Mon, Sep 30, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Honeymoon for Latin American democracies nears its end

By Jorge Castaneda

Similarly, although Mexico has experienced rapid population growth and significant standard of living improvements over the last 15 years, many believe that they are not getting what they deserve — or what they were promised. Teachers are furious at being blamed for the wretched state of the country’s education system and view Pena Nieto’s “educational reform” law as an excuse to limit the power of their unions while avoiding genuine institutional reform.


Mexico City’s middle-class residents — who wield disproportionate influence countrywide — are also incensed, both at the teachers for disrupting their lives and at the federal and local authorities for failing to restore order. Against this background, the credibility of Mexico’s political institutions is rapidly eroding.

There is a more fundamental issue at play that stems from the accumulated imperfections of representative democracy in countries where social and economic conditions are less than ideal. When post-authoritarian excitement abounded and rapid economic growth prevailed, these imperfections were manageable; now, with the former fading and the latter a memory, they have become immense challenges.

This problem transcends Latin America. As observers like Joshua Kurlantzick have pointed out, a global shift away from representative government, driven by increasingly disillusioned middle classes, is underway. For elected leaders, the dilemma is that there are no simple solutions — and little public patience for more complex ones.

Jorge Castaneda, a former foreign minister of Mexico, is professor of politics and Latin American and Caribbean studies at New York University.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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