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Volume 51 / Social Sciences


PAUL H. LEWIS, Professor of Political Science, Tulane University


MEMORIES OF MILITARY REPRESSION under the Proceso have not faded in Argentina, by any means. Indeed, they lend a special urgency to the question of whether the new democratic system can survive. The great bulk of the political literature to appear in the last two years concentrates on three important aspects of that question: 1) how can democracy be institutionalized; 2) how can the military be fitted into the new system; and 3) how well has democracy performed under the Administration of President Raúl Alfonsín?

An excellent introduction to the challenges involved in the transition to democracy is a collection of essays edited by Peralta Ramos and Waisman (item bi 88001243). Given Argentina's huge foreign debt, its badly deteriorated economy, and the intransigence of many of its leading pressure groups, most of the contributors to the volume are only guardedly optimistic about the future. Much of the other literature in this area consists of either "think-pieces" about how democratic institutions could be strengthened, or lightly-researched studies of public opinion or pressure group attitudes. Exceptions to this generalization are the collection of essays edited by De Riz on Argentina's Congress (item bi 88001244) and Pírez's public administration study of federal-provincial relations (item bi 88001761). Both are serious political science works.

Concerning the military, the grim years of the Proceso are vividly recalled in Graham-Yooll's highly-recommended work (item bi 88001755). The trial and conviction of the Proceso's top officials for their human rights violations is admirably covered in works by Amnesty International (item bi 88001738), Camarasa (item bi 88001250), and Méndez (item bi 88001728), in which the trial record is allowed to speak pretty much for itself. The problem remains, however, of how to incorporate the military into the democratic process. Recent revolts, beginning with the 1987 Semana Santa uprising, do not encourage optimism, but the García (item bi 88001741), Gazzoli (item bi 88001756) and Moneta (item bi 89000501) books at least offer some recommendations.

Any attempted assessment of the Alfonsín government's record is bound to generate polemics: the Radicals defend him, and everyone else finds fault. There is plenty of this sort of reading to plow through. Two works by Giussani (items bi 88001721 and bi 88001742) and one by Leuco and Díaz (item bi 88001245) rise above the general level, however, and offer some real insight into the President, his policies, and the men around him. Smith's discussion of the ill-fated "Austral Plan" (and the Brazilian "Cruzado Plan") is of course highly professional and of considerable theoretical interest (item bi 89000461). Abós' two works on labor under Alfonsín are partisan in nature, but worthwhile because of his intimate acquaintance with the subject (items bi 88001725 and bi 89000500).


In reviewing the recent literature on Uruguay, pride of place should be given to Weinstein's excellent introduction to that country's government and politics (item bi 88001724), covering all the same themes discussed above with reference to Argentina in a clear and cogent way. English-speaking readers will be grateful for such an introduction. Works by Uruguayan writers tend to concentrate either on the recent past or on the intricacies of their electoral system. The best works which try to analyze the 1970s replacement of democracy by military rule are by Alfaro (item bi 89001366) and López Chirico (item bi 89001367). As for the electoral system, there seems to be a limitless audience in Uruguay for discussions of its effects, principally because this is seen as being pivotal to stabilizing democracy. Rolando Franco (items bi 88001753, bi 88001762, and bi 89001347) seems to be the major supplier of good, professionally-done studies, but Aguiar (item bi 91001019) and Rial (items bi 88001735 and bi 89001332) also make valuable contributions.


Paraguay, as usual, attracts the fewest serious political science studies. Almost all works concerning its politics are highly partisan. Human rights organizations contribute some useful information about authoritarian practices, while the opposition tends to concentrate these days on the prospects for a future democracy, now that the stronato seems to be drawing to a close. The overthrow of Stroessner in 1989 ought to expand this category of literature considerably. By the same token, it is anticipated that the long-standing and steady output of fawning praise for Gen. Stroessner by Colorado Party writers is coming to an end.

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