensus on the
Two institutions sit at the core of what
scope and content of the wider
some observers call the “inter-American
hemispheric security agenda. Member
there is still no clear human rights system”: the Interstates such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico
American Commission on Human Rights
consensus on the
and the US—each for their own
(IACHR) and the Inter-American Court of
scope and content
reasons—have misgivings about
Human Rights. Other important
of the wider
extending the scope of an already
components of this system include
burdened agenda to cover new issues.
national institutions such as human
The hardening of US policy in the
rights commissions and ombudspersons,
security agenda
aftermath of 9/11 has complicated
national human rights NGOs, and subconsensus-building.(Soriano and
regional human rights mechanisms.
Mackay, 2003)
The Court hears and adjudicates cases of
The November 2004 Conference of Ministers of
individual human rights violations. The Commission is
Defense of the Americas (CMDA) reaffirmed
essentially an authoritative fact-finding body: since
commitments undertaken at the Special Conference
1960 it has received and investigated thousands of
on Security, including the need to address security
individual cases of human rights violations; observed
threats while respecting democracy, human rights
and reported on numerous country situations and
and the rule of law. It led to an agreement to enhance
thematic concerns; carried out many on-site visits
regional cooperation within UN peacekeeping
and reported on the same; made detailed
operations, with a focus on capacity-building for
recommendations to OAS member states on
increased inter-operability of member states'
measures that could contribute to the protection of
forces.(CMDA, 2004) Nonetheless, the US focus on
human rights; submitted cases to the Court and made
terrorism, transnational organized crime and
submissions to the Court's litigation processes.
weapons of mass destruction, and its opposition to
In an original analysis of the Commission's work,
the mention of international human rights and
Oswaldo Kreimer cogently argued that these
humanitarian law in certain passages, buttresses
measures contribute to conflict prevention.(2003) The
certain NGOs' concerns that the CMDA and broader
Commission's watching briefs on countries where
security cooperation could undermine law-based
there are patterns of systemic human rights violations
human security approaches in the hemisphere.
are an authoritative source of early warning
(WOLA, 2004c)
information and awareness. By taking up individual
cases of grave human rights violations that national
authorities have failed to handle adequately, the
Commission helps foster legal redress thereby
defusing social tensions that could lead to armed
conflict. By acting as a focal point for international
pressure on member states, with regards to individual
cases, country situations or thematic concerns, the
Commission also helps defuse conflicts that could
lead to violence. Kreimer cites several examples of
how this has worked in practice, including the one in
box 2 below.
Box 2: The IACHR and Guatemala in 1995
! April 1994: Government Armed Forces
harassment of the Communities of Population in
Resistance (CPR) threatens to derail UNmediated peace talks.
! May 1994: IACHR sends fact-finding mission to
Guatemala. IACHR report recommends concrete
measures to defuse crisis, including redeploying
Armed Forces troops stationed close to the CPR,
as well as extending legal recognition, and
economic and social assistance, to the
! June 1994: Government of Guatemala accepts
key recommendations.
! This helps keep a delicate process of refugee
return on track, and helps pave the way for the
deployment of the UN Human Rights
Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA).
Sources: IACHR, 1994; Baranyi, 1996; Kreimer, 2003.
There are several obstacles to the effectiveness of the
IACHR as a conflict prevention mechanism. The first is
resources: the Commission's declining budget almost
forced it to cancel its General Assembly in October
2004.(IACHR, 2004) This state of affairs is hardly
conducive to systematic early warning or conflict
prevention awareness-raising. The second challenge is
(also) political. Kreimer argues that “the reluctance of
OAS political bodies to assume and respond with their
own strength to the denunciations by the IACHR is
probably the major obstacle to the full use of its value
as a conflict prevention mechanism.”(Op.cit.: 274)
Recent OAS involvement in Colombia reminds us that
the coordination of human rights and conflict
prevention instruments is a complex undertaking. In
January 2004 then OAS Secretary-General César
Gaviria accepted the Colombian government's
invitation to verify emerging peace accords and
particularly the demobilization of the paramilitary
Autodefensa Unidas de Colombia (AUC). Under
pressure from NGOs, in February 2004 the OAS
Permanent Council approved the agreement but
added a mandate for human rights verification and
advice by the IACHR.(Human Rights Watch, 2004) The
OAS established a Mission to Support the Peace
Process in Colombia (MAPP-OEA) and the IACHR
intensified its monitoring of human rights issues. In
December 2004 the Commission reported despite
progress on the demobilization of AUC combatants,
“demobilization mechanisms have not been
accompanied by comprehensive measures to provide
relief to the victims of the violence nor to clarify the
many criminal acts that remain unpunished, and
therefore the factors generating the conflict in large
measure persist.”(IACHR, 2004b: i. Emphasis added.)
Yet one month later the Acting OAS Secretary General
reported his “satisfaction” with the demobilization of
the AUC, without even mentioning concerns by the
IACHR and others that this process was not being
accompanied by effective measures to eradicate
impunity for crimes against humanity.(OAS, January
2005) These ambiguities reinforce the determination
of IACHR officials to maintain their independence
from the OAS political machinery, a tendency which
also mitigates possibilities for effective coordination.
A striking gap in the official inter-American discourse
at the interface of human rights and conflict
prevention is its silence on the “responsibility to
protect” (R2P). In December 2001 the International
Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty
released a seminal report arguing that, when states
fail to protect their citizens from grave violations of
human rights such as genocide, the international
community has the duty to act, by whatever means
necessary, to protect vulnerable populations.(ICISS,
2001a) The language of R2P is gradually seeping into
the UN lexicon through statements by the SecretaryGeneral. The recent report of the UN High-Level Panel
may advance this process, which has yet to be
endorsed by the Security Council or the General
Assembly. (United Nations, 2004). In Africa, the
African Union enshrined the responsibility to protect
in its Constitutive Act. It is also establishing an African
Standby Force to enable it to respond earlier and more
effectively to humanitarian tragedies such as the one
unfolding in Western Sudan.(Powell and Tieku, 2004a
and 2004b)
In contrast, R2P has received little official support in
Latin America and the Caribbean. This is rooted in
historic fears that R2P could legitimize renewed US
military intervention in the region. Several regional
consultations with government and civil society
interlocutors confirm the depth of these historic
concerns. They underscore the preference for nonmilitary measures to protect democracy and human
rights. Yet, they also indicate an emerging willingness
to find better ways of balancing the principles of noninterference with the responsibility to act in the event
of massive human rights violations. They suggest that
regional support for such measures will be
conditioned on the carefully-circumscribed
multilateral use of force as a last resort, under the
aegis of the UN, and linked to more effective
strategies for both postwar reconstruction and early
structural conflict prevention.(ICISS, 2001b and Fund
for Peace, 2002; Fuentes, 2003)
conditioning principle for these actions was that they
had to be carried out “with due respect for the
principle of non-intervention.”
In 1992, member states adopted the Protocol of
Washington specifying mechanisms for responding to
threats to democracy. It gave the OAS General
Assembly a mandate to suspend countries when
diplomatic initiatives were unsuccessful in securing an
end to interruptions of the democratic process.(OAS,
1992a) The Declaration of Nassau adopted the same
year gave the Organization a clearer mandate to
provide assistance, when requested by member states,
“to build, preserve, and strengthen representative
democracy”, thus providing a firm normative basis for
the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy.(OAS, 1992b)
The democracy clause adopted at the Quebec Summit
of the Americas further advanced these norms.(2001)
These documents have also included clauses on the
need to address extreme poverty, inequality, macroeconomic instability and other socio-economic
problems in order to consolidate
democracy in the Americas.
It seems important to ascertain how these views have
been affected by the US-led intervention in
Iraq in 2003, and by the US-supported
This is rooted in
change of regime in Haiti in 2004. It is
historic fears that The Inter-American Democratic Charter
worth noting that the Latin American and
coincidentally adopted on September 11,
Caribbean Regional Conference on Civil R2P could legitimize
2001, further strengthened these
Society and Conflict Prevention, in June
renewed US military instruments. It added new elements: the
2004, did not even mention the concept of
notion of a “right to democracy” and the
R2P or explore the possibility of
obligation of governments to promote and
in the region
strengthening mechanisms for the use of
defend it; further expansion of the
force to protect populations at risk of grave
diplomatic mechanisms the OAS can use to
human rights violations in the Americas.(CRIES, 2004)
censure and engage states where a serious
The defense and promotion of democracy
interruption of democratic rule has occurred; further
specification of the norms for electoral observation
Over the past decade and a half the OAS has
and democracy assistance by the OAS; clearer
developed a two-pronged strategy to foster
references to the need to take into account and
democracy. The punitive prong involves diplomatic
promote the contributions of civil society, as well as to
mechanisms to react to, sanction and engage severe
promote the equal participation of women in
challenges to democratic rule. The constructive prong
democratic processes.(OAS,2001)
involves technical assistance to promote democratic
institutions and a democratic culture. This strategy
began to take shape in the early 1990s, once the initial
transition to democracy had taken place in most
previously authoritarian Latin American states. OAS
Resolution 1080 of 1991 was a minimalist document
that opened the door to specific OAS diplomatic
actions in the event of a “sudden or irregular
interruption of the democratic political institutional
process or of the legitimate exercise of power by the
democratically elected government in any of the
Organization's member states …”(OAS, 1991) The
Yadira Soto has argued that the Democratic Charter
“gives priority to the strengthening of democracy
within countries as a strategic component for the
defense of security as well as the prevention of conflict,
both at the inter and intrastate level.”(Soto, 2004: 229)
Yet the only explicit mentions of “prevention” in these
OAS documents are the clauses regarding the
Organization's obligations to prevent disputes
between states. Moreover the focus on interruptions to
constitutional rule excludes consideration of human
rights violations or other forms of conflict as potential
precursors to armed violence. The uneven application
of these mechanisms in practice—illustrated by the
snapshots of OAS action in Peru in box 3—begs
questions about whether the defense of democracy
regime is truly a strategic component of conflict
prevention in the hemisphere.
Box 3: Defending democracy in Peru?
Act 1: 1992-1993
! April: President Fujimori suspends key articles of
the Constitution and installs a Government of
Unity, Emergency and National Reconstruction.
! OAS Secretary-General convenes ad hoc Meeting
of Foreign Ministers. Foreign Ministers deplore
the measures and call on Peru to show clear
progress towards the restoration of democracy.
! May: At OAS General Assembly, President
Fujimori promises to convene an elected
constitutional assembly. Peru is readmitted to
the OAS.
! October: OAS Mission arrives to provide
technical assistance and prepare the ground for
observing the elections.
! November: Elections boycotted by major parties
but OAS accepts results.
! December: OAS terminates Ad Hoc Meeting of
Foreign Ministers on Peru.
! A new Constitution is prepared by the
Democratic Constituent Congress and is
approved by a majority of voters on 31 October
! Analysis: “State sovereignty prevailed over any
substantive conception of democracy or human
rights, and the OAS closed the file on
Peru.”(Baranyi, 1995: 356) The Fujimori regime's
compliance with international financial
institutions' debt management demands, and
its embrace of market-oriented reforms,
reinforced this tendency.
Act 2: 1999-2001
! 1999: IACHR issues reports criticizing systemic
violations of human rights in Peru, and
government withdraws from jurisdiction of
Inter-American Court on Human Rights. No
reaction from OAS Secretary-General,
Permanent Council or General Assembly.
! November: Government requests OAS electoral
! May 2000: OAS Mission criticizes “serious
irregularities” in first round. After negotiations,
Mission leaves country saying conditions for free
elections do not exist.
! June-July: National Electoral Council declares
President Fujimori winner in second round. OAS
General Assembly appoints High-Level Mission
to review the situation and recommend
measures. Mission visits Peru and meets with
range of stakeholders to foster change. President
Fujimori inaugurated without any substantive
! November: Fujimori regime crumbles due to
! April 2001: President Toledo elected in free and
fair elections.
! Analysis:
Over the decade of Fujimori's Presidency, there
were clear signs of weakness and hesitation of
OAS intervention … When reports by the IAHCR
described the network of mechanisms that
was increasingly violating human rights
…there were neither clear condemnations by
the political bodies nor effective actions by the
Secretary-General … It was only when Minister
Eduardo Stein, chief of the electoral
observation mission, took the courageous step
to leave the country … that the OAS … began to
respond in a more effective … way.(Kreimer,
2003: 265)
However, the OAS has developed significant
capacities to promote structural prevention through
its democratic institution-strengthening and
peacebuilding programs. In 1991 the OAS established
the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy (UPD) to
provide a vehicle for the constructive prong of its
democratic development strategy. By 2001 the UPD
had established four main programs: technical
assistance to electoral processes; other democratic
institution-building; strengthening capacities for
national dialogue; and field missions. Through these
programs it has had a substantial field presence in
Colombia, Haiti, Guatemala and Nicaragua. In late
2004 the UPD was dissolved and its functions were
integrated into a new Department of Democratic and
Political Affairs.
In Guatemala from 1996 to 2003, the UPD managed a
major culture of dialogue program called PROPAZ.
This program aimed to strengthen the capacities of
governmental and civil society organizations to
engage in constructive dialogue on issues that were
central to the implementation of the peace accords. In
its first phase it provided extensive training and
accompaniment to government and civil society
negotiators in the mixed commissions, particularly
those dealing with critical issues such as land and
education. In both sectors, PROPAZ contributed to the
identification of policy options, their translation into
new laws, and to the establishment of new national
institutions. In its second phase, PROPAZ focused on
capacity-building for local conflict resolution. In 2003
the OAS handed the program over to a new national
entity, Fundación ProPaz, laying the bases for the
sustained provision of conflict prevention services in
Guatemala.(Soto, 2004)
implementation agendas, no amount of conflict
resolution training and dialogue facilitation, for
COPART or at the local level, could prevent the
recurrence of armed violence over land tenure
issues—as has been observed over the past two
years.(MINUGUA, 2000, 2002, 2003)
This limitation may also apply to other UPD training
and national dialogue capacity-building programs.
Even in Nicaragua, where UPD conflict resolution
training was linked to an impressive array of
small-scale community development projects, their
weak articulation to a viable rural development
strategy severely limited the impact of OAS
programming.(Bendaña, 2000) It is worth noting that
one priority of the new OAS conflict resolution
program in Bolivia is to foster strong linkages
between national dialogue and structural reforms.
This also reminds us that humility and perspective are
important when dealing with the
challenges of conflict prevention in the
These are significant accomplishments.
They led to demand, by other Central
humility and
American governments, for the extension
Other aspects of structural prevention
of the OAS dialogue program at the subperspective are
To put the role of the OAS in perspective, it
regional level. Yet it is important to
is important to note that its budget for
recognize the limitations of this initiative,
dealing with the
2003 was just over US$ 100 million.(OAS,
namely that its conflict prevention
2004) In contrast, the annual lending
impact was undermined by wider forces
challenges of
in Guatemalan society. For example, the
conflict prevention b u d g e t o f t h e I n t e r - A m e r i c a n
Development Bank (IDB) was just over
training provided to government and
US$ 6 billion in 2003 in 2003.(IDB, 2004)
indigenous peoples' representatives in
Even with those resources the Bank faces
the Mixed Commission on Land (COPART)
challenges in contributing to conflictenabled them to negotiate several
sensitive development in the Americas.
impressive draft laws. However, only one of these bills
was passed by Congress. That law enabled the
The IDB does not frame its policies explicitly in conflict
creation of a Land Fund (FONTIERRA). Yet that entity
prevention terms either. A key entry point for
has faced major challenges, particularly with regards
programming in this area is what the Bank calls
to its budget, because the state could not provide the
“modernization of the State”. Under that rubric, the
share of funding it was supposed to deliver under the
institution supports a range of reforms to strengthen
peace accords. The state was unable to do so because
the capacity of state entities to provide public goods
it was unable to implement the tax reforms that were
that are seen as crucial for equitable and sustainable
central to peace implementation, due to resistance by
development. The four main areas for Bank
elements within the government, the private sector
programming in this area are:
and the middle classes. Moreover, the other draft laws
! Strengthening democratic institutions.
negotiated in COPART—for example, for the
! Fostering the rule of law and justice reform.
establishment of a national cadastre and a separate
agrarian jurisdiction—were stalled in Congress due to
resistance by the then-dominant FRG party and its
private sector allies. None of these political
developments can be blamed on the OAS. Yet without
significant movement ahead on these broader peace
! Promoting synergies between states, markets
and civil society.
! Enhancing public sector management.(IDB,
A scan of recently approved projects under this rubric
(particularly in the conflict-affected countries of
Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and
Nicaragua) suggests that projects tend to cluster in
the latter two areas. Only one project explicitly deals
with conflict issues: a project on Alternative
Mechanisms for Settling Property Disputes in
Nicaragua.(IDB, 2004b) Yet many of the other
projects, especially in the area of justice sector reform,
may also have important conflict prevention
programs they promote/support actually help
prevent conflict in practice. Indeed, deep questions
are being asked about whether the market-oriented
policies promoted by the Bank and other IFIs, in the
Americas and beyond, may actually be aggravating
the macro-economic volatility, economic inequalities
and social exclusion that these institutions bemoan.
As noted at the June 2004 Latin American and
Caribbean Regional Conference on Civil Society and
Conflict Prevention, at a minimum this suggests that
the IDB and other IFIs should develop procedures to
assess the conflict impacts of their actions.(CRIES,
The IDB's extensive portfolio of projects in other areas,
including the wide range of projects aimed at the core
priority of poverty reduction, may also have important
Most recommendations made by Stremlau and
conflict prevention aspects. This linkage is implicitly
Sagasti, in their seminal analysis of multilateral
recognized in some Bank documents. For example the
development banks' (MDBs) roles in conflict
1997 Strategy for Poverty Reduction recognizes that
prevention, are still germane to the challenge of
generating sustainable employment for the poor, and
mainstreaming conflict prevention into IDB and other
enhancing access to basic public goods such as
MDBs' processes. (1998) Their arguments about the
education, health and safe water, “could
need to significantly enhance debt
go a long way towards reducing the
reduction initiatives—to reverse the
social tension that results when the
outflows of financing that are
market economy fails to increase the
undermining state capacity and
prosperity for all,
income of the poor.”(IDB, 1997) In
aggravating conflict in some leastSeptember 2002, the IDB organized a
developed countries—also remain
nor greater human
high-level seminar to examine the links
security for all, can
between development and security in
Similar questions could be asked about
be taken for
the Americas. Participants examined
another set of processes that may have
non-traditional threats to security
enormous impacts on conflict dynamics
stemming from macro-economic
in the hemisphere, namely trade
volatility, incomplete social safety nets,
liberalization. In theory, the reduction of
the fragility of democratic institutions
barriers to trade at the sub-regional, hemispheric and
and the knock-on effects of 9/11. They expressed
global levels is supposed to lead to greater prosperity
support for the multidimensional conception of
for all. At the November 2003 Trade Ministerial
security emerging in OAS circles.(IDB, 2002) IDB
Meeting in Miami, officials “reaffirmed their
President Enrique Iglesias published an op-ed a few
commitment to a comprehensive and balanced FTAA
days later advocating a broad concept of “human
that will most effectively foster economic growth, the
security, conceived first and foremost as a
reduction of poverty, development and integration
development challenge”, and suggested that the
through trade liberalization.”(FTAA, 2003)
Bank would strengthen its programming on public
Yet some analyses of existing bilateral and subsecurity as well as its support for economic and social
regional trade agreements suggest that neither
policy reforms. Key informant interviews and a
greater prosperity for all, nor greater human security
detailed analysis of project documents would be
for all, can be taken for granted. An analysis of the
required to ascertain the extent to which this notion
impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement
of human security, or its correlate of conflictsuggests that NAFTA is at least partly responsible for
sensitivity, are actually seeping into IDB
the increases in rural poverty and inequality in Mexico
programming as a result of these policy discussions.
since 1994.(WOLA, 2004) Similarly, an analysis of the
This is not a casual observation. Although the logic of
Central America Free Trade Agreement with the
the IDB and other multilateral development banks is
United States suggests that CAFTA will significantly
compelling, the key issue is whether the policies and
undermine certain parts of the region's agricultural
economy, and will do little to foster the enforcement
of core labour standards in the region.(Ibid.) This could
lead to significant job losses, rural-urban migration,
labor-management strife and rural violence in
conflict-prone countries such as Guatemala and
Nicaragua. Vía Campesina and Coordinadora
Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo—two
large social movements bringing together peasant,
women's and indigenous peoples' representatives at
the hemispheric and global levels—have also warned
that further trade liberalization along the lines
pursued to date would further endanger food
sovereignty and aggravate socio-political tensions in
the rural areas of many Latin American
societies.(Baranyi et al., 2004)
and the Caribbean have been engaged in dialogue
about the specificities of conflict prevention
challenges and options in this hemisphere. This paper
suggests five aspects of inter-American relations that
could be the focus of common CSO engagement over
the coming years.
First, it reminds us that the OAS has well-established
mechanisms and a long trajectory of engagement in
the peaceful settlement of inter-state disputes. A new
hemispheric security agenda has injected energy into
those institutions, particularly through the adoption
of confidence and security-building mechanisms
across the region. Yet that agenda has also generated
new concerns: in the aftermath of 9/11, many are
worried that new US national security policies are
converging with tendencies in Latin America and the
From a conflict prevention angle, this reminds us that
Caribbean to undermine human rights and human
the distributional consequences of different trade
security. In addition, the longstanding conflict
liberalization options must be anticipated, and that
between the US and Cuba could escalate into armed
adequate compensation programs must be
confrontation in the near future, and
developed to cushion the negative
neither the OAS nor the UN are credibly
effects on particularly vulnerable
engaged in preventing that crisis. These
populations such as small rural
trade liberalization
are important issues for research and
producers. It also suggests that trade
liberalization policy options should also policy options should action by CSOs.
be rigorously examined through the
also be rigorously
Second, the paper concurs with Kreimer
prism of conflict-sensitivity. At the
examined through
that the existing inter-American human
moment there do not seem to be any
the prism of conflict- rights machinery could be a mechanism
official mechanisms in place in the FTAA
for early warning and prevention in intrasensitivity
process for peace and conflict impact
state conflicts. Yet the Commission on
assessment of trade liberalization
Human Rights and other instances are
options. Which institution is best placed
falling short of their conflict prevention
to house and foster such mechanisms is
potential due to resource constraints and political
an urgent, if largely ignored, question facing the
resistance by certain governments and occasionally
hemispheric trade agenda.
by the Secretariat. Exerting pressure to strengthen the
inter-American human rights machinery, give it more
The Canadian Action Agenda on Conflict Prevention
high-level diplomatic support and use it more
recommends that “Regional organizations, the
effectively for early warning, could also be a priority
United Nations, and indeed all international actors,
for CSOs concerned about conflict in the
must ensure that development programs adequately
Americas.(CEJIL, 2004)
address the concerns of marginalized communities
and groups.”(CPCC, 2004: 10) Clearly this logic should
An area where more discussion is needed among CSOs
also be applied to debt reduction and trade
is the responsibility to protect. The paper reminds us
liberalization processes, since these are also likely to
that the history of US military interventions in Latin
have major impacts on patterns of economic
America and Caribbean makes many governments
development and on conflict dynamics in the
and CSOs in the region quite cautious about endorsing
parts of the conflict prevention agenda that could
legitimize international intervention in their affairs.
US policies since 9/11 have made many stakeholders
In the context of the Global Partnership for the
even more sensitive on this point. Yet this is an area
Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), civil society
where deeper dialogue between CSOs from the North
organizations (CSOs) in North America, Latin America
and South could perhaps contribute to the evolution
of norms and mechanisms with a view to bridging
gaps in the international human rights architecture.
Research could be a useful tool to promote informed
dialogue on these issues.
integration of conflict prevention into their
programming procedures—from the design stage
through implementation to monitoring and
evaluation. This need has been partly recognized by
Canadian as well as by Latin American and Caribbean
CSOs active in the Global Partnership.
Third, the paper explains how the OAS defense of
democracy regime has become the region's preferred
Finally, the paper raises questions about how these
mechanism for responding to threats to democratic
policies and practices could come together in a
order—strictly through diplomatic measures. It
coherent approach to conflict prevention in the
agrees with Kreimer that the uneven application of
hemisphere. The need to integrate better early
these principles by the OAS, in countries such as Peru,
warning with better preventative diplomacy with
has limited their potential as mechanisms for conflict
more democratic development and pro-poor
prevention. It also underscores the consequences, for
structural reform is recognized by all. It is implicitly
conflict prevention, of the narrow politicalenshrined in the constitutive documents of the OAS,
institutional character of the regime's triggering
and gets repeated, in different forms, in many intermechanisms. Similarly, while concurring with Soto
American meetings. Yet we are a long way from
that the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy (UPD)
conflict-preventative policy coherence in the
has initiated innovative and useful programs to foster
Americas. We need far less compartmentalization,
democratic skills and attitudes, it suggests that the
and far more inter-institutional collaboration, to build
impacts of its programs are limited by the fact that
the conflict prevention infrastructure
they rarely tackle structural drivers of
evoked by visionaries such as
violent conflict such as profound
Lederach.(1997) It is also worth
inequalities in the distribution of assets.
Yet we are a
considering whether the appointment of
CSOs could address these issues through
long way from
an OAS Undersecretary-General with
more critical yet still constructive
conflictspecial responsibilities for conflict
engagement with the OAS and the
prevention might galvanize the energy
broader defense of democracy regime.
needed to mainstream conflict
policy coherence
Fourth, the paper documents the
prevention throughout the interemergence of new thinking and
in the Americas
American system over the coming years.
programming on these issues in the
According to some critics, the deep
Inter-American Development Bank. This
tensions between different
international financial institution (IFI) is
agendas—for example between human rights and
seldom discussed under the rubric of conflict
the war on terrorism, or between (asymmetrical)
prevention, in part because its policies are not framed
trade liberalization and structural conflict
in those terms. Yet the paper shows how IDB support
prevention—make it unlikely that the ideals of policy
for the “modernization of the State” and its broader
harmonization and conflict prevention will be fulfilled
poverty reduction programming could have
soon. That point of view is not easily translated into
significant conflict prevention impacts. It also
“actionable” policy options, but it also deserves
reminds us that, at present, there are no mechanisms
serious discussion.
in place to track the conflict impacts of IDB
The recent emergence of CSO networks committed to
conflict prevention provides a space where both
A similar argument is made with regards to trade
actionable and deeper issues can also be addressed
liberalization and debt reduction initiatives. In both
with clarity. It seems urgent for these networks to
instances, it seems important for CSOs to
engage CSOs and officials working on more
systematically examine the existing and potential
traditional development issues, such as trade and
impacts of economic policies and programs on conflict
financing for development, to foster the synergies
dynamics in vulnerable societies. It also seems
required to build a true culture of prevention in the
important for specialized NGOs to work with the IFIs
and trade negotiation bodies to promote the sensible
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*This paper was written for a project directed by FOCAL
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March 2005
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Strategic Forum
No. 228
September 2007
Institute for National Strategic Studies
National Defense University
Trans-American Security:
What’s Missing?
by Luigi R. Einaudi
Key Points
The countries of the Western Hemisphere
are more integrated than ever, with both each
other and countries elsewhere, but critical
aspects of their relationships remain hampered
by outdated patterns and stereotypes. As the
United States has focused on terrorism in the
Middle East and Asia, its neighbors are developing more assertive roles on the world stage.
While traditional national security concerns have diminished, new issues are coming
to the fore. Criminal gangs operating in urban
areas throughout the hemisphere threaten security and engage in transnational criminal activities across borders. This situation seriously
affects the quality of life of millions. Worse,
it challenges basic aspects of sovereignty by
eroding governmental control.
The need to seriously rethink hemispheric
cooperation is becoming increasingly obvious.
Instances of successful security cooperation—the Brazilian-led United Nations mission
in Haiti, Caribbean cooperation on providing
security for the 2007 Cricket World Cup, U.S.
support for Colombia’s Democratic Security
policy—are numerous but piecemeal.
Intensified security dialogues within
Central and South America are taking place
bilaterally and subregionally. The Organization
of American States has facilitated new security
frameworks to supplement traditional dispute
settlement and confidence-building measures.
Region-wide treaties have been negotiated to
fight illegal narcotics trafficking, contraband in
small arms and munitions, and terrorism. Unfortunately, implementation has lagged considerably.
The United States can contribute to the
renewal of trans-American security cooperation
No. 228, September 2007
by supporting more robust implementation of
inter-American laws that U.S. representatives
have already signed; by facilitating initiatives to
help build civilian institutions that are critical
to stability; by helping to develop professional
civilian and military skills and key institutional
relationships, including intelligence-sharing;
and by improving policy dialogues and continuing interministerial consultations needed to
bridge different interests and perspectives.
Strategic Foundations
World politics are at once globalizing and fragmenting.1 The world’s only
superpower, the United States, is focused so
intensely on Iraq that its attention elsewhere
sometimes wanders. The other major powers—China, the European Union, India,
Japan, and Russia—are deeply immersed in
domestic concerns, international economic
competition, and their immediate neighborhoods. Latin America and the Caribbean continue to seek their place on the world stage
but are torn internally over how to overcome
the injustices and social exclusion that hamper their progress.
In the face of these enormous problems,
it is not insignificant that the Western Hemisphere is a strikingly peaceful part of the world.
This fact alone should give trans-American
cooperation great potential.2 The Americas
share many common experiences. Their colonial legacies include unjust treatment of indigenous people and the practice of slavery, but
they also include the frontier senses of freedom
and future. And if many contemporary failings
are painful, it is also true that some of the pain
comes from the region’s steady democratization
and modernization.
Regional cooperation has had continuous
organizational form since 1889, with the Organization of American States (OAS) at its center today. The oldest international defense and
security organization in the world is the InterAmerican Defense Board (IADB), founded in
1942. The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal
Assistance, also known as the Rio Treaty, signed
in 1947, provided that an armed attack by any
state against any other state would be considered an attack against all the states, thus creating the model for collective action against
aggression later adopted by the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO).
More recently, Latin America and the
Caribbean have become a nuclear-free zone
and, along with Canada, are well on their
way to becoming totally free of antipersonnel
land mines. Argentina, Brazil, and Chile have
renounced chemical and biological weapons.
As on the world stage, power remains
concentrated asymmetrically in the United
States, yet the hemisphere’s other countries
are narrowing the gaps in some critical areas.
The United States depends on its neighbors
for more than half of its energy imports and
nearly 40 percent of its iron and steel imports,
as well as many other resources and commodities. Mass movements of people in the form of
both legal and illegal migration have become
controversial and need to be brought under
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Trans-American Security: What’s Missing?. Strategic Forum, Number
228, September 2007.
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control (although they generally take place
peacefully, driven by the search for opportunity rather than by the despair of war, disease,
or famine). Migration to the United States and
Canada has been widely publicized, but significant subregional migration is taking place in
South and Central America and has long been
a distinctive reality of the Caribbean. The
Americas are still extraordinarily diverse, yet
they are also closer to being a New World than
ever before in history.
These cultural, political, and economic
assets suggest that the countries of the hemisphere could be a secure strategic anchor and a
mutually supportive foundation for each other
in this uncertain world. Just as energy and steel
were the foundations of the European Coal and
Steel Community in the 1950s that evolved into
today’s European Union, the growing economic
interdependence of the Americas could become a
major strategic asset for all concerned. The latest
World Trade Organization (WTO) statistics indicate that, in 2005, the hemispheric neighbors of
the United States—Argentina, Brazil, Canada,
Chile, Mexico, as well as the Central American
Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) group and Caribbean Community (CARICOM)—bought 45 percent of all U.S. merchandise exports. In the same
period, China bought 4.6 percent.3 A hemispherewide free trade agreement would strengthen the
competitive position of all its countries—including the United States.
What’s Missing?
However, the proposed Free Trade Area
of the Americas (FTAA) lies stalled, paralyzed by fears of globalization, genuine trade
differences, and frustration created by unfulfilled expectations for the long-term development from the “Washington Consensus”
reforms. Moreover, most of our neighbors,
long sensitive to threats to their sovereignty,
have experienced genuine malaise over the
implications of U.S. unilateralism in Iraq.4
In short, the promise of the New World is
saddled with the weight of unmet expectations,
diverging interests, and mutual distrust, and it
remains largely unfulfilled by all concerned.5
Opposition to outside intervention in internal
affairs, and particularly resistance to the possibility of U.S. military intervention, led the writers of the OAS Charter in 1948 to ignore the
existence of the IADB, reflecting a schizophrenia that to some extent persists today. The OAS
has not legitimized military intervention since
the Dominican Republic in 1965, twice punting
to the United Nations (UN) on Haiti and opposing all other uses of military force, whether in
the Malvinas/Falklands War or the U.S. actions
in Grenada and Panama.
Several other developments from the
1960s through the 1980s raised questions
about both the desirability and reliability of
military cooperation. Guerrilla warfare, fratricidal conflicts, disappearances, and human
rights violations stigmatized security institutions and relations. At times, there appeared
to be two separate universes, one military and one civilian, and communication
between them sometimes seemed lost. The
whole region became tarred with negative stereotypes. The United States and Anglophone
Caribbean tended to view Latin America as a
home for dictators and human rights violators, while the United States was seen by its
neighbors as fluctuating between indifference
and interventionism.
In 1982, the United States, which had
accepted the Rio Treaty’s obligations against
communist threats, denied military assistance to Argentina in its conflict with the
United Kingdom over the Malvinas/Falkland
Islands. This dealt a fatal blow to the mandatory collective security system. By the time
Mexico withdrew from the Rio Treaty 20
years later, its denunciation seemed almost a
formal afterthought.
Responding to terrorism has also
been a problem. Terrorism has been experienced in the Americas in many different guises, not just as the unadulterated
exercise of sheer terror against the United
States as occurred on September 11, 2001.
Political violence, state repression, criminal gang warfare linked to the narcotics
Luigi R. Einaudi is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow in the Institute for National Strategic Studies at
the National Defense University. Comments may be addressed to Mr. Einaudi at [email protected]
Strategic Forum
trade, and the rise of private armies and
personal security companies in the absence
of an effective state monopoly of force are
hard to put into the same policy basket.
(The critical issues raised for public security and national defense are explored further below.)
Suffice it to say for now that differences in
history, interests, concepts, and capacities are
so great that, despite interlinked cultural and
political traditions, the countries of the Americas sometimes seem to inhabit different universes and to be incapable of understanding
and adjusting to each other well enough to
realize the benefits of increased cooperation.
Colonial Legacies
By the end of the 20th century, three positive underlying trends were combining to
improve the regional environment.
The first was the end of colonialism.
All of the English-speaking Caribbean countries had become independent by 1981, and
by 1990, all had been accepted into the OAS
(despite, in the cases of Guyana and Belize,
the continued existence of territorial differences with Latin American neighbors). Except
the countries of the
hemisphere could be a
secure strategic anchor
and a mutually supportive
foundation for each other
in this uncertain world
for Grenada in 1982, these countries have all
resisted the totalitarian temptation; indeed,
Barbados has one of the oldest parliamentary
traditions in the world, dating to 1639.
The second big change was the end of
traditional dictatorships, de facto regimes, and
military governments. A democratizing spurt
after World War II ran afoul of the Cold War,
but by 1991, all 33 governments represented at
the OAS General Assembly in Chile had some
claim to democratic legitimacy. In a dramatic
shift, they pledged to meet immediately “in
the event of any occurrences giving rise to the
No. 228, September 2007
sudden or irregular interruption of the democratic political institutional process or of the
legitimate exercise of power by the democratically elected government in any of the Organization’s member states.” 6 The 16 years since
have witnessed many growing pains for the
new democracies, including constitutional
conflicts and authoritarian experiments, but
the commitment to greater accountability and
popular participation should be seen as irreversible at the regional level.
A third positive trend has been the
gradual dampening of territorial disputes
rooted in pre-independence colonial conflicts. Although the 1982 Malvinas/Falklands War between Argentina and the
United Kingdom ended with no settlement
and the restoration of the status quo ante,
major differences between Argentina and
Chile were resolved with the help of Papal
mediation. In 1995, the Upper Cenepa war
pitted Ecuador against Peru in sudden violence with explosive regional danger, only
to end nearly 4 years later with a settlement that promoted integration and development. Four countries—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and the United States—acting
as guarantors of the 1942 Rio Protocol created the Military Observer Mission, Ecuador-Peru (MOMEP).7 MOMEP’s forces were
coordinated by a Brazilian general and succeeded first in separating 5,000 intertwined
combatant forces without fresh casualties
in extraordinarily difficult terrain. MOMEP
then added Ecuadorian and Peruvian forces
into its peacekeeping operations to enable
guarantor diplomats to help the two governments negotiate a lasting peace in the
interests of both countries. The 1998 peace
between Ecuador and Peru definitively
tilted the strategic balance in South America away from interstate conflict. Before the
settlement of their dispute, Ecuador and
Peru had regularly purchased military jet
aircraft, often stimulating concerns among
neighbors who felt pressured to keep up in
what some called an arms race.
Coming as it did on the heels of the end
of the global Cold War and Central American hot wars, the Peru-Ecuador peace confirmed a new strategic reality in which military expenditures could safely be reduced to
promote development.
No. 228, September 2007
Pains of Transition
If many traditional relationships and
problems have broken down, eroded, or
simply changed, the transition to a more
modern and democratic order has not
been easy. As often happens, change breeds
change and the results are not always
immediately understandable or positive.
Popular demands and rising expectations were stimulated by democratic values and accommodated by desires to avoid
repression. The pressures on governments to
show results were immediate. Calls for public services—health, sanitation, education,
transportation—overwhelmed government
institutions. The stress of years of high population growth accompanied by the communications and democratic revolutions virtually
invited social rupture. Poverty and inequality that might have been tolerable when there
seemed to be no alternative suddenly became
unbearable in the presence of wealth, arrogance, and the absence of the rule of law.
And when misery occurs in oil-rich Venezuela
or once tin-rich and now gas-rich Bolivia, the
man in the potholed street concludes that he
is a “beggar sitting on a throne of gold” stolen from him by corrupt oligarchs, traitorous
governments, and scheming foreigners. Much
of the time, the daily reality is more likely to
be weak institutions, a public bureaucracy
without support from either the rich or the
poor, and a justice system unaccustomed to
seeking justice for all. But change requires
time, and patience is not a characteristic of
the television age.
And then there is the drug trade. One
estimate is that drug trafficking generates
more than $300 billion annually—more
than the gross domestic product of all but a
handful of countries.8 Drug money, weapons,
and social dislocation in the midst of poverty
and weak institutions are similar to sparks in
a coal mine filled with gases.
Lawlessness is also spurred by the impact
of deportations. Between 1998 and 2005, the
United States “removed” more than 610,000 persons with either a criminal conviction or a criminal charge—an average of more than 76,000
a year.9 Ninety-six percent of all these deportations were to Latin America, the overwhelming majority to Mexico and the Caribbean Basin.
When street-wise law-breakers are deported, they
become potential recruits for criminal groups
and add to the pressures on undermanned local
security forces in receiving countries.10
The explosions resulting from this mix of
pressures affect all aspects of life, private and
public. Anyone exposed to the havoc wreaked
drug money, weapons,
and social dislocation
in the midst of poverty
and weak institutions are
similar to sparks in a coal
mine filled with gases
by the maras in Central America, criminal
gangs in Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, and several other major urban centers and sometimes
ungoverned rural areas knows governmental authorities are not only stretched thin in
services, but also frequently overmatched in
force. Private armies and security forces have
in some cases become a survival necessity for
the few who can afford them and a return to
the law of the jungle for those who cannot.
Incantations of the miracles of democracy
and free markets become obscene insults to
those caught up in the turbulence.
The continuing expansion of organized
crime, notes the Director of the OAS Department of Public Security, “is having a multiplier effect on all other forms of violence, on
the economy of the affected countries, on the
quality of life of citizens, on the privatization of
security, on the militarization of law enforcement, and on the corruption it generates.” 11
The consequences for security are abundant and sometimes disturbing. Military
institutions were in many cases the most
developed institutions of government and
in some remote areas the only representatives of the state. In the 1960s, military leaders intervened in national politics, often
with disastrous consequences for themselves,
their institutions, and their countries. By the
1990s, under the twin impact of peace and
democracy (to which a new generation of
military leaders had often given critical support), military institutions lost both political
status and resources. In the 21st century, how
Strategic Forum
the balance is struck between public security
and national defense on the one hand, and
equitable development on the other, could
determine the course of stability in more
than one country.
The New Regional Pattern
The end of the Cold War and the acceleration of globalization underscored the need
for everyone to look at the neighborhood with
different eyes. The once hallowed nostrums of
the Monroe Doctrine, Fortress America, and
their more recent cousin, a new U.S. Maginot line against drugs, terrorists, or migrants,
still occasionally produce screams of frustration, but are simply unworkable when it
comes to implementation. Ideas of closed
regionalism are dead everywhere. Openings
to Europe, South Africa, India, or China are
eagerly sought everywhere. If regionalism is
to prosper in the years to come, it must be
open to the world, not a retreat from competition. National interests differ, and interdependence is often uncomfortable. But cooperation that is neither mandatory nor imposed,
but is voluntary and negotiated is also
increasingly necessary for all concerned.
Several points characterize the new
regional environment.
First, with a few marked exceptions in the
Andes, cooperation is most dynamic among
immediate neighbors. CARICOM, the Central
American Integration System (Sistema de la
Integración Centroamericana [SICA]), and
the common market in the Southern Cone
(MERCOSUR) are the most obvious examples. But the trend is also evident on a South
America–wide basis and to some extent in
North America. An unfortunate exception has
been the willingness of Colombia’s immediate neighbors to stand apart from the conflict
there and do little to control their adjoining
border areas. Even so, it seems increasingly
clear that subregional cooperation and integration are becoming building blocks for
regional and ultimately global progress.
Second, most discussions of security issues in the hemisphere reflect a new
focus on social development. In 2003, Mexico convened a region-wide Special Conference on Security. Ministers from all corners
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of the hemisphere agreed that threats had
become “multidimensional.” The priorities
of the largest countries, such as the United
States, were included (cyber security, weapons
of mass destruction, terrorism, drugs, and
related matters), but so were the concerns of
the subregions: in the Caribbean and Central
America, nuclear waste and natural disasters;
in Central and South America, extreme poverty and social exclusion.
Third, a direct link between democracy
and security has become an accepted principle, and this in turn requires that security
cooperation meet standards of democratic
legitimacy. The 2003 Special Conference on
Security declared that “representative democracy is an indispensable condition for the
stability, peace, and development of the states
of the Hemisphere” and explicitly reaffirmed
the Inter-American Democratic Charter.12
The dormant Rio Treaty has not been
replaced, but a new security system is gradually emerging on a case-by-case, issue-byissue basis. It is less unified and binding than
the Rio Treaty’s collective security system,
but perhaps better tailored to today’s realities.
If the security architecture of the past was
developed top-down through foreign ministries acting in the immediate post–World War
II period of U.S. predominance, the security architecture of the future seems likely to
a direct link between
democracy and security
has become an accepted
principle, and this
in turn requires that
security cooperation
meet standards of
democratic legitimacy
evolve bottom-up, on a subregional basis, and
with broader interministerial participation.
The emerging system is made up of traditional confidence-building measures such
as the Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions plus several new legal instruments that
address specific transnational security concerns. Buoyed by Canada’s entry and a new
openness to the Caribbean Basin, the IADB
has been decoupled from the Rio Treaty,
developed new roles in disaster relief, facilitated impressive progress in demining, and
received a cautious political blessing from
the OAS.
In 1992, the OAS Permanent Council
created a Committee on Hemispheric Security
that has met regularly ever since. The 2000
OAS General Assembly, spurred by Honduras and other Central American governments
inspired by the settlement of the conflict
between Ecuador and Peru, created a Fund
for Peace. This enabled the General Secretariat, with the support of the United States,
to provide the services of a technical expert
from the then National Imagery and Mapping
Agency working under the auspices of the Pan
American Institute of Geography and History to resolve technical demarcation problems encountered by El Salvador and Honduras. The final marker was erected in 2006. An
OAS team, which included Argentine and Brazilian military officers, verified the absence
of troop movements near the border between
Honduras and Nicaragua. The fund is making possible confidence-building measures
in the territorial differendum between Belize
and Guatemala.
Following the attacks of September 11,
the countries of the Americas negotiated,
signed, and brought into force an Inter-American Convention against Terrorism that provides a legal framework for counterterrorism cooperation and capacity-building. The
convention recognizes that no one country
has all of the answers for improving security
against the threats posed by terrorists, who
seek to exploit the rules of civilized society. Its
answer, however, is not to abandon the law,
or to wink at abuses of the rights of suspects.
The Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (Comité Interamericano Contra el
Terrorismo [CICTE]) provides a legal framework enabling counterterrorism cooperation
and capacity-building.
The Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (Comisión Interamericana para el Control del Abuso de Drogas [CICAD]), established in 1989, has
No. 228, September 2007
helped strengthen professional ties and
developed a Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism to facilitate antidrug cooperation
on the basis of expert plans drawn up by
national authorities, thus making it easier to identify areas for cooperation and to
avoid interruptions and tensions resulting
from unilateral conditionality.
The Inter-American Convention against
the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking
in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and
Other Related Materials (Convención Interamericana Contra la Fabricación y el Tráfico Ilícitos de Armas de Fuego, Municiones,
Explosivos y Otros Materiales Relacionados [CIFTA]), proposed initially by Mexico
in the Rio Group, achieved regional consensus through the OAS, was signed in 1997, and
entered into force the next year.
In 2004, overcoming the traditional reluctance of its political bodies to become involved
in security matters, the OAS General Secretariat
moved for the first time to assign professional
staffing to coordinate among these new security understandings. Today, the OAS Secretariat
for Multidimensional Security brings together
CICTE, CICAD, and CIFTA, as well as multilateral efforts against transnational crime.13
Lagging Implementation
It is an open secret that even critically
important principles agreed to in formal treaties
often fail to become operational realities. In Central America, small firearms and light weapons
have proliferated since the end of the armed conflicts in the early 1990s and facilitated the spread
of violent youth gangs. According to the National
Police of Colombia, 85 percent of murders in that
country are committed with small arms, many
of which have been smuggled into Colombia by
drug traffickers, insurgents, and members of
paramilitary groups and criminal gangs.
In Haiti, small arms threaten governance, democracy, and the population as a
whole. They are easy to come by. Everyone
is armed: politicians and criminals, businessmen and paupers, legal and illegal militias, not to mention drug traffickers and former members of the armed forces. Everyone
is armed, that is, except for the state, which
has no army and only 3,000 policemen. The
No. 228, September 2007
United Nations Stabilization Mission for
Haiti (Mission des Nations Unies pour la
Stabilisation en Haïti [MINUSTAH]) has
8,000 military and police personnel to assist
Haiti’s 8 million inhabitants. New York City,
with its 8 million inhabitants, has 60,000
police officers. That MINUSTAH has helped
move Haiti toward a more stable future is
a real tribute to the troops from Brazil and
other South American countries at its core.14
MINUSTAH’s success is closely linked to
the political progress achieved through Haiti’s first elections in which voters were issued
permanent identity cards. This critical step
gave many ordinary Haitians their first
legal proof of existence and ability to claim
their individual rights as citizens. Even so,
MINUSTAH’s leaders are the first to say that
this relative success will evaporate without
better social and economic progress.
What Is to Be Done?
In addition to the Latin American role
in MINUSTAH, specific examples for the
road ahead include the cooperation among
nine CARICOM states to provide security for
the 2007 Cricket World Cup, ongoing security consultations among neighboring countries of Central and South America, and the
important and successful bilateral cooperation between the United States and Colombia.
OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza
has stressed the need to build mechanisms
of mutual trust and not to assume that one
model fits all.15 U.S. security expert John
Cope put it well when he observed that the
way ahead is to work together to address specific shared concerns in a low-key manner,
starting on a subregional basis.16
Some of what has been missing is simply modesty. For much of our history—
whether the United States was being the Good
Neighbor, opposing communism, running
the Alliance for Progress, or more recently
fighting terrorism—U.S. opinion leaders
assumed that they knew what needed to be
done and how to do it better than anyone
else. That approach no longer works. More
than ever before, we must understand and
respect the space and dignity of those with
whom we must cooperate. But the reflex in
Washington and in public opinion at large is
still often to be patronizing.
These attitudes will handicap the
United States and its friends until everyone
understands the fundamental reality that
this New World requires an honest give-and-
the way ahead is
to work together to
address specific shared
concerns in a low-key
manner, starting on a
subregional basis
take. U.S. State and Defense officials often
know less than we think we know. We know
this is a very diverse and domestically turbulent hemisphere. We know there is a history of conflicts between some countries. But
we are less appreciative of different national
histories, of recent progress in resolving
conflicts, and of the unease and even tensions that still persist. It is understandable
that we should talk little about differences
in national interests and concerns, but it
is a mistake to assume that everyone has
the same interests. It is also understandable that we should talk little about institutional weaknesses and incapacities. However,
thinking that the consensus emerging at a
regional level on the new security challenges
is matched by a corresponding increase in
capacity would be an error.17
Dialogue and cooperation require, in
addition to political will, the existence of
effective state institutions, with the capacity to do what is needed in ways that work.
Instead of simply asserting a litany of
shared values and common interests, we
should insist on listening first and planning second—and then acting only on
jointly developed and agreed-upon plans for
humanitarian as well as security projects.
Competence must be learned, trust must be
earned, both sides must be reliable, and all
must benefit in order to work together effectively. Long-term cooperation can be based
only on activities that serve the interests of
others as well as ours.
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Aside from learning to listen to each
other better, there are four points on which
the United States in particular can improve
the environment for trans-American dialogue
and cooperation.18
First, legal frameworks are essential
and must be strengthened and supported.
A legal order must be backed by force, but the
use of force without a basis in law starts with
a strike against it. We do not need a new Rio
Treaty. But the war against terror and the
invasion of Iraq have reawakened in Latin
America memories of past U.S. military interventions. The United States should make clear
its commitment that laws, not might, must
frame what can be done and how.
An excellent beginning would be to ratify two treaties already signed by the United
States. Both have also been ratified by a great
majority in the hemisphere. They are the
American Convention on Human Rights, and
the Inter-American Convention against the
Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in
Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other
Related Materials.19 The fundamental significance of having a multilateral legal framework is that it makes possible cooperation,
including bilateral cooperation, undertaken
according to its provisions.
Legitimacy, while essential, is not
enough. The United States should also support
the operational implementation of these and
all other Inter-American juridical instruments
that have developed in recent years to address
specific security concerns. This will require
regional capacity-building. The U.S. Government already deserves much credit for the
financial and technical support that it gives to
demining activities by the OAS and IADB. The
United States (and all other member states)
could do much more to help the OAS facilitate training and information exchanges. This
support could range from such simple matters
as ensuring that the United States fills both of
its slots in the month-long Course in International Law for mid-career lawyers, run since
1973 by the Inter-American Juridical Committee, to helping the OAS establish similar
courses for both junior and senior experts in
drug control, terrorism, transnational crime,
human rights, and the mitigation of natural disasters. The objective would be to create
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mutually respectful and informed cadres of
professionals knowledgeable of the precedents
and potential for cooperation on all the many
problems that affect the multidimensional
security of the hemisphere’s countries.20
Second, social and economic progress
is critical to stability. If democracy is the
Americas’ pride and glory, social injustice,
poverty, and exclusion are its Achilles’ heel.
In the years ahead, in addition to the maintenance of public order, the biggest challenges to accelerate Latin America’s development and improve its lagging international
competitiveness have to do with building
regional infrastructure and investing in public education and science at home. Such
initiatives do not require more weapons; if
anything, they may require some diversion
of capital resources from defense to civilian purposes. But the maintenance of public order is too important for military and
other security institutions to remain victims
of an unwillingness to get beyond the past.
For example, a recent case study of criminal deportations to Jamaica from the United
States, United Kingdom, and Canada concludes that “assisting in reintegration efforts
for deported offenders could be a cost-effective way for deportee-sending countries to
the biggest challenges
to accelerate Latin
America’s development
and improve its
lagging international
competitiveness have
to do with building
regional infrastructure
and investing in public
education and science
promote development and weaken international crime networks.” 21 Carefully designed
and managed programs of military support
for civilian institutions could be an important part of strengthening the state to provide the security and services needed for
democratic development.
The Declaration on Security in the Americas and the Inter-American Democratic Charter
both call for “the constitutional subordination
of all state institutions to the legally constituted civilian authority and respect for the rule
of law on the part of all institutions and sectors
of society.” 22 In defending the law and equal
opportunity rather than social privilege, military and other security forces must take care
neither to undermine political leaders nor to
abandon their own professionalism. How this
should best be done will differ from country to
country, as determined by appropriate constitutional authorities and interministerial or interagency consultation of that country, but a failure to find the right balance could endanger
both stability and development.23
Third, professionalism must be developed, not assumed. Operational interoperability and coordination among public security forces and between them and legitimate
civilian authorities depend on mutual trust
and professional skills that cannot be developed overnight. A culture of civil-military
cooperation is indispensable. And that in turn
depends on shared professional training and
experiences that cannot be improvised. All
countries should reserve some billets in military academies and advanced civilian and
military schools for cadets, officers, and public officials from neighboring countries. The
United States should increase openings for
exchanges of officers and encourage the posting of liaison officers.24 So, too, should other
countries to the full extent of their abilities.
The United States should assign resources
to the OAS to develop an Inter-American Academy of Public Administration. This academy
might function along the lines of the InterAmerican Defense College, with students nominated by the member states. Additional junior
and senior exchange and training opportunities could also be channeled subregionally as well as regionally. CARICOM, SICA,
the Andean Pact, and MERCOSUR, for example, could put to excellent use training activities in whose design they participate. Professional training and education should be seen
less as assistance than as the steps necessary
to build the capacity needed to create sustainable cooperation regionally and internationally. Such institutional ties can provide both
No. 228, September 2007
early warning and containment of issues that
might otherwise escalate into problems—in
effect, a valuable insurance policy for peace in
the neighborhood.
Fourth, there is a clear need for a
“Permanent Consultation.” Even if we succeed in being legal, careful, and professional,
neighbors still need the ability to understand
one another across and beyond their borders. Even if we organize our respective interagency systems, we still need to find ways
to link them more effectively. There are at
least three specific attributes that should help
define our continuing conversation.
One concerns the geographical scope
of the topics. We all operate globally. Thus,
consultations should be global as well as
regional. Brazil played a key role in East
Timor, is a leader in world trade negotiations,
and has an exceptional scientific capacity
that includes space satellite technology that
it has shared with other countries. We share
NATO ties with Canada but are perhaps less
aware of Canada’s role in both the Francophonie and British Commonwealth, which also
includes states from CARICOM. Argentina,
Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay, like Brazil,
have long participated in out-of-area peacekeeping operations.
Beyond geographic scope, consultations
should be as multidimensional as the problems. Some years ago, the Department of State
held consultations between its policy planning staff and its counterparts in several
South American countries. Regular consultations on a joint basis, with the United States
represented by its Ambassador to the country in question supported by an integrated
State-Defense team from Washington and
U.S. Southern Command, could develop better communication and understanding that
would help tailor cooperation to particular
problems and situations. Existing talks should
grow beyond Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico to include subregional groups
of states and the OAS Secretariat. Thus, bilateral consultations should be paralleled multilaterally by a strengthened U.S. Mission to
the OAS working closely with the U.S. Delegation to the IADB. And it is important that the
Defense Ministerials be brought into the Summit of the Americas process. Trinidad and
No. 228, September 2007
Tobago, which is to host the next summit, is a
member of the IADB as well as the OAS.
U.S. policymakers and government agencies need to do a better job identifying their foreign counterparts and working with them. This
is less a problem for the Departments of State
and Defense than it is for development agencies.
The U.S. Agency for International Development,
for example, relies instinctively on U.S.-based
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and
consultants to implement programs abroad—
only to be surprised to find that our programs
are seen as more in the U.S. interest than as
of mutual benefit.25 Sometimes, funding U.S.
NGOs as opposed to local organizations can
weaken or even undermine the very state institutions the country we wish to help needs for its
development and stability. Leaders of the U.S.
executive branch should work closely with the
U.S. Congress to find ways to strengthen implementation of overseas cooperation activities and
foreign aid while guarding against corruption.
The burden of adjustment should not
fall solely upon the United States. It must also
be said that our Latin American and Caribbean neighbors sometimes give up too easily on Washington. Common understandings
require dialogue and constant communication initiated by each side. Mechanisms are
needed to encourage and reward cooperation and information-sharing at every level.
Shared knowledge multiplies, and when it is
shared among partners, it increases trust and
the common good.
Our friends from Latin America and the
Caribbean should remember that the 2006
Quadrennial Defense Review made very clear
that the senior leadership of the U.S. Department of Defense wants improved alliance and
coalition partnerships and is prepared to consider “building partner capabilities.” In 2006,
the Assistant Director of the Defense Department Office of Force Transformation argued
that “the capabilities gap [with] many allied
and coalition partners is widening” and
referred among other things to the costs of
keeping pace with technological change. He
continued, “Some level of intelligence-sharing, operational and tactical planning, and
perhaps command post or field exercises will
be essential to ensure adequate preparation.” 26
These concerns should be taken seriously by
everyone interested in improving the practice
of security cooperation.
On the U.S. side, we should not allow
our distaste for bureaucracy and distrust of
shared knowledge
multiplies, and when it is
shared among partners,
it increases trust and the
common good
foreigners to prevent the increased cooperation with foreign governments and institutions needed to advance U.S. interests. Multilateral institutions have the great advantage
of blunting concerns over unilateralism that
often is manifested in our tendency to impose
“good ideas” without consultation.
There are many things we can do
together as partners that are mutually
respectful (if sometimes unequal) to deal
with security and social problems that we
cannot deal with alone. This time of global
difficulties may be just the time to quietly
strengthen regional capacity and cooperation.
This paper is adapted from remarks at the 2007 Western Hemisphere Security Colloquium in Miami, FL, May 3–
4, 2007, sponsored by the Strategic Studies Institute at the
U.S. Army War College, Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) at the National Defense University, U.S. Southern
Command, and Applied Research Center at Florida International University. It also reflects remarks made at the INSS
Workshop of Mexico’s National Security, May 31, 2007, at the
National Defense University. I want to thank particularly Dr.
James A. Schear, Director of Research, and COL John A. Cope,
USA (Ret.), Senior Research Fellow for Western Hemisphere
Affairs, both of INSS, for their support.
The term trans-American is intended to convey the
sense of dialogue among equals, much like the meaning
implicit in trans-Atlantic.
World Trade Organization, International Trade Statistics 2006, table III.16, “Merchandise trade of the United
States by region and economy, 2005,” available at <www.wto.
The Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, and
Nicaragua are the only Western Hemisphere countries that
sent troops to Iraq. Only El Salvador is there to this day after
9 battalion deployments (roughly 380 soldiers each). The
other countries stayed about 6 months.
The hemisphere’s promise was recently evoked in a Posture Statement by Admiral James G. Stavridis, USN, Commander,
Strategic Forum
U.S. Southern Command, before the House Armed Services Committee, March 21, 2007.
Resolutory Paragraph 1, AG/RES. 1080 (XXI–O/91),
adopted by the Twenty-First General Assembly of the OAS,
Santiago, Chile, June 5, 1991, available at <http://www.oas.
U.S. Special Operations Command, Operation Safe Border Multinational Observer Mission, Ecuador-Peru, History
and Research Office, September 1995; Glenn R. Weidner, “Operation Safe Border: The Ecuador-Peru Crisis,” Joint Force Quarterly 11 (Spring 1996), 52–58; Luigi R. Einaudi, “The EcuadorPeru Peace Process,” in Herding Cats: Multiparty Mediation
in a Complex World, ed. Chester A. Crocker et al. (Washington,
DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1999), 405–429.
Arlene B. Tickner, “Latin America and the Caribbean:
Domestic and Transnational Insecurity,” International Peace
Academy Working Paper Series, February 2007, 4 (cited by
Christopher Hernandez-Roy, Director of the OAS Department
of Public Security).
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of
Immigration Statistics, 2005 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, November 2006, table 41, “Aliens Formally Removed by
Criminal Status and Region and Country of Nationality: Fiscal Years 1998 to 2005,” available at <
Specialists note that refugees from the civil war in
El Salvador in the 1980s met resistance in south central Los
Angeles from the previously established Mexican-American
“18 th Street” gangs. Veterans of the resulting gang wars were
deported to El Salvador and Guatemala in the early 1990s
and founded the salvatruchas and related gangs in those
countries (interview with Caesar Sereseres of the University of
California and Guatemalan urban planner Alfonso Yurrita).
Ironically, a recent study reported the arrest of some 1,374
members just of the MS–13 mara salvatrucha gang “in cities across the United States.” Clare M. Ribando, Gangs in
Central America (Washington, DC: Congressional Research
Service, updated August 2, 2007).
Christopher Hernandez-Roy, remarks in Quebec City,
May 25, 2007.
The consensus that security must be democratic
may even be stronger than the definition of what constitutes democracy.
This long-needed step was originally the result of
reforms introduced by Miguel Angel Rodriguez during his
brief tenure as Secretary General. I continued them as Acting Secretary General, and the advance was consolidated by
Jose Miguel Insulza after his election as Secretary General
in 2005.
General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira, “O Componente Militar da Missao das Nacoes Unidas para a Estabilizacao do Haiti,” Military Review (January-February
2007), 2–13.
Strategic Forum
Speech at the Seventh Conference of Ministers of
Defense of the Americas, October 2, 2006, in Managua,
John A. Cope, “A Prescription for Protecting the
Southern Approach,” Joint Force Quarterly 42 (3d Quarter,
2006), 17–21.
This formulation comes from a personal communication from Gabriel Marcella, May 17, 2007.
A remarkably similar set of points is made by the
former commander of the Chilean army, General Juan Emilio
Cheyre, in “Seguridad hemisferica: ‘un desafio de integración pendiente,’” Foreign Affairs en Español, OctoberDecember 2005.
See the March 2004 study by the Federation of American Scientists, Small Arms, Terrorism and the OAS Firearms Convention, in which Matthew Schroeder argues that
U.S. ratification and full implementation of CIFTA would help
to stem the flow of weapons to the Colombian illegal groups
and prevent the diversion of arms to international terrorists.
This apparently straightforward prescription faces
some major obstacles. For example, the American ServiceMembers’ Protection Act of 2002 provides that “no United
States military assistance may be provided to the government of a country that is a party to the International Criminal Court.” Although this ban is subject to certain exceptions,
including NATO membership, over half of the countries in the
world under sanctions are in this hemisphere and have been
denied such items as counterterrorism equipment and
training. Clare M. Ribando, Article 98 Agreements and
Sanctions on U.S. Foreign Aid to Latin America (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, updated March 22,
2007), notes that Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Mexico are
among the affected.
Crime, Violence, and Development: Trends, Costs,
and Policy Options in the Caribbean, Report 37820, Joint
Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and
the Latin America and Caribbean Region of the World Bank,
March 2007, 81, available at <
Article 4 of both the Charter and the Declaration.
Both documents are available at <>.
Jose Miguel Insulza points out that two common
mistakes in this regard are to militarize threats unnecessarily and to confuse public security with national defense—
and vice versa. For the sake of stability, he argues, the balance in each case must be struck domestically by civilian
democratic authorities.
At the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, there have been over the years a
handful of students and instructors from Latin America. This
is less typical at the war college level of professional education. But at planning and doctrinal development levels, such
as the Training and Doctrine Command and similar U.S.
commands, liaison officers are more common from Europe
and Asia than from this hemisphere.
One study has suggested 77 percent of all U.S. foreign aid is actually spent in the United States. See Stewart
Patrick, Nancy Birdsall, and Milan Vaishnav, “Freedom from
Want: American Exceptionalism and Global Development,”
Center for Global Development, 2007.
Walter P. Fairbanks, “Implementing the Transformation Vision,” Joint Force Quarterly 42 (3d Quarter, 2006), 42.
The Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) is a policy
The Strategic Forum series presents original research by members
research and strategic gaming organization within the National
of NDU as well as other scholars and specialists in national security
Defense University (NDU) serving the Department of Defense,
affairs from this country and abroad. The opinions, conclusions,
its components, and interagency partners. The institute provides
and recommendations expressed or implied within are those of
senior decisionmakers with timely, objective analysis and gaming
the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of
events and supports NDU educational programs in the areas of
the Department of Defense or any other agency of the Federal
international security affairs and defense studies. Through an
Government. For information on NDU Press visit the Web site at
active outreach program, including conferences and publications, INSS also produces Joint Force
INSS seeks to promote understanding of emerging strategic
Quarterly for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the journal
challenges and policy options.
can be accessed at
James A. Schear
David H. Gurney
Director of Research
Director, NDU Press
No. 228, September 2007
Hemispheric Security After the Towers Went Down
Prof. Hal Klepak
The smoke has not yet cleared where the impact on the Americas of the terrorist attacks of the 11th September is
concerned. Aghast, the hemisphere watched those events unfold and its states quickly moved to commiserate with,
and promise assistance to, the United States in their wake.
The Organisation of American States denounced the attacks and reassured Washington that it could count on its
members to assist the U.S. in the present circumstances and in the future in the drive to defeat terrorism. Individual
countries across the region rushed to do the same on a bilateral basis.
The Inter-American security “system” also leapt into action. The signatories of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal
Assistance declared in force that long-forgotten instrument of nearly hemisphere-wide defence cooperation and
promised a joint reaction under its shared commitments.
This paper explains the background to the inter-American security system and why and how it has reacted to events.
It cautions that an excessively rapid and ill-thought out reaction to the attacks may herald difficult days for the often
fledgling democracies of the region, especially for those which can as yet ill afford clarion calls to action that give
priority to their armed and police forces in the fight against terrorism. Balancing this reaction to make for an effective
hemispheric response to the crisis while restraining efforts enough to ensure that hard-won gains in the consolidation
of democracy and correct civil-military relations will be the region’s and the system’s challenge.
La poussière de l’impact des attaques terroristes du 11 septembre sur les Amériques n’est pas encore retombée.
Ces événements se sont déroulés sous le regard horrifié des États de l’hémisphère qui, partageant la douleur des
États-Unis, ont promptement offert leur aide.
L’Organisation des États américains a dénoncé ces attaques et affirmé à Washington que les États-Unis pouvaient
compter sur l’aide de ses membres pour lutter contre le terrorisme, maintenant et dans l’avenir. Les pays de toute la
région se sont ensuite empressés de faire de même sur une base bilatérale.
Le « système » interaméricain de sécurité s’est lui aussi mis en marche. Les signataires du Traité interaméricain d’aide
réciproque (Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance) ont invoqué cet instrument quasi oublié de coopération
pour une défense unie, signé par presque tous les États de l’hémisphère, et promis une riposte concertée en vertu de
leurs engagements communs.
Canadian Foundation for the Americas
Fondation canadienne pour les Amériques
Fundación Canadiense para las Américas
Fundação Canadense para as Américas
Ce document explique le contexte historique ainsi que les antécédents du système interaméricain de sécurité, à savoir
pourquoi et comment il a fait face à certains événements par le passé. Cette analyse met en garde contre une réaction
trop rapide et mal préparée aux attaques, réaction qui pourrait mettre en péril les démocraties souvent fragiles de la
région et en particulier celles qui ne peuvent se permettre de prendre des mesures donnant la priorité aux forces
armées et policières pour combattre le terrorisme. Équilibrer cette réaction pour que l’hémisphère puisse répondre
efficacement à cette crise tout en s’assurant que les acquis en matière de démocratie, obtenus de haute lutte, sont
maintenus et que les relations entre militaires et civiles demeurent adéquates, sera le défi que devront relever la
région et le système interaméricain de sécurité.
La nube de humo de las acciones terroristas del 11 de septiembre aún no se ha disipado en lo que respecta al
impacto que tuvieron estos hechos en las Américas. Los países del hemisferio contemplaron horrorizados el
desenvolvimiento de los acontecimientos y enseguida se solidarizaron y ofrecieron su ayuda a los Estados Unidos.
La Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) denunció el hecho y le aseguró a Washington que podría contar con
el apoyo de sus miembros tanto en las circunstancias actuales como futuras por derrotar el terrorismo. Algunos países
de manera individual también se apresuraron en ofrecer su apoyo a nivel bilateral.
El ‘sistema’ interamericano de seguridad también se puso en acción. Los estados firmantes del Tratado Interamericano
de Asistencia Recíproca (TIAR) decidieron poner en vigencia este instrumento de cooperación sobre defensa que
desde hacia mucho estaba en el olvido y que tiene un alcance en casi todo el hemisferio, y se comprometieron a
actuar de conjunto conforme a las obligaciones contraídas bajo el mismo.
El presente documento analiza los antecedentes del sistema interamericano de seguridad, y por qué y de qué manera
ha respondido a los acontecimientos. Además, se advierte que una reacción apresurada y desatinada podría presagiar
días difíciles para las democracias en ciernes de la región, especialmente para aquellas que aún no se pueden dar
el lujo de hacer un llamado a la acción que otorgue a sus fuerzas armadas y policiales un papel protagónico en la
lucha contra el terrorismo. La región y el sistema interamericano de seguridad tienen ante sí el reto de concertar
una respuesta hemisférica equilibrada y efectiva sin sacrificar los logros alcanzados con tantos esfuerzos en la
consolidación de la democracia y en el establecimiento de relaciones civiles-militares adecuadas.
The Inter-American Security System
in Historical Context
Attempts to provide security on an inter-American basis
go back, in one form or another, to Bolivarian days. It
was only in the Second World War and after the attack
on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 that political
collaboration among the hemisphere’s states became
significant enough to permit real defence cooperation
from the Arctic to the Southern Cone. It should perhaps
not surprise us then, that events so often likened to
Pearl Harbour such as the terrorist attacks of September
in the United States should also occasion calls for
reinforced hemispheric efforts to face external threats.
In the aftermath of Pearl Harbour, an Inter-American
Defence Board (IADB) was set up in 1942 and charged
with coordinating a United States and Latin American
response to Axis aggression. In 2001 most of the major
members of the Organisation of American States (OAS)
invoked the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal
Assistance, usually referred to as the Rio Pact, to
respond collectively to international terrorism directed
against a member state and the OAS (including several
states not party to the Treaty) called for increased
cooperation in order to fight the new scourge.
Little is known outside those dealing directly with
hemispheric security about the supposed “system” of
security and defence that the Americas have had since
World War II. Thus, the public understands little about
what is involved in hemispheric responses to threats
to the region. Even though the OAS reacted with
uncommon energy to the terrorist attacks, the greater
relative importance of South Asia and the Middle East for
the United States naturally shifted public attention away
from inter-American responses.
Nonetheless the impact of the events of 11th September,
and their aftermath, has already deeply marked the
hemisphere and inter-American security relations. And
there is little sign of this trend being reversed.
The “system” set up by the United States and Latin
American countries in the wake of Pearl Harbour was
a loose one. It allowed countries to more or less decide
for themselves on the nature of their contribution to the
joint war effort. However, the IADB did manage to
coordinate quite a number of activities on the military
defence side. In addition, the Board provided a
framework for a wide range of bilateral agreements
between Latin American states and the United States.
They allowed for the latter to build air and naval bases,
recruit workers or even military personnel, purchase
on a guaranteed and special price basis raw materials
and foodstuffs, and a host of other matters. In return,
cooperative Latin American countries had access
to increased amounts of U.S. training, equipment
and weapons.
With the end of the war, Latin American countries and
the U.S. expressed an interest in continuing defence
cooperation and in 1947 the Rio Pact was signed. It
became the first pillar of what was to frequently be
called, although perhaps not entirely logically, the interAmerican security “system.” The next year the Charter of
the OAS was signed and it repeated the mutual defence
agreements of the Pact. Much more important were
again, as in World War II, the bilateral arrangements,
taking these two pillars as their framework, which were
signed as Mutual Assistance Pacts between the U.S. and
most Latin American states during and immediately after
the Korean War of 1950–53.
and United States views on security matters began to be
visible. A new security agenda began to be perceived
as cold war structures and definitions lost relevance.
It included the settlement of outstanding territorial and
jurisdictional disputes among Latin American states;
improved democratic civil-military relations in those
same countries; the anchoring of democracy and its
defence in the region; counter-terrorism; counternarcotics; and, a variety of other non-traditional areas
of interest in the ever wider definition given to security
in those years.
Canada joined the OAS in 1990, but at first firmly
eschewed uncomfortable security issues and refused
to sign the Rio Pact. Neither did it accept the defence
elements of the Charter, nor join the other security
apparatus of the system. However, Ottawa slowly
was drawn in through its keenness on peace in the
hemisphere, its desire to see confidence-building
measures applied as a result, the
perceived vital need to defend
democracy in the region, and finally
The “system” set up
by its recognition, generally, of the
by the United States
centrality of security issues to almost
all Canadian wider objectives in
and Latin American
the region.
A third wave of institutional
arrangements followed the success of
the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and
Havana’s attempt to ‘export’ revolution
from 1962 to 1968. The inter-American
system suspended Cuba from all of its
countries in the wake
institutions of the time and proceeded
The widespread convergence of
of Pearl Harbour was
to establish new ones in the light of the
interests in the security field, combined
Cuban challenge. These included the
with this importance of the specific
a loose one.
Inter-American Defence College, the
issues of the new agenda, as well
conferences of commanders of the
as the desire to see progress on
armies, navies and air forces of the
economic integration regionally and
Americas, and a further number of training and liaison
hemispherically, meant that new life was breathed
arrangements. U.S. military missions in the region grew
into the “system.” Enormous progress was made with
dramatically in number and size.
landmines clearance, peaceful settlement of disputes,
the anchoring of democracy, confidence-building
With the death of Ché Guevara in 1967 and the rapid
measures, admittedly limited force reductions, civilian
defeat of most insurrections in South America quickly
control over armed forces, and a host of other matters.
thereafter, the system became less active. The perceived
The institutions of the security system seemed reinforced
failure to assist Argentina in the Falklands War of 1982,
and a significant new one, the meetings of defence
the shared inability with the rest of the traditional interministers of the Americas every two years, came to
American system to do much about civil wars in Central
reinforce the sense of common approaches to security
America in the 1970s and eighties, and the lack of unity
in all of the hemisphere save Cuba.
in the Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989) crises
subsequently brought it, along with the OAS, under
The 11th September Terrorist Attack and
increasing criticism as irrelevant.
Its Impact
The cold war both stimulated its formal reinforcement
and reduced the likelihood that it could do very much
in real terms. The contradictions in the inter-American
system at the highest level, combined with fears of
U.S. domination, ensured that the system laboured
away at the military level but rarely crossed the line
into the political domain.
The end of the cold war changed this arrangement. The
decision by the United States to cease active intervention
in Latin American domestic affairs, since such was no
longer necessary in the struggle against communism,
meant that a growing convergence of Latin American
The terrorist attacks of the 11th September shocked
Latin America as they did the rest of the world. Despite
many insurrections and civil wars in the region since the
1960s, many of which had their fair share of terrorism,
for most of the region terrorism was not high on
the security agenda prior to that date. The defeat of
the terrorist Shinning Path (SL) and Tupac Amaru
Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) of Peru in the early
to mid-1990s had left only Colombia in the throws of
a civil war with terrorist overtones.
Latin Americans were glued to their televisions as the
horrors of that September day unfolded. Country after
country, including Cuba, sent expressions of sympathy
to the United States. The OAS passed resolutions
condemning the attacks and calling for the closest
hemispheric cooperation in defeating terrorism. The
signatories of the Rio Pact (not all OAS members have
signed the treaty) called it into play as a framework for
their joint response to the challenge. Mexico and Canada
in particular assisted the U.S. in all manner of ways in
the early days after the attacks in everything, from
beefed up border patrols, to the housing and feeding
of U.S. citizens on flights diverted to their airports as a
result of the crisis.
The strength, prestige, budgets, and political clout that
this situation produced in many Latin American countries
over the years meant that armed forces came to
dominate the politics of the nation as a whole. On many
occasions, direct control of the state was maintained by
the armed forces for a long time. But even where it
was not the norm, civil structures had to adjust to an
excessive position of influence of the military within the
state as a whole.
Trends tending to reverse this situation were of course
seen in the wave of democratization from the late 1970s
on. In country after country, military regimes gave way
to civilians. And while the military still often retained
In the aftermath of those extraordinary days, however,
perhaps more importance than in European or North
realpolitik seems to have kicked in again. Many
American democracies, they realized that times had
countries within and without the hemisphere have
changed and that neither direct nor indirect control of
chosen to use the crisis as a means of furthering their
political power was acceptable any longer, either
own agendas, often ones little connected with the defeat
internationally or domestically.
of international terrorism. While this has
Democratic elements around the world
of course occurred from Russia (in
were delighted with this evolution.
Chechnya) to Sri Lanka, countries in
Thus, in the absence
Many officers of the Latin American
Latin America have had to confront
of other strong actors
armed forces saw their role as having
their own security questions in the
been distorted by the demands caused
context of changed international realities.
within society and the
by the past weaknesses of civil society
state, the military saw its and the state. Such officers yearned for
Defence and security establishments
a return to their traditional and sacred
almost everywhere in the Americas
role grow well beyond
responsibility for the defence of the
could now have another reason for
nation against its external enemies.
suggesting that the recent reduction in
that of traditional
the priority of security concerns had
national defence.
It must be said, however, that these
been ill-placed and that this needed
highly favourable trends did not
now to be corrected. Police and armed
dominate for long. Instead, even the
forces, intelligence services of all kinds,
most democratic governments often
as well as the burgeoning and much
turned, in the turbulent years of the 1990s, to their
worrying private security services, are prepared to see
armed forces to undertake tasks that more properly
their budgets increased, and began quickly to make the
belonged to other elements of the state and society.
arguments publicly for why this should happen sooner
Throughout the Hemisphere, the armed forces frequently
rather than later.
were asked to take on roles of police reinforcement or
even training, penitentiary control, crop protection,
Civil–Military Relations
anti-kidnapping, counter-narcotics, anti-contraband and
The main concern is of course, democracy. Armed forces
customs, border patrol, ecology protection, and a host
in Latin America have not played the central role that
of other duties. In the absence of other agencies able to
they have in most of the countries of the region since
take on the job, and often fully cognisant of the risks to
Independence simply because they wanted that role.
democracy, Latin American presidents frequently felt they
Instead, in weak societies with weak states, the armed
had no choice but to bend before the inevitable, and
forces tended to be the only institution that could get
called the only possible force available into action in the
things done. This was especially true in the vital security
face of the urgency of the moment. Little wonder then
area. Thus, in the absence of other strong actors within
that military prestige gained ground and the actual
society and the state, the military saw its role grow well
functioning of democracy, as opposed to democracy as
beyond that of traditional national defence. It went
an ideal, came in for a hammering.
much further and reached out into areas normally seen
in a democracy as belonging to the police, civilian
Little wonder either that the process of democratization
intelligence services, border patrol agencies, counteror redemocratization became messier than had been
terrorist or counter-narcotics forces, forestry protection
hoped. In some countries one saw little of this problem.
and many other fields. The absence or weakness of what
Argentina shook off its military control with little
is usually seen as the ‘normal’ state or civil agencies
difficulty, thanks to the plummeting in military prestige
working in these fields left open spaces for the military
as a result of defeat in the Falklands and its actions, the
to move, able as they were to provide, even if not
‘dirty war’ of the 1970s. The Central American states,
perfectly, these services.
with the exception of Guatemala, made much more
rapid progress in bringing their forces under civilian
control than was thought likely. Colombia, despite all its
ills, remained a formal democracy with its military well
under civilian control. The Brazilian, Uruguayan, and
Bolivian transitions from military to civil rule were
deemed successful. Panama and Haiti actually joined
Costa Rica as countries without armies after U.S. forces
invaded each of those countries.
peace negotiations with the FARC and had hoped to
initiate a similar process with the ELN. Generally
speaking, at least the declaratory policy of the majority
of today’s governments is that they will not, for moral
reasons, negotiate with terrorists. This follows the last
forty years of the evolution of terrorism, especially
skyjacking in all its forms.
There are good reasons for this perspective on
negotiating with terrorists. However, if the label is then
applied to insurgents, it needless to say, also precludes
Guatemala, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru; however, gave
negotiating with them as well. Unfortunately, that is not
more pause, as to some extent, did Chile. But even in
a stance the Colombian government can take over the
those countries progress was evident if hardly a source
long term. If it hopes to bring peace to the country it
of delight. With time, the patchwork became even more
must achieve a negotiated settlement with the FARC and
confusing where constitutional use of the military was
to some extent with the ELN. It may
concerned. El Salvador, Honduras and
even, in time, be in a similar situation
Nicaragua used steadily and more
with the AUC. Its forty years and more
frequently their forces in police and
Thus in a number of
of attempts to defeat the insurgents
other non-military roles. Brazil was
Latin American
have not brought any decisive results.
forced to deploy its armed forces into
Thus peace negotiations have the
Rio de Janeiro in the fight against
countries, democratic
overwhelming backing of public
urban crime. Even Mexico, with its fine
stability, and especially
opinion in the country. There are
tradition of civilian control of the
serious repercussions when negotiating
military, was forced to broaden their
democratic civil-military with terrorists, and the United States,
influence and other law enforcement
Colombia’s biggest source of aid,
activities. Venezuela followed suit in a
relations, were already
has labelled the groups in question
number of ways by appointing retired
under pressure before
and active military officers into
influential positions in government.
the events of mid-
September 2001.
Thus in a number of Latin American
The Cuban context in the face of
countries, democratic stability, and
11th September is potentially even
especially democratic civil-military
more threatening. Fidel Castro believes
relations, were already under pressure
firmly that his country is a victim of terrorism, not an
before the events of mid-September 2001. In a number
agent of it. He points to the many attempts on his life
of countries the situation in this regard and others began
directed from outside, the sabotage of Cuban facilities
to be played out in not always favourable ways.
over the years with the intention of overthrowing his
government, and dramatic events such as the blowing up
of ships and aircraft carrying Cuban goods and people,
The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington forced
as proof of the island’s status as a victim.
Colombia, already the subject of high concern in U.S.
security circles, to look again at its own desperate
The United States considers the Cuban state as being in
internal security scene. Washington soon came out with
the business of harbouring or even supporting terrorists.
a list of organizations it considered ‘terrorist,’ never the
This stance by Washington is an old one and goes back
easiest term to nail down in specific cases or in theory.
to the rural and then urban insurgencies backed by
Bogotá discovered that for the United States all major
Castro in the 1960s and early 1970s throughout much
Colombian armed bodies outside the armed forces and
of Latin America. Domestic political pressures in the
the police fell under that term. Thus the two major
U.S. make it extremely difficult for a U.S. government to
insurgent groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
change this official position however positive Cuba’s role
Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army
in many elements of today’s security picture has been
(ELN), were now officially branded as terrorist and not
over the last ten to twenty years. Thus calls to take
as guerrillas or insurgents. Even the extreme right United
Cuba ‘off the list’ were rejected by the U.S. government.
Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), especially well
Washington insisted that Cuba was still a haven for
known for its use of terrorist methods but generally
terrorists, a ‘Club Med’ as it was referred to by the
pro-American, found itself so tagged.
U.S. spokesman, despite Cuba’s immediate denunciation
of the 11th September attacks, its offers of aid to the
There is a difficulty here that is worth considering with
U.S. in its search for the terrorists, and its continuing
care when using terms such as ‘terrorist.’ The Colombian
and highly useful assistance as a ‘friend’ of the
government was until February 2002 involved in major
Colombian peace process.
Castro has declared himself against terrorism, pointing
out at that opposition is against terrorism in all its forms
and sources. In addition, he says he will support the
international effort to defeat it. He has shown much less
keenness on the war in Afghanistan which he sees as
likely to stimulate in the long run the very terrorism one
is trying to stamp out.
Keeping Cuba on the list of terrorist supporting
countries serves to keep Fidel off balance and could
even provide a future justification for still harsher
action against the Cuban government. For the time being
it is too early to say where all this will lead. One can
say, however, that the terrorism issue has complicated
still further the numerous vexing issues of Cuban–
American relations.
North America
Mexico and Canada were, as one
might expect, among the countries
most closely touched by the impact of
the attacks. Both immediately did what
they could to bring succour to their
neighbours. The U.S. governmental
reaction has generally been positive in
this regard, feeling that both countries
have done a good job in supporting
Washington. But the mood changes
when the future is discussed.
The Mexicans have been less affected than the
Canadians by the events, but they too have felt the
growth of complications. The border with Mexico was
temporarily closed and is even now a much harder place
to pass through than in the past. U.S.–Mexican defence
and police cooperation, relatively flourishing in recent
years after decades of mutual distrust and suspicion
dating back to 1848 and before, has been reinforced.
Talks between the two countries on shared approaches
are now happening on a regular basis.
All of this is interesting. On the weekend before the
11th September, speaking in Washington, Mexico’s
President Vicente Fox called for a major revisiting of
the Rio Pact and a restructuring of
hemispheric security relations. This
caused a considerable commotion in
The United States
security sectors in the United States
(...) wants a major
and elsewhere in the hemisphere where
Mexican policy on this issue had for
improvement in
long been very much one of letting
cooperation with its
sleeping dogs lie.
neighbours on the issue
of the interception
of terrorism.
The United States is making no secret
of the fact that it wants a major
improvement in cooperation with its
neighbours on the issue of the interception of terrorism.
Long before September 2001, there were accusations on
the part of the U.S. that the Canadian border was ‘soft’
as a result of a lack of will on the part of Canadian
authorities to beef it up. Ottawa denied this, and
certainly nothing in what has come out so far would
suggest that Canadian immigration controls were slacker
than those of the United States itself where the
perpetrators of the recent attacks were concerned.
In any event, the U.S. insists on further and greater
cooperation. And Canada has wished to show itself as
bending over backwards on the matter. Despite grave
concerns, Ottawa has begun to talk about a number of
joint and common measures to deal with the threat of
terrorism to the U.S. Several Canadian vessels were
quickly dispatched to South Asian waters as preparations
for an attack on the Taliban-controlled regime in
Afghanistan gained steam. Canada has also contributed
Special Forces in the form of the ultra-Secretive Joint
Task Force 2, which was followed by the deployment of
a Battle Group (750 strong) under U.S. command rather
than under United Nations auspices. Since then, there
has been clear acceptance of the U.S. lead on matters
of the prisoners, where they would be interned and
decisions on their fate. Thus far, this has been taken by
the U.S. as no more than their due from Canada. It
remains to be seen to what extent the U.S. desire for a
North American ‘homeland defence’, in contrast to one
centred exclusively on the United States, emerges.
With the attacks, however, Mexico
quickly changed its tune. It backed the
calling into play of the Rio Pact in line
with the attack on the United States.
And since then it has made no further
calls for the abandonment of such
hemispheric security arrangements. Instead, it has
been more active than ever on hemispheric security
matters, even joining the long-avoided Conference
of Commanders of Armies of the Americas in
November 2001.
Elsewhere in Latin America
The repercussions are powerful in many places and
in line with matters discussed above. Even in solidly
democratic (if quickly thereafter unstable) Argentina,
there were calls to place national intelligence back in the
hands of the military. This attempt was defeated but the
scare it produced was real. In the light of end of year
events in that country, security issues are now once
again solidly to the fore.
In Guatemala and some other countries, anti-terrorism
‘czars’ have either been appointed or are being
considered. The fact that nominations tend to come
from the ranks of the military or retired officers
underscores the concerns of many that democratic
governments should be wary on these matters.
Throughout the region, there is a new if not necessarily
vibrant concern that the attacks bode ill for the region.
Despite apparent Hezbollah links with some persons in
area. Likewise, one can expect ad hoc accords and
Ciudad del Este in Paraguay and in the Tri-border region
discussions on how to best deal with the situation at
as a whole, and past attacks on synagogues in Argentina,
both bilateral and multilateral levels. Terrorism and the
it does not seem that Islamic terrorism worries many in
fight against terrorism are in the air, even in Latin
the region. This could of course change, but for the
America, if to a lesser extent than in the North. What
moment all seems calm. Concerns are
will come of all this is far from sure.
much more often voiced about how
The inter-American security system was
U.S. policy on the subject of terrorism,
not originally designed to deal with
Throughout the region,
perhaps in tandem with unpopular and
non-conventional problems. For
militarized reactions to the international
example, the system did not foresee:
there is a new if not
narcotics situation, may spark off
Communist inspired internal subversion;
necessarily vibrant
nationalist reactions or at least further
the illegal international drug trade; and,
damage relations between Washington
terrorist events such as last September.
concern that the attacks
and Latin American countries.
That having been said, the “system” has
bode ill for the region.
already been called formally into play
About the System as a Whole:
in order to address the issue. It will
Some Conclusions
have to do so. The impact of this may
It is much too early to say what the full impact of the
be greater than anyone imagines in terms of wider
events of 11th September will be on hemispheric
U.S.–Latin American relations, democracy, human rights
defence relations and the inter-American security system
and civil–military relations, and peace. Much must be
as a whole. The system is reacting to what happened.
done to deal with the problem of terrorism, but it will
But little concrete policy has as yet been proposed,
be essential that these elements not be forgotten in the
much less adopted, to answer the challenge.
rush to deal with the threat.
The Defence Ministerial, scheduled for 2002 in Chile,
will doubtless deal with some new initiatives in this
February 2002
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Dr. Hal Klepak is a Professor of Latin American History and War Studies at the Royal Military College of
Canada in Kingston, Ontario.
The Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) is an independent, non-governmental organization
that fosters informed and timely debate and dialogue on issues of importance to decision-makers and
opinion leaders in Canada and throughout the western hemisphere. Established in 1990, FOCAL’s mission
is to develop a greater understanding of important hemispheric issues and help to build a stronger community
of the Americas.
The preparation and printing of this paper has been made possible thanks to support from the Department
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Lectures obligatoires
CAMERON, Maxwell. “Strengthening Checks and Balances: Democracy
Defence and Promotion in the Americas” Canadian Foreign Policy, vol.
10(3), 2003 : pp.101-116.
MUNCK, Gerardo L. et Vicente PALERMO, « La démocratie en Amérique
latine : les acteurs sociaux, la représentation et l’État », Sociologie et
sociétés, vol. XXX, n° 1(printemps), 1998, pp. 159-172.
ROBERTS, Kenneth M., “Repoliticizing Latin America: The Revival of
Populist and Leftist Alternatives” Woodrow Wilson Center Update on
the Americas (novembre 2007), pp.1-11.
WEYLAND, Kurt, “Neoliberalism and Democracy in Latin America: A
Mixed Record” Latin America Politics and Society, 46, 1, 2004, pp.135157.
DABÈNE, Olivier (dir). (2007) « Amérique latine, les élections contre la
démocratie? ». Paris : Les presses de Sciences Po, 381 p. (chapitres :
6, 7 et 11).
Strengthening Checks and Balances:
Democracy Defence and Promotion in the Americas1
Maxwell Cameron, UBC
Latin America has made significant strides toward democracy in recent decades, and the
greatest challenge facing the newly emerging democracies is less to avoid a return to
authoritarianism than to restrain democratically elected leaders from acting
Although there is little tolerance for overt military rule in the
international community, and little appetite for it among domestic political forces, there
are few restraints on popularly elected leaders who chose to ignore their own
constitutions and ride roughshod over other deliberative institutions. The greatest threats
to democracy in Latin America stem from the deficit of what Guillermo O’Donnell
(1998) has called horizontal accountability (loosely speaking, the checks and balances in
a constitutional system of the separation of powers), and the Inter-American Democratic
Charter must address this or risk irrelevance.
Concern to strengthen horizontal accountability is implicit in the “democracy
clause” of the Declaration of Quebec City, the political statement issued by the 34
democratically elected leaders of the Western Hemisphere at the close of the 2001
Summit of the Americas (Summit of the Americas 2002). “Threats to democracy today
This paper was prepared for a conference on “The Inter-American Democratic Charter: Challenges and
Opportunities,” at the Liu Institute for the Study of Global Issues, University of British Columbia,
Vancouver, BC, Canada, 12-13 November 2002. An earlier version was presented at the Canadian
Association of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Université du Québec à Montreál, 24-26 October
2002. SSHRCC provided a research grant for work in Peru and Venezuela. Pablo Policzer and Tulia
Falleti and three anonymous reviewers offered helpful comments. The author is exclusively responsible for
the findings and interpretations offered in this analysis.
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Maxwell Cameron
take many forms,” said the leaders. In an implicit acknowledgment that regime changes
short of coups also represent a threat to democracy, the leaders adopted the nomenclature
“unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order” to describe the nature
of these threats. Identical phraseology was incorporated directly into Article 21 of the
Inter-American Democracy Charter, adopted by the Organization of American States
(OAS) five months later in a General Assembly held in Lima, Peru (Organization of
American States 2001).
The preoccupation with subtler threats to democracy arises from the fact that of
the five countries in which the OAS had most actively worked to preserve and strengthen
democratic systems since 1990—Haiti, Peru, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Venezuela—only
Haiti (in 1991) experienced a successful military coup. Venezuela’s unsuccessful coup
attempt in April 2002 resulted from efforts by the opposition to embroil reluctant military
officers, already deeply politicized by the government, in their conspiracies. In every
case—including recent events in Haiti—the OAS has been drawn into constitutional
crises caused by democratically elected leaders or challengers who violated or threatened
to violate the constitutional rules of the game.
This paper begins with a discussion of the horizontal accountability deficit in
Latin America. It outlines a definition for the phrase “unconstitutional alteration or
interruption of the democratic order.”
It then analyzes two cases to illustrate the
centrality of the problems identified.
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Theoretical Considerations: Constitutionalism, Horizontal Accountability and
Guillermo O’Donnell coined the term horizontal accountability to focus attention
on the network of “state agencies that are authorized and willing to oversee, control,
redress, and if need be sanction unlawful actions by other state agencies” (1998: 110).
The concept is closely linked to the separation of powers, an essential feature of the
constitutional state that underpins liberal democracy.
Whereas the doctrine of the
separation of powers, as articulated by Montesquieu and the Federalists, holds that the
branches of government should be divided into executive, legislative and judicial offices,
each with a corresponding function, separate and exclusive membership, and minimal
encroachment by one branch upon the other (Vile 1967: 13), horizontal accountability
encompasses a wider range of oversight agencies, including “ombudsmen, accounting
offices, fiscalias and the like” (O’Donnell 1998: 119).
O’Donnell (1998) attributes the precariousness of horizontal accountability in
contemporary Latin American to the weakness of liberal and republican traditions.
Others have focused on, inter alia: presidentialism (Linz 1994: 10-14); inchoate party
systems (Mainwaring and Scully 1995: 24-25); corrupt, ineffective or inaccessible
judicial systems (Diamond 1999: 111-112) and legislatures (Méndez 2000); and the
insufficiently participatory nature of formal political institutions (Avritzer 2002: 129134).
Civilian supremacy over the armed forces is also critical to horizontal
accountability. In Latin America, the armed forces have often defined their mission as
guardians of internal order, guarantors of the constitution, and protectors of the national
interest. This position has often brought them into conflict with civilian politicians they
regard as opportunistic and corruption (Loveman 1999: xxiii-xxiv).
By setting
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themselves above the constitution, as arbiters of legality (Schirmer 1998; Barros 2002),
military officers undermine the most basic principle of the rule of law: nobody is above
the law.
The deficit of horizontal accountability threatens democracy by opening the way
for one branch of government to encroach upon the jurisdiction and competence of
In presidential self-coups, or autogolpes, presidents may suspend the
constitution, fire the supreme court, close congress, and rule by decree until a plebiscite
or a new election is held to ratify a new regime with wider executive powers (Cameron
1998: 125). In less extreme cases, presidents may stack courts, abdicate their authority
over the military in cases of human rights violations, abuse executive decree authority,
refuse to accept legislative oversight, limit freedom of the press, or use public resources
to undermine the development of political parties and local governments.
violations have, from time to time, been applauded by domestic audiences and tacitly
condoned by the international community.
The challenge in many new democracies is to induce democratic governments to
govern democratically and democratic oppositions to oppose democratically. What does
it mean to govern or opposed democratically? Political scientists have been reticent to
specify what democracy means beyond free and fair elections. Although most recognize
that there is more to democracy than elections, considerable disagreement surrounds what
if anything else should be bundled into the definition (Diamond 2002, 1999; Przeworski
et al. 2000; Collier and Levitsky 1997; Schmitter and Karl 1991). Since elections in
Latin America are embraced enthusiastically, but the democracies of the region lack the
checks and balances inherent in the constitutional state based on the separation of powers,
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it may be useful to clarify the connection between democratic regimes and other
constitutional features of a democratic system, like the separation of powers.
By a constitution, I mean the arrangement or distribution of public roles and
offices, including executive, deliberative, and judicial branches of government.
Constitutions give rise to regimes, the system of government or rule involving the manner
of access to and the exercise of public roles and offices. Constitutions that separate the
branches of government provide the legal foundation for liberal democratic regimes. A
constitution in which all three branches of government are fused into a single agency is
inimical to self-government, as was repeatedly emphasized by Montesquieu and the
Federalists. In less draconian terms, the separation of powers means that elected officials
in one branch of government are not entitled to wholly encroach on the activities of
another.2 Equally importantly, elected officials cannot arbitrarily dismiss or ignore the
rulings of judicial bodies.
Less tolerable still is meddling by military officers in the
competence of civilian authorities.
Finally, the separation of powers provides the
organizational guarantees necessary to ensure that state power is not used to repress
regime opponents or steal elections.
In a democratic regime, legislative and executive offices are filled by means of
free and fair elections. Such regimes can be threatened or undermined, short of the
forceful overthrow of a democratically elected government, when its constitutional
underpinnings are eroded by repeated violations of the separation of powers. Yet the
international community is helpless to knowing how to respond to crises involving
In a parliamentary system, for example, the executive is chosen by a majority in the legislature but cannot
dismiss the legislature without also dissolving the government and calling new elections. Hence, while it is
true that there is greater fusion of two branches of government in a parliamentary system, it misleading to
conclude that there is no separation of legislature and executive, much less that there is no separation of
powers (Von Mettenheim 1997: 10-11).
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undemocratic behavior by elected leaders and oppositions unless attention is focused
systematically on the connection between democratic regimes and the constitutional
order. The essence of this connection is that democracy, in its many forms, embodies the
principle that those in power must provide reasons for their actions and defend them
against criticism. Elections are one mechanism to ensure that those in power are held
accountable, and they are absolutely necessary under the conditions of modern, largescale political communities; the separation of powers is equally necessary because it
provides the legal and constitutional conditions necessary for the practice of horizontal
Building on work by Brian Loveman (1993), Pablo Polizcer’s essay in this
collection makes a compelling that “Latin American constitutions are often ambiguous
and contradictory documents” that offer wide scope for authoritarian abuses by the
executive and the military. The task of democracy defence and promotion, therefore,
should not be to uphold dysfunctional or authoritarian constitutions in the face of
pressures for democratic change, but rather to defend those features of a constitutional
order that are essential to the preservation and deepening of democracy.
While it may be impossible to determine such features a priori, the recent
experience of constitutional crises in the region provides important lessons. In light of
this experience, and guided by theories of horizontal accountability, I argue that the
phrase “unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order” should be
understood to encompass the following situations: (1) arbitrary or illegal termination of
the tenure in office of any democratically elected official by any other elected or nonelected official; (2) arbitrary or illegal appointment, removal, or interference in the
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appointment or deliberations of members of the judiciary or electoral bodies; (3)
interference by non-elected officials, such as military officers, in the jurisdiction of
elected officials; (4) use of public office to silence, harass, or disrupt the normal and legal
activities of members of the political opposition, the press, or civil society; (5) failure to
hold elections that meet generally accepted international standards of freedom and
All but the final point concern the constitutional separation of powers. The first
point indicates that presidential self-coups count as unconstitutional interruptions of the
democratic order; the second point covers court stacking or meddling in the judiciary by
the executive; the third point affirms civilian supremacy over the military and challenges,
among other things, military courts with jurisdiction over civilians; the fourth point
protects regime opponents and civil society from the abuse of power by democratically
elected governments; and the fifth point addresses the need for integrity in the core
formal institution of modern democracy.
Peru and Venezuela illustrate the centrality of violations of the separation of
powers in the crises of democracy that have riveted the attention of the international
community. They are also important cases because the Democratic Charter was an
initiative from Peru that came out of the role of the OAS in the resolution of the Peruvian
crisis in 2000, while the crisis in Venezuela in 2002 was widely seen as the Charter’s first
major test. If, as seems likely, the Charter will contribute to a more activist strategy of
mission diplomacy within the OAS, the leadership of that organization will undoubtedly
encounter the problem of violations of the separation of powers with greater frequency.
Peru and Venezuela are also important to compare because they illustrate the range of
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problems to which the Charter may be applied. Whereas Fujimori repeatedly violated
Peru’s constitutional order, constitutionalism is more resilient in Venezuela. By pursuing
constitutional change by legal means, Chávez avoided crossing the threshold that would
trigger a collective response by the Inter-American community.
The Origins of the Charter: The Crisis in Peru and the OAS High Level Mission
A variety of factors conspired to undermine constitutional government in Peru throughout
the 20th Century: divisions between the Creole culture of the coast and the indigenous
culture of the highlands; administrative and political centralization in the capital city,
Lima; the persistence of the power of rural landlords, or gamonales, late into the 1950s
and 1960s; the exclusion of the majority of the indigenous population from the vote by
means of a literacy requirement prior to 1978; and a military veto against occupancy of
executive office by the largest political party in Peru, the American Popular
Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) until the late 1970s. The transition from authoritarian
rule that began with the constituent assembly elections in 1978 and presidential and
congressional elections in 1980 marked the first period of unrestricted electoral
democracy in the nation’s history, but the military remained a major political actor, the
judiciary an inaccessible, inefficient, and corrupt bureaucracy, and congress an elitist
redoubt for influence peddling and patronage politics.
The forces unleashed by the breakdown of oligarchic domination in the period
from the 1950s through the period of reformist military rule (1968-1980) could not be
contained by electoral democracy. Economic mismanagement and corruption contributed
to the worst economic crisis in Peru’s republican history, and the land reform
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implemented by the military government had the perverse effect of stimulating a major
revolutionary movement that came to be led by a splinter from the Peruvian Communist
Party called the Shining Path. When elections were held in 1990, Peruvian voters turned
against established parties and politicians and elected Alberto Fujimori, a virtually
unknown candidate who promised change through “honesty, technology and work.”
To understand the regime crisis in Peru and the international response it is
essential to appreciate the historic significance of president Fujimori’s two terms (19901995; 1995-2000).
More than any other leader in recent Latin American history,
Fujimori represented the qualities of leadership that Max Weber called Caesarist: the
plebiscitarian or providential style of the “hero” who bypasses parliamentary institutions
and appeals directly to the masses, who in turn deposit their trust and faith in the leader
(Weber 1978: 1451-1453).
The raw emotional connection between the masses and
Fujimori was forged on the success of the first Fujimori government (1990-1995) in
defeating the Shining Path by capturing its leader, Abimael Guzmán, and restoring price
stability and economic growth after a period of deep recession and hyperinflation
(Cameron 1997). Like most Caesarist leaders, Fujimori’s weakened democracy—or, to
be more exact, the constitutional separation of powers that underpins democracy.
Following his 1992 autogolpe, Fujimori built a political system designed to provide
impunity to the armed forces and shield the executive from criticism and accountability
while co-opting or corrupting the legislature, judiciary, public ministry, tax superintendancy, and, above all, the national election board.
From 1992 onward the Fujimori government was in permanent violation of one or
another of each of the conditions I have outlined as part of the definition of the
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“unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order.” Not only did the
government end the tenure of democratically elected politicians by closing congress in
1992, it repeatedly attempted to alter electoral outcomes post facto in Fujimori’s second
term by bribing, threatening, or cajoling opposition municipal leaders to join the party of
the government.
When Fujimori failed to win a majority in congress in 2000 the
government created a majority by bribing opposition leaders.
In 1997 the majority in congress arbitrarily removed the members of the
constitutional court who opposed an unconstitutional law that opened the way for a bid
by Fujimori for a third term in office. Remarkably, the measure did not receive so much
as a rebuke from the OAS. Under the cover of “judicial reform” the government gained
control over the key courts responsible for drug trafficking. The powers of the military
were expanded under Fujimori to the point that faceless judges in military courts that
lacked rudimentary elements of due process tried thousands of civilians. By the end of
Fujimori’s second term in office a sophisticated machinery of espionage, intimidation and
legal and paralegal harassment had been perfected against all regime opponents,
including opposition politicians, the independent mass media, and non-governmental
advocacy groups.
In spite of the ongoing abuses of power under Fujimori, the governments of the
Western Hemisphere repeatedly sought to “normalize” diplomatic relations with Peru. It
was not until the 2000 elections that the tide began to turn, in part because of the failure
of Peru to hold elections that could be certified as meeting internationally accepted
An OAS electoral observation mission headed by former Guatemalan
Chancellor Eduardo Stein clearly and unequivocally classified Peru’s general elections
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(of April 9, 2000, and the subsequent May 28 run-off) as neither free nor fair. The Stein
report built on similarly damning reports by the office of the Peruvian Human Rights
Ombudsman, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and a number of independent
election observers, both foreign and local.
Stein and the OAS electoral observation mission spent three months in Peru,
witnessed the entire campaign, worked doggedly to prevent fraudulent vote counting and,
in the end, gave up in disgust after the government and the opposition could not reach an
agreement to postpone elections until minimally acceptable conditions could be
guaranteed. The Stein mission was a watershed in international election monitoring;
rather than confining its efforts to election day scrutinizing, the mission observed the
unconstitutionality of Fujimori’s candidacy, documented the control of the executive over
the other branches of government, noted the lack of access to the media by opposition
leaders and the use of public resources in pro-government campaigning, and provided a
detailed picture of irregularities and sheer incompetence on the part of election officials
(Organization of American States 2000, May 31). The mission reinforced the credibility
of years of documentation of the non-democratic character of the Peruvian government
by numerous independent inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations and
denied the Peruvian government good standing in the community of democratic nations
as long as Fujimori remained in power.
In spite of the fact that the Stein report provided irrefutable evidence that the
elections in Peru were neither free nor fair, the OAS General Assembly, held in Windsor,
Ontario in early June, decided not to demand new elections. The OAS could have
invoked Resolution 1080, adopted in 1991, which empowered the OAS, “in the event of
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any occurrences giving rise to the sudden or irregular interruption of the democratic
political institutional process or of the legitimate exercise of power by the democratically
elected government” to “adopt any decisions appropriate, in accordance with the Charter
and international law,” including exclusion from the OAS until new elections.
Failure to use 1080 to force new elections was a mistake, but it reflected a prosovereignty sentiment among member states that is also supported in the OAS Charter.
Moreover, there was little appetite for a more interventionist position among Peru’s
neighbours, many of which (Venezuela, for instance) were facing similar internal
problems. Brazil was keen to distance itself from any form of intervention; Mexico
feared closer observation of its own impending elections; Ecuador had seen an elected
president deposed by a rebellion of junior military officers in league with indigenous
protesters. In the face of this resistance, the compromise that was hammered out in
arduous negotiations at Windsor was the creation of a High Level Mission, led by
Secretary General Cesar Gaviria and Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, who, because
Canada was host of the Windsor meeting, was Chair of the General Assembly (Cooper
and Legler 2001).
For reasons of political expediency the High Level Mission could neither call for
new elections nor accept the legitimacy of the elections that had been held, but instead
focused on promoting the underlying democratic reforms necessary to create the
conditions for free and fair elections in the future. As a result, its attention shifted to the
issue of reinforcing the constitutional separation of powers and to the elements I have
identified as part of an “unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic
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In their visit to Peru between June 27-29, 2000, Axworthy and Gaviria outlined
sweeping recommendations for democratic reform that amounted to a total overhaul of
the Peruvian political system (Organization of American States 2000, July 21). They
called for an independent judiciary, re-establishment of the Constitutional Tribunal, and a
better balance between human rights and security; they demanded freedom of the press,
including opposition access to the media, and for a restructured electoral system to
recover public confidence in electoral processes; finally, they recommended democratic
control over the executive, the armed forces and the intelligence service. Axworthy
bluntly requested Fujimori remove Montesinos. The OAS also proposed “mesas de
dialogo” (dialogue tables), an idea that, ironically, had its origin in Venezuela.3 When
Fujimori announced his resignation in September 2000, following the leak of a videotape
showing Montesinos bribing an opposition member of congress, the dialogue tables
provided the institutional framework for a successful transition to an interim government
and new elections.
The main thrust of the recommendations of the High Level Mission was to
restrain the executive from overreaching its authority and to commit to a set of rules that
would result in election outcomes that all parties could respect. In so doing, the mission
focused attention on the need for greater independence of the judiciary. The mission
went beyond the Stein report in calling for congressional control over the armed forces,
reform of the system of military justice, and a restriction in the activities of the
intelligence system to matters of national security.
This last point was especially
important because the intelligence system was the source of most of the harassment,
Hugo Chávez created dialogue tables with civil society in Venezuela following the failure of “megaelections” scheduled for May 2000. Canadian officials in preparation for the mission to Peru found the
irony of using an idea of Chávez’s (who supported Peru in Windsor) against Fujimori irresistible.
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intimidation, espionage, and co-optation through blackmail and bribery suffered by the
opposition and the media.
A key lesson from Peru is that persistent, systemic violations of the separation of
powers tend to erode the quality of electoral democracy. In the 2000 elections, “Peru
flunked the basic litmus test of democracy—that of holding clean elections” (Conaghan
2001: 2). Such an erosion of democracy was possible because Fujimori had exploited the
political conditions of the early 1990s to construct a centralized, authoritarian regime.
Free and fair elections cannot be separated from the issue of the independence of election
authorities, the judiciary, and the legislature, freedom of the press, and civil and political
rights. Only a system of effectively functioning checks and balances can guarantee the
conditions under which political parties can operate freely in genuinely fair and
competitive electoral processes.
The Democracy Charter’s First Test: Venezuela, April 2002
Constitutionalism has relatively deep roots in Venezuela, in part because the rural areas
are not inhabited by a large sedentary peasantry, and thus the cleavage between the
indigenous people and the Creole elite is less acute than in Peru, though by no means
absent. The federal wars of the 19th Century destroyed the rural oligarchy, leading to a
more egalitarian society and a less centralist public administration. Petroleum-based
expansion provided opportunities for education and social mobility over many decades,
and a rising per capita income that was the envy of Latin America. As a result, for 40
years, between 1958 and 1998, Venezuela enjoyed a remarkably stable, inclusive
electoral democracy within the framework of a more or less accepted constitutional order.
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The military remained under civilian control, and while other nations of the region
oscillated between democracy and authoritarianism, Venezuela seemed to have found a
democratic consensus that worked. The consensus was symbolized by the Punto Fijo
power-sharing pact signed in 1958 that had committed the nation’s main parties to
respect election outcomes, avoid factional violence, and share office and patronage
(Kornblith 1991: 70).
By the 1990s, however, the Pact of Punto Fijo had become an increasingly
dysfunctional arrangement. Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías became its fiercest critic. He
entered public awareness in an unsuccessful coup attempt against the government of
President Carlos Andrés Pérez (1989-1993) in February 1992. To the surprise of the
government, Chávez’s efforts won wide public approval4 and he became a visible leader
in the struggle against what was increasingly perceived as a corrupt political
For Chávez, the Pact of Punto Fijo symbolized the power of a corrupt oligarchy of
party leaders.
The system came to be known as a “partyarchy”—an ossified and
exclusionary system in which all the basic features of electoral democracy were distorted
by the control by party machines (Coppedge 1995). Chavez’s primary objective was to
destroy the reviled Pact of Punto Fijo. Once elected, Chávez delivered on his promise to
hold a referendum on constitutional reform followed by elections for a constituent
assembly to write a new constitution.
The referendum passed in April 1999, and
elections in July 1999, in which candidates were prohibited to run as members of parties,
As the coup fizzled, Chávez, who was in command of rebel troops in Caracas, asked for a few seconds on
national television to encourage his comrades-in-arms elsewhere in the country to surrender. During those
moments, Chávez assumed responsibility for the uprising and said the effort to overthrow the government
had failed “for now.” This contributed to his image as a responsible yet implacable regime opponent.
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gave Chávez a 120-seat majority in an assembly of 131 seats. The new constitution was
approved in a referendum in December 1999, and then new elections were held for every
single elected office in the country (including the presidency) in July 2000, enabling
Chávez to re-start his mandate with a longer term in office that would end in 2006. The
primary effect of this dizzying succession of elections was to significantly erode the
number of public offices controlled by the established political parties.
Unlike Fujimori, Chávez avoided a military-backed interruption of the
constitutional order.
Rather than use force to close congress, Chávez held a
referendum—a strategy consistent with the stronger spirit of constitutionalism in
Venezuela. However, the prohibition on parties violated their right to participate in the
political process. It unfairly denied opposition parties to use their labels while it was
obvious which candidates were running for Chávez. Moreover, Chávez encouraged the
established congress to become defunct by prohibiting its sitting members from being
part of the constituent assembly. The role of the constituent assembly was to re-write the
constitution, but it immediately began to operate as the nation’s congress. In effect,
therefore, Chávez had arbitrarily terminated the mandate in office of the elected members
of the congress. In that sense, the constituent assembly process can be considered an
“unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order.” It should be noted,
however, that the judiciary offered only feeble resistance to Chávez.
The centralization of power in the Chávez’s hands was dangerously destabilizing.
With establishment parties and elites in disarray, and riding high in the polls, there were
few external checks on Chávez’s power. Yet, hobbled by the lack of a strong party
organization, Chávez was forced to rely on the armed forces as a source of loyal cadres
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and to implement public works projects aimed at bolstering his support. He also began to
sponsor the creation of “Bolivarian circles,” grassroots organizations in support of the
The all consuming struggle to re-write the constitution had absorbed the energies
of both the executive and the assembly, so that by mid-2001 the government still had
little to show in terms of legislation or policy reform. This led to a cascade of executive
decrees introduced at the end of 2001 under the enabling law authority granted by the
national assembly. These decree laws, which were introduced without prior consultation
with affected interests, provoked the first major confrontation with Venezuelan business.
In December 2001 the nation’s peak business association (FEDECAMARAS), with the
support of the main trade union confederation (CTV) called a general strike. The strike
was followed in April, 2002, when FEDECAMARAS and the CTV again joined forces to
protest the efforts by the Chávez government to remove the directors of the nations
largest crown corporation, the oil company PDV, and replace them with Chávez loyalists.
On April 11 a massive anti-government demonstration threaded its way through
downtown Caracas. As it approached the presidential palace gunfire erupted, leaving 17
people dead and scores wounded. Later in the evening, senior military officers detained
Chávez and installed Pedro Carmona, the putative leader of the opposition, as the head of
a transitional government.
Support for Carmona crumbled when he decreed the
dissolution of the National Assembly and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, arrogating
dictatorial powers to himself in a bizarre swearing-in ceremony in which he proclaimed
himself president in the presence of his cronies.
With demonstrations spreading
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throughout the country, a wavering and dazed military high command restored Chávez to
The circumstances surrounding the events of April 11-14, 2002, remain unclear
(Rey 2002; Poleo 2002; Frances and Machado Allison 2002; Defensoria Del Pueblo
2002; República Bolivariana de Venezuela – Asamblea Nacional 2002). At what point
did an “unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order” occur? If we
assume, as the opposition claims, that Chávez created a “vacuum in power” by resigning,
there is still no justification for the violation of the constitutional separation of powers by
Carmona. The Carmona decrees amounted to: (1) an unconstitutional usurpation of the
power of the National Assembly; (2) an illegal intervention in the Supreme Tribunal of
Justice; (3) the establishment of a de facto military dictatorship; and (4) the creation of a
political order in which no fundamental guarantees of basic rights and freedoms could be
taken for granted. Indeed, in the few hours Carmona was in office his provisional
government did jail and harass leaders of the Chávez government.
Notwithstanding the invocation of the Democracy Charter in the very first
paragraph of the Carmona decrees, a clearer violation of the Charter would be hard to
find. As Gaviria put it, Carmona’s rule “was broadly and widely rejected not only
because of its origins, but also owing to its decisions, which resulted in the closing down
of institutions established by popular vote, the intervention of the Judiciary and the socalled ‘moral power’ organizations, and in practice the derogation of the Constitution”
(Organization of American States 2002, April 18).
Repudiation of the coup attempt was nearly universal among the nations of Latin
America and the Caribbean, with Colombia standing as a conspicuous exception.
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Meeting in Costa Rica under the auspices of the Group of Rio, most of the Latin nations
invoked the Inter-American Democracy Charter, as did the domestic opponents of the
coup in Venezuela (Organization of American States 2002, April 12). The United States,
however, pushed for the recognition of the Carmona government. The arguments made
by the US echoed the “power vacuum” thesis of the coup conspirators. Blaming the
crisis on Chávez, the US and argued that it was unclear whether there was a legally
constituted government because Chávez had resigned. Only after Chávez was restored to
power was the US reconciled to the Charter by a speech to the OAS by Secretary of State
Colin Powell (U.S. Department of State 2002).
The Charter appeared to have survived its first major test, but not for long. It had
served as a key point of reference in the debate about whether to recognize the Carmona
government, which points to the robustness of the principles its upholds. However, the
fact that all sides—Carmona, Chávez, the US, the Latin nations—used the Charter to
justify diametrically opposed actions, underscores the imprecision in those principles.
The fact that the Latin American and Caribbean nations strongly opposed the coup
suggests that the idea of the multilateral defense of democracy has become widely
accepted in the region.
Yet the pro-sovereignty sentiment that inhibited a stronger
response in the 2000 Peru crisis played no role in the Venezuela crisis where the Charter
was used to defend not challenge the leader of a sovereign state. Moreover, the crisis was
long in brewing, and continued after the April coup.
The situation in Venezuela continued to deteriorate after April 2002.
December 2002 a “civic strike” began that lasted well until February 2003. In an effort
mediate, Gaviria had traveled to Venezuela in early November. His solo performance
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had little success bringing the two sides together and the Secretary General became a
virtual hostage of the deteriorating crisis. Unlike the High Level Mission to Peru in
2000, Gaviria lacked a resolution from the floor of the OAS General Assembly
empowering him to make recommendations for reform with the implied sanction of the
application of Resolution 1080 in the event of persistent non-compliance.5 When the
Permanent Council of the OAS met in December to debate the situation in Venezuela the
assembled ambassadors failed to apply the Democratic Charter, handing a clear
diplomatic victory to the Chávez government, weakening the position of Gaviria, and
exhibiting once again the unwillingness of OAS member states to criticize one another
(Organization of American States 2002, December 16).
The feebleness of the OAS’s mediation efforts led to an initiative by a number of
countries—notably the US and Brazil—to create a “Friends of Venezuela” group to
support the Secretary General. The initiative promised to give Gaviria a bigger stick, but
it still fell short of the application of the Charter. Chávez, meanwhile, downplayed the
OAS’s role, at one point suggesting that the Secretary General was operating at his own
initiative, a view that was diplomatically rebuked by Gaviria (“Gaviria sí tiene mandato”
In February the strike collapsed when it became apparent that the regime would
not crumble under pressure and the economic cost of continuing disruption was
beginning to hurt Chávez’s adversaries more than the regime. With the end of the strike,
the government assumed the offensive, with arrest warrants issued for strike leaders.
Carlos Fernández was detained and placed under house arrest, while Carlos Ortega went
into exile in Costa Rica. Negotiations continued under the auspices of the Secretary
I am grateful to Lloyd Axworthy for this observation (personal communication, January 8, 2003).
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General. In May the government and opposition signed an accord in which they agreed
to seek a solution by constitutional means. The accord called for a mid-term recall
referendum, in compliance with Article 72 of the 1999 Constitution, and for the selection
of incumbents in the National Electoral Commission in whom both government and
opposition leaders could deposit their trust (“Acuerdo” 2003).
The Venezuelan and Peruvian cases differ in two significant respects. First,
Chávez was more careful to respect constitutional norms than Fujimori, with the result
that the international community could do less to challenge his authority. Whereas
Fujimori repeatedly violated first the 1979 and then his own 1993 constitution, Chávez
has been more careful to alter the constitutional order by more or less constitutional
means. Arguably, Chávez, like Fujimori, achieved an inordinate concentration of power
in the hands of the executive branch of government, to the detriment of judicial
independence and legislative autonomy and initiative.
Whereas Fujimori treated
constitutional norms as hindrances to achieving policy objectives, Chávez has made
constitutional change his central goal. The down side of this strategy for Chávez was that
he achieved fewer policy results, and had less sustained popular approval.
The other major difference between Peru and Venezuela lay in the behavior of the
opposition. Whereas much of the opposition in Peru found ways of accommodating with
the Fujimori regime, between 2001 and 2003 the Venezuelan opposition focused almost
exclusively on removing Chávez from power. The principal leaders of the Venezuelan
opposition would not commit themselves to operating within the Chávez’s Boliviarian
Constitution, as was illustrated by the abortive Carmona government. The events of
April 2002 did enormous damage to the credibility of the opposition to Chávez,
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especially outside Venezuela, and made it much harder to challenge strong-handed
measures by the Chávez government (as for example, in the case of the detention of the
opposition leaders after the failure of the December 2002-February 2003 general strike).
Conclusion: Making the Charter Work
Does the Charter “reinforce” (that is, strengthen or give greater force to) “OAS
instruments for the active defense of representative democracy,” as required by the
Declaration of Quebec City? Does it provide the tools necessary for responding to the
problem of democratically elected leaders who behave undemocratically? Can it be used
not merely in response to crises, but as part of a more proactive and flexible response that
builds on recent OAS experience in democracy defense and promotion?
The Democratic Charter did not arise de novo—it systematizes existing
instruments and commitments to the collective defense of democracy. As a synopsis of
the consensus on democracy in the Americas it is an incomplete document. There is what
might be called a deeper “jurisprudence” that underpins the Charter, which remains
unstated largely because it involves contested understandings of sovereignty, democracy,
and constitutionalism. Although the Charter is not a strong statement of formal legal
obligations, it can be a living document that accumulates experience to develop a
repertoire of tools and strategies for both managing and averting future crises. The
Charter makes no mention of “dialogue tables,” for example, even though they were used
successfully in Peru and may play a role in Venezuela in the future, yet this idea has
clearly become a part of the “toolkit” used by the OAS in crisis situations.
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The primary weakness of the Charter is that it fails to specify what counts as an
“unconstitutional alterations of the constitutional regime.” It is clear that an alteration to
the constitutional order has occurred when elections are held that do not meet minimal
international standards of the right to vote, access to the media, absence of physical
coercion or intimidation, a secret vote and honest count, and a independent appeals
process. I have argued that an unconstitutional alteration of a democratic regime should
be considered to have occurred whenever four additional conditions have been met: (1)
there has been an illegal termination of the tenure in office of a democratically elected
official by another elected or non-elected official; (2) there has been an arbitrary or illegal
appointment, removal, or interference in the appointment or deliberations of members of
the judiciary or electoral bodies occurs; (3) there has been interference by non-elected
officials, such as military officers, in the jurisdiction of elected officials; or (4) public
office has been used to silence, harass, or disrupt the normal and legal activities of
members of the political opposition, the press, or civil society.
By seeking to make the meaning of “unconstitutional alterations of the
constitutional regime” more explicit it is not my intention to suggest that the
determination of such an alteration are ever cut-and-dried, nor that such determinations
are a matter of technical or expert judgment. The Charter is careful to stipulate that it is
only concerned with alterations in the constitutional order that “seriously impairs the
democratic order.” The determination as to whether a violation impairs the democratic
order requires political judgment, and cannot be resolved a priori. However, political
judgments can be improved by access to the best available evidence. Whereas reliable
measures of economic performance are routinely gathered by international financial
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institutions and provide benchmarks for the assessment of performance on a range of
policy dimensions, nothing comparable is available to policymakers in the area of
political performance and democratic reform. Extensive research is necessary to provide
analytical and empirical foundations for assessing the impact of alterations in the
constitutional order on democratic regimes.
There are serious problems with the decision-making process outlined by the
Charter in its articles 17-22 concerning procedures for application. The Charter can only
be applied when the Secretary General or the Permanent Council of the OAS determines
that a situation has arisen in a country “that may affect the development of its democratic
political institutional process,” yet such a determination cannot be made unless, “with
prior consent of the government concerned,” the Secretary General can visit a country
and make a report. In other words, a government that does not want the Charter to be
applied can simply refuse to invite the Secretary General to make an assessment.
The OAS is a club of states loath to criticize one another. A more inclusive
process of civil society consultation could stimulate the OAS to address problems when
member states are reticent by monitoring events, reporting on them when their threaten to
impair democracy, and lobbying their respective governments to address the problem
through the OAS where appropriate. Although the Charter extols the importance of civil
society it could do more to provide mechanisms for consultation with non-governmental
organizations. There is nothing, of course, to prevent such mechanisms from being
developed parallel to the Charter and outside the OAS. The United Nations Commission
on Human Rights receives regular reports from human rights organizations.
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One way of enhancing the effectiveness of the Democratic Charter would be to
develop an institute to commission thematic or country reports on progress or backsliding
in the democracies of the Americas. Regular reports would serve as a way to bring the
spotlight of international publicity to bear on problems, to provide encouragement and
benchmarks for governments undertaking democratic reforms, and would also serve as an
early warning mechanism for the Inter-American system. Such a system could work in
partnership with the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy.
Finally, the Charter emerged from the Summits of the Americas, and will
ultimately have to be linked to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. If the Charter
is to have “teeth,” they will come from the threat of expulsion not only from the OAS but
also from commercial and investment arrangements with the rest of the region.
Moreover, economic integration should be pursued in a manner consistent with the
strengthening of democracy, and this may well require new rules to stabilizing global
financial markets. One of the greatest threats to democracy in the region today is
financial instability, as the bank crises in Argentina and Uruguay demonstrate, yet these
have been treated as the exclusive purview of the International Monetary Fund and not of
the Charter.
I began by suggesting that democracy is widely accepted as the most legitimate
way to organize political life in nearly all of the nations of the Western Hemisphere, but
political leaders and oppositions still routinely flout basic principles of the constitutional
separation of powers. All too often presidents see themselves as embodying the popular
will, and their opponents as unworthy of respectful treatment. In some cases, political
opponents see themselves as the embodiment of democracy and virtue, while excoriating
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government officials for their abuses of power. Deepening democracy will involve
establishing more inclusive conceptions of citizenship and participation.
international community can best help by consistently reinforcing the principle of the
separation of powers.
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Sociologie et sociétés, vol. XXX, n° 1, printemps 1998
La démocratie en Amérique latine :
les acteurs sociaux, la représentation
et l’État
(Traduction : Suzanne Mineau)
XXX1printemps 1998
Au cours des trente dernières années, les sociologues ont nettement modifié leurs travaux sur
l’Amérique latine. Dans les années 1960, ils consacraient leurs efforts à trouver un autre modèle que
le modèle de modernisation de l’école américaine. Leur principal apport, qui est bien connu, a été
l’étude des problèmes de la dépendance et du développement économique (Valenzuela et Valenzuela, 1978). On s’entend généralement pour dire que le livre Dependency and Developpment in
Latin America de Fernando H. Cardoso et Enzo Faletto (1979), paru pour la première fois en 1969,
est l’expression la plus fouillée et la plus représentative des recherches menées à cette époque. Dans
les années 1990, par contre, les études sociologiques ont pris un autre tournant. En réaction aux
critiques qui jugeaient que le déterminisme économique influençait théoriquement la littérature sur
la modernisation et aussi celle sur le développement, les travaux se sont axés davantage sur l’État,
les institutions politiques et les acteurs sociaux. De plus, devant l’évolution des événements dans la
région, les sociologues ont porté leur attention sur la question pressante de la démocratisation (Garretón, 1991). La sociologie latino-américaine a conservé une approche nettement macroscopique et
comparative, mais on peut dire que sa contribution la plus importante en ce moment se situe dans le
domaine de la sociologie politique.
Sans prétendre faire dans cet article un tour d’horizon exhaustif, nous voulons essayer de présenter l’état actuel de la recherche sur le problème de la démocratie en Amérique latine et résumer
ainsi certaines contributions importantes des Latino-Américains à la sociologie politique 1. Pour
commencer, nous exposerons un concept de démocratie en faisant ressortir les faiblesses dont souffrent aujourd’hui les démocraties de la région. Nous présenterons ensuite divers facteurs qui semblent à la base du problème. Tout d’abord, nous analyserons les racines historiques du problème,
soit des événements qui s’étendent du XIXe siècle jusqu’aux années 1960. Puis nous examinerons
des facteurs plus contemporains, soit les événements qui se sont déroulés en gros à partir des années
1. Cet article offre une perspective nécessairement limitée puisqu’il traite de questions qui font écho au propre
programme de recherches des deux auteurs. Pour d’autres données sur la sociologie latino-américaine, le lecteur pourra
consulter quelques ouvrages qui présentent un tour d’horizon utile : PORTES (1988) ; EVANS et STEPHANS (1988) et
LEHMANN (1990, chap. 1 et 2). De plus, cet article reflète le caractère multidisciplinaire d’une grande partie des études sur
l’Amérique latine et le fait que de nombreux chercheurs de la région ont étudié ou enseignent à la fois la sociologie et les
sciences politiques.
1960 et qui nous fournissent un cadre actuel pour étudier les démocraties d’aujourd’hui. Parmi ces
facteurs, nous porterons une attention toute spéciale aux répercussions qu’ont eues les réformes
axées sur l’économie de marché qu’adoptent de plus en plus les nouvelles démocraties ainsi qu’au
« pouvoir civilisateur » que peut avoir le marché. Dans la dernière partie, nous analyserons certaines
intitiatives ou propositions qui peuvent contribuer à renverser les tendances actuelles nuisibles à la
démocratie et renforcer la démocratie et le pouvoir public.
En deux mots, nous soutenons que la vague de transitions démocratiques qu’a connue l’Amérique latine à partir du début des années 1980 a marqué l’amorce d’une nouvelle ère dans la région,
mais que les démocraties latino-américaines se caractérisent par une absence du pouvoir public qui
les distingue de leurs homologues du monde industrialisé. En revanche, la raison pour laquelle ces
démocraties demeurent obstinément faibles, une quinzaine d’années après le début de cette vague
de démocratisation, tient à certaines caractéristiques anciennes de la vie politique latino-américaine
qui perdurent et continuent d’avoir un effet nuisible. Ce sont : un État qui n’est pas totalement en
mesure de relever les défis de la fonction gouvernementale et d’imposer efficacement à toute la
société l’autorité de la loi, une arène de représentation faible et souvent court-circuitée ainsi que des
acteurs sociaux fragiles2.
Même une observateur superficiel de la vie politique en Amérique latine n’ignore pas que
«l’époque des généraux » est révolue. En d’autres mots, il ne fait aucun doute que nous avons
assisté à une transition très importante et très significative depuis le règne de l’autoritarisme, si l’on
exclut les deux grandes exceptions que sont le Mexique et Cuba. Des dirigeants civils ont remplacé
les militaires qui ont dominé la scène politique pendant presque toutes les années 1960 et 1970, et
des gouvernements issus d’élections libres et honnêtes dans l’ensemble représentent le type de
régime prédominant dans toute la région. Cela dit, il n’en reste pas moins qu’il existe une grande
différence entre ces démocraties latino-américaines — et les exemples classiques de l’Europe de
l’Ouest et de l’Amérique du Nord. Ce qui différencie ces démocraties, soulignons-le, ce n’est pas le
fait qu’elles risquent à tout moment d’être renversées par un régime autoritaire 3. En fait, la longévité
sans précédent de la démocratie dans la région montre qu’une analyse de la vie politique actuelle
doit aller au-delà de la dichotomie autoritarisme-démocratie qui, jusqu’à tout récemment, était si
essentielle à sa compréhension. Il est indispensable d’effectuer plutôt cette analyse sous l’angle des
variations à l’intérieur de la vaste catégorie que constituent les démocraties.
Dans ce but, nous proposons un concept de démocratie qui met en lumière trois éléments
jugés essentiels à son fonctionnement : des acteurs sociaux, une arène de représentation et un État
efficace4. Le premier élément indispensable à une démocratie est la constitution d’acteurs sociaux,
c’est-à-dire d’acteurs qui ne soient pas contrôlés ou créés par l’État, mais qui se sont constitués
plutôt dans l’arène de la société civile, arène distincte de l’État et autonome. Cet élément représente
une caractéristique définitionnelle fondamentale, parce que la démocratie est intrinsèquement liée à
la notion de représentation et présuppose donc l’existence d’acteurs dont les intérêts peuvent être
représentés ou dont les intérêts sont au sens strict sociaux ou prépolitiques. Le second élément fondamental d’une démocratie est la présence d’une arène de représentation ou de ce qu’on a appelé
2. En guise d’avertissement, il convient de mentionner que cet article traite dans l’ensemble de tendances générales
qui s’appliquent plus ou moins uniformément à la région tout entière. Une telle approche présente évidemment des risques,
puisqu’il est certain que, dans de nombreux cas, il existe des divergences par rapport au schéma général que nous traçons.
Toutefois, faute d’espace, nous ne pouvons signaler qu’occasionnellement des faits propres à certains des pays les plus
importants de la région.
3. Entre autres exceptions par rapport à cette tendance, mentionnons la résurgence de l’autoritarisme au Pérou en
1992 ainsi que les menaces à la démocratie au Venezuela en 1992 et au Guatemala en 1993. Toutefois, comme le montre le
retour subséquent du Pérou à la démocratie, ces exemples ne semblent pas laisser présager une vague d’autoritarisme comme
celle des années 1960 et 1970.
4. Pour d’autres tentatives de conceptualisation et de différenciation des démocraties, voir Collier et Levitsky (1997).
également la sphère publique ou la société politique qui sert d’intermédiaire entre les acteurs
sociaux ou la société civile et l’État. Il s’agit d’un élément crucial, puisque cette arène commune
permet aux acteurs sociaux d’exercer leurs droits de citoyens en leur fournissant un espace commun
où ils peuvent s’assembler, faire valoir leurs intérêts conflictuels et discuter de politiques alternatives. Cette arène de représentation sert aussi à assurer une autre caractéristique essentielle à la
démocratie : elle est le théâtre de conflits de nature limitée plutôt qu’incontrôlable entre les acteurs
sociaux en faisant ressortir ce que ces acteurs ont en commun, soit leur égalité politique, et en leur
fournissant un lieu où ils assument leur statut de citoyens. Enfin, le troisième élément indispensable
à une démocratie est un État efficace et responsable. En effet, sans la mise en vigueur et l’imposition
des décisions arrêtées au sein de la sphère publique, l’expression du pouvoir public, que permettent
l’apparition d’acteurs sociaux et leurs actions dans la sphère publique, serait tout simplement
L’utilité de ce concept de démocratie pour caractériser les démocraties qui se développent
partout en Amérique latine depuis le début des années 1980 saute aux yeux. En fait, une telle conceptualisation permet de lier diverses avenues de recherche et de montrer qu’il existe un consensus
sur la situation de la démocratie en Amérique latine en indiquant de quelle façon les divers auteurs
ont analysé les trois éléments qu’elle met en lumière, soit des acteurs sociaux, une arène de représentation ainsi qu’un État efficace et responsable. Certains auteurs ont soutenu que l’un des handicaps les plus graves des démocraties latino-américaines est la fragmentation dramatique des
identités sociales et l’atomisation de la société, ou, en d’autres mots, la grande faiblesse des acteurs
sociaux6. D’autres ont centré davantage leur analyse sur l’arène de la représentation. Par exemple,
ils ont soutenu que l’une des caractéristiques propres à la réalité politique latino-américaine est la
tendance du pouvoir exécutif à parler au nom de toute la société plutôt qu’au nom d’une partie de
celle-ci ainsi qu’à court-circuiter et affaiblir les partis politiques et l’assemblée législative qui sont
les agents clés et les arènes de représentation des démocraties modernes. Il s’ensuit que les démocraties latino-américaines ont une arène de représentation faible et qui fonctionne parallèlement à
diverses relations de nature non universelle comme le clientélisme 7. Enfin, beaucoup d’auteurs ont
parlé d’une crise de l’État, en ce sens que celui-ci ne remplit pas adéquatement ses tâches gouvernementale et n’impose pas l’autorité de la loi, c’est-à-dire qu’il n’applique pas également la loi dans
tous les segments de la population 8. Quel que soit l’élément analysé, cependant, l’image globale qui
ressort de l’ensemble des observations des différents analystes est celle de démocraties faibles.
Cette caractéristique étant à peu près incontestée, il reste aux observateurs deux grands défis ;
d’une part, ils doivent expliquer pourquoi la démocratie est faible et, d’autre part, ils doivent avancer des stratégies ou des décisions qui pourraient amorcer son renforcement, c’est-à-dire proposer
des solutions au problème. Le reste de notre article est consacré à cette tâche.
Expliquer la faiblesse des démocraties latino-américaines est une tâche complexe qui exige
l’étude de l’interaction entre des processus relativement récents et un héritage de processus historiques fort anciens. Nous nous demanderons donc en premier lieu comment la réalité politique
actuelle est influencée par le processus de formation étatique que lui a légué l’histoire, par une
période de domination oligarchique, par la montée des classes moyennes et par le modèle nationalpopulaire adopté au lendemain de la Grande Crise. Comme un nombre important des études sur la
démocratie tendent à se centrer sur les événements récents, l’examen de certains éléments ayant une
continuité historique dans la vie politique peut sûrement servir à corriger ce point de vue. En second
5. TOURAINE (1989), pp. 419-434 (1995), pp. 325-351, (1994) ; LINZ et STEPAN (1996), pp. 7-15.
6. TOURAINE (1989), pp. 428-431 ; ZERMEÑO (1990) ; O’DONNELL (1993), pp. 1365-1366.
7. O’DONNELL (1994), pp. 59-62 (1996a), pp. 39-41 et 43-46 ; ALBERTI (1997).
8. O’DONNELL (1993, 1996a, pp. 45-46) ; MALLOY (1993) ; CONAGHAN et MALLOY (1994) ; ESCALANTE
lieu, nous verrons comment l’héritage des époques antérieures se mêle à divers processus interreliés
et relativement récents, soit les longues périodes d’autoritarisme des années 1960 et 1970, la crise
économique qui a éclaté dans les années 1980 et les réformes en faveur de l’économie de marché
qui ont été adoptées dans les années 1980 et 1990 en réaction à cette crise.
On peut retracer les racines du problème actuel de la démocratie dès le moment où l’ordre
colonial a été dissous dans les années 1810 et 1820 et que de nouvelles sociétés indépendantes ont
entrepris de former un État. Dans la plupart des cas, exception faite du Brésil et du Chili, l’indépendance a donné lieu à l’anarchie et à un long processus de luttes armées, si bien que le rétablissement
de l’ordre politique a fini par dépendre des caciques et des caudillos. La génération des chefs libéraux qui a émergé dans les années 1880 a donc fait face à une situation qui était loin d’être propice
à ses idées libérales.
Cette génération était quelque peu différente des premiers modernisateurs de l’Amérique
latine, des leaders libéraux comprenant des hommes politiques et des penseurs comme Rivadavia en
Argentine et Juárez au Mexique, qui considéraient que la loi écrite était dotée d’une capacité de
« régénération » presque magique et qui cherchaient à se servir de la loi pour transformer radicalement le monde social (Escalante Gonzalbo, 1994). De son côté, la nouvelle génération a commencé
à reconnaître le bien-fondé d’une approche à la Tocqueville. Toutefois, en l’absence de coutumes,
de moeurs et de préalables sociaux capables de soutenir le fonctionnement d’une sphère sociale
relativement autonome, ces leaders libéraux se fiaient à la capacité de l’État d’instaurer des mécanismes de marché, des drois civils et le statut de citoyen. En d’autres mots, ils cherchaient à ajouter
au pouvoir de la loi l’action modernisatrice efficace de l’État (Halperín Donghi, 1987). Comme le
montre clairement la conscience torturée de l’Argentin Alberdi et du Mexicain Justo Sierra, deux
penseurs de l’époque, il existait une douleureuse contradiction entre les principes libéraux et les
pratiques autoritaires utilisées pour promouvoir ces principes (Palermo, à paraître).
Essentiellement, les expériences libérales-progressives ont pris la forme d’une négociation
entre un programme de changement et les forces politiques traditionnelles qui conservaient beaucoup de pouvoir, comme les caudillos et les caciques dans l’Amérique hispanique et les coroneis au
Brésil. Le pacte a eu des résultats inattendus. Les accommodements entre civilisateurs et le
« barbarisme » a entraîné la formation d’un gouvernement central doté d’énormes pouvoirs décisionnels ainsi que la survivance de formes politiques archaïques qui se sont superposées aux institutions d’un régime représentatif libéral, lui enlevant ainsi beaucoup de sa portée. En effet, ces
accomodements ont entraîné l’émergence de ce qu’on pourrait appeler des « monarchies assumant
la forme d’une république ». La centralisation excessive du pouvoir entre les mains de l’exécutif et
la persistance, à côté d’institutions étatiques modernes, d’anciennes formes collectives de domination, comme le caudillismo, le clientélisme et les réseaux informels, ont directement entravé le
développement du statut de citoyen. Les libéraux désiraient créer les préalables sociaux à une économie de marché, mais leurs accommodements avec les forces traditionnelles ont miné leur capacité
d’instituer une société libérale et perpétué plutôt une notion essentiellement patrimoniale du pouvoir ainsi que l’incapacité de l’État d’imposer l’autorité de la loi à toute la société.
Il est certain qu’il y a eu quelques variantes dans la façon dont le processus s’est déroulé. Au
Brésil, par exemple, comme le pouvoir politique s’était constitué sur une base régionale après
l’indépendance acquise en 1822, la création d’un marché national et le remplacement d’une maind’œuvre d’esclaves se sont amorcés très lentement. En outre, après l’instauration de la Vieille République en 1889, l’incapacité de l’État de s’imposer efficacement dans la société a permis non seulement la restauration et la reproduction des relations sociales inacceptables de l’époque coloniale,
mais aussi leur expansion (Cardoso, 1962). En d’autres mots, l’abolition de l’esclavage ne s’est pas
faite « de façon à intégrer les noirs à titre de citoyens dans une société libre, mais plutôt de façon à
les lier à des formes anciennes et nouvelles d’infériorisation, d’assujettissement personnel et de
pauvreté » (Schwartz, 1995, p. 38).
En Argentine et en Uruguay, par contre, l’intervention plus efficace de l’État, surtout par
l’intermédiaire des écoles publiques, ainsi que le dynamisme supérieur du marché ont contribué à
briser les schémas de déférence traditionnels au sein de la population et à générer des conditions
favorables au statut de citoyen dans certains segments sociaux. Néanmoins, ces tendances n’ont pas
empêché la persistance de formes d’exclusion et de contrôle politique au moyen d’une série de pratiques et d’institutions informelles qui, coexistant avec les institutions officielles, pervertissaient le
sens de ces dernières. Bref, d’importants éléments de continuité ont marqué la période de domination des oligarchies ainsi que le modèle de croissance économique axé sur l’exportation ; à cette
époque, en effet, des États prédateurs, des liens de clientélisme et l’impuissance du marché à exercer une influence civilisatrice représentent les tendances politiques qui furent les plus importantes
et qui se renforçaient mutuellement.
Avec la fin de la domination des oligarchies ainsi que la montée des classes moyennes et des
mouvements ouvriers, il s’est produit d’importants changements politiques, notamment un élargissement de la participation. De plus, en réaction à la crise économique des années 1930, on a remplacé le modèle axé sur l’exportation par un modèle d’industrialisation et de substitution des
importations (modèle ISI). Toutefois, ces changements ne doivent pas nous masquer d’importants
éléments de continuité avec la période précédente. De même que les accommodements des modernisateurs libéraux avec les forces politiques traditionnelles avaient déjà entravé l’essor d’un régime
représentatif libéral, l’aptitude des anciennes forces politiques à freiner la montée de la classe
moyenne et du mouvement ouvrier a renforcé et même accentué les tendances de la période de
domination des oligarchies, tendances nettement hostiles à la démocratie9.
Par conséquent, malgré un élargissement de la participation politique, d’anciens mécanismes
politiques intermédiaires (comme les caciques du Mexique, les caudillos locaux d’Argentine et les
coroneis du Brésil) ont continué de remplir leurs fonctions traditionnelles, s’adaptant aux nouveaux
partis politiques et influençant leur formation. En effet, le rôle social et politique joué par les segments populaires n’a pas modifié en profondeur le système de représentation, puisque la participation de ces nouveaux segments, canalisée dans des structures étatiques corporatistes, a engendré un
modèle de citoyens régulés (dos Santos, 1979) tandis que les intérêts conservateurs traditionnels
continuaient d’être fortement représentés. De plus, à cause des politiques de substitution des importations, l’État a continué de jouer un rôle prédominant dans la vie politique, devenant le centre décisionnel dans un modèle étatique du capitalisme et exerçant une plus grande influence que celle que
pouvaient avoir les acteurs sociaux qui représentaient leurs intérêts et exerçaient leurs droits de
citoyens dans la sphère publique.
En somme, au lendemain de la crise des années 1930, on a vu apparaître partout en Amérique
latine non pas la démocratie, mais ce qu’on a appelé le modèle national-populaire10. Ce modèle était
certainement plus ouvert que l’ancien système oligarchique, mais il se caractérisait néanmoins par
la subordination des acteurs sociaux au pouvoir politique ainsi que par l’absence d’une nette différenciation entre la sphère publique ou la société politique et l’État11. Ce modèle n’a pas donné naissance à des acteurs sociaux qui représentaient leurs intérêts et réglaient leurs conflits au sein d’une
même arène politique. Même si on a pu l’associer à une vague forme de participation, il demeurait
toujours très hostile à la démocratie (Touraine, 1989, pp. 378, 200, 203-204, 310).
9. À l’instant COLLIER et COLLIER (1991), il importe néanmoins d’établir des différences entre les concessions
que les forces nouvelles ont dû faire aux forces anciennes.
10. On a utilisé diverses étiquettes pour qualifier ce modèle. Ainsi, CARDOSO et FALETTO (1979), p. 155, chap. 5)
parlent de « populisme nationaliste », CAVAROZZI (1994), d’une matrice « centrée sur l’État », GARRETÓN (1995, pp. 156,
181 et 200), de « matrice sociopolitique classique ». Dans l’ensemble, toutefois, les analystes s’entendent sur les principales
caractéristiques de ce modèle.
11. TOURAINE (1989), pp. 157-158, 165-170, 285-290, GARRETÓN (1995), pp. 181-182, 200-201.
Si l’héritage des événements du passé a influé sur l’instauration de la démocratie en Amérique latine, des événements plus récents ont également exercé leur influence. À ce propos, il importe
d’attirer particulièrement l’attention sur trois événements cruciaux : les longues périodes d’autoritarisme des années 1960 et 1970, la crise économique qui a éclaté dans les années 1980 ainsi que les
réformes en faveur de l’économie de marché adoptées dans les années 1980 et 1990 en réaction à
cette crise. Ces événements sont particulièrement importants parce qu’ils ont contribué à saper les
éléments à la base du modèle national-populaire et à ouvrir de nouveaux horizons. En fait, ce fut la
disgrâce du modèle national-populaire qui se révéla particulièrement importante parce qu’elle a permis la naissance d’un nouveau modèle plus favorable à la démocratie. Comme nous l’avons déjà
souligné, même si la démocratie est devenue le régime gouvernemental prédominant en Amérique
latine, le type de démocratie qui y est apparu était très faible, caractérisé par des acteurs sociaux
fragiles, par une arène de représentation faible et souvent court-circuitée ainsi que par un État peu
en mesure de relever les défis de la fonction gouvernementale et d’imposer l’autorité de la loi. Il
importe donc d’analyser de quelle façon les périodes d’autoritarisme, la crise économique et les
réformes en faveur de l’économie de marché ont sapé le modèle national-populaire tout en générant
des tendances qui ont accentué, du point de vue démocratique, certaines lacunes qui existaient déjà
dans l’ancien modèle.
Fragilité des acteurs sociaux
Si l’on considère le premier élément à la base d’une démocratie, soit la présence d’acteurs qui
se sont constitués indépendamment de l’État, c’est-à-dire d’acteurs sociaux, on peut décrire
l’impact des périodes d’autoritarisme, de la crise économique et des réformes en faveur de l’économie de marché de la façon suivante : tout d’abord et ironiquement, les régimes militaires autoritaires
des années 1960 et 1970 ont eu une certaine influence positive à cet égard, parce qu’ils ont entraîné
sans le vouloir l’affaiblissement des liens traditionnels entre, d’une part, les syndicats ouvriers et
agricoles et, d’autre part, les partis politiques et les États qui les avaient tellement dominés dans le
passé. En raison de l’exclusion qu’ils pratiquaient, ces régimes ont commencé à miner la principale
caractéristique qui rendait le populisme si hostile à la démocratie, soit l’absence d’autonomie entre
les acteurs, la société politique et l’État. Sans le vouloir aucunement, l’autoritarisme a fait naître des
conditions propices à la formation graduelle d’acteurs sociaux autonomes12.
Cet aspect positif, qui transparaît surtout dans des activités comme des mouvements sociaux
opposés au régime autoritaire, fut toutefois vite entravé, tout d’abord par la crise économique qui a
gagné toute la région au début des années 1980, puis par les réformes en faveur de l’économie de
marché qui ont été adoptées de plus en plus partout. La crise économique a provoqué une énorme
atomisation de la société, affaiblissant ainsi la capacité d’agir des acteurs sociaux et les rendant
encore plus dépendants de l’État et encore plus subordonnés (Touraine, 1989, pp. 428, 439 ; Garretón, 1995, pp. 205-206). Quant aux réformes économiques, elles ont eu certains aspects positifs.
Dans la mesure où il a réussi à établir une économie de marché, l’État a contribué à générer des
conditions propices à la formation de véritables acteurs sociaux qui se souciaient davantage de leurs
relations à l’intérieur de la société que de leur position face à lui (Drake, 1996, p. 41). À court
terme, toutefois, c’est-à-dire avant la création de marchés capables de fonctionner, le processus de
la réforme économique et les correctifs structurels ont eu un impact très négatif.
Tout d’abord, comme cela s’était produit à l’époque des modernisateurs libéraux, le processus même de la réforme économique dépendait d’une intervention massive de l’État, ce qui
recréait sous de nouvelles formes les tendances propres à l’ancien modèle national-populaire, soit
12. TOURAINE (1989), pp. 430-431, 438-439, TIRONI (1990), pp. 30, 153-155, 165-167, 259-260, GARRETÓN
(1995), pp. 204-209), DRAKE (19960, pp. 54-55, 191.
le façonnement de l’arène sociale par l’État et le ralentissement de l’émergence d’acteurs
sociaux. En deuxième lieu, les correctifs structurels ont eu pour effet économique immédiat
d’accroître le problème du dualisme, et cette tendance est venue renforcer les impacts négatifs
que la crise économique avait déjà sur les acteurs sociaux en réduisant leur degré d’intégration
sociale, intégration qui est un autre préalable à la formation d’acteurs sociaux13. En somme,
même si les régimes autoritaires, la crise économique et les réformes en faveur de l’économie de
marché ont désarticulé l’ancien modèle national-populaire et provoqué de nouvelles formes de
conflits, les acteurs ne sont pas encore devenus des acteurs sociaux véritables, c’est-à-dire autonomes face à l’État. Il y a donc eu affaiblissement de l’un des éléments les plus essentiels à une
démocratie : la représentation des intérêts sociaux dans l’arène politique.
Faiblesse de la sphère publique
En considérant le second élément nécessaire à une démocratie, soit une arène de représentation ou une sphère publique qui fournit un lieu commun où les acteurs sociaux ayant des intérêts conflictuels peuvent les défendre, exercer leurs droits de citoyens et décider d’une politique
publique, un certain nombre de tendances apparaissent. Les régimes autoritaires ont donné lieu,
toujours de façon involontaire, à quelques résultats positifs puisque des mouvements démocratiques opposés aux dirigeants ont institué ou réinstitué par leurs actions des arènes de représentation. C’est là l’élément clé qui explique la transition vers la démocratie des années 1980 et aussi
la principale raison pour laquelle l’Amérique latine vit aujourd’hui la période la plus démocratique de son histoire. Il importe néanmoins de souligner à quel point la sphère publique demeure
faible et d’expliquer les causes de cette lacune démocratique.
Une des causes de la faiblesse de la sphère publique est un héritage venu tout droit des
périodes d’autoritarisme ; il s’agit des restrictions ou des « enclaves d’autoritarisme » que les
dirigeants sortants ont été en mesure d’imposer aux nouvelles démocraties. En règle générale, ils
ont pu réduire directement le rôle de la sphère publique en soustrayant certaines questions à
l’autorité des nouvelles assemblées ou en accordant à des corps non élus, comme les militaires,
un pouvoir important sur les institutions démocratiques. Dans les pays où les anciens dirigeants
ont pu dicter les conditions de la transition, comme au Chili, ces contraintes ont eu pour effet de
fausser gravement le fonctionnement de la démocratie 14. Dans la plupart ces cas, cependant, la
faiblesse de la sphère publique est surtout liée à deux autres causes : les crises économiques et le
processus de réforme en faveur de l’économie de marché.
Ces deux causes ont eu ensemble un impact particulièrement important sur la sphère publique parce qu’elles sont intervenues conjointement avec d’autres forces, notamment celles qui
entravaient la formation d’acteurs sociaux, pour imposer une logique pernicieuse qui les renforçait. Les crises économiques tendaient en effet à susciter une insécurité généralisée au sein de la
société et amenaient une population de plus en plus atomisée à réclamer une intervention gouvernementale rapide. Étant donné la faiblesse des acteurs sociaux et, dans de nombreux cas,
l’urgence d’une solution à la crise, ce ne sont pas les assemblées qui ont assumé la tâche de procéder à une réforme économique, mais plutôt des leaders charismatiques dotés d’une forte personnalité. En faisant valoir avec succès aux populations qu’ils étaient les seuls à pouvoir apporter une
solution rapide et nécessaire qui sauverait le pays, ces leaders ont pu s’emparer de la présidence
et promouvoir des réformes en faveur de l’économie de marché en arrêtant des politiques de façon
quasi-autoritaire ou technocratique 15.
13. TIRONI (1990), pp. 13-47 et 247, O’DONNELL (1993), pp. 1365-1366, ZERMEÑO (1990).
14. VALENZUELA (1992), pp. 64-66, GARRETÓN (1995), pp. 34-42, HAGGARD et KAUFMAN (1995), chap. 4.
15. Pour les premières analyses de cette logique, voir TORRE (1993), BRESSER PEREIRA, MARAVALL et
PRZEWORSKI (1993), MALLOY (1993) O’DONNELL (1994, pp. 64-66 ; 1993, pp. 1365-1366) et PRZEWORSKI (1995,
chap. 5 et 6). Voir également PALERMO et NOVARO (1996, pp. 475-494).
Le processus même des réformes économiques a donc eu un impact très négatif sur la
démocratie. La conception unilatérale d’une politique économique par des élites technocratiques
liées au pouvoir exécutif a provoqué surtout le court-circuitage, et par conséquent la perte de
prestige et l’affaiblissement, d’institutions fondamentales de la démocratie comme l’assemblée et
les partis politiques, tout en permettant aux élites de plus en plus puissantes du monde des affaires
d’exercer une influence indue et souvent corruptrice sur des élites gouvernementales qui étaient
à l’abri des pressions et de la surveillance des assemblées16 . Par ailleurs, il fut interdit de discuter
d’autres programmes économiques, comme si de tels débats constituaient une remise en question
de la capacité du pouvoir exécutif de traverser les eaux turbulentes de la réforme économique. Les
leaders charismatiques ont soutenu en effet que la réalisation des réformes était incompatible
avec la représentation des intérêts sociaux ou avec des conflits entre ces intérêts (Diniz, 1995), et
des acteurs faibles et désespérés ont accepté ces déclarations, prêts à sacrifier le processus démocratique au profit de résultats économiques. Bref, l’adoption d’un modèle de développement
tourné vers l’exérieur et axé sur le marché plutôt que de l’ancien modèle ISI s’est faite grâce à
une nouvelle « révolution venue d’en haut », et ce processus a renforcé la faiblesse traditionnelle
de la sphère publique dans les pays d’Amérique latine.
Un État inefficace et discriminatoire
Considérons pour terminer le troisième élément nécessaire à une démocratie, soit un État
efficace qui applique et fait respecter uniformément sur tout le territoire les décisions arrêtées au
sein de la sphère publique. À quelques exceptions près comme le Chili, une des grandes tendances depuis une décennie et demie est l’affaiblissement évident de ce que Michael Mann (1986,
p. 113) appelle le pouvoir « infrastructurel » de l’État. Tout d’abord, la profonde crise économique était le reflet et une des causes de la crise fiscale qui réduisait gravement la capacité de l’État
de gouverner efficacement (Bresser Pereira, 1993). De plus, les réformes économiques adoptées
en réaction à la crise des années 1980 ont eu deux conséquences qui n’ont fait qu’intensifier le
problème. D’une part, en raison de la domination idéologique du néolibéralisme, ou de ce qu’on
a appelé le consensus de Washington (Williamson, 1990), le grand souci était de réduire le rôle
de l’État parce que l’on croyait que la solution à la crise économique de l’Amérique latine reposait exclusivement sur la confiance envers le marché plutôt que sur la réforme et le renforcement
de l’État. D’autre part, comme les réformes en faveur de l’économie de marché ne se sont pas
faites, comme nous l’avons noté précédemment, à la suite d’un débat ouvert dans la sphère publique, mais plutôt par des canaux qui favorisaient l’influence corruptrice des élites du monde des
affaires, le processus a créé dans les faits un modèle d’action étatique selon lequel l’enrichissement personnel et les privilèges primaient la défense du bien public.
À cause de la crise économique et des réformes adoptées pour la surmonter, le vie politique
actuelle en Amérique latine se caractérise donc par une crise de l’État. Cette crise a non seulement
diminué la capacité d’action globale de l’État, mais elle a aussi entraîné, de façon encore plus
pernicieuse, des modes d’action discriminatoires lorsque cet État affaibli est encore capable
d’agir. Outre le fait que les États latino-américains ne sont généralement pas en mesure de relever
les défis de la fonction gouvernementale, l’une des caractéristiques les plus significatives de la
réalité politique a été leur façon particularisée et sélective d’appliquer la loi (O’Donnell, 1993,
1996a ; Escalante Gonzalbo, 19940). Par conséquent, les élites privilégiées du secteur privé ont pu
tenir l’État en échec tandis que les masses pauvres ne pouvaient compter sur la protection que la
loi aurait dû leur accorder. En d’autres mots, il y a eu une absence grave de l’un des pivots essen16. Cette association étroite entre le pouvoir exécutif et les élites du monde des affaires qui bénéficiaient des
réformes économiques s’inspire en la renforçant d’une tendance amorcée dans bien des cas sous les régimes militaires. La
décision la plus notoire dont ces élites ont bénéficié grâce aux politiques des gouvernements totalitaires a été la
nationalisation de l’énorme dette étrangère, le secteur public assumant la responsabilité des prêts étrangers contractés par les
entreprises privées dans les années 1970.
tiels à une démocratie, soit un État capable d’imposer efficacement les choix arrêtés par les
acteurs sociaux dans la sphère publique 17.
Comme l’a montré notre bref survol des récentes tendances politiques en Amérique latine, de
grands changements se sont produits dans la région. Pourtant, il apparaît également, surtout en ce
qui concerne les importantes réformes économiques néolibérales, que ces changements ont été instaurés de façon à reproduire, quoique sous de nouvelles formes, bien des facteurs traditionnels qui
avaient freiné la démocratie en Amérique latine. En un mot, bien que la région soit entrée dans une
ère post-populiste, en ce sens que l’ancien modèle national-populaire a été définitivement sapé,
l’étiquette qui convient le mieux à cette nouvelle ère est sans doute celle de néo-populisme plutôt
que de démocratie représentative. Non pas, soulignons-le, qu’il n’existe pas de choix politiques ou
qu’il est impossible de concevoir une série de propositions ou de solutions politiquement viables
face au problème que connaît la démocratie. En fait, l’une des particularités des théoriciens sociaux
de cette région est leur penchant pour cette forme constructive de réflexion sociale.
L’amorce d’une telle réflexion passe par la reconnaissance des interrelations entre les trois
facteurs qui ont servi à analyser la faiblesse de la démocratie. Par exemple, si la faiblesse des
acteurs rend plus difficile l’existence d’une sphère publique vigoureuse et active, la faiblesse de
la sphère publique rend peu probable, en retour, la possibilité que l’État puisse poursuivre des
politiques assurant les conditions nécessaires à l’existence d’acteurs sociaux forts. À cause de
cette consolidation de la faiblesse de la démocratie, toute tentative de changement devient, de
toute évidence, une entreprise assez décourageante. Par contre, il est possible de faire une lecture
plus positive et optimiste de ce même point. Tout d’abord, en raison de la nature du problème, il
existe de multiples arènes où il est possible d’amorcer des initiatives de changement, donc de
nombreuses possibilités de changement. En second lieu, les interrelations au cœur du problème
de la démocratie font que des initiatives de changement amorcées dans une arène n’exigent pas
d’être amorcées simultanément dans une autre arène, ou même selon une séquence rigide. Même
si le dicton qui veut qu’« on ne peut rien changer si on ne change pas tout » comporte une part de
vérité, il est également vrai que l’impact positif de petits changements aura probablement un effet
multiplicateur ou un effet de renforcement venant valider une réforme à la pièce, ce qui est une
stratégie plus facile à gérer 18.
En ce qui concerne les propositions spécifiques qui pourraient renforcer la démocratie, il
importe de souligner les lacunes de l’argument selon lequel seuls les marchés assurent une assise
solide à la démocratie. Il est vrai que les marchés représentent une caractéristique essentielle des
démocraties, en ce sens qu’ils constituent une assise pour restreindre le pouvoir de l’État et pour
établir une distinction entre la société civile et l’État. Il est néanmoins indispensable d’aller audelà de la pensée néolibérale et d’insister sur deux points essentiels. Premièrement, il est nécessaire de comprendre que les marchés seuls n’assurent pas une assise solide aux démocraties, en
ce sens que l’économie de marché n’a pas créé des conditions favorisant la naissance d’acteurs
sociaux forts. Le néolibéralisme a favorisé plutôt une tendance croissante à l’exclusion, à la marginalisation et au dualisme économique ; cela place des segments de plus en plus vastes de la
population dans une situation si désespérée qu’ils deviennent totalement dépendants de l’action
de l’État, et s’ils se constituent en acteurs, c’est moins à cause du dynamisme autonome de la
société civile qu’à cause de l’action de l’État (Touraine, 1995, pp. 333-336, 178-185). Deuxièmement, il est nécessaire de reconnaître que, dans le cadre du même processus, le morcellement des
acteurs empêche la formation et le renforcement d’une arène publique parce qu’il devient plus
17. Cependant, pour quelques indices d’un renversement de la crise de l’État, voir PALERMO et NOVARO (1996),
pp. 505-508.
18. Au sujet de l’importance d’une réforme à la pièce par rapport à un changement global, voir HIRSCHMAN (1963)
à propos du « marchandage des réformes » et UNGER (1996) à propos d’un « bricolage expérimental ».
difficile de développer un sentiment profond d’égalité politique et, par conséquent, de réaliser
l’intégration au cœur du principe de la citoyenneté (Weffort, 1992, pp. 97-104), et aussi parce que
les segments exclus et marginalisés de la population deviennent particulièrement sensibles au discours populiste, ce qui amène au pouvoir des leaders politiques se présentant comme les sauveurs
des masses et ouvre la porte à des politiques qui court-circuitent des éléments clés de l’arène
publique comme les partis politiques et l’arène législative (O’Donnell, 1994).
En allant au-delà du néolibéralisme, on peut trouver un certain nombre de changements qui
pourraient inverser les tendances actuelles et renforcer la démocratie. L’un d’eux est la façon de
définir les politiques entraînant des décisions aussi cruciales que les réformes économiques. À ce
propos, il importe de rejeter une opinion adoptée implicitement par les institutions financières
internationales et que propagent certains travaux universitaires. Cette opinion repose sur deux
principes : d’une part, les réformes économiques dépendent nécessairement de la capacité de
l’exécutif d’ignorer les pressions exercées par les assemblées en faveur d’une politique
distributive ; d’autre part, l’affaiblissement de la sphère publique que les décisions technocratiques entraînent ne minera probablement pas à long terme la force de la démocratie 19. Tout en ne
niant pas la nécessité de réformes économiques, il importe de souligner tout d’abord qu’il existe
pas qu’une seule façon de faire face au coût qu’entraîne la transition d’un modèle économique à
un autre. Plus précisément, il faut songer à la possibilité de promouvoir des réformes au moyen
d’un autre mode décisionnel qui ne court-circuitera pas la sphère publique et qui cherchera à
modifier la perception que les acteurs ont de leurs intérêts au moyen du processus politique luimême, au lieu d’ignorer ou de réprimer les protestations de ces acteurs.
En deuxième lieu, il faut admettre que le refus de reconnaître le rôle des assemblées dans
la conception et la mise en vigueur des réformes affaiblit actuellement la démocratie et n’apporte
pas de correctif à cet effet négatif. L’argument voulant que les prises de décision technocratiques
n’aient pas d’effets négatifs à long terme sur la démocratie n’est qu’une nouvelle version d’une
théorie populaire dans les années 1960 ; soit que, l’autoritarisme était bon pour la démocratie
puisque des leaders autoritaires étaient mieux en mesure d’assurer les conditions économiques
qui se révéleraient à long terme propices à la démocratie. Des recherches ont permis de discréditer cette théorie en démontrant un point tout à fait logique : l’exercice de la démocratie vaut
mieux pour la démocratie que l’exercice de l’autoritarisme et une dévalorisation de la démocratie
aujourd’hui rendra sans doute difficile l’exercice de la démocratie demain (Przeworski, Alvarez,
Cheibub et Limongi, 1996, pp. 40-49). Un changement positif consisterait donc à favoriser un
processus décisionnel plus consensuel que celui qui existe actuellement grâce à des réformes institutionnelles qui redonneraient le pouvoir décisionnel aux assemblées (Garretón, 1995, pp. 219221 ; O’Donnell, 1993, p. 1367). Une telle façon d’arrêter les politiques renforcerait directement
la sphère publique, au lieu de l’affaiblir, en donnant aux acteurs de l’arène publique le droit et la
responsabilité de décider d’enjeux aussi fondamentaux que les réformes économiques.
Un second changement a trait aux politiques qui introduisent les réformes économiques et
au modèle spécifique qui les inspire. À ce propos, il importe de s’interroger sur la confiance des
néolibéraux envers le marché et d’observer comment le nouveau modèle économique a toujours
bénéficié avant tout aux élites économiques qui ont un accès privilégié et direct à l’État. Il serait
bon de réaffirmer une idée simple mais aux conséquences extrêmement importantes : toutes les
démocraties fortes ont une économie mixte (Linz et Stepan, 1996, pp. 12-13). En fait, il y a de
bonnes raisons économiques et politiques de repenser le rôle de l’État et de concevoir des politiques qui cherchent à accroître le développement économique en misant sur des investissements
19. Cet argument se fonde sur la différence entre les deux étapes du processus de réforme économique : l’étape de
conception et de mise en œuvre et l’étape de consolidation. Il se fonde aussi sur une opinion sans aucun fondement selon
laquelle le lancement des réformes dépend nécessairement de la concentration du pouvoir entre les mains de l’exécutif ;
puis, lorsque le besoin de consolider ces réformes se fait sentir, l’exécutif se sent incité à tempérer son pouvoir
discrétionnaire et devient réceptif aux institutions représentatives (HAGGARD et KAUFMAN, 1995, pp. 10, 16, 165 et
publics dans la recherche de nouvelles techologies et dans l’éducation, tout en aidant les perdants
à faire face au coût de l’adaptation au lieu de les abandonner à la merci du marché20.
Il est intéressant de noter qu’un processus décisionnel plus consensuel pour les réformes
économiques et une nouvelle vision du rôle de l’État dans l’économie viennent se renforcer
mutuellement. D’une part, les réformes ont plus de chances d’être réalisées lorsque les décisions
sont prises par consensus. En fait, si l’État se montrait réceptif à la sphère publique, au lieu de
l’être surtout aux intérêts étroits des élites du monde des affaires qui mettent leur programmede
l’avant sans avoir à le soumettre à un débat dans une arène publique et ouverte, non seulement
serait-il plus facile de trouver, grâce à une politique fiscale dynamique, les fonds publics dont
l’État a besoin pour remplir son nouveau rôle, mais on n’oublierait pas aussi commodément la
nécessité d’une telle politique fiscale pour assurer le bien-être de l’ensemble de la population. En
outre, cette politique aurait pour conséquence de renforcer à la fois les acteurs sociaux et la
sphère publique en renversant la tendance générale actuelle au dualisme économique et en facilitant le processus d’intégration politique. Si un changement peut être amorcé à partir d’une seule
intitiative politique, grâce à une action à la pièce en quelque sorte, une fois que des changements
mineurs commenceront à se produire, d’autres changements deviendront plus faciles à réaliser. La
tâche apparemment décourageante d’abolir certaines caractéristiques politiques persistantes en
Amérique latine et d’adopter des mesures qui renforcent la démocratie devient une éventualité
bien réelle.
En cette fin du XXe siècle, une analyse de la réalité politique latino-américaine doit faire
ressortir les lacunes de la démocratie dans la région. En dépit des nombreux problèmes qui ont
assailli récemment les démocraties de l’Atlantique Nord, il est tout à fait normal de comparer
l’état de la démocratie en Amérique latine avec celui qui existe en Europe de l’Ouest et en Amérique du Nord. Néanmoins, il importe de dénoncer une ligne de pensée assez généralisée qui était
inhérente aux théories de la modernisation des années 1960 et qui est réapparue subrepticement
dans les sciences sociales à la suite de la chute du communisme. Selon cette ligne de pensée, les
démocraties de régions comme l’Amérique latine et l’Europe de l’Est doivent suivre et même
illustrer une tendance politique que l’on retrouve dans le monde entier et converger vers un seul
et même modèle institutionnel censé être incarné par les démocraties hautement industrialisées.
Le côté téléologique de cette ligne de pensée est pourtant loin d’être justifié (O’Donnell, 1996a,
pp. 37-39 ; Unger, 1996, pp. 6-10).
Le grand problème est le suivant : même si les démocraties d’Amérique latine peuvent être
comparées à leurs homologues de l’Atlantique Nord, rien ne justifie la croyance qu’elles ont une
tendance inhérente à devenir de plus en plus similaires aux démocraties des sociétés riches ou
qu’elles sont en train ou sur le point de subir une nécessaire transformation qui les rendra assez
similaires aux démocraties européennes. Comme cet article a cherché à le démontrer, bien des
particularités de la réalité politique actuelle en Amérique latine résultent de longs processus historiques qui la distinguent depuis longtemps des pays de l’Atlantique Nord. Retenons surtout que
des solutions au problème de la démocratie en Amérique latine ne pourront venir de l’acceptation
de certains présupposés de type universel. En fait, il est probable que des solutions surgiront lorsque les analystes cesseront de croire qu’elles se trouvent dans l’importation d’un modèle étranger
et lorsqu’ils commenceront à concevoir des solutions latino-américaines pour des problèmes politiques latino-américains. Même si nous sommes à l’ère de la mondialisation et même si tous invoquent de plus en plus le principe de la démocratie, en raison de la diversité des réalités politiques
UNGER (1990, pp. 42-53), CASTAÑEDA (1993, chap. 13 et 14), GARRETÓN (1995, pp. 221-227), O’DONNELL (1996b).
dans le monde, il est toujours pertinent d’analyser les différences façonnées par l’histoire et de
rechercher des solutions à partir de ces différences.
Gerardo L. MUNCK et Vicente PALERMO
Department of Political Science
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
36l Lincoln Hall, 702 South Wright Street
Urbana IL 61801-3696, U.S.A.
La sociologie latino-américaine a attiré l’attention sur l’enjeu pressant de la démocratisation. Dans un effort pour éclairer l’état
actuel des recherches sur ce sujet, les auteurs font ressortir les faiblesses dont souffrent aujourd’hui les démocraties d’Amérique latine : un État qui n’est pas totalement en mesure de relever les défis de la fonction gouvernementale et d’imposer efficacement à toute la société l’autorité de la loi, une arène de représentation faible et souvent court-circuitée ainsi que des
acteurs sociaux fragiles. Pour tenter d’expliquer ces traits problématiques, les auteurs considèrent d’abord les racines historiques du problème, c’est-à-dire les événements qui s’étendent du XIXe siècle jusqu’aux années 1960. Ils se tournent ensuite vers
des facteurs plus contemporains et montrent que même si des expériences récentes, telles que l’autoritarisme, les crises économiques et les réformes en faveur de l’économie de marché, ont donné naissance, directement ou indirectement, à des conditions favorisant la période la plus démocratique de l’histoire de l’Amérique latine, ces changements n’ont pourtant pas eu un
effet d’entraînement suffisant pour abolir dans cette région les obstacles historiques à la démocratie.
Latin American sociology has focused attention on the urgent issue of democratization. Attempting to provide a sense of the
current state of this research, this article stresses the weaknesses that afflict current democracies in Latin America: a state that
is not quite capable of meeting the challenges of governance and enforce the rule of law effectively throughout society, a weak
and regularly circumvented arena of representation, and fragile social actors. Seeking to explain these problematic features,
we first consider the historical roots of the problem, that is, developments that stretch from the nineteenth century to the 1960s.
Then, we turn to more contemporary factors, and show that even though the recent experiences of authoritarianism, economic
crisis and free-market reforms have generated, directly or indirectly, the conditions for the most democratic period in Latin
American history, these changes have still not been sweeping enough to redress the historical obstacles to democracy in the
La sociología latinoamericana atrajo la atención sobre el desafío imperioso que plantea la democratización. En un esfuerzo por
aclarar el estado actual de las investigaciones sobre ese tema, los autores ponen en relieve las debilidades que hoy afectan a
las democracias de América Latina : un Estado que no está totalmente en condiciones de afrontar los desafíos de la función de
gobierno e imponer eficazmente a toda la sociedad la autoridad de la ley, una arena de representación débil y con frecuencia
cortocircuitada, así como actores sociales frágiles. En vista de explicar estos rasgos problemáticos, los autores consideran en
primer lugar las raíces históricas del problema, es decir los sucesos que se extienden desde el siglo XIX hasta los años 1960.
Seguidamente, ellos analizan factores más contemporáneos y muestran que mismo si experiencias recientes, tales como el
autoritarismo, las crisis económicas y las reformas a favor de la economía de mercado, dieron nacimiento, directamente ou
indirectamente, a condiciones que favorecen el período más democrático de la historia de América Latina, esos cambios no
tuvieron sin embargo un efecto de arrastre suficiente para abolir en esa región los obstáculos históricos a la democracia.
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en América Latina », Desarrollo Económico vol. 133, n 34 (avril-juin), pp. 31-52.
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Twentieth Century Fund.
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Period, Philadelphie, Temple University Press.
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Democratic Governance and the ‘New Left’
NO. 28
Repoliticizing Latin America: The
Revival of Populist and Leftist
By Kenneth M. Roberts
ver the past decade, popular social
and political movements have been
revived in much of Latin America
following an extended period of fragmentation and demobilization. Popular movements had been placed on the defensive for
most of the 1980s and 1990s by political and
economic events largely beyond their control—in particular, the region-wide debt
crisis, market-oriented economic reforms,
and restrictive democratic transitions. In
recent years, however, indigenous groups,
workers, and the urban and rural poor have
demonstrated a renewed capacity to engage
in collective action and political mobilization. Grass-roots protest movements have
driven presidents from office in Argentina,
Bolivia, and Ecuador, and they have eclipsed
or realigned traditional party systems in a
number of countries. Meanwhile, a diverse
set of populist and/or leftist leaders have
been elected president in Venezuela (1998),
Chile (2000 and 2006), Brazil (2002 and
2006), Argentina (2003), Uruguay (2004),
Bolivia (2005), Peru (2006), Ecuador
(2006), and Nicaragua (2006)—countries
which comprise nearly two-thirds of the
regional population.
This revival of popular and leftist movements has shaken up Latin America’s postCold War political landscape, and it has startled scholars and policymakers alike. After
the fall of the Berlin Wall and the diffusion
of the so-called “Washington Consensus”1
for free market or neoliberal reform,2 many
came to believe in the definitive triumph of
political and economic liberalism—or
democracy and capitalism—in the region.
Colburn,3 for example, claimed that the left
had “all but vanished” by the 1990’s, placing
Latin America at “the end of politics,” if not
Fukuyama’s “end of history.” 4 With labor
unions in decline, populist and leftist parties
in disarray, and neoliberal technocrats in
control of policymaking arenas, Latin
America appeared to be locking in a new
model of development based on market
individualism and global economic integration. This model of development was
strongly supported by the United States and
international financial institutions, and it
seemingly confirmed the uncontested character of U.S. hegemony in the region following the demise of the Soviet bloc.
Today, however, the “end of politics”
appears to have been little more than a
Kenneth M. Roberts is professor of government at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. He is the
author of Deepening Democracy:The Modern Left and Social Movements in Chile and Peru (Stanford
University Press 1998), along with a forthcoming book from Cambridge University Press on
party system change in Latin America’s neoliberal era. His research is focused on inequality and
political representation in Latin America.
respite—or, more accurately, a critical juncture
that realigned states, markets, and societal actors
in ways that laid a foundation for new patterns of
political contestation. Latin America, in short, has
been “repoliticized” since the late 1990s: popular
mobilization has been revived, ideological and
programmatic competition has returned to party
systems, and policymaking arenas have been
opened to the input of new actors and ideas. This
repoliticization cannot be equated with the end
of the neoliberal era, given the uncertain political
and economic viability of the alternatives in gestation. Nevertheless, repoliticization signifies that
the Washington Consensus has been punctured,
and that neither U.S. hegemony nor neoliberal
policies will reign uncontested—surely, a significant shift in the region’s political landscape.
But what explains this shift, and what are its
implications for Latin American societies and
hemispheric relations? And how are we to make
sense of the bewildering variety of political forms
encountered within this revival of popular and
leftist movements? Indeed, is it even possible to
consider such disparate leaders as Venezuela’s
Hugo Chávez and Chile’s Ricardo Lagos as representatives of same general political phenomenon?
To address these questions, this essay begins by
exploring the dual “fault lines”5 in Latin
American democracy that have contributed to
the rise of new popular and leftist movements—
namely, the tensions between democratic citizenship and social inequality or exclusion, on the one
hand, and the contradictions between democratic
governance and the erosion of national sovereignty, on the other. It then proceeds to examine the
diversity of political expressions found within the
revival of popular and leftist movements, moving
beyond the dichotomous categorization of “radical populist” and “social democratic” subtypes
that structures much of the debate on the topic.6
Latin America’s dual political and economic
transitions in the 1980’s combined with the collapse of the Soviet bloc to create a post-Cold
War regional order with three primary cornerstones: electoral democracy, free markets, and
U.S. hegemony. In Washington, this alignment
of political and economic liberalism was presumed to be a natural expression of their intrinsic complementarity—a presumption that was
powerfully reinforced by the parallel dual transitions in post-Communist Eurasia. Latin
America’s historical record, however, suggests
that such an alignment of political and econom-
The Latin American Program serves as a bridge between the United States and Latin America, encouraging a free
flow of information and dialogue between the two regions. The Program also provides a nonpartisan forum for discussing Latin American and Caribbean issues in Washington, D.C., and for bringing these issues to the attention of
opinion leaders and policy makers throughout the Western hemisphere. The Program sponsors major initiatives on
Democratic Governance, Citizen Security, Comparative Peace Processes, Creating Community in the Americas,
U.S.-Brazilian relations and U.S.-Mexican relations.
The Latin American Program’s Project on Democratic Governance and the ‘New Left’ in Latin America explores
political trends and policy outcomes in eight countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua,
Uruguay, and Venezuela. The Project aims to understand how or why left governments have come to power at this
moment in the region’s history, and to assess the implications for democratic governance of specific public policies
in the areas of social welfare, political inclusion, citizen participation, accountability, and human rights.
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004-3027
tel. (202) 691-4000, fax (202) 691-4001
ic liberalism is likely to be tenuous and fraught
with contradictions; indeed, the post-Cold War
liberal order may prove to have been more of an
anomaly than a natural expression of congruence or elective affinities. The region boasts a
long history of economic liberalism attached to
oligarchic rule, and the contemporary manifestation of “neo”-liberalism is indelibly marked by
its political birth defects in Pinochet’s Chile, no
matter how many presidents with democratic
credentials followed his lead in the 1980s.
Likewise, there is a long tradition of popular
movements that are democratizing (in the sense
of politically incorporating the working and
lower classes) but illiberal in their economic and
political forms. Classical expressions of populism, such as Peronism in Argentina, marked
the onset of mass politics in Latin America, and
thus the very possibility of democracy; yet they
clashed with the individualist thrust of liberal
norms in both the marketplace and democratic
procedural arenas.
Indeed, the coincidence of political and economic liberalism in the 1980s and 90s was facilitated by—and quite possibly predicated upon—
the demise of the mass party-labor blocs associated with state-led capitalist development in the
middle of the 20th century. This demise helped
clear the way to power of neoliberal technocrats,
while insulating them from popular democratic
pressures once they had gained control over the
levers of public policy. Technocratic autonomy
was reinforced by the narrowing of viable macroeconomic policy options in the context of the
debt crisis, hyperinflationary pressures, and tightening global market constraints. By the end of the
1980s historic statist or labor-based populist parties had become sponsors of technocratic market
reform in countries like Mexico, Bolivia,
Argentina, Costa Rica, and Venezuela, often in
defiance of their electoral mandates.7 In so doing
they turned the conventional wisdom derived
from the Chilean and Southern Cone experience
on its head: far from requiring the iron hand of
authoritarian rule to overcome popular resistance
to market competition, neoliberal reform could
be advanced by the democratic legitimacy and fiscal discipline spawned by competitive elections.8
Nevertheless, such a liberal equilibrium—
whereby free markets are democratically sustained
and reproduced—is vulnerable to several destabilizing forces. Prominent among these are financial
crises (such as those in Brazil in 1998 and
Argentina in 2001-02) and the renewal of popular
mobilization (as in Venezuela, Ecuador, and
Bolivia). The former is a risk attendant to liberalized capital markets; the latter is a latent response
to the dual fault lines of liberal democracy in contemporary Latin America. The first of these fault
lines concerns the inherent tension between
democratic citizenship rights and the extreme
forms of social inequality or exclusion found in
Latin America. Citizens who possess the right to
vote, assemble, and speak out often demand that
states provide a measure of protection from certain forms of market insecurities—that is, that
they establish rights of social citizenship as the
natural complement to political and civil rights.9
Rights of social citizenship that were created
under populism—such as employment security,
old age insurance, collective bargaining rights,
etc.—were often eroded as states relinquished
regulatory and redistributive responsibilities during the transition to neoliberalism. Although this
transition undermined the capacity of the poor to
organize politically against social exclusion,
demobilization need not be a permanent condition.10 Popular mobilization has increased since
the late 1990s, and while it often includes a different set of actors and issues from the class-based
movements that took center stage during the
populist era, it has nevertheless taken direct aim at
the social deficits of new democratic regimes.
These deficits include a regional poverty rate of
over 40 percent, nearly half of all workers toiling
in the informal sector, and an average Gini index
of inequality that stands at .542, far above the
world average of .381.11
A second democratic fault line concerns the
erosion of national sovereignty and the extreme
forms of political and economic dependency
embedded in the new liberal order. Since democracy presumes self-government, it stands in tension with many forms of economic transnationalization found in Latin America—and thus,
implicitly, with U.S. hegemony in the region.
Democracy is diminished when global markets
dictate or severely restrict the policy options of
national governments, and citizens often expect
states to defend national policy autonomy and
local control over economic and natural
resources. It is hardly surprising, then, that the
revival of popular mobilization in Latin America
has not only repoliticized social inequalities, but
also resurrected expressions of economic nationalism that frontally challenge both U.S. hegemony
and market-based globalization.
It must be recognized, however, that these fault
lines, while present throughout the region, have
not elicited a uniform pattern of popular
response. Social mobilization has been strong and
sustained in some countries, but muted, fragmented, or episodic in others. Similarly, resistance
to market insecurities has been mobilized through
institutionalized partisan and electoral channels in
some countries, while in others it is manifested
through extra-institutional forms of social
protest—“on the streets,” so to speak. Most
important, perhaps, the nature of the challenges
posed by renewed popular mobilization to the
three central pillars of the liberal order—electoral
democracy, free markets, and U.S. hegemony—
vary widely across the region. While it is beyond
the scope of this paper to explain the sources of
this variation, what follows is a preliminary
attempt to identify and categorize it.
The revival of populist and leftist alternatives has
generated considerable scholarly debate about the
causes, significance, and forms of political change
in Latin America. While some of these alternatives
clearly belong to the region’s storied populist tradition, others have roots in a Marxist tradition that
has redefined itself and spawned a variety of offshoots. To sort through this variation, it is critical
to recognize that in Latin America, as elsewhere,
“leftist” and “populist” are separate analytical categories that sometimes, but not always, overlap.
The defining features of the political Left are a
commitment to using popular participation and
state power to alleviate socioeconomic inequalities
and protect individuals or groups from market
insecurities. Populism, on the other hand, refers to
the top-down political mobilization of mass constituencies by personalistic leaders who challenge
established elites (either political or economic) on
behalf of an ill-defined pueblo, or “the people.”
Leftist leaders who subordinate or bypass partisan intermediaries to appeal directly to mass constituencies may also be considered populist; those
held accountable to autonomous social movements or institutionalized bases of support are
not. Similarly, populist leaders can be located on
the ideological Left when they challenge the prerogatives of capital and redistribute income
towards the poor. By nature, however, populism
tends to be ideologically eclectic and malleable,
and some variants—particularly those which
combine militarism with authoritarianism, crossclass alliances, and exclusive expressions of
nationalism or racism—have more in common
with the ideological Right than the Left.
Consequently, populist figures such as Perón or,
in contemporary times, Ollanta Humala in Peru,
cannot easily be located along the conventional
Left-Right ideological spectrum. Indeed, they
may even draw support from both ends of the
ideological continuum. The revival of leftist and
populist alternatives in contemporary Latin
America may thus be rooted in similar reactions
against technocratic neoliberalism, but they are
hardly synonymous, and the latter should not be
presumed to be a subset of the former.
To elaborate, political diversity within Latin
America’s “left turn” is sometimes reduced to a
core differentiation between social democratic
and populist alternatives.12 This dichotomy is
problematic on several fronts, however. First, it is
too quick to attach familiar labels to new phenomena in different contexts. The social democratic label, for example, is often attached to contemporary governments in Chile, Uruguay, and
Brazil, where relatively institutionalized leftist
parties have been elected to national office behind
moderate reformist agendas. Like European social
democracy, these parties embrace liberal democracy and multi-class alliances, and they seek to
redress inequalities through social programs rather
than large-scale property redistribution. In the
aftermath of neoliberal restructuring, however,
labor movements in these countries are dramatically weaker than those which prevailed historically in the West European prototypes of social
democracy. The densely organized class constituencies that provided a foundation for redistributive policies and corporatist patterns of interest intermediation in European social democracy
are thus lacking in Latin America. Likewise, in
light of prevailing global market constraints (and
the absence of extensive oil rents), it is unlikely
that these new leftist governments in Latin
America will have the political capacity to redistribute income, decommodify labor markets, and
construct welfare states on the scale associated
with European social democracy. Latin American
variants of democratic social reform may thus
require a more contextualized set of conceptual
tools for the purpose of comparative analysis.
Second, and even more problematic, the conventional dichotomy lumps together too many
disparate cases under the populist concept.
Indeed, it transforms populism into a residual category for the more economically radical or less
politically institutionalized alternatives, such as
those in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, despite
dramatic differences in the nature of leader-mass
relations in these countries. So used, populism
becomes more of a political epithet than an analytical construct—a crude signifier employed to
demarcate the “good” or “responsible” left from
the demagogues and “idiots” (in Vargas Llosa’s
contemptuous parlance). Such usage conflates
political and economic characteristics that are
analytically distinct and may or may not go
together. It also tends to delegitimize socioeconomic alternatives that depart from neoliberal
orthodoxy without submitting them to serious
scrutiny—in essence, artificially reducing Latin
America’s options to one or another variant of
populism or neoliberalism. Scholarly understanding would be better served by conceptualizing
populism in political terms—as a mode of political mobilization or linkage between leaders and
mass constituencies—and then developing a more
fine-grained set of analytical tools to assess statist,
nationalist, or redistributive policies that challenge neoliberal orthodoxy.
By focusing on political and organizational
dimensions, it quickly becomes apparent that
several quite different patterns exist within the
revival of populist and leftist alternatives in Latin
America. A good starting point is the basic distinction between governments formed by established parties—i.e., parties founded prior to the
adoption of neoliberal structural adjustment
policies—and those formed by new political
movements or parties that emerged during the
period of economic transition or its aftermath.
Where established parties have played a lead role,
a further differentiation can be made between
those with roots in Latin America’s Marxist or
socialist tradition and those which originated in
the populist tradition under import substitution
industrialization (ISI).
One sub-type includes the aforementioned
cases of Chile, Brazil, and Uruguay—countries
where socialist or Marxist parties that were
formed prior to the adoption of neoliberal
reforms have come to power in the aftermath
period. These cases share several features in common. First, in each case the governing leftist party
(or coalition, in the Uruguayan case) has undergone an extensive process of ideological “renovation” and moderation. The Chilean Socialist
Party, the Workers’ Party in Brazil, and the Broad
Front in Uruguay are all, in essence, post-Marxist
parties. This process of moderation followed the
intense ideological polarization of the 1960’s and
1970’s, when significant portions of the Left in
each country challenged the legitimacy of liberal
democracy, defined socialism in class terms, flirted with revolutionary tactics, and ended up being
crushed by bureaucratic-authoritarian military
regimes.13 In each case, a chastened Left emerged
from this repression with a renewed commitment
to democracy and a pragmatic willingness to
compromise socialist objectives in the interests of
democratic co-existence and stability. Leftist parties thus played a significant role in the reconstruction of democratic regimes during the midto-late 1980s in all three countries.
Second, structural adjustment policies were
adopted in these three countries by centrist or
conservative leaders, allowing the partisan Left to
gradually strengthen electorally by articulating
concerns about the social deficits of their respective neoliberal models. These parties have been
cautious and pragmatic reformers in office, however; they accepted the core of inherited neoliberal models, tried to steer clear of conflicts with
capital, and appealed to broad multi-class
constituencies by promising to strengthen social
policies while defending democratic stability and
fiscal responsibility. The parties have become
increasingly professionalized and detached from
historic patterns of labor and social mobilization,
and they generally try to channel discontents into
the electoral arena. This moderation is especially
notable in the Chilean case, where the democratic regime has been most successful at generating
sustained economic growth and reducing poverty
levels under neoliberalism, even if it has made little headway in battling social inequalities.
The paradox, then, is that the dual transitions
towards democracy and neoliberalism transformed some of the most radical parties and
movements into what are today the most moderate and institutionalized left-of-center alternatives
in the region. This transformation thoroughly
realigned their respective party systems and con-
Latin America, in short, has been “repoliticized” since the late 1990s: popular mobilization has been revived, ideological and programmatic competition has returned to party
systems, and policymaking arenas have been
opened to the input of new actors and ideas.…
repoliticization signifies that the Washington
Consensus has been punctured, and that neither U.S. hegemony nor neoliberal policies will
reign uncontested—surely, a significant shift
in the region’s political landscape.
tributed to their stabilization. Indeed, governing
leftist parties in all three countries operate within
relatively institutionalized party systems that provide them with serious centrist and conservative
competitors—a factor that undoubtedly contributes to their moderation in office. Although it
is tempting to interpret these cases as a Latin
American variant of social democracy, the aforementioned qualifications suggest that it may be
more accurate to treat them, following
Panebianco, as a professional-electoral Left that is
organizationally designed to win elections rather
than mobilize civil society behind far-reaching
socioeconomic reforms.14
A second sub-type can be found in Argentina
and Peru, where established parties from the populist tradition have returned to power in the aftermath of economic adjustment. In classic “bait and
switch” fashion, market reforms in both countries
were adopted by a leader who had been elected as
a populist figure—the Peronist Carlos Menem in
Argentina and the personalist Alberto Fujimori in
Peru. These transitions were marked by severe
economic crises and political trauma in both
countries, producing a breakdown of the party
system in Peru and a realignment in Argentina
that was followed by the collapse of the antiPeronist side of the party system after 2000. The
primary legacy of Argentina’s transition was the
political hegemony of the Peronist party machine,
a product of successive economic crises that concentrated their political costs on the anti-Peronist
bloc and allowed the Peronists to reap the dividends of stabilization—ironically, by embracing
neoliberalism under Menem in the 1990s and
then turning left under Néstor Kirchner following the collapse of the model in 2001-02. The
party’s organizational and programmatic flexibility allowed it to adapt to rapidly changing political
and economic contexts, contain the social
protests that toppled the Radical Party government of Fernando de la Rua in 2001, and revive
its populist trajectory under Kirchner when
Argentina’s neoliberal model faltered.15
In Peru, the remarkable restoration of Alan
García and APRA to power in 2006 was indicative
of the institutional fluidity bequeathed by the
country’s turbulent transition from ISI to neoliberalism, when hyperinflation and a severe recession
coincided with the trauma of political violence
unleashed by the Shining Path insurgency. The primary legacies of this transition were a breakdown
of the party system in the 1990s and a domination
of the political arena by a fluid set of independent
personalities and electoral movements. Although
APRA was virtually extinguished as an electoral
force under Fujimori, it was revived when García
returned from exile following the implosion of the
Fujimori regime in 2000. APRA capitalized on
García’s personal appeal and his improbable emergence as the most viable “establishment” alternative to the more radical and polarizing populist
outsider Ollanta Humala in the 2006 electoral
campaign. After running for office as a populist
critic of neoliberalism in 2001, García turned
increasingly cautious and conservative in the runup
to the 2006 race, demonstrating the ideological
malleability of populist leaders and their party
machines. As such, the Peruvian case should not be
coded as one of the new leftist governments in the
region; like Argentina, however, it is an example of
the revival of a historic populist machine under reinvigorated populist leadership.
The Sandinistas’ return to power under Daniel
Ortega in Nicaragua borrows elements from both
of these two subtypes. Like the governing leftist
parties in Chile, Uruguay, and Brazil, the
Sandinistas have roots in Latin America’s Marxist
tradition; unlike these others, the Sandinistas first
came to power through an armed insurrection.
Although they have moderated over time, it is less
than clear whether this moderation is rooted in a
reflective process of ideological renovation or
simple political opportunism. Given the
entrenchment of Ortega’s authority within the
Sandinista Front, and the widespread exodus of
other prominent leaders, the party has increasingly operated as a personal vehicle with a malleable
political profile—in short, as a type of post-revolutionary populist machine. Ortega’s victory in
2006 did not reflect a vote shift toward the Left;
indeed, his vote percentage declined from the
levels he obtained in 1990, 1996, and 2001.
Instead, his victory was made possible by a change
in the electoral law and a split within the conservative opposition to the Sandinistas that allowed
Ortega to capture the presidency with only 38
percent of the vote.
In these six countries, then, three quite different types of established parties have sponsored new populist or left-leaning governments
in the aftermath of economic adjustment. In
Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, on the other
hand, new political movements forged during
the period of economic transition or its aftermath undergird the leftist alternative. In all
three countries, these new movements articulated widespread social disenchantment with
neoliberal reforms adopted by traditional parties. Indeed, the rise of the new movements
both reflected and contributed to the breakdown of established party systems, as traditional
parties have now been thoroughly eclipsed in all
three countries. The Venezuelan and Bolivian
cases clearly anchor the more radical, nationalistic, and fervently anti-neoliberal wing of the
regional shift to the left. In striking contrast to
the evolutionary patterns on the left in Chile,
Uruguay, and Brazil, the new movements led by
Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in
Bolivia openly identify with Latin America’s
socialist and revolutionary Marxist traditions.
They combine the discourse and imagery of this
revolutionary tradition with a strong dose of
Bolivarian regionalism, a trenchant critique of
U.S. hegemony, and—particularly in the
Bolivian case—an identification with indigenous cultural influences.
These similarities aside, however, the two
movements differ in important respects, and they
are associated with distinct sub-types of new leftist governments. The most important differences
involve the weight of populist leadership and the
degree of autonomous, grass-roots social mobilization. In Venezuela, Chávez’s charismatic populist leadership has defined the movement and
largely structured lower-class social mobilization
from above. Although mass protests greeted the
initial adoption of austerity measures by Carlos
Andrés Pérez in 1989, and scattered resistance
continued among workers and community or left
party activists thereafter, no national movement
predated or spawned the rise of chavismo. His
movement was born in a civil-military conspiracy, then captured the public imagination with a
failed coup attempt against the unpopular Pérez.
Transformed into a symbol of disillusionment
with Venezuela’s political establishment, Chávez
ran for president as the leader of a new independent movement, an outsider who could appeal to
diverse groups but was beholden to none.16 The
small leftist parties and civic groups that
embraced his candidacy were subordinated to his
leadership, while many supporters were incorporated into new community-based chavista organizations that played central roles in the social programs or “missions” of the Bolivarian government in areas like land use, health care, food distribution, and education.
The rise of chavismo thus displaced, split, and
subordinated the more partisan-based leftist alternatives in gestation during the 1980s and 90s, a
process that continues with Chávez’s recent call to
consolidate a plethora of loyal organizations within
a single unified revolutionary party. From the out-
The greater radicalism of the governments in
Venezuela, Bolivia, and (possibly) Ecuador
should not be attributed simply to political
voluntarism—that is, to the preferences or
whims of their individual leaders. In part, radicalism also reflects the political and economic
contexts in which leaders operate.
set, his movement’s official party organ has been
poorly institutionalized and directly subordinate to
his authority, and Chávez has tolerated or encouraged a proliferation of grass-roots chavista groups
that have little or no relation to the party. Once
elected to public office, he used state social programs to direct populist mobilization from above,
using charismatic linkages and oil resources to
weave together the disparate strands of grass-roots
chavismo. Chávez, then, was the fulcrum of a new
political movement that formed under his leadership and remained subordinate to his authority,
with high levels of social mobilization but low levels of political autonomy. His government thus
represents a type of populist left that combines topdown political mobilization with a commitment to
significant redistributive policies (and, increasingly,
changes in property ownership as well).
In Bolivia, however, the level of autonomous
social mobilization has been much higher, and it
played a formative role in the gestation of the
political leadership of Morales and his Movement
Towards Socialism (MAS). In contrast to
Venezuela, where political resistance aborted the
process of neoliberal reform, Bolivia adopted one
of the most thorough programs of market restructuring in the region during the 1980s. Although
the initial process of market reform decimated
Bolivia’s historically-powerful, mining-based labor
movement, over the course of the 1990s diverse
new expressions of popular resistance emerged to
contest the neoliberal model.17 Morales’ political
leadership was a direct outgrowth of this social
mobilization, as he began his political career as a
leader of the largely indigenous coca growers’
union. The union of cocaleros drew support from
laid-off miners, and it grew rapidly by mobilizing
opposition to U.S. drug eradication programs. It
also developed ties to other sectors of organized
labor, as well as peasant groups with land claims
and both lowland and highland movements for
indigenous rights and cultural autonomy. A series
of popular mobilizations subsequently wove
together indigenous cultural claims, communal
demands for control over natural resources, and
class-based demands related to land and labor.
Despite the heterogeneous nature of these
demands, they converged on their opposition to
Bolivia’s neoliberal model, which had long been
seen as a showcase for the region. For example,
mass protests against the privatization of municipal water supplies and foreign control over natural
gas exports—the so-called “water wars” of 2000
and the “gas wars” of 2003—expressed popular
demands for local and national economic autonomy from transnational corporate interests. These
protests toppled two presidents and provided
political and organizational momentum for the
reconstruction of the Bolivian Left under the
banner of MAS, which sponsored Morales’ successful presidential campaign in 2005.
Bolivia’s new leftist government, then, is the
direct outgrowth of widespread and autonomous
social mobilization from below, and while it often
aligns itself internationally with Chávez, it represents a quite different mode of socio-political
organization. The MAS and the political leadership of Morales are both extensions of the social
protest movements that swept across the country
after 2000. Indeed, Bolivia offers a rare example
of social movements that move beyond mass
protests to develop overarching appeals, enter and
contest the electoral arena, and capture state
power by electoral means. Obviously, capturing
state power is not the same as exercising it; the
MAS cannot govern Bolivia as a social movement, and tensions are bound to arise between
the government and its mobilized grass-roots
constituencies. Nevertheless, the political leadership of Morales and the MAS are far more rooted
organically in autonomous social mobilization
than that of Chávez in Venezuela. Bolivia, then,
has not experienced the top-down mobilization
of mass constituencies that is integral to a political
conceptualization of populism. Whatever his
international alignments and economic policies,
Morales’ leadership has a different political source,
social composition, and organizational logic. It is
a logic that channels social mobilization into formal institutional arenas and translates it into political power—the logic, in short, of a movement Left
that is the very antithesis of populism.
The Correa government in Ecuador embodies an intriguing set of hybrid features from the
Bolivian and Venezuelan examples—that is,
from the populist Left and the movement Left.
Like Bolivia, Ecuador developed an unusually
powerful indigenous movement over the course
of the 1990s with linkages to other popular constituencies. Indeed, cycles of social protest led to
the removal of three consecutive elected presidents starting in the late 1990s. In contrast to
Bolivia, however, Ecuador’s popular movements
have found it much more difficult to compete
effectively in the electoral arena, despite the formation of an indigenous-based political party.
Unable to spawn a nationally competitive political leadership of its own, the indigenous movement has resorted to supporting a series of independent presidential candidates (and, in the case
of Lucio Gutiérrez, turning on him when it
became clear he would continue neoliberal policies). Although Ecuador’s popular movements
are currently supporting Correa, his leadership,
like that of Chávez in Venezuela, is hardly an
organic expression of these movements. Instead,
it is highly personalistic and independent.
Unlike Chávez, however, Correa has little
capacity to control popular mobilization from
above; the movement long predates his leadership, and he has no significant social or political
organization of his own to mediate his relationship to mass constituencies. As such, he must
contend with powerful and autonomously
organized social movements that have repeatedly
demonstrated their ability to paralyze (or bring
down) governments. In no other Latin
American country does there exist such a chasm
between mobilized popular constituencies and
formal representative and governing institutions.
The greater radicalism of the governments in
Venezuela, Bolivia, and (possibly) Ecuador should
not be attributed simply to political voluntarism—that is, to the preferences or whims of
their individual leaders. In part, radicalism also
reflects the political and economic contexts in
which leaders operate. Those operating in competitive and institutionalized party systems have
less room for maneuver than those operating in a
political vacuum without institutionalized partisan opposition. Indeed, the latter context is likely
to exacerbate the tension between two quite different conceptualizations of democracy—one
based on the principle of institutionalized pluralism, and the other on the principle of popular
sovereignty. Leftist parties that lived through the
trauma of military repression in the 1960s and
1970s and subsequently helped to reconstruct
democratic regimes typically understand democracy as institutionalized pluralism—that is, as a set
of procedures to reconcile a plurality of competing societal interests. Some of the newer movements born in the throes of economic transition,
social mobilization, and party system collapse,
however, are more likely to understand democracy as the exercise of popular sovereignty. Such a
conceptualization can empower popular majorities, but it may unnerve political minorities who
fear that their rights or interests will not be protected. As such, the social and political polarization seen in contemporary Venezuela, Bolivia,
and Ecuador are not a simple response to the content of the policies adopted by new leftist governments; they also reflect the fears of political
minorities (including but not limited to socioeconomic elites) who lack parties to defend their
interests and institutional checks and balances to
restrain newly mobilized popular majorities.
The diversity of popular political alternatives in
Latin America is not adequately captured by the
simple dichotomous categories of populism and
social democracy. To the extent that a dichotomy
exists, it is between the cases where institutionalized pluralism survives—such as Chile, Uruguay,
and Brazil—and those where it does not, either
because institutions have evaporated or because
pluralism is in jeopardy, or both. Although populism thrives in the latter set of cases, so do other
forms of autonomous social mobilization that
defy the populist label.
However they are labeled, the popular social
and political movements that have emerged since
the late 1990s represent alternative responses to
the uneasy coexistence of political democracy and
social exclusion. The “repoliticization” of social
inequality suggests that the region has reached the
end of the “end of politics,” if in fact such a state
ever existed. That is far from saying that Latin
America has reached the end of the neoliberal era;
given global market constraints and the uncertain
viability of the alternatives outlined above, it is
certainly possible that a more socially conscious
variant of market liberalism will prove to be the
only sustainable option. The point, though, is that
a broader range of alternatives is once again being
debated and politically contested at both elite and
mass levels; the aura of technocratic omniscience
that surrounded the neoliberal model during the
period of economic adjustment has been punctured, and popular actors have returned to center
stage and broadened the issue agenda. Politics, it
appears, has only just begun.
Some of the material from this paper is drawn from “La
Repoliticización de América Latina: Una Interpretación
del Giro a la Izquierda,” published in the Argentine
journal Umbrales de América del Sur (April-June
2007). The author and the Woodrow Wilson Center
thank Sebastián Etchemendy and the editors of
Umbrales for permission to use this material.
1. John Williamson, “What Washington Means by
Policy Reform,” in John Williamson, ed., Latin
American Adjustment: How Much Has Happened?
(Washington, D.C.: Institute for International
Economics, 1990).
2. The term “neoliberal” connotes a return to the
free trade and free market doctrines of classical economic liberalism following a period of state-led capitalist development in the middle of the 20th century
in Latin America. Neoliberal reforms typically included fiscal austerity, tariff reductions, the privatization of
state-owned enterprises and utilities, and the deregulation of capital, labor, and exchange markets.
3. Forrest Colburn, Latin America at the End of
Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
2002), p. 72.
4. Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the
Last Man (New York, NY: Free Press, 1992).
5. Felipe Agüero and Jeffrey Stark, eds. Fault Lines of
Democracy in Post-Transition Latin America (Miami, FL:
University of Miami North-South Center Press, 1998).
6. See Jorge G. Castañeda, “Latin America’s Left
Turn,” Foreign Affairs, May-June 2006; and Álvaro
Vargas Llosa, “The Return of the Idiot,” Foreign Policy
160, May-June 2007, pp. 54-61.
7. Susan C. Stokes, Mandates and Democracy:
Neoliberalism by Surprise in Latin America (Cambridge,
UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
8. Karen L. Remmer, “Elections and Economics in
Contemporary Latin America,” in Carol Wise and
Riordan Roett, eds. Post-Stabilization Politics in Latin
America: Competition,Transition, Collapse (Washington,
D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2003).
9. See T. H. Marshall, Class, Citizenship, and Social
Development (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books,
1965); and Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation
(New York, NY: Farrar and Rinehart, 1944).
10. Kenneth M. Roberts, “Social Inequalities
Without Class Cleavages in Latin America’s
Neoliberal Era,” Studies in Comparative International
Development, 36:4, 2002, pp. 3-34.
11. Social Panorama of Latin America: Statistical
Appendix (Santiago: United Nations Economic
Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean,
2005), pp. 317-318 and 336-337.
12. See, for example, Jorge G. Castañeda and
Álvaro Vargas Llosa, op.cit.
13. Guillermo O’Donnell, Modernization and
Bureaucratic-Authoritarianism: Studies in South American
Politics (Berkeley, CA: Institute of International
Studies, 1973).
14. Angelo Panebianco, Political Parties:
Organization and Power (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press, 1988).
15. Steven Levitsky, Transforming Labor-Based Parties
in Latin America:Argentine Peronism in Comparative
Perspective (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University
Press, 2003).
16. Steve Ellner and Daniel Hellinger, eds.
Venezuelan Politics in the Chávez Era: Class, Polarization
and Conflict (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers,
17. Deborah Yashar, Contesting Citizenship in Latin
America:The Rise of Indigenous Movements and the
Postliberal Challenge (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press, 2005).
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Critical Debates
Neoliberalism and Democracy
in latin America:
A Mixed Record
Kurt Weyland
This essay argues that neoliberalism has strengthened the sustainability of democracy in LatinAmerica 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 LatinAmerican 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 restrictthe 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 LatinAmerican democracies.
ow compatible are neoliberalism and democracy in Latin America?
How do economic adjustment and market reform affect political
liberty and competitive civilian rule? This question is highly relevant for
the future of the region. The experience of First World countries might
suggest that democracy and the market system tend to go together; after
all, no democracy has existed in nations that did not have the basic contours of capitalism; namely, a large extent of private ownership and
competition as the main mechanism of economic coordination (Lindblom 1977, 161-69). Latin America's experience, however, used to differ
from this happy convergence. Given the severe social inequality plaguing the region, political liberalism historically tended to trigger calls for
social redistribution and state interventionism; that is, for significant
deviations from economic liberalism. The free-market system, by contrast, used to be an elitist project that was often associated with support
for or acquiescence to authoritarian political rule. During long stretches
of Latin American history, therefore, a clear tension existed between
46: 1
political democracy and economic liberalism (Sheahan 1987, chap. 12;
Gibson 1992, 168-71).
Furthermore, even if the free-market system-that is, the end product of neoliberal reform-is compatible with democracy, the process of
neoliberal reform might not be; after all, it involves the forceful dismantling of the established development model, and may therefore
require a significant concentration of political power. Indeed, Latin
America specialists used to have strong concerns that neoliberalism
would destroy democracy. These fears reflected the experience of the
1980s, when many new democratic regimes in the region postponed
economic stabilization and structural adjustment. Governments in fragile, unconsolidated democracies feared that neoliberal reforms, which
impose high short-term costs on important, powerful sectors and large
segments of the population, would trigger social turmoil and political
conflict and thus endanger the survival of democracy.
By contrast, radical market reforms were pushed through in Chile,
but by dictator Augusto Pinochet with the force of arms. The received
wisdom therefore used to claim that democracy and neoliberalism were
incompatible. Democracies would avoid painful structural adjustment;
and where external pressures-especially from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank-forced them to enact neoliberalism,
they could do so only by resorting to repression, thus turning into
authoritarian regimes (Foxley 1983, 16, 102; Pion-Berlin 1983; Sheahan
1987, 319-23; see also the discussion in Armijo et al. 1994).
Surprisingly, however, a large number of Latin American democracies did enact drastic, painful market reforms from the late 1980s on. To
end hyperinflation and stabilize the economy, they imposed harsh
budget austerity, dismissed many government employees, privatized
public enterprises, opened their economies to foreign trade, and
removed myriad regulations and controls. These draconian measures created tremendous short-term costs for influential, well-organized sectors
of business and labor (see Haggard and Kaufman 1995, parts 2-3; Murillo
2001; Stokes 2001a; Teichman 2001; Corrales 2002; Weyland 2002).
How did these profound reforms, which revamped the development model of many countries, affect democracy? Did they really
threaten the survival of competitive civilian rule? Did they undermine
the quality of democracy, as governments used autocratic means to
impose draconian changes, restrict popular participation, and thus limit
opposition and protest against these controversial measures? In sum,
how compatible have democracy and neoliberalism been in contemporary Latin America?
The available evidence suggests that the record has been mixed, but
overall more favorable than many observers feared. Neoliberalism clearly
has not destroyed competitive civilian rule in the region; it has actually
helped to secure the survival of democracy, as defined in minimal procedural terms. Drastic market reform, however, seems, on balance, to
have limited and weakened the quality of democracy in LatinAmerica.
This essay develops these arguments in turn, stressing that the same
external and internal repercussions of drastic market reform have contributed to these divergent outcomes. Thus, it seeks to put together different pieces of the puzzle by stressing the double-sided nature of
neoliberalism's impact on democracy in LatinAmerica.1 After discussing
these two sides in depth, it concludes by explaining the paradoxical
connection of these discrepant developments. Specifically, the populist
political strategy often used to advance neoliberalism under democracy
helped to avoid the dreaded destruction of competitive civilian rule, but
simultaneously diminished the quality of democracy.
Two initial caveats are in order. First, in arguing that neoliberalism
has bolstered the survival of democracy in Latin America but helped to
limit its quality, this essay by no means claims, of course, that drastic
market reform has been the only cause of these outcomes; it has probably not even been the single most important factor. But the essay will
try to show that radical market reform seems to have made a significant
contribution to the strengthening of democratic stability and the weakening of democratic quality.
Second, this essay intends to stimulate debate and research, not to
"settle" any of the topics under discussion. The claims it advances are
meant as conjectures that deserve and require more systematic investigation. Also, the essay deliberately paints with a broad brush, trying to
stress some underlying commonalities behind the great variety of country experiences. Obviously, analyses of specific issues in certain nations
arrive at more nuanced and precise findings. But occasionally, it may be
useful to step back from such detailed studies and consider the big picture, which may help elucidate the significance and meaning of the
results unearthed by more circumscribed analyses.
Contrary to the received wisdom, neoliberalism did not destroy democracy in Latin America; the available evidence suggests that it actually
helped to guarantee the maintenance of democracy. Why did competitive civilian rule in most cases survive the enactment of drastic, costly,
and risky market reforms? Perhaps the most crucial reason for democracy's surprising resilience was that most Latin American countries
enacted neoliberalism only when they faced dramatic crises, and the
population was therefore prepared to swallow the bitter pill of tough
stabilization. In particular, structural adjustment often was a last-ditch
46: 1
response to hyperinflation-that is, to price rises above 50 percent per
The tremendous costs of exploding inflation commonly induce
large segments of the population to support tough, risky stabilization
plans that hold the uncertain prospect of overcoming the crisis. When
facing the danger of a catastrophe, many people are willing to shoulder
considerable short-term losses in the hope of receiving payoffs from
restored stability and renewed growth in the medium and long run.
Thus, in crisis situations, people do not dig in their heels and strenuously defend their immediate material well-being; instead, they are willing to make sacrifices and trust their leaders' plans for straightening out
the economy. They are willing to accept substantial risks by supporting
adjustment plans that promise to turn the country around, but that-for
economic and, especially, political reasons-have uncertain prospects
of success. Thus, people's economic
calculations are much more com-
plicated and sophisticated-and more susceptible to persuasion and
leadership-than the literature used to assume (see Stokes 2001b;
Graham and Pettinato 2002; Weyland 2002). As a result, governments
that combated profound crises often managed to muster sufficient political backing to enact bold, painful market reforms under democracy
(Armijo and Faucher 2002).
Democracy therefore survived neoliberalism in many LatinAmerican
countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia, that had unstable civilian regimes when they initiated market reform. Even in Peru, where President Alberto Fujimorigoverned in an autocraticfashion, these deviations
from democratic norms and principles were not directly caused by or
'required for"the enactment of neoliberalism (McClintock 1994). Instead,
the longstanding postponement of determined adjustment, combined
with large-scale guerrilla insurgencies and terrorism, had discredited the
country's "politicalclass," and Fujimoritook advantage of this opportunity
to concentrate power and disrespect liberal-democraticsafeguards. Thus,
market reform as such did not destroy democracy in LatinAmerica.
Rather than undermining democracy, neoliberalism actually seems to
have strengthened its survival in a couple of important ways. First,
market reform has enhanced the international protection for democracy
in Latin America. Second, the internal socioeconomic transformations
resulting from profound market reform have helped to forestall domestic challenges to democratic stability.
Structuraladjustment and its corollary, the deeper integration of Latin
American countries into the global economy, have made the region more
susceptible to international pressures for maintaining democracy. Since
the end of the Cold War,the United States and other First World countries have put much more emphasis on preserving pluralistic, civilian rule
in the region. As the concern over communism faded away, the promotion of democracy, which often took a back seat during the preceding
decades, became a first-order priority from the early 1990s on. The disappearance of threats to its strategic interests has made U.S. support for
democracy in LatinAmerica much more unconditional. As a result, when
the danger of a military coup or some other interruption of democracy
threatens, the U.S. government most often has sought to prevent it.2 And
when democracy actually is interrupted or overthrown, the U.S. government has typically threatened or enacted sanctions.
Neoliberalism has increased the exposure of Latin American countries to these forms of international pressure. By lowering barriers to
trade, LatinAmerican countries have become more involved in the world
economy. By opening up to foreign investors, they have become much
more dependent on international capital markets. By submitting-however grudgingly-to greater supervision from the IMFand other international financial institutions, they have seen their autonomy in economic
policymaking shrink. Because the U.S. government has considerable
direct and indirect influence over these international economic flows, it
now has greater leverage for protecting democracy in the region.
Thus, when President Fujimori closed the Peruvian congress with
his autogolpe of April 5, 1992, the U.S. government protested and intervened. This pressure, which was exerted unilaterally and through the
Organization of American States, quickly made clear to Peru's autocratic
leader, who had recently initiated neoliberal reform, that he was facing
a stark trade-off. If he wanted to reschedule the country's external debt
and reestablish good relations with the IMF-relations that his predecessor, Alan Garcia, had destroyed-he needed to accommodate the
U.S. demand for restoring minimal, procedural democracy. If he sought
to attract foreign capital and thus reignite growth in his crisis-plagued
nation, he needed to be in good standing with the advanced industrialized countries, especially the United States. Therefore, Fujimori reluctantly and grudgingly backed away from his effort to install an openly
authoritarianregime and started a process of redemocratization (Bolona
1996; De Soto 1996). Thus, by increasing the economic costs of a move
to open dictatorship, neoliberalism helped to restore the basic outlines
of democracy in Peru.
To what extent neoliberalism and its result, the greater integration
of LatinAmerican economies into the world market, have facilitated the
external protection of democracy is evident in the case of Guatemala.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter told Guatemala's military dictators that
he would cut off aid unless they began to respect human rights. Because
46: 1
the country was not highly involved in foreign trade at the time, the military government canceled collaboration with the United States and continued to commit egregious atrocities (Martinand Sikkink 1993, 331-38).
In the 1980s and early 1990s, however, Guatemala opened its economy
to foreign trade and capital and significantly increased its exports of
agricultural products to the United States.3 When President Jorge Serrano in 1993 followed Fujimori's example and tried to assume dictatorial powers, the Clinton administration threatened to impose sanctions,
and domestic business leaders worried about the resulting disturbance
of trade flows. These threats and concerns contributed to the failure of
Serrano's self-coup and the restoration of democracy.
Indeed, societal opposition to the autogolpe, which had a significant
impact on the outcome of the crisis, was "led by major business elites"
(Torres-Rivas 1996, 58). By contrast, "Guatemalan business organizations were uniformly conservative and supportive of the repressive policies of the government during the 1970s" (Martin and Sikkink 1993,
346). The comparison of these two episodes from Guatemala suggests
with particular clarity that market reform has strengthened the hand of
external powers that seek to protect democracy in Latin America and
has helped to transform the stance of the societal groups that are most
directly affected by these external pressures.
This external support for democracy emerges not only from First
World countries but also from other LatinAmerican nations.4 It is being
institutionalized,moreover, through the inclusion of democracy clauses in
trade agreements, which have flourished as a result of neoliberal reform.
For instance, the South American Common Market (Mercosur), which
received its most important impulse from the decisions of Argentine President Carlos Menem (1989-99) and his Brazilian counterpart, Fernando
Collor de Mello (1990-92), to enact market-oriented reform and therefore
to reduce trade barriers (Cason 2000, 208-10), has provisions that make
membership conditional on the preservation of competitive civilian rule.
Accordingly, when Paraguayfaced serious challenges to democracy in the
mid- to late 1990s, its neighbors encouraged that nation to maintain its
established regime, and these pressures contributed to the survival of
competitive civilian rule (Valenzuela 1997, 50-54).
Neoliberalism and the resulting move to international economic
integration furthered not only the maintenance but also the promotion
of democracy during the 1990s, as the Mexican case suggests. The decision to open Mexico's economy and seek a close association with the
United States constrained the margin of maneuver of Mexico's authoritarian regime, making electoral fraud and political repression much
more costly and therefore less likely. For instance, when the established
regime faced a rebellion in Chiapas in early 1994, it first responded with
traditional means (as applied against a similar rebellion in Guerrero in
the early 1970s); namely, brute military force. But the international
outcry provoked by the resulting human rights violations quickly made
the government change course and pursue negotiations with the insurgents, because a "dirtywar" could have jeopardized its close relations
with its partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement. Similarly,
directly after NAFTAtook effect, the Mexican government, for the first
time, invited international observers to certify the honesty of its elections. Thus neoliberal reform and its direct effect, economic integration
with the United States, helped to advance democratization in Mexico
(Levy and Bruhn 2001, 194-201; Pastor 2001, 278; Remmer 2003, 33).
In sum, neoliberalism and the resulting advance in economic globalization have increased the exposure of LatinAmerican countries to the
international pressures for the promotion and preservation of democracy that have become much more intense with the end of the Cold War.
While this change in geostrategic context clearly was the major reason
for the increased sustainability of democracy in the region, market
reform and its product, Latin America's greater openness to the world
economy, have contributed to this outcome. As Dominguez notes,
"involvement in international markets, especially if guaranteed by freetrade agreements, increases the leverage that external actors can apply
in defense of constitutional government" (1998, 72; similar Remmer
2003, 33, 52).
In addition to enhancing the effects of external support for democracy,
neoliberalism has also stabilized competitive civilian rule by weakening
internal challenges to its survival. To explain this argument, it is important to explore how threats to democracy often emerged in Latin America before the wave of neoliberalism, especially in the 1960s and 1970s.
On several occasions, the region's large-scale poverty and tremendous inequalities of income and wealth triggered calls for redistribution
and other deep-reaching social reforms. These problems also allowed
for the rise of radical populists, who used fiery rhetoric to win backing
from masses of discontented citizens, left-wing parties, and trade unions
and thereby to advance their political ambitions. The variegated
demands and proposals for profound socioeconomic and political
change led to mobilization and countermobilization; as a result, polarization intensified. All this conflict and turmoil further diminished the
capacity of governments to solve problems and maintain economic and
political stability. The growing disorder, in turn, frightened established
political and economic elites, leading them to ask the military to intervene. In many cases, important groups inside the armed forces felt that
46: 1
social polarization and political conflict threatened the military's own
institutional interests. Therefore, they eventually used force to restore
order, thereby interrupting or abolishing democracy.5
Across most of Latin America, wherever neoliberalism has firmly
taken hold, it has largely blocked this dynamic by sealing the political
defeat of radical populists and socialists and by hindering the emergence of mass movements that socioeconomic and political elites perceive as serious threats. What the enactment of market reform means,
essentially-above and beyond all its specific reforms-is that capitalism and the market economy are here to stay. Communism, socialism,
and radical populism are dead or greatly weakened wherever the new
development model is in place.6 International economic integration has
made challenges to the established economic and social order much less
feasible. Even advancing such demands now has a prohibitive cost by
scaring away domestic and foreign investors, who have more "exit"
options as a result of market reform, especially the easing or elimination of capital controls.
Neoliberalism has also changed the balance of power between
domestic socioeconomic and political forces. Leading business sectors
have gained greater clout; they now have better access to international
capital markets; they have stronger links to transnational corporations;
they have bought up many public enterprises, often at rock-bottom
prices; and therefore they own a greater share of the economy. At the
same time, thoroughgoing market reform has weakened the sociopolitical forces that used to support radicalism. As a result of trade liberalization, labor market deregulation, privatization, and the shrinking of
the public administration, unions have lost members in most countries,
are often internally divided, and have generally reduced their militancy.
Because of the fall of communism and the worldwide victory of capitalism, most of Latin America's socialist and Marxist parties are on the
defensive. A number of them have given up socialist programs and radical-populist rhetoric, and many have accepted the basic outlines of the
market model. Furthermore, several political leaders of the neoliberal
era have used populist political tactics not to attack neoliberalism but to
promote, enact, and preserve it (Roberts 1995; Weyland 1996).
Latin America's economic, social, and political elites are therefore
much more secure nowadays than they were during the decades preceding the recent neoliberal wave. While this shift in the domestic balance of power precludes any bold equity-enhancing reforms designed
to combat Latin America's pronounced social inequality, it favors the
preservation of political democracy. Economic and political elites no
longer feel the need to knock at the barracks door. Because the risk of
mass mobilization, polarization, and turmoil is relatively low, moreover,
the military itself is disinclined to roll out the tanks and impose order.
Thus, by putting economic and political elites at greater ease, neoliberalism has substantially lowered internal challenges to democracy in
The exceptional experience of Venezuela under the regime of Hugo
Chavez corroborates this rule. Throughout the 1990s, Venezuela instituted the neoliberal program only partially and in a confusing stop-andgo pattern, giving the country a relatively low score on the "general
reform index" (Morley et al. 1999, 29; see also Weyland 2002, chaps. 5,
6, 8). The economy therefore never attained stability and remained
highly dependent on volatile oil revenues. Popular discontent with the
failure of the established political class to stop Venezuela's continuing
economic and political deterioration allowed radical outsider Chavez to
win the presidency in a landslide.8
The belligerent rhetoric of this radical populist leader scared domestic and foreign investors, the church, sectors of the military, and even
most trade unions (Ellner and Hellinger 2003). In a pattern resembling
the experience of many Latin American countries from the 1940s to the
1970s, these sectors coalesced to oppose the president with all means,
culminating in an abortive military coup in April 2002. Thus, precisely
where market reform has not firmly taken hold, the old sequence of radical populism, stubborn elite-led opposition, and threats to the survival
of democracy still gets under way. In most other Latin American countries, however, thoroughgoing market reform has prevented such dangerous polarization from emerging. Thus the Venezuelan contrast provides interesting corroboration for the argument.
In sum, neoliberalism seems to have boosted the sustainability of
democracy in LatinAmerica, both by exposing the region more to external pressures for maintaining competitive civilian rule and by forestalling internal challenges to its survival.
There is, however, another, darker side to the relationship of neoliberalism and democracy in Latin America. At the same time that drastic
market reform has furthered the survival of democracy in the region, it
seems to have helped erode and limit the quality of democracy.9 The
quality of democracy can be assessed in terms of citizen participation;
the accessibility, accountability, and responsiveness of government; and
political competitiveness (see Schmitter 1983, 888-90).
Ironically, this negative impact is, in many ways, the corollary of the
positive repercussions that this essay has stressed so far. First, the external constraints intensified by market reform seem to have limited the
46: 1
exercise of popular sovereignty, one of the basic principles of democracy. Elected governments do not have a great deal of latitude in their
economic and social policymaking. Therefore, citizens' choices are
effectively restricted and cannot "make much difference" without violating clear demands of economic and political prudence that reflect
powerful external constraints. The resulting frustration seems to have
contributed to the decline in electoral participation and the growing dissatisfaction with governmental performance in the region.
Second, as neoliberalism has further tilted the internal balance of
forces by strengthening elite sectors, it seems to have weakened important organizations of civil and political society, including political parties. Intermediary organizations, which are crucial for stimulating meaningful popular participation and for holding governments accountable,
have grown feebler in most countries of the region and have atrophied
or collapsed in some nations. As a result, problems such as the betrayal
of campaign promises, demagoguery, and corruption seem to have
grown in contemporary LatinAmerica.
Latin American democracies face increased external constraints in
the neoliberal era. By opening up their economies, these nations have
become more exposed to the vicissitudes of international financial markets. They need to attract and retain capital that could, in principle,
leave the country easily and quickly. Investors can use these enhanced
"exit" options to gain bargaining leverage. In order to win major productive investments, countries-or states inside countries-often engage
in competitive bidding. They promise free infrastructure,tax breaks, and
a number of other benefits. These subsidies for investors limit the
resources available for other programs, such as social improvements.
One of the central tasks of democracy is decisionmaking over the
budget, but a good part of Latin American budgets is "occupied" by
investors. This limits the influence that democratic choice can exert on
the country's priorities.
More important, openness to the world economy constrains the
options that Latin American democracies can pursue with the resources
they retain (see Remmer 2003, 35-38, 51; and in general, Strange 1996,
chaps. 4-5). For instance, the renationalization or tight regulation of
recently privatized firms would scare away domestic and foreign investors
and therefore is not feasible. Substantialtax increases designed to finance
additional social spending might trigger capital flight. Therefore, such
changes are difficult to enact-and even dangerous to consider. For
instance, investors responded with great nervousness-even panic-to
the rise of socialist Luiz Inacio Lulada Silva in vote intention polls for the
recent presidential election in Brazil (Martinez and Santiso 2003), practically forcing this candidate to offer strong reassurances during the campaign (Faust 2002, 6) and to appoint a rather orthodox economic policy
team on taking office. Ecuador's president, Lucio Gutierrez,who emerged
as a left-wing populist resembling Venezuela's Chavez in the 2002 elections, has acted in a similarly accommodating fashion.
Thus the external pressures intensified by market reform seem to
have effectively limited the policymaking latitude of democratic governments. As a result, only 10.5 percent-2 out of 19-of the governments
elected during the 1990s that Stokes (2001a, 14-15) analyzes pursued a
"security-oriented"(that is, nonneoliberal) approach, whereas 32 percent
of the governments elected during the 1980s did so. A full 89.5 percent
of governments during the 1990s enacted market-oriented ("efficiencyoriented") policies, compared to 68 percent during the 1980s, which suggests the diminishing latitude for economic policy choice in the neoliberal era. For instance, Chile's Concertaci6n, which had criticized the
neoliberal policies imposed by the Pinochet dictatorship during the
1980s, pursued a notably cautious economic policy course after assuming government power in 1990. While the new administrations did enact
significant economic and social improvements, they did not go nearly as
far as expected, so as not to antagonize the domestic and external supporters of the country's new market system (Arriagadaand Graham 1994,
243, 265-66, 272-73, 282). Other opposition leaders who came to power
after a neoliberal administration, such as Alejandro Toledo in Peru (2001present) and Fernando de la Rua in Argentina (1999-2001), proceeded
with similar caution (Barr 2003, 1163-65; Pousadela 2003, 136-53).
Along with its political leaders, the general population is aware of
the limitations facing contemporary governments. For instance, when
asked "who has most power," 50 percent of respondents in the regionwide Latinobar6metro poll named "large enterprises," which nowadays
tend to have strong transnational links; this score ranked right behind
"the government" (56 percent) (Latinobar6metro 2000, 7). Thus, Latin
Americans see big business-the sector most responsive to international
economic pressures and constraints-as almost equal in power to the
democratically elected government.
These effective limitations on governments' range of policy options
emerge from forces that lack democratic representativeness. To put it in
stark terms, Latin American governments have two distinct constituencies: the domestic citizenry, voters, and interest groups on the one hand;
and foreign and domestic investors with strong transnational links on
the other (see, in general, Lindblom 1977, chaps. 13-16).10 According to
most democratic theories, the first constituency should be decisive; but
in reality, the second constituency has considerable influence as well.
In a number of situations, moreover, these two constituencies pull
in different directions. When governmental decisions diverge from "the
will of the people," the quality of democracy is limited. Certainly these
regimes are full democracies, as the "popular sovereign," of course,
46: 1
retains the right to disregard the direct and indirect pressures of
investors. But such imprudence would carry considerable costs in the
neoliberal era of increasing global market integration. The citizenry can,
in principle, exert its full range of democratic rights and, for instance,
vote for whatever candidate it pleases, but concentrated control over
economic resources often leads to a clear self-restriction. Thus, as a
result of pronounced socioeconomic inequality and of exit options
amplified by market reform, "all full citizens" do not "have unimpaired
opportunities ... to have their preferences weighed equally in the conduct of the government," as Robert Dahl stipulates in his famous explication of the ideal type of democracy (1971, 2; emphasis added).
Increased constraint on the range of viable political options seems
to diminish public trust in and accountability of democratically elected
governments and politicians. For instance, candidates must appeal to
their first constituency, the people, to win office. They therefore make
promises designed to increase their vote share; for example, by pledging to introduce new social benefits. But after the victorious candidates
take office-and before the next election approaches-the citizenry
becomes politically less important and the investment community more
important. As a result, the new government officials often do not pursue
with much zeal the promises they made during the campaign.11 In the
extreme, they execute a drastic policy switch-an experience that has
not been uncommon in contemporary Latin America, especially during
the initiation of neoliberal reform (see especially Stokes 2001a).
Limited government responsiveness seems to breed diminishing
political participation. If governments dispose of only a narrow range of
options, if citizens' choices therefore cannot have that much effect, why
should the people bother to vote or participate in politics in other ways?
Citizens feel betrayed, voters turn more cynical, and the "political class"
falls into even deeper disrepute. Politics itself becomes devalued; and
politics is, of course, the lifeblood of democracy. Democracy therefore
risks becoming more anemic and less vibrant.
No wonder electoral abstention has increased in many Latin American countries while satisfaction with democracy and trust in democratic
institutions has diminished. For instance, Ryan (2001, 15-20) shows that
electoral participation has declined over the last three decades (see also
Payne et al. 2002, 55-60) and that this decline has been associated with
the depth of the neoliberal reforms enacted in different countries. Surveys conducted by Duch (2002, 10-22) demonstrate that perceptions of
economic problems, which respondents disproportionately attribute to
external pressures and constraints, diminish trust in politicians, democratic institutions, and the competitive civilian regime as such. Similarly,
the massive Latinobar6metro surveys suggest that "poor economic performance in the region as a whole," which results partly from the exter-
nal constraints and vulnerabilities exacerbated by neoliberal reform,
"has significantly impacted the legitimacy of democracy," which experienced "a striking drop" at the beginning of the new millennium (Lagos
2003, 150; see also Economist 2001; Latinobar6metro 2002). Indeed, the
congress-the main deliberative body in a democracy-was "the democratic institution that . . . lost most popular trust" from 1996 to 2001
(Latinobarometro 2001, 5).
In sum, neoliberalism seems to have limited the quality of democracy in LatinAmerica by tightening external constraints and thus diminishing the range of feasible political options and restricting effective
political competitiveness. While the region has long been subject to
external economic pressures and structural limitations emerging from
"global capitalism," as the old dependency school (over)emphasized,
market reforms have further intensified these pressures and limitations.
As a result, the space for democratic citizenship and meaningful participation appears to have narrowed.
The internal effects of neoliberalism also seem to have limited the quality of democracy in Latin America. As mentioned above, drastic adjustment and thorough market reform have further tilted the balance of
power in society and politics. Specifically, they have helped to weaken
many of the established intermediary organizations that, in principle,
could give democracy a firm and vibrant infrastructure. The organizational landscape in Latin America has become more fragmented and
atomized; although it is certainly not the only cause, neoliberalism has
contributed significantly to this outcome (see especially Hagopian 1998;
Oxhorn 1998). While market reform has also had some positive effects
by helping to undermine undemocratic parties and associations, on balance it has done more harm than good, at least for the time being.
Trade unions nowadays tend to be more divided, to have fewer
effective members, and to command lower political influence than they
did before the wave of market reform. This decline in union strength
has resulted partly from trade liberalization, the deregulation of the
labor market, the dismissal of government employees, and the privatization of public enterprises. These reforms have often increased unemployment and underemployment in the short run and have reduced the
legal protection for workers in the long run. At the same time, financial
liberalization has fortified employers' bargaining position by enhancing
their exit options. As a result, unions face greater difficulty in organizing and have less clout (Murillo 2003, 104-8; Roberts 2002, 21-23).
46: 1
Similarly, social movements, which were quite vibrant in the 1980s
and which used to advance broader political demands, have often had to
concentrate primarilyon immediate survival issues. Nowadays, they tend
to have less voice on political questions that go beyond their basic needs
(Roxborough 1997, 60-62; Portes and Hoffman 2003, 76-77).12 Indeed, the
social costs of neoliberalism have induced many movements to accept the
handouts that market reformersprovided to bolster their popular support.
Where these social emergency programswere heavily politicized and used
systematically for patronage purposes, as in Mexico under Carlos Salinas
de Gortari(1988-94) and in Peru under Fujimori(1990-2000), they served
to coopt or divide social movements, thereby weakening their capacity for
autonomous demandmaking, especially on general political issues (see
Haber 1994 on Mexico; Tanaka 1998b on Peru).
Political parties, for their part, have grown weaker in many countries, and their reputation in the eyes of the citizenry has dropped further. While certainly not solely responsible for this decline, market
reform has contributed to it in several ways. As a result of state shrinking and other austerity measures, party organizations, which often used
to be sustained through patronage and clientelism, now have fewer
resources to distribute and therefore greater difficulty maintaining their
membership base. The external constraints intensified by neoliberalism
make it more difficult for parties that win government office to fulfill
their electoral promises and deliver on popular expectations for social
improvements. Furthermore, conflicts over painful neoliberal reforms
have led to tensions and divisions inside parties and thus have exacerbated the fragmentation of party systems. In some countries, such as
Peru and Venezuela, they have even contributed to party system collapse, and Argentina seems to have avoided this fate only narrowly in
the period 2001-2003.
Of course, not all of these tendencies toward involution have
resulted from neoliberalism alone. Party decline, for instance, began
before the recent wave of market reforms. In a number of countries, parties lost popular support during the 1980s, when they proved unable to
fulfill the high-and frequently excessive-hopes engendered during the
transition to democracy. Many LatinAmericans had unrealistic expectations about the improvements that the restoration of democracy would
bring. When these hopes were frustrated, parties were assigned the
blame. Furthermore, the very economic crises that neoliberalism was
meant to combat contributed greatly to the enfeeblement of LatinAmerica's civil societies, especially devastating trade unions and social movements, but also parties. Indeed, it is often difficult to ascertain how much
the debt crisis and hyperinflation (the "disease") or structuraladjustment
and market reform (the "medicine")are to blame.13It seems undeniable,
however, that the substantial transitional costs of neoliberalism and the
tighter external constraints that it imposed contributed significantly to the
discrediting of parties and especially the weakening of trade unions and
social movements (see recently Kurtz 2002; Roberts 2002).
It is also important to remember that the intermediary organizations
that existed before the neoliberal wave were not always very democratic; in reality, internal democracy was often conspicuous by its
absence. Personalistic leaders or small elite groups used to control many
parties and interest groups. Unions, professional associations, and business organizations often had captive audiences through obligatory
membership, which made it difficult for the rank and file to hold their
leaders accountable. Parties and other organizations, moreover, frequently used patronage and clientelism to get backing. By obtaining
support through the distribution of particularistic benefits, leaders
gained a fairly free hand to pursue their own goals, with minimal real
input from their "bases."Thus, in the decades before the recent advance
of market reform, Latin America's civil societies certainly were not perfectly democratic; they were not even consistently civil.
It would have been better for the quality of democracy, however, if
these intermediary organizations had been reformed rather than weakened and divided.14At present, civil society and the party system are too
weak in several countries-most glaringly, Peru in the late 1990s-to
provide a counterweight to the government. Governments therefore
have excessive latitude to deviate from their campaign promises, to give
in to the real demands or anticipated pressures of investors, to use their
offices for private benefit (for instance, through egregious corruption),
and to disregard the demands, needs, and interests of citizens. In several instances, government leaders have used their ample margin of
maneuver to govern the country as they see fit, rather than being
responsive and accountable to the citizenry (see the seminal analyses in
O'Donnell 1994, 1998).
That personalistic, populist leadership, which claims an electoral mandate from "the people" but determines the content of this mandate at
will, went hand in hand with neoliberal reform in a number of Latin
American countries. The most outstanding cases of such neoliberal
neopopulism were Menem in Argentina (1989-99), Fujimori in Peru
(1990-2000), Collor de Mello in Brazil (1990-92), Abdala Bucaram in
Ecuador (1996-97), and-with less political latitude-Carlos Andres
Perez in Venezuela (1989-93). All these presidents who adapted populism to the neoliberal age (Roberts 1995; Weyland 1996) stressed their
personalistic, charismatic leadership and based their governments to a
46: 1
considerable extent on unorganized and therefore fickle mass support.
Their connection to "the people" had the character of plebiscitarian
acclamation rather than liberal representation.
As a result, these neopopulist leaders used their popular mandate to
run roughshod over institutional checks and balances. They sought and
often managed to strengthen the powers of the presidency and to weaken
the congress and the courts (Palermo and Novaro 1996, 256-66; Cotler
and Grompone 2000, 22-35; Kingstone 1999, 159-69). They imposed their
will through decrees and the threat of plebiscites (Carey and Shugart
1998). Several of them tried to intimidate or control the media. All of these
strong-armtactics diminished the quality of democracy.
Neoliberal reform provided these neopopulist presidents with
useful instruments for enhancing their autonomy and power, thereby
boosting their leadership. Trade liberalization, privatization, and labor
market deregulation weakened trade unions, which used to restrict
presidential latitude with their demands and pressures. Trade liberalization also put some powerful business sectors on the defensive, while
the sale of public enterprises allowed presidents to buy support from
select groups of big business through favorable privatization deals (see,
for example, Corrales 1998). The dismissal of public employees enabled
neopopulist leaders to eliminate their predecessors' appointees, who
might use their bureaucratic power to block presidential initiatives.
In all these ways, neopopulist leaders used neoliberalism for their
own political purposes (see Weyland 1996; Roberts 1995). Where structural adjustment eventually restored economic stability and reignited
growth, and where neopopulist leaders therefore attained lasting political success, as in Argentina and Peru, neoliberalism indeed strengthened
the political predominance of neopopulist leaders (Weyland 2002,
chaps. 6-7). This reinforcement of neopopulism constitutes another way
market reform has reduced the quality of democracy in Latin America.
With the preceding argument, the discussion comes full circle. It is
important to recognize a paradox: while neopopulist leadership has
diminished the quality of democracy in Latin America, it actually seems
to have helped ensure democracy's survival. Remember that many
observers during the mid- to late 1980s believed that only a dictator like
Chile's Pinochet could enact neoliberal reform.
One significant reason why this prediction proved wrong and why
democracies managed to survive the imposition of neoliberal reform
was the emergence of neopopulist leaders who realized that they could
use neoliberalism to advance their own political goals. This convergence of neopopulism and neoliberalism arose from the deep crises that
afflicted many LatinAmerican countries in the late 1980s. Hyperinflation
and other dramatic problems made many citizens willing to support
painful stabilization and market reform. Neopopulist leaders therefore
won political backing by enacting the adjustment plans their predecessors had postponed for fear of provoking unrest. Neopopulists' courage
in combating the crisis head-on gave them popular support and proved
their charisma, while market reforms ultimately enhanced their power.
Thus, the surprising compatibility-even affinity-of neoliberalism and
neopopulism is one of the important reasons for the survival of democracy despite neoliberalism. Viewed from this perspective, the reduction
in democratic quality produced by neopopulism may have been the
price for guaranteeing the survival of democracy during the enactment
of neoliberalism.
The positive and negative sides of the mixed record that this essay
has discussed are intrinsically linked. While neoliberalism has intensified
the external restrictions on democratic choice and governmental decisionmaking and has thereby diminished the quality of democracy, those
very restrictions also expose LatinAmerican countries to diplomatic pressures to maintain democracy. Such constraints limit the effective exercise
of popular sovereignty and thereby discourage political participation, but
they also preclude highly pernicious options, especially the overthrow of
democracy by the military or its abrogation by the people themselves,
who may elect and support autocratic populists like Fujimori.
In a similarly paradoxical twist, the further weakening and fragmentation of popular sector organizations, which detracts from the quality of democracy, bolsters the survival of democracy by putting socioeconomic and political elites at ease, which prevents them from resorting
to extraconstitutional means to protect their core interests. Popular
sector weakness limits democratic representation and governmental
accountability, but by foreclosing the danger of radicalism, it forestalls
an elite backlash against competitive civilian rule. Altogether, both the
external and internal effects of neoliberalism diminish the range of political choice, but precisely in this way, they contribute to the persistence
of democracy itself.
The available evidence suggests that neoliberalism has affected
Latin American democracy in opposite, even contradictory ways. By
exposing the region's countries to greater external pressures and by
changing the internal balance of forces so as to preclude threats to
domestic elites, market reform has bolstered the survival of democracy.
Yet in exactly the same ways, namely by imposing stronger external
constraints and by changing the internal balance of forces through a
weakening of domestic intermediary organizations, market reform has
46: 1
abridged the quality of democracy. As is so often the case, politics poses
real dilemmas and painful trade-offs.
Earlier versions of this essay were presented at the symposium "Neoliberalism and Democracy in LatinAmerica," Grinnell College, November 7-9, 2000;
the seminar "The Quality of Democracy in Latin America," Woodrow Wilson
Center, March 7, 2002; and the conference 'Fragile Democracies in the Americas," University of Texas at Austin, April 14, 2002. I would like to thank Jonathan
Hartlyn, Wendy Hunter, Raul Madrid, Christopher Sabatini, Joseph Tulchin,
Arturo Valenzuela, Eliza Willis, and three anonymous reviewers for many valuable comments.
1. This argument about the double-sided impact of neoliberalism on Latin
American democracy does not necessarily claim that the two sides are of equal
strength and significance. Actually, the strength of these two effects would be
methodologically very difficult to compare, given their qualitative difference
and, therefore, the absence of a common underlying metric.
2. The equivocal U.S. response to the temporary ouster of Venezuela's
Hugo Chavez in April 2002 constitutes a partial exception. After this populist
president was reinstalled and Washington's stance drew strong criticism from
Latin American governments, the Bush administration stressed very clearly that
it would not support any further military adventures, despite the continuing
political crisis in Venezuela.
3. On the significant extent of trade and financial liberalization in
Guatemala, see the measurements in Morley et al. 1999, 30-32.
4. For an analysis of the strengths and limitations of this international
democracy-promotion regime, see Cooper and Legler 2001.
5. While many military coups emerged in this way, not all did; the 1968
coup in Peru, undertaken by nationalist, left-leaning officers who wanted to
bring reform to their country, constitutes an exception.
6. Venezuela's radical populist Hugo Chavez emerged precisely in a country that has enacted comparatively little neoliberal reform.
7. For a general argument along similar lines that emphasizes the importance of increasing capital mobility, see Boix and Garicano 2001.
8. Similarly, the mass mobilization that led to the January 2000 coup in
Ecuador occurred in a country that had not pushed the neoliberal agenda very
consistently or very far (Pion-Berlin 2001, 8-10; Lucero 2001, 59-68).
9. Although this essay focuses on the repercussions of neoliberalism, other
aspects of globalization, such as the increasing traffic in drugs and small arms,
have certainly contributed to the problems plaguing Latin American democracies, such as a rising crime wave (Tulchin and Fruhling 2003) and the virtual
implosion of state authority in large swaths of Colombia and in Rio de Janeiro's
urban slums. Globalization is, however, a multifaceted process, which has also
had important positive effects on Latin American democracies; for instance,
through transnational activism, which has supported civil society groups in
many countries of the region (see, for example, Keck and Sikkink 1998). These
complex and complicated issues, which are tremendously important for the
quality of Latin American democracies, are far larger than the limited scope of
this essay.
10. Lindblom depicts the "privileged position of business," which market
reforms have strengthened in contemporary LatinAmerica, as not very democratic.
11. For instance, one important reason for the drastic popularity decline of
Peru's president Alejandro Toledo has been the difficulty of fulfilling his campaign promises while maintaining investor confidence (Barr 2003, 1163-65).
Disillusionment with the new president's performance, in turn, seems to have
exacerbated citizens' distrust of politicians in general.
12. Brazil's Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) constitutes a partial exception to this general tendency. Still, the MST's tremendous expansion
during the 1990s was triggered not by neoliberalism and its effects, such as
exacerbating employment problems in the countryside, but by the reformist
background and officially social-democratic orientation of President Fernando
Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002), which restricted government repression and
rewarded the MST's mobilization efforts, as Ondetti's thorough study (2002)
clearly shows.
13. While it would be difficult to disentangle the causal impact of these different factors, careful analysis of the timing of party system decline could provide important clues. For instance, Tanaka (1998a) argues that the collapse of
Peru's party system was not predetermined by the economic and political crisis
of the 1980s but was contingent on President Fujimori's antiparty maneuvers,
which accompanied the president's enactment of neoliberalism.
14. This argument applies at least in the short and medium run. In the long
run, the weakening of the existing, not-so-democratic intermediary organizations could create a clean slate for the formation of new, more democratic parties and interest groups. But several factors-erratic economic growth, fluid, rapidly shifting socioeconomic alignments, and the tremendous political
importance of the mass media-make such a rebuilding of strong parties and
associations unlikely.
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L ’ A N N É E 2006
Olivier DABÈNE
« Representative institutions are of little value,
and may be a mere instrument of tyranny or intrigue,
when the generality of electors are not sufficiently interested
in their own government to give their vote, or, if they vote at all,
do not bestow their suffrages on public grounds, but sell them for money,
or vote at the beck of some one who has control over them,
or whom, for private reasons, they desire to propitiate.
Popular election thus practised, instead of a security against
misgovernment, is but an additional wheel in its machinery. 1 »
epuis le passage à la démocratie de la plupart des pays d’Amérique
latine il y a une vingtaine d’années, le continent connaît régulièrement des poussées de fièvre électorale, à la faveur de la
coïncidence des calendriers électoraux. Avant 2006 cependant, jamais
dans l’histoire du continent une vague d’élections n’avait atteint une
telle ampleur. Seuls trois pays n’ont pas voté entre octobre 2005 et
1. John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, New York
(N. Y.), Prometheus Books, 1991, p. 16 [1e éd. 1861].
décembre 20062. Les vagues d’élections s’offrent toujours aux regards
gourmands des politistes comparatistes comme des révélateurs. Avides de
fixer des repères historiques où semblent se jouer des inflexions politiques
importantes, ils chercheront à dégager des tendances générales, à mettre au
jour des singularités et des contrastes, ou à dévoiler des effets de contagion.
De ce point de vue, l’année 2006 s’annonçait passionnante, dans la
mesure où l’occasion était donnée aux Latino-américains de confirmer,
infléchir ou enrayer le très commenté « virage à gauche » amorcé avec
l’élection de Hugo Chávez au Venezuela en 1998, puis accentué par celles
de Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva au Brésil (2002), Nestor Kirchner en Argentine
(2003) et Tabaré Vázquez en Uruguay (2004). Au-delà, les électeurs des
deux tiers des pays du continent étaient appelés à se prononcer sur de véritables choix de société, dans un contexte marqué par des hésitations sur le
modèle de développement à suivre, au sortir d’une décennie 1990 dominée
par le consensus de Washington. Les politiques d’ajustement d’inspiration
néolibérale doivent-elles être radicalement remises en cause ou donner lieu
à de simples ajustements ? Sur le plan extérieur, d’insistantes interrogations
circulaient sur l’avenir des relations interaméricaines. L’affirmation du
continent sur la scène internationale doit-elle passer par un affrontement
avec les États-Unis ou par une négociation entre partenaires ? Telles étaient
au fond les questions que la plupart des observateurs s’attendaient à voir
dominer les débats électoraux, et il semblait raisonnable d’imaginer que les
candidats se positionneraient sur un axe gauche-droite, borné à ses extrémités par deux présidents en quête de réélection : le vénézuélien H. Chávez,
chantre de la rupture avec le néolibéralisme et désireux d’en découdre avec
les États-Unis, et le colombien Alvaro Uribe, défendant l’économie de
marché et le « plus fidèle allié » des États-Unis dans la région. Entre les
deux, un troisième favori à sa propre succession, le brésilien Lula, se situerait, pensait-on, au centre gauche, avec ses politiques redistributives à
grande échelle sans dérapages inflationnistes et sa diplomatie de défense
des intérêts nationaux sans confrontation.
2. L’Uruguay, le Panama et le Guatemala (voir tableaux 1 et 2). Seules les onze
élections présidentielles sont prises en compte dans cet ouvrage (toutes sauf
Haïti). Le lecteur est invité à se reporter aux fiches synthétiques de présentation
des élections disponibles sur le site Internet des Presses de Sciences Po (http:// et sur le site de l’Observatoire politique de
l’Amérique latine et des Caraïbes, rubrique Élections (
Les élections contre la démocratie ? L’année 2006 en perspective
Tableau 1 : Le cycle électoral 2006
Type d’élection
23 octobre 2005
27 novembre 2005
4 décembre 2005
St VincentGrenadines
7 décembre 2005
11 décembre 2005
et 15 janvier 2006
Présidentielles et législatives
18 décembre 2005
Présidentielles et législatives
Costa Rica
5 février 2006
Présidentielles et législatives
7 février 2006
Présidentielles et législatives
12 mars 2006
12 mars 2006
Législatives et locales
9 avril et 4 juin 2006
Présidentielles et législatives
28 mai 2006
16 mai 2006
Législatives et municipales
2 juillet 2006
Élections pour une Assemblée
2 juillet 2006
Présidentielles, législatives,
régionales et locales
28 août 2006
1er octobre
et 29 octobre 2006
Présidentielles, législatives,
postes de gouverneur
15 octobre
et 26 novembre 2006
Présidentielles et législatives
5 novembre 2006
Présidentielles et législatives
9 novembre 2006
3 décembre 2006
Sources :
Tableau 2 : Les 11 élections présidentielles :
vainqueurs, partis et tendances
Parti politique
Manuel Zelaya Parti libéral du Honduras (PLH)
Concertation (Parti socialiste)
Gauche modérée
Evo Morales
Mouvement vers le socialisme
Gauche radicale
Costa Rica Oscar Arias
Parti de libération nationale (PLN) Centre gauche
Alan García
Alliance populaire révolutionnaire
Centre gauche
américaine (APRA)
Alvaro Uribe
La Colombie en premier
Parti d’action nationale (PAN)
Parti des travailleurs (PT)
Gauche modérée
Rafael Correa
Alliance pays
Gauche radicale
Nicaragua Daniel Ortega
Front sandiniste de libération
nationale (FSLN)
Gauche radicale
Venezuela Hugo Chávez
Mouvement Ve République (MVR) Gauche radicale
Sources :
Le bilan de l’année électorale, dressé lors du colloque L’Amérique
latine aux urnes 3, a permis d’aller bien au-delà d’un simple positionnement des pays sur un axe gauche-droite. Globalement, les élections ont
réservé peu de surprises, hormis la défaite d’Andrés Manuel López
Obrador au Mexique. Comme attendu, en dépit de ce faux pas mexicain,
la gauche apparaît renforcée au terme de ce cycle électoral, avec les
réélections de H. Chávez et Lula, et les victoires de Evo Morales, Michelle
3. Paris, CERI-IHEAL-Maison de l’Amérique latine, 14-16 décembre 2006.
Colloque organisé avec le soutien de la Banque interaméricaine de développement (BID) et dont sont issues les contributions présentées dans cet ouvrage.
Voir aussi le numéro spécial de la revue Visages d’Amérique latine sur les
élections (décembre 2006), sur Internet à l’adresse suivante :
Les élections contre la démocratie ? L’année 2006 en perspective
Bachelet, Rafael Correa et Daniel Ortega. Toutefois, les différences à
l’intérieur de cette gauche l’emportent sur les ressemblances et, dans
certains pays, les clivages partisans sont plus que flous. Que dire en effet
du Costa Rica et du Pérou, où les vainqueurs, deux anciens présidents des
années 1980 dont les partis sont membres de l’Internationale socialiste,
ont été débordés sur leur gauche par des candidats radicaux ? Les catégories droite-gauche ne sont pas les meilleures entrées pour donner du
sens aux processus politiques latino-américains.
Saisir la complexité et éviter de caricaturer les évolutions politiques en
cours, tels étaient en tout cas nos objectifs lorsque nous avons créé en
novembre 2005 à Sciences Po un Observatoire des élections, sous la forme
d’un site Internet 4, destiné à scruter, commenter et analyser les douze élections présidentielles que l’Amérique latine s’apprêtait à organiser en un
peu plus d’un an. Cet Observatoire ambitionnait de permettre à un groupe
de chercheurs et d’étudiants de chroniquer et analyser en temps réel les
élections, et de mieux préparer ainsi le colloque L’Amérique latine aux
urnes et cet ouvrage qui en est issu. Mais l’ambition de cet Observatoire
était aussi d’appréhender cette année électorale comme un miroir grossissant des problèmes de consolidation et d’approfondissement de la démocratie en Amérique latine. Et, ce faisant, de tester des hypothèses, dont un
certain nombre avaient été abordées et discutées lors d’un colloque sur le
renouvellement du personnel politique, organisé au Centre d’études et de
recherches internationales (CERI) par David Recondo en décembre 2004 5,
et plus encore dans le cadre du workshop du European Consortium for
Political Research (ECPR) « Élections et démocratie en Amérique latine »,
que nous avions coordonné avec Fátima García à Grenade en avril 2005 6.
Nous nous proposons, dans cette introduction, de poursuivre cette
discussion à la lueur des analyses développées dans cet ouvrage, avant
de dégager deux singularités des processus électoraux de 2006.
4. Devenu aujourd’hui l’Observatoire politique de l’Amérique latine et des
Caraïbes ( Les fiches synthétiques de présentation des
élections (disponibles sur le site Internet des Presses de Sciences Po : http:// et sur celui de l’Opalc) de cet ouvrage ont été
élaborées par les différents « observateurs ». Je rends hommage au travail
remarquable réalisé pendant un an par le groupe, et particulièrement par le
webmaster, Patricio Scaff, sur qui je sais pouvoir toujours compter.
5. Voir sur Internet à l’adresse suivante :
6. Voir sur Internet à l’adresse suivante :
L’hypothèse des élections
contre la démocratie
Pour rassembler de façon brutale et quelque peu provocante ces hypothèses, je dirai qu’après avoir constitué une condition nécessaire à l’installation des démocraties, voire pour certains analystes une condition suffisante,
les élections joueraient à présent contre la démocratie, dans la mesure où
elles alimenteraient une spirale de la déception. La profonde insatisfaction
vis-à-vis des performances de la démocratie, systématiquement mesurée
depuis 1995 par les Latinobaromètres7, se convertirait en comportements
électoraux dont les caractéristiques seraient dysfonctionnelles pour la
qualité8 et la stabilité de la démocratie. Les électeurs latino-américains adopteraient en quelque sorte le type de comportement dénoncé par John Stuart
Mill il y a plus de cent cinquante ans, et qui consolide le misgovernment.
Dans la majorité des pays, les soutiens à la démocratie ont diminué
entre 1996 et 2004, et ils ont même brutalement chuté au Nicaragua, au
Paraguay, en Bolivie, au Pérou ou au Guatemala. Ces soutiens ont certes
connu une modeste progression en 2005-2006, mais la déception reste
palpable alors même que la situation économique du continent est
paradoxalement très favorable 9.
7. Quels que soient par ailleurs les doutes que l’on peut nourrir sur cet exercice
de mesure, car peu importe pour notre propos que la déception concerne la
démocratie ou les gouvernements. On trouvera une excellente mise au point
dans Andreas Schelder et Rodolfo Sarsfield, Democrats with Adjectives :
Linking Direct and Indirect Measures of Democratic Support, Afro Barometer,
Working paper, 45, novembre 2004.
8. La littérature est à présent abondante sur le thème de la qualité de la démocratie. Parmi les cinq éléments de définition souvent retenus – décision électorale,
participation, sensibilité à la volonté populaire (responsiveness), reddition de
compte (accountability) et souveraineté –, nous ne prenons en compte ici que les
deux premiers (voir notamment Daniel Levine et José Enrique Molina, « La calidad
de la democracia en América Latina : una visión comparada », América Latina
Hoy, 45, 2007). Par rapport à cette littérature, nous introduisons des variables
plus qualitatives concernant le type de comportement électoral (sous-hypothèse 1).
9. Selon la Commission économique pour l’Amérique latine (Cepal), le produit
intérieur brut (PIB) par habitant a progressé de 16 % dans la région entre 2003 et
2007, après avoir stagné pendant vingt ans (Cepal, Balance preliminar de las
economías de América latina y el Caribe 2006, Santiago du Chili, Cepal, 2007). De
même, toujours selon la Cepal, la pauvreté a reculé en 2005 pour la troisième
année consécutive, ce qui ne s’était pas produit depuis vingt-cinq ans, et
l’Uruguay, le Panama et le Brésil sont parvenus à réduire les inégalités (Cepal,
Panorama social de América latina 2006, Santiago du Chili, Cepal, 2007).
Les élections contre la démocratie ? L’année 2006 en perspective
Tableau 3 : Appui à la démocratie selon les Latinobaromètres*
59 %
39 %
– 20
59 %
39 %
– 20
64 %
45 %
– 19
63 %
45 %
– 18
51 %
35 %
– 16
60 %
46 %
– 14
Costa Rica
80 %
67 %
– 13
75 %
64 %
– 11
50 %
41 %
71 %
64 %
52 %
46 %
El Salvador
56 %
50 %
80 %
78 %
53 %
53 %
54 %
57 %
42 %
46 %
62 %
74 %
+ 12
Amérique latine
61 %
53 %
* % des interviewés d’accord avec la phrase : « La démocratie est préférable à toute autre
forme de régime ».
Sources :
L’hypothèse générale des élections contre la démocratie peut être
désagrégée en un certain nombre de sous-hypothèses susceptibles d’être
testées. Nous les regrouperons autour de trois entrées : comportement
électoral, offre politique et institutions.
Dans la suite de cette introduction, nous nous emploierons à tester ces
hypothèses, en fonction d’indicateurs que nous admettons discutables, et
en mêlant des enseignements tirés des analyses développées dans cet
ouvrage et des appréciations personnelles.
Tableau 4 : Trois sous-hypothèses
Sous-hypothèse 1
Sous-hypothèse 2
Sous-hypothèse 3
Comportement électoral
Offre politique
Dans un contexte de
déception vis-à-vis de la
démocratie, les
électoraux se
caractériseraient soit par
une désertion croissante
abstention, vote blanc ou
nul), soit par un abandon
à la rhétorique
néopopuliste (vote de
délégation à un leader
charismatique), soit par
un vote de protestation
(voto bronca) amenant de
fréquentes alternances.
Ces comportements se
verraient confortés par
une crise de l’offre
politique, c’est-à-dire à la
fois par une incapacité à
articuler une alternative
crédible, par un discrédit
des personnels politiques,
et donc l’apparition
d’outsiders, et une
faiblesse des partis
Les systèmes électoraux
en place ne
parviendraient à garantir
ni une juste
(notamment des
minorités) ni une bonne
gouvernabilité (avec de
fréquents cas de
« cohabitation »), et de
surcroît, dans certains
pays, les dispositifs
d’administration des
élections sont
régulièrement remis en
cause, ce qui ne contribue
guère à asseoir la
crédibilité des processus
Sources : Tableau élaboré par l’auteur.
S o u s - hy po t h è s e 1 : l e c o m p o r t e m e n t é le c t o r a l
Dans un contexte de déception vis-à-vis de la démocratie, les comportements électoraux se caractériseraient soit par une désertion croissante
(non-inscription, abstention, vote blanc ou nul), soit par un abandon à
la rhétorique néopopuliste (vote de délégation à un leader charismatique 10), soit par un vote de protestation (voto bronca) amenant de
fréquentes alternances.
Cette sous-hypothèse 1 s’avère globalement invalidée en 2006. La désertion électorale est modérée, et face à des classes politiques discréditées, les
10. L’usage de la catégorie « leader charismatique » est évidemment très discutable. Mais l’on a cherché à désigner par là la présence d’une dynamique délégative, au sens de Guillermo O’Donnell. Dans une démocratie délégative, le
président prétend incarner la nation, au-dessus des partis, et ignore les dispositifs de reddition de comptes (Guillermo O’Donnell, Delegative Democracy,
University of Notre Dame, Kellogg Institute, Working paper, 172, mars 1992).
Les élections contre la démocratie ? L’année 2006 en perspective
Tableau 5 : Sous-hypothèse 1
Comportement électoral dysfonctionnel
Leader charismatique
Honduras** 44,6 %
Oui (Manuel
15,5 %
Oui (Evo Morales)
Oui (Evo Morales)
13,1 %
Non-inscrits : 21,2 %
Non (Michelle
Costa Rica** 35 %
Modérée (Oscar
16,2 %
Oui (Ollanta Humala)
Modérée (Alan
54,9 %
Oui (Alvaro Uribe)
Non (Alvaro Uribe)
41,4 %
Oui (Andrés Manuel
López Obrador)
Non (Felipe
16,8 %
Votes nuls : 5,68 % Oui (Lula)
Votes blancs : 2,73 %
Non (Lula)
29,3 %
Votes nuls : 21,6 %
Oui (Rafael Correa et
Alvaro Noboa)
Oui (Rafael Correa)
25 %
Oui (Daniel Ortega)
25,1 %
Oui (Hugo Chávez)
* Au premier tour des élections présidentielles (sources officielles).
** Vote obligatoire (au Costa Rica et au Mexique, l’abstention n’est assortie d’aucune
Sources : Tableau élaboré par l’auteur à partir de données officielles.
citoyens latino-américains semblent certes avoir eu tendance à céder aux
sirènes du populisme, mais sans que cela ne se traduise au final par de
nombreuses alternances.
En matière de participation électorale, il convient toutefois de
mentionner deux groupes de pays qui, pour des raisons opposées, se sont
singularisés. Comme le souligne Jorge Lazarte (voir le chapitre 6), l’élection
de E. Morales en Bolivie marque une rupture historique à plus d’un titre, et
la participation électorale y a atteint des taux inégalés. Curieusement
d’ailleurs, la Bolivie était en 2004 le pays d’Amérique latine où l’opinion
selon laquelle le vote peut conduire à un changement politique était la plus
minoritaire (37 %) 11. La situation au Nicaragua est en apparence tout aussi
contradictoire. Le soutien à la démocratie a chuté de 20 points entre 1996 et
2004, mais la participation électorale est restée à peu près constante. En
2006, l’abstention a été inférieure à 25 %.
À l’inverse, au Costa Rica et au Honduras, Willibald Sonnleitner (voir
le chapitre 4) rappelle à quel point la désertion électorale s’accentue au
fil des années, conséquence dans le premier cas de la crise politique
provoquée par les scandales de corruption qui ont conduit à la condamnation de trois anciens présidents, et dans le second, de l’érosion d’un
bipartisme qui perdure pourtant.
Dans les pays où la participation est la plus faible (Colombie,
Mexique, Honduras), elle a avantagé les partis au pouvoir, comme si
l’abstention avait attiré les partisans de l’opposition, résignés quant à la
défaite prévisible de leur candidat. Naturellement, cette explication ne
vaut pas pour le Mexique. Le Venezuela entre aussi dans cette catégorie
où, depuis 1998, H. Chávez bénéficiait d’une démobilisation de l’opposition. L’abstention dans ce pays semblait être l’unique refuge des antichavistes, dans un contexte il est vrai de « fatigue électorale » (douze
élections entre 1998 et 2006). L’élection de 2006 a toutefois marqué une
rupture, avec une participation de près de 75 % 12.
Aucune tendance générale concernant l’abstention différentielle 13 ne
semble pourtant pouvoir se dégager, dans la mesure où une participation
nourrie, comme au Brésil ou au Pérou, a favorisé le candidat sortant
(Lula) ou le candidat faisant barrage à un outsider (Alan García). Au
Chili, la désertion prend la forme d’un refus de s’inscrire sur les listes
électorales, surtout parmi les jeunes. Pour les inscrits, la forte
11. Voir Latinobarómetro 2004. En 2006, dans la même logique, les Boliviens
sont parmi les plus nombreux en Amérique latine à estimer que la forme la
plus efficace pour « changer les choses » est la protestation collective (Latinobarómetro 2006).
12. Ce pays possédait, avant la dégradation de sa démocratie dans les années
1990, une tradition de très forte participation électorale : entre 1958 et 1988,
l’abstention pour les six élections présidentielles n’a été en moyenne que de
9,9 % (José Molina, La participación electoral en Venezuela, San José de
Costa Rica, Capel, 1989).
13. La littérature considère souvent que l’abstention « différentielle » a
tendance à pénaliser les sortants, dont les électorats sont démobilisés.
Les élections contre la démocratie ? L’année 2006 en perspective
participation a avantagé la Concertación au pouvoir depuis 1989, mais
d’une certaine façon il n’est pas déraisonnable d’avancer que M. Bachelet
représente une alternance « sociologique » sans alternance politique.
Il ne semble pas non plus que la présence d’un leader charismatique ait
tiré la participation vers le haut, puisque l’on retrouve une forte abstention
en Colombie et au Mexique, et une forte participation en Bolivie ou au
Brésil. En Colombie, la concentration du vote autour de la personne de
A. Uribe (uribismo) est une donnée nouvelle de la politique colombienne,
dans la mesure où, comme nous le rappelle Francisco Gutiérrez (voir le
chapitre 3), les partis traditionnels en déroute possédaient une tradition
anticaudilliste bien enracinée. Au Brésil, la délégation à un leader charismatique s’observe dans la différence entre le vote Lula et le vote PT, comme le
montre Camille Goirand à propos du Pernambouc (voir le chapitre 1), où
Lula a dépassé les 70 %, mais où le candidat du Parti des travailleurs (PT) au
poste de gouverneur a plafonné à 25 %. En Équateur, comme le montre
Flavia Freidenberg (voir le chapitre 7), le candidat R. Correa a mieux
contrôlé son électorat, et il est parvenu dans ses bastions à le convaincre de
voter nul aux élections législatives, en signe de rejet de la classe politique.
Les résultats mettent en évidence un petit nombre d’alternances, même
si l’on inclut des alternances modérées, comme au Costa Rica et au Pérou,
où Oscar Arias et A. García l’ont emporté sur des candidats plus radicaux.
Seuls la Bolivie et l’Équateur ont connu des alternances radicales. En
Bolivie, J. Lazarte rappelle que l’élection de E. Morales permet l’accès au
pouvoir de groupes exclus depuis l’indépendance du pays en 1825, tandis
qu’en Équateur, R. Correa incarne, selon l’expression de F. Freidenberg, la
cholocracia 14. Le cas du Nicaragua est ambigu. La très courte victoire de
D. Ortega a bien provoqué une alternance, mais le pacte signé en 1998
entre son parti (le Front sandiniste de libération nationale, FSLN) et le
président conservateur Arnoldo Alemán instaurait pratiquement une
situation de co-gouvernement qui a perduré jusqu’en 2006. Il en va de
même au Honduras, où le Parti libéral (Partido Liberal de Honduras, PLH)
ne représente guère une rupture par rapport au Parti national au pouvoir
depuis 2001. À l’opposé de ces alternances, la Colombie et le Venezuela
entrent dans la catégorie des élections plébiscitaires, où les électeurs sont
14. Ce terme fait référence à l’accession au pouvoir des « cholos », c’est-à-dire
des métisses.
invités à confirmer un président dans ses fonctions au terme d’une
campagne très centrée sur sa personne.
Au total, comme le montre le tableau 6, la sous-hypothèse 1 se trouve
globalement infirmée, car sa validation se serait traduite par une concentration des cas dans les catégories « Faible désertion-Alternance » (vote de
rejet) et « Forte désertion-Absence d’alternance » (abstention différentielle),
ce qui n’est pas le cas.
Tableau 6 : Désertion électorale et alternance politique
Costa Rica
Nicaragua Bolivie
Sources : Tableau élaboré par l’auteur.
S o u s - hy po t h è s e 2 : l ’ o f f r e p o li t i q u e
Ces comportements se verraient confortés par une crise de l’offre politique, c’est-à-dire à la fois par une incapacité à articuler une alternative
crédible, par un discrédit des personnels politiques et donc l’apparition
d’outsiders, et une faiblesse des partis politiques.
Cette sous-hypothèse 2 a été partiellement validée en 2006. À la différence des années 1990, qui resteront comme celles du consensus de
Washington, la gauche radicale incarne depuis le début des années 2000
une alternative en Amérique latine. En 2006, la révolution bolivarienne
de H. Chávez n’avait pas de « représentants » dans toutes les joutes électorales, mais même là où cette gauche était absente ou marginalisée, un
effet de repolitisation des questions sociales s’est fait sentir 15. Des
15. Kenneth M. Roberts, « From “The End of Politics” to a New “Left Turn”:
Populism, Social Democracy, and Social Movements in Latin America »,
communication au colloque Amérique latine. Nouvelles gauches ? Nouvelles
démocraties ?, Université de Montréal, 29-30 mars 2007.
Les élections contre la démocratie ? L’année 2006 en perspective
Tableau 7 : Sous-hypothèse 2
Crise de l’offre politique
Variables Absence d’alternative Personnel discrédité Faiblesse des partis
Indicateurs Programme d’opposition Popularité* Outsiders Fragmentation**
56 %
Oui (Evo Morales)
54 %
67 %
Oui (Otton Solis)
56 %
Oui (Ollanta Humala)
57 %
70 %
Oui (Andrés Manuel
López Obrador)
60 %
62 %
Oui (Rafael Correa)
23 %
23 %
65 %
Costa Rica
* % d’approbation de la gestion du gouvernement (Latinobarómetro 2006) .
** Nombre effectif de partis à l’Assemblée au moment de son élection17.
Sources : Tableau élaboré par l’auteur à partir de données officielles.
attentes se sont exprimées au sujet du partage des fruits de la croissance
économique, 16et les candidats ont su tendre l’oreille et se montrer
soucieux 17de poursuivre la lutte contre la pauvreté 18. Peu de programmes
de gouvernement ont toutefois été proposés aux électeurs, et dans les
pays où se dessinaient les contours d’un nouveau projet de société, les
16. Les Latinobarómetros n’indiquent pas la date de l’enquête, mais précisent
que ces hauts taux de popularité reflètent la lune de miel qui caractérise les
débuts de mandat.
17. Calculé à partir des sources officielles et de l’indicateur de Markku Laakso
et Rein Taagapera, dans « “Effective” Number of Parties : A Measure with
Application to West Europe », Comparative Political Studies, 12, 1979.
18. Bien engagée grâce aux programmes de transferts monétaires conditionnés
qui prolifèrent dans le continent (PROGRESA au Mexique, Bourse famille au
Brésil, etc.).
présidents élus ne se trouvent pas en situation de pouvoir aisément les
mettre en œuvre.
Les campagnes électorales ont bien souvent pris la forme d’échanges
d’invectives 19, comme au Mexique où les spots télévisés rivalisaient de
violence (Alberto Aziz, voir le chapitre 8). Au Pérou et en Équateur, le
spectre de la soumission de Ollanta Humala et R. Correa à H. Chávez a été
agité avec insistance durant la campagne. Au Brésil, le principal parti
d’opposition, le Parti social-démocrate brésilien (PSDB), a surtout
dénoncé la corruption rongeant le PT. Dans ce pays, la généralisation des
alliances a un effet destructeur sur le contenu idéologique des campagnes.
C. Goirand estime que les élections de 2006 ont « confirmé l’absence de
contenu idéologique clair des alliances », le PT s’étant allié au total à
19 partis différents. Les programmes ont de moins en moins d’importance
face à l’« individualisation des logiques électorales » et des choix des électeurs. Au Nicaragua, le camp des libéraux, bruyamment soutenu par
l’ambassade des États-Unis, a tenté de convaincre les électeurs que l’élection de D. Ortega ramènerait le pays à l’époque de la polarisation et des
affrontements de la révolution sandiniste (1979-1990). Au Venezuela,
H. Chávez n’a pas été avare d’insultes à l’égard des États-Unis, censés téléguider l’opposition à la révolution bolivarienne. Son adversaire s’est pour
sa part contenté d’en appeler au courage des électeurs, afin qu’ils osent
bouter le dictateur hors du pouvoir.
Dans les pays où la campagne a toutefois permis à certains candidats
de présenter des projets, l’opposition aux traités de libre-échange avec
les États-Unis (TLC) a dominé les débats, notamment au Mexique, au
Pérou et au Costa Rica. Dans ces trois pays, les opposants au libreéchange ont d’ailleurs été défaits. En définitive, seul E. Morales, à la tête
d’un « parti-mouvement », a porté au pouvoir les demandes sociales de
changement. Les cas du Nicaragua et de l’Équateur sont plus ambigus.
D. Ortega a déclaré vouloir respecter le TLC, mais les députés du FSLN
ont tous voté contre sa promulgation le 4 décembre 2006. D. Ortega a par
ailleurs montré quelque inclination envers les projets bolivariens de
H. Chávez. De son côté, R. Correa a annoncé qu’il ne mettrait pas un
19. De façon générale, les partis politiques en Amérique latine sont peu
« programmatiques » (voir Banque interaméricaine de développement, The
Politics of Policies, Economic and Social Progress in Latin America, rapport
2006, p. 34).
Les élections contre la démocratie ? L’année 2006 en perspective
terme au régime de dollarisation de l’économie, mais qu’il ne signerait
pas le TLC avec les États-Unis. Le cas de la Colombie se distingue aussi.
F. Gutiérrez décrit une radicalisation des opposants à A. Uribe, mais sans
polarisation. Une situation où la gauche du Pôle démocratique alternatif
(Polo Democrático Alternativo, PDA) a parfois rejoint la droite dans sa
critique de A. Uribe. Dans ce pays, F. Gutiérrez soutient l’hypothèse d’un
« dégel » du système des partis et d’une perte totale de fidélité partisane
des politiques. De fait, en mêlant habilement la mano dura vis-à-vis de
la guérilla à la générosité sociale, A. Uribe a fait dériver l’ensemble de
l’électorat vers la droite, mais en se centrant toujours sur les valence
issues, ces valeurs centrales consensuelles qui comprennent le rejet de la
politique (politiquería), le patriotisme ou la défense du « bien commun ».
Le discrédit du personnel politique est généralisé, ce qui n’empêche
pas au demeurant certains gouvernements de jouir de taux de popularité
appréciables 20. La confiance dans les partis politiques est particulièrement basse 21, mais peu d’outsiders « authentiques » sont parvenus à
s’imposer en 2006. Dans certains pays comme au Chili, ce sont les caractéristiques du système électoral qui en préviennent l’émergence, ce que
montre Leticia Ruiz à propos du système binominal (voir le chapitre 2).
Trois figures ont toutefois dominé l’année électorale : l’Indien, la
femme et l’ouvrier. Ni E. Morales, ni M. Bachelet, ni Lula ne peuvent être
considérés comme des outsiders, mais leur profil ethnique, « genré » ou
sociologique apporte une indéniable nouveauté dans le paysage politique
latino-américain. On pourrait leur opposer trois figures de « revenants » :
O. Arias, A. García et D. Ortega, qui ravivent le souvenir des
années 1980 22. R. Correa, en Équateur, est le seul outsider vainqueur,
mais encore convient-il de relativiser, dans la mesure où il a été ministre
et s’inscrit dans un contexte d’extrême fluidité politique, dans lequel la
notion même d’outsider perd de sa pertinence. Cette fluidité se retrouve
20. Entre 2002 et 2006, la moyenne d’approbation des gouvernements est
passée de 36 à 54 % (Latinobarómetro 2006).
21. Les partis politiques arrivent régulièrement en queue de liste des institutions en qui les Latino-américains placent leur confiance, loin derrière l’Église
et la télévision (Latinobarómetro 2006).
22. Oscar Arias a été président du Costa Rica de 1986 à 1990, Alan García
président du Pérou de 1985 à 1990, et Daniel Ortega président du Nicaragua
de 1979 à 1990.
à des degrés divers dans tous les pays. La faiblesse des partis, mesurée
par leur fragmentation, en constitue à la fois le symptôme et la cause.
Certes, quelques pays se caractérisent toujours par un paysage
partisan stable et proche de la bipolarisation. Le Honduras fait figure
d’exception dans la mesure où les deux partis, le Parti libéral et le Parti
national, exercent un quasi-monopole sur la vie politique du pays depuis
le XIXe siècle. Au Chili, la domination des deux alliances est consolidée
depuis l’époque de la transition (voir L. Ruiz) 23. En Bolivie, après avoir
contribué à détruire le système des partis depuis 2000, le Mouvement
vers le socialisme (MAS), qui est d’ailleurs plus une fédération de mouvements sociaux qu’un parti, a conquis 72 des 130 sièges à l’Assemblée,
victoire qui est à l’origine d’une polarisation inédite et donc d’une baisse
de la fragmentation.
Au Costa Rica, au Mexique et au Pérou, la fragmentation est faible en
valeur absolue. Mais dans le premier pays, ce taux modéré masque une
véritable rupture. La bipolarisation qui caractérisait la vie politique du
Costa Rica depuis la fin de la guerre civile de 1948 a volé en éclats, parce
que l’une des deux forces traditionnelles (le Parti de l’unité sociale-chrétienne, Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, PUSC) s’est écroulée, que la gauche
s’est renforcée (Parti d’action citoyenne, PAC), et que les petits partis ont
conquis 16 des 57 sièges de députés. Au Mexique, le paysage se stabilise
autour de trois partis (Parti révolutionnaire institutionnel, PRI, Parti
d’action nationale, PAN, Parti de la révolution démocratique, PRD), tandis
qu’au Pérou, le spectre partisan est nettement plus instable, et la fragmentation à la hausse après l’écroulement du fujimorisme et l’affaiblissement
de la droite conservatrice et de l’Alliance populaire révolutionnaire américaine (APRA). Dans ce pays, la crise des partis s’est jouée en 2006 en deux
temps. La victoire à l’arrachée de A. García contre l’antipolitique représenté par la coalition de O. Humala a pu un temps donner l’impression que
les partis traditionnels (notamment l’APRA) continuaient de jouer le
premier rôle. Six mois plus tard pourtant, le 19 novembre 2006, les élections locales se soldaient par la défaite des deux forces politiques présentes
au second tour de l’élection présidentielle (voir le chapitre 5 de Carmen
Rosa Balbi).
23. Toutefois, si l’on ne prend pas en compte les alliances mais les résultats
des différents partis, le nombre effectif passe à 5,57.
Les élections contre la démocratie ? L’année 2006 en perspective
En Colombie et en Équateur, la fragmentation est moyenne, mais elle
revêt des significations opposées. En Colombie, la réélection de A. Uribe
traduit la montée en puissance d’une nouvelle force politique, dont les
membres sont qualifiés par F. Gutiérrez de transicionales, parce qu’ils ont
été formés dans les partis traditionnels (et ne sont donc pas des outsiders)
mais se déclarent indépendants. L’aggravation de la fragmentation
découle de l’écroulement des deux grands partis traditionnels qui avaient
alterné au pouvoir et s’étaient fait la guerre depuis le XIXe siècle. En
Équateur, à l’inverse, cette fragmentation modérée représente un progrès,
toutefois sans doute éphémère. Le vainqueur de la présidentielle,
R. Correa, avait en effet choisi de ne pas présenter de candidats aux
législatives, simplifiant par là même momentanément l’équation politique, mais s’exposant à une cohabitation compliquée et à de possibles
conflits entre institutions 24. Le Brésil, enfin, se caractérise toujours par
une fragmentation très élevée, avec même un nombre effectif de partis
record de 9,29. Cette hausse est due à l’affaiblissement relatif du PT qui
n’a profité à aucun autre grand parti.
La crise des partis s’est aussi incarnée dans le très grand nombre de
candidats aux élections présidentielles. En Équateur, 13 candidats se sont
présentés à la présidentielle, mais les élections législatives mettaient aux
prises 10 partis, 32 mouvements nationaux et au moins 110 mouvements
provinciaux. Comme le rappelle F. Freidenberg, le nombre de mouvements
indépendants est en hausse de 97,2 % depuis 2002 25. En Haïti et au Pérou,
le nombre de candidats à la présidentielle a même dépassé la trentaine.
En somme, cette deuxième sous-hypothèse est partiellement validée. La
crise de l’offre politique, repérable depuis dix ans 26, s’atténue avec l’émergence d’une alternative à gauche. L’époque des authentiques outsiders
semble par ailleurs révolue. En 2006, tout se passe comme si certains électeurs latino-américains avaient décidé de renouveler le personnel politique
« de l’intérieur », en faisant varier le profil sociologique de leurs dirigeants.
24. Ce qui ne devrait pas choquer les Équatoriens qui, avec les Boliviens, sont
les plus nombreux en Amérique latine à estimer que la démocratie peut fonctionner sans partis politiques et sans parlement (Latinobarómetro 2006).
25. Voir aussi Marie-Esther Lacuisse, Les Organisations alternatives aux
partis politiques. Les mouvements politiques indépendants en Équateur,
mémoire de master de l’IEP de Paris, 2006.
26. Voir Olivier Dabène, Amérique latine, la démocratie dégradée, Bruxelles,
Complexe, 1997.
S o u s- h y p o t h è se 3 : l e s in s t it u t i o n s
Les systèmes électoraux en place ne parviendraient à garantir ni une juste
représentativité (notamment des minorités) ni une bonne gouvernabilité
Tableau 8 : Sous-hypothèse 3
Distorsions des systèmes électoraux
5,5 % / 23,4 %
PLH : 62 / 128
(30 %)
18,5 % / 16,9 %
(30 %)
Costa Rica
El Salvador
(élections intermédiaires)
12,5 % / 15 %
35,1 % / 38,6 %
PLN : 25 / 57
(40 %)
10,7 % / 16,7 %
17,5 % / 29 %
(30 %)
12 % / 8,8 %
Arena : 34 / 84
APRA : 36 /
16 % / 22,6 %
PAN : 206 / 500
(30 %)
8,2 % / 14,8 %
(30 %)
PT : 83 / 513
(30 %)
16 % / 25 %
Alianza País :
0 / 100
20,7 % / 15,2 %
FSLN : 40 / 92
9,7 % / 17,4 %
* Existence d’une loi garantissant la représentation des femmes et % à atteindre.
** Proportion de femmes à la Chambre basse, dans la législature précédente et dans celle
issue des dernières élections (sources : IDEA et Union interparlementaire).
*** Nombre de sièges du parti du président à la Chambre basse par rapport au total.
Sources : Tableau élaboré par l’auteur à partir de données officielles.
Les élections contre la démocratie ? L’année 2006 en perspective
(avec de fréquents cas de « cohabitation »), et de surcroît, dans certains pays,
les dispositifs d’administration des élections sont régulièrement remis en
cause, ce qui ne contribue guère à asseoir la crédibilité des processus
Cette sous-hypothèse 3 est globalement validée en 2006, ce qui, au
reste, ne doit pas surprendre. Les systèmes électoraux latino-américains
connaissent des distorsions depuis le début du XIXe siècle, et les révisions
constitutionnelles des années 1990 n’ont guère apporté d’améliorations
en la matière. Georges Couffignal faisait d’ailleurs remarquer il y a une
quinzaine d’années qu’en Amérique latine, « la fonction de représentation par l’élection a toujours été très limitée 27 ».
Les dispositifs mis en place pour améliorer la représentativité, appréhendée ici dans sa dimension « genrée », se sont généralisés 28. La plupart
des pays d’Amérique latine possèdent aujourd’hui une loi prévoyant des
quotas de représentation des femmes, et ils ont dans l’ensemble produit
des effets. La féminisation des assemblées est en progrès presque partout,
à l’exception de la Bolivie et du Nicaragua. Mais peu de pays parviennent
à atteindre les quotas fixés par la loi. Le cas du Costa Rica est exceptionnel en ce sens, puisque la féminisation de l’Assemblée atteint 38,6 %,
ce qui place ce pays dans la moyenne des pays nordiques européens. Au
Honduras, la progression a été encore plus spectaculaire. En 2001, la loi
de 2000 n’avait pas produit d’effets, mais en 2005, elle a pratiquement
atteint son objectif. Au Brésil, en revanche, la loi ne semble pas pouvoir
être respectée, même si de modestes progrès ont été réalisés.
Concernant les autres distorsions, L. Ruiz montre clairement, à propos
du Chili, que le système binominal fausse la représentation des citoyens.
Dans ce pays, le pourcentage atteint par les partis sans représentation
parlementaire est un des plus élevés d’Amérique latine 29. La faiblesse des
partis signalée plus haut, liée aux distorsions des systèmes électoraux, a
27. Georges Couffignal, « À quoi sert de voter en Amérique latine ? », dans
Georges Couffignal (dir.), Réinventer la démocratie. Le défi latino-américain,
Paris, Presses de Sciences Po, 1992, p. 36.
28. Concernant les minorités indiennes, les dispositifs se sont également
29. Avec 8,9 % en moyenne entre 1990 et 2002. Voir l’indice de disproportionnalité électorale du Programme des Nations unies pour le développement
(PNUD), dans PNUD, La democracia en América latina. Hacia una democracia
de ciudadanas y ciudadanos, Buenos Aires, PNUD, 2004.
provoqué une multiplication des situations de cohabitation ou de
« présidentialisme minoritaire ». Seuls le Chili, la Colombie, la Bolivie et
le Venezuela échappent à cette règle, pour des raisons au reste différentes. Au Chili, la domination de la Concertación se confirme une
nouvelle fois, tandis qu’au Venezuela, H. Chávez peut compter sur le
soutien sans faille d’une assemblée pratiquement monocolore 30. En
Colombie et en Bolivie, le panorama est plus mouvant, mais les figures
de A. Uribe et E. Morales ont exercé un effet d’entraînement sur leurs
appuis parlementaires.
Dans les huit autres pays, les présidents sont « mal élus », ce qui par
ailleurs constitue une tradition en Amérique latine. Le cas le plus extrême
est bien sûr celui de R. Correa en Équateur qui, en signe de défiance à
l’égard de la classe politique et parce qu’il souhaitait convoquer une assemblée constituante, n’a présenté aucun candidat aux élections législatives.
Le « présidentialisme minoritaire » est bien souvent rendu coupable
des problèmes de gouvernabilité des démocraties latino-américaines.
Toutefois, avant de tirer des conclusions hâtives, encore convient-il
d’évaluer la portée du nomadisme partisan des parlementaires (particulièrement coutumier au Brésil, comme le rappelle C. Goirand), qui joue
en faveur du ou des partis au gouvernement. De même convient-il
d’éprouver la solidité des alliances ou pactes qui sont scellés pour
garantir la gouvernabilité des pays aux « gouvernements divisés ». Les
situations initiales de cohabitation peuvent ainsi donner lieu à des configurations politiques très diverses, en fonction des caractéristiques institutionnelles (le jeu politique dans un système fédéral incite au
nomadisme partisan dans la mesure où un parlementaire va chercher à
canaliser des ressources fédérales vers sa circonscription), ou des cultures
et praxis politiques d’affrontement ou de compromis des parlementaires.
Enfin, les organismes électoraux ont été contestés dans six cas sur
onze, et ce même dans des pays où le décompte des voix faisait l’objet
d’une routine consolidée. Ainsi, au Honduras, pour la première fois
30. L’opposition ayant boycotté les élections législatives de 2005. L’alliance
soutenant Hugo Chávez comprend les partis suivants : Mouvement Ve République
(119 députés), Podemos (19 députés), Patrie pour tous (PPT, 9 députés), le Parti
communiste (PCV, 6 députés), le Conseil national indien (CONIVE, 3 députés), et
différentes petites formations qui totalisent 11 députés. Cette alliance pourrait ne
pas survivre à la tentative de H. Chávez de créer un Parti socialiste unifié (2007),
le Podemos, le PPT et le PCV s’étant montrés réticents.
Les élections contre la démocratie ? L’année 2006 en perspective
depuis le retour à la démocratie en 1981, le Tribunal suprême électoral
(TSE) a mis une dizaine de jours à rendre public les résultats. Et même au
Costa Rica, la faiblesse de l’avance de O. Arias sur Otton Solis a suscité
des doutes sur la régularité du dépouillement (W. Sonnleitner). Mais
comme le souligne A. Aziz, nulle part plus qu’au Mexique la contestation
n’a été aussi radicale. Après le scrutin exemplaire de 2000, ayant amené
la première alternance démocratique de l’histoire du pays, le renouvellement des conseillers électoraux de l’Institut fédéral électoral (IFE) en
2003 a été confisqué par le PAN et le PRI, interrompant la prise de
contrôle citoyenne du processus (ciudadanización), et l’élection de 2006
marque un retour à la méfiance et au soupçon généralisé de fraude qui
mine la toute jeune démocratie.
La sous-hypothèse 3 est donc assez largement validée. L’approfondissement de la démocratie en Amérique latine passe avant tout par une
consolidation institutionnelle.
Pour résumer, le cycle électoral 2006 se caractérise par des comportements électoraux relativement peu « déviants », en dépit d’une offre
politique toujours déficiente et d’institutions peu performantes.
Tableau 9 : Validation de l’hypothèse générale
Hypothèse générale
Les élections contre la démocratie
– Désertion
– Délégation
– Protestation
Offre politique
– Absence
– Personnel
– Faiblesse des
– Faible
– Problèmes de
– Institutions
Sources : Tableau élaboré par l’auteur.
En d’autres termes, la spirale de la déception n’a pas exactement fonctionné en 2006 comme le laissait prévoir le climat politique et social
dominant depuis le début des années 2000. La logique attendue devait se
donner à voir à deux niveaux.
D’un côté, tout laissait penser que les comportements électoraux de
désertion, délégation ou protestation allaient être dominants, ce qui allait
contribuer à déstabiliser les classes politiques et à affaiblir les partis politiques. Dans certains cas, on pouvait s’attendre à ce que l’anticipation de
ces comportements incite les candidats à faire preuve d’audace dans leurs
programmes, mais on imaginait qu’ils allaient surtout recourir à la rhétorique populiste et se convertir en « grands démagogues ». Réciproquement, la crise de l’offre politique allait alimenter les comportements de
De l’autre, tout laisser penser que les distorsions des systèmes électoraux allaient conforter les attitudes de défiance à l’égard du jeu démocratique et pousser les électeurs dans les bras de dirigeants
démagogiques. Parallèlement, on s’attendait à ce que les comportements
électoraux « négatifs » conduisent à une multiplication des situations de
En somme, les élections devaient contribuer à menacer la stabilité et
à affecter la qualité de la démocratie, ce qui en retour allait générer des
comportements électoraux erratiques. Force est de constater que cette
spirale de la déception n’a que modérément fait sentir ses effets en 2006,
précisément parce que les comportements électoraux, comme souligné
plus haut, n’ont guère versé dans les registres de la désertion, délégation
ou protestation. Ce résultat a, en soi, constitué une heureuse surprise 31.
Les élections de 2006 ont finalement confirmé une règle déjà
perceptible lors de la crise argentine de 2001. Le fameux slogan « ¡Que
se vayan todos ! 32 », bruyamment scandé lors des manifestations de
décembre 2001 qui provoquèrent la démission du président Fernando de
la Rua, n’eut aucune traduction électorale. Contre vents et marées, la
classe politique argentine a tenu, et lors des élections présidentielles du
27 avril 2003, l’abstention a été modérée (21,2 %), les votes blancs (1 %)
et nuls (1,7 %) insignifiants, et la gauche extrême qui était aux côtés des
mouvements sociaux n’a recueilli que 5 % des suffrages.
31. Une surprise au sens de construction sociale d’une attente, à laquelle ont
largement contribué les instituts de sondage. Voir Olivier Dabène, Michel
Hastings et Julie Massal (dir.), La Surprise électorale. Paradoxes du suffrage
universel, Paris, Karthala, 2007.
32. « Qu’ils s’en aillent tous ! ».
Les élections contre la démocratie ? L’année 2006 en perspective
Il faudrait pouvoir s’arrêter longuement sur cette déconnection relative 33 du vote par rapport aux contingences politiques et sociales, mais
tel n’est pas notre propos ici. Nous nous bornerons à évoquer une
variable insuffisamment explorée. En Amérique latine, l’élection présidentielle continue d’être une fête civique à l’occasion de laquelle peuvent
s’activer, se réactiver ou se réorienter des identifications partisanes. Cette
dimension festive, rituelle et/ou identitaire de l’acte de vote vaut souvent
explication. Dans les Andes par exemple, C. Rosa Balbi souligne à quel
point l’exercice du suffrage est valorisé en dépit de l’instabilité politique.
Et ce caractère festif et/ou identitaire fait que la déception peut trouver
à s’exprimer autrement, dans l’action collective ou la violence, ou se
diluer dans la résignation ou la dérision. Ces autres vecteurs d’expression
du désenchantement sont au demeurant tout autant porteurs de risques
d’érosion de la stabilité et de la qualité de la démocratie, comme l’ont
montré les renversements de présidents en Équateur (2000 et 2005), en
Argentine (2001) ou en Bolivie (2003 et 2005), ou la recrudescence de la
violence en Amérique centrale (maras). Dans les sociétés où s’intensifie
la violence délinquante, où la population cherche à migrer 34 et où la
« politique de la rue » peut à tout moment faire chuter un président, ce
sont alors les élections qui ne jouent pas suffisamment leur rôle de canal
d’expression institutionnalisé.
Les électeurs latino-américains semblent balancer entre deux types de
comportements, qui emportent des risques pour la stabilité de la démocratie. L’un appréhende le suffrage comme une adresse ou une interpellation exprimant une frustration (voto bronca 35), l’autre comme une
opportunité de « participer à un processus d’identification collective 36 ».
Dans le premier cas, le mécontentement peut se traduire par de fréquentes
33. Relative, parce qu’entre 2001 et 2006, la part des Latino-américains estimant que la situation économique est « mauvaise ou très mauvaise » a baissé
de 61 à 35 %. Le Brésil et le Venezuela arrivent en tête des pays où l’optimisme concernant l’avenir économique est le plus grand (Latinobarómetro
34. Jorge Lazarte cite le chiffre de 15 000 Boliviens qui chaque mois émigrent
en Espagne.
35. Ou ce que la littérature utilitariste nomme le vote rétrospectif simple.
36. Alessandro Pizzorno, « Sur la rationalité du choix démocratique », dans
Pierre Birnbaum et Jean Leca (dir.), Sur l’individualisme, Paris, Presses de
Sciences Po, 1986, p. 368.
alternances et le recours à des démagogues ou des hommes providentiels
(outsiders), dans le second, il se manifestera dans la rue.
En 2006, on l’a vu, la démocratie n’a toutefois pas été trop affectée
par le cycle électoral, mais rien n’indique que la tendance soit durable.
Le renouvellement sociologique (l’ouvrier, l’Indien et la femme), comme
le recours à d’anciens présidents (O. Arias, A. García, D. Ortega), possèdent à l’évidence des limites. La discussion de l’hypothèse générale des
élections contre la démocratie devra donc se poursuivre. Deux autres
singularités de cette année électorale ressortent des études qui suivent et
méritent un commentaire. La première concerne la sociologie et la
géographie électorale, la seconde l’internationalisation des scrutins.
Une géographie électorale particulière
Dans bien des cas, la géographie et la sociologie électorales ont été caricaturales en 2005-2006, et ce de deux points de vue. Les clivages régionaux, sociaux et idéologiques, en premier lieu, se sont superposés de façon
inédite. La carte électorale du vote Humala au Pérou, comme le montre
C. Rosa Balbi, correspond très exactement à celle de la pauvreté. La
géographie du vote en faveur de Lula est tout aussi caricaturale, avec des
scores proches de 75 % dans les zones les plus pauvres du Nord-Est. Dans
son cas, cela témoigne d’un changement par rapport à sa première élection
en 2002, où il l’avait emporté dans les États riches du Sud-Est. On peut
supposer qu’il en va de même pour le vote Chávez ou Ortega. En Équateur,
pays marqué par le traditionnel affrontement entre la costa et la sierra, les
clivages régionaux recoupent de surcroît en partie les clivages idéologiques. Comme l’indique F. Freidenberg, les électeurs de Guayaquil se déclarent volontiers à droite, tandis que ceux de Quito plutôt à gauche. En
Colombie, les « traditionnels » (surtout les conservateurs) se sont
« dénationalisés », dans la mesure où leur audience s’est réduite comme
peau de chagrin (F. Gutiérrez). Mais dans ce pays, l’ensemble de l’électorat
a glissé vers la droite, toutes catégories sociales et toutes régions confondues. En Bolivie, la carte électorale qu’analyse J. Lazarte met en évidence
un occident du pays largement favorable au MAS de E. Morales et un
orient dans l’opposition, mais avec toutefois une capacité du MAS à
progresser dans les zones orientales, avec près de 30 % des suffrages à
Santa Cruz par exemple. Au Mexique, enfin, A. Aziz montre que le PAN
Les élections contre la démocratie ? L’année 2006 en perspective
l’a emporté à l’élection présidentielle principalement dans le Nord et le
PRD dans le Sud et la capitale, le PRI ne l’emportant dans aucun État. Cette
bipolarisation ne se retrouve toutefois pas pour les élections législatives.
Le découplage entre les arènes politiques locales et nationales semble,
en second lieu, se consolider, et dans certains pays, les caciques locaux
indépendants font leur grand retour. Cette montée en puissance
s’apprécie notamment à l’occasion des élections locales, qui possèdent
leur logique. Ainsi, dans les pays qui procèdent à des élections locales
intermédiaires 37, une dynamique propre se développe-t-elle qui n’est ni
annonciatrice du résultat de l’élection à enjeu national qui suit, ni nécessairement un réalignement par rapport à celle qui précède 38. Le local en
Amérique latine n’est pas une dimension résiduelle de la politique.
Au Mexique, par exemple, les élections législatives de juillet 2003
s’étaient soldées par une cuisante défaite du PAN (qui passait de 206 à 151
députés) face au PRI (224 députés contre 211 en 2000) et au PRD (97
députés contre 50 en 2000). Cela n’a pas empêché le PAN de gagner
en 2006. En Équateur, les partis traditionnels sont parvenus à contrôler les
élections municipales et régionales d’octobre 2004, avant de s’écrouler lors
de la présidentielle de 2006. En revanche, au Nicaragua, les élections
municipales de novembre 2004 ont vu la victoire des sandinistes, anticipant leur succès de 2006. De même en Bolivie, le MAS est devenu la
première force politique du pays lors des municipales de décembre 2004,
avant d’emporter la présidentielle avec E. Morales un an plus tard. Au
Costa Rica, les élections municipales du 3 décembre 2006 se sont soldées
par une large victoire du Parti de libération nationale (PLN) (59 des
81 mairies), avec toutefois plus de 75 % d’abstention. Cette victoire reflète
l’efficacité de l’organisation du PLN au niveau local, plus qu’elle ne constitue un vote de confiance pour le président O. Arias, vainqueur avec une
infime marge de l’élection présidentielle dix mois auparavant.
37. Comme cela a été le cas en 2003 en Colombie et au Mexique, et en 2004
au Brésil, au Chili, au Nicaragua, en Bolivie et au Mexique.
38. À la différence de la « logique des élections intermédiaires » mise au jour par
Jean-Luc Parodi, pour qui « les élections qui ne concernent pas la distribution du
pouvoir national présenteraient des régularités d’ajustement par rapport à l’élection nationale antérieure et se caractériseraient par un recul du parti ou de la
coalition au pouvoir, sans présenter de caractère prédictif particulier par rapport
à l’élection nationale postérieure » (Jean-Luc Parodi, « Dans la logique des élections intermédiaires », Revue politique et parlementaire, 903, 1983, p. 42).
Réciproquement, il y a bien une logique propre aux élections présidentielles. Ainsi, par exemple, J. Lazarte indique-t-il que E. Morales
l’emporte à La Paz, mais le candidat du MAS à la mairie est battu. Il en va
de même au Brésil, on l’a vu plus haut. La logique des bastions avait
d’ailleurs déjà été perceptible lors du premier tour de la présidentielle en
Argentine en avril 2003 39. En Colombie, F. Gutiérrez montre que des
alliances avec les paramilitaires et les narcotrafiquants se nouent au
niveau local alors qu’elles sont proscrites au niveau national. Toutefois, ce
dualisme est, selon lui, poreux, comme le montrent divers scandales de
collusion entre parlementaires et paramilitaires. Au Pérou, on l’a dit, les
élections locales qui sont intervenues six mois après la présidentielle ont
été marquées par la défaite du Parti apriste péruvien (PAP, Partido Aprista
Peruan) (A. García) et du Parti nationaliste péruvien-Union pour le Pérou
(PNP-UPP, Partido Nacionalista Peruano-Unión por el Perú) (O. Humala),
et la victoire des caciques régionaux indépendants qui l’emportent dans
20 régions sur 25, 112 des 195 provinces et un grand nombre de mairies.
O. Humala, qui avait gagné dans 15 des 25 régions, voit son parti, le Parti
nationaliste péruvien (PNP), n’emporter aucune élection régionale.
La montée en puissance des caciques locaux facilitera-t-elle la
gouvernabilité ? Les gouvernements désireux de développer des
programmes redistributifs sur les modèles mexicain et brésilien pourront-ils éviter de huiler les rouages du clientélisme ? Ces questions
mériteront d’être soulevées dans les années qui viennent.
L’internationalisation des élections
L’autre singularité de ce cycle électoral en 2005-2006 tient à son internationalisation. Dans un grand nombre de pays, au Brésil tout particulièrement, les questions internationales ont été au centre des débats, ce qui
est une réelle nouveauté. Il est vrai, comme le montre Sebastião Velasco
(voir le chapitre 9), que les positions de Lula sont complexes et requerraient des explications, et que le projet d’une zone de libre-échange des
Amériques (ZLEA) suscitait des controverses. Le Mexique, en revanche, a
39. Où chaque candidat avait son bastion : Carlos Menem l’emporte avec
81,2 % des voix dans le district de La Rioja, Nestor Kirchner avec 78,7 % à
Santa Cruz, et Adolfo Rodriguez Saá avec 87,5 % à San Luis.
Les élections contre la démocratie ? L’année 2006 en perspective
fait figure de curieuse exception. D. Recondo explique bien que l’international a été le grand « faux » absent de la campagne (voir le chapitre 10).
Valant aveu d’impuissance, le silence des candidats sur les questions
migratoires a été remarqué, mais les élections mexicaines ont toutefois été
profondément internationalisées, notamment par le biais de la présence
massive d’observateurs étrangers.
Les campagnes 40 ont aussi été affectées par le « facteur Chávez ». Le
prosélytisme du leader de la révolution bolivarienne a structuré les débats
et pesé sur les résultats. O. Humala doit ainsi certainement sa défaite à la
grossière intromission de H. Chávez dans la campagne péruvienne. Au
Mexique aussi, le PAN a exploité avec le même succès la ficelle de la
proximité supposée de A. M. López Obrador et de H. Chávez. En fin
d’année, au Nicaragua et en Équateur, l’effet repoussoir semblait avoir
perdu de son efficacité, en partie parce que H. Chávez se faisait plus discret
parce qu’il était en campagne, et en partie aussi parce que les États-Unis se
montraient tout aussi maladroits en tentant de faire barrage à D. Ortega.
Mais l’internationalisation a également affecté le Venezuela même,
comme le souligne Carlos Romero (voir le chapitre 11). Durant sa
campagne, H. Chávez n’a pas perdu une occasion, notamment dans son
émission de télévision dominicale « Aló Presidente », de présenter sa
réélection comme une nécessité historique pour freiner les progrès du
capitalisme et consolider la résistance à l’impérialisme. Le ton messianique flatte indéniablement la fierté des Vénézuéliens.
L’internationalisation des élections n’est pas nouvelle en Amérique
latine. Rarement toutefois auront à ce point coïncidé une vague électorale
et de grands enjeux concernant l’avenir des relations interaméricaines.
Car H. Chávez escomptait bien terminer l’année 2006 en voyant grossir le
nombre de ses alliés au sein de l’Alternative bolivarienne pour les
Amériques (ALBA). Et d’un bout à l’autre du continent, qu’ils soient ou
non des proches de H. Chávez, nombre de candidats étaient sommés de
prendre position dans le débat sur les traités de libre-échange avec les
États-Unis. L’avenir du régionalisme était en jeu, et le bilan est finalement
40. Un autre facteur d’internationalisation qui mériterait un examen réside
dans le financement des campagnes « de l’extérieur », grâce notamment aux
transferts monétaires (remesas).
mitigé 41. En Amérique centrale, tant O. Arias que D. Ortega sont plutôt
favorables à une relance de l’intégration centraméricaine, sans remise en
question du libre-échange avec les États-Unis. D. Ortega s’est toutefois
empressé d’adhérer à l’ALBA. Dans les Andes, la Communauté andine des
nations (CAN) souffre de la concurrence du Marché commun sud-américain (Mercosur), mais A. García défend le groupe régional et s’attache
même rapidement à négocier la réintégration comme membre associé du
Chili, facilitée par la défection vénézuélienne.
Ces ambiguïtés ne sont qu’apparentes. L’Amérique latine en 2006 a finalement offert un visage modéré, et la politique étrangère devrait s’en
ressentir. Aidés en cela par l’affaiblissement de George W. Bush, dû à la
défaite des Républicains lors des élections à mi-mandat de novembre 2006,
les rapports interaméricains devraient s’apaiser à la suite du cycle électoral
2006, ce qui n’est pas une des conséquences les moins inattendues du
« virage à gauche » de l’Amérique latine.
41. Voir Olivier Dabène, « Reconfigurations politiques des processus d’intégration régionale », dans Georges Couffignal (dir.), Amérique latine. Les surprises
de la démocratie, Paris, IHEAL-La Documentation française, 2007.