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Volume 61 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: ARGENTINA, PARAGUAY, AND URUGUAY


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


THE EUPHORIA FELT A GENERATION AGO in all three La Plata countries over the end of military rule and the return of democracy has long since worn off. Though still committed to making democracy work, the countries are confronting the ugly realities of corruption and the painful adjustments required by free markets. Disillusion with traditional political parties has resulted in the rise of new ones in all three countries, with varying degrees of success.

Argentina is still trying to come to terms with the Dirty War. There is much polemical writing that tries to justify either the military or the guerrillas. Ollier's work is a good, careful, and balanced account (item #bi2001007254#).

Most contemporary writing on Argentina focuses on the controversial Menem decade. Menem gets praise from many writers for his bold economic reforms that privatized state industries and introduced freer trade: Blutman (item #bi2001005676#), Camou (item #bi 00006430#), and Gaggero (item #bi2002003425#). Goldin, however, argues that Argentina's rigid labor laws still need reforming (item #bi2001007251#).

Critics of Menem point to the rampant police corruption and occasional violence that constituted his administration's dark side. Fleischman (item #bi 00007091#) suggests that the police were themselves involved in the unsolved bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center. Similarly, Fernández Llorente and Balmaceda (item #bi2001007247#) and Sdrech and Colominas (item #bi2001007255#) use the murder of an investigative reporter to explore the sinister connections between the underworld, the police, and highly placed political figures. Nevertheless, democracy totters on. Despite official attempts to bribe or intimidate it, the Argentine press is relatively free, according to Beliz (item #bi2001005663#). And, as Novaro points out, Menem's machinations to secure a third term were eventually thwarted (item #bi 99010071#). Lorenc Valcarce insists that political parties are playing a crucial role in maintaining democracy (item #bi2001007250#). In particular, a new party, FREPASO, has changed the political landscape entirely, according to Abal Medina (item #bi 00003231#) and Godio (see HLAS 59:3867).

Paraguay's democracy has survived an attempted military coup, the assassination of a vice president, and the impeachment of a president. For these dramatic events the best sources are Abente Brun (item #bi 00006832#) and Valenzuela (item #bi 00006892#). Abente Brun and Valenzuela blame General Lino Oviedo, now a fugitive in Brazil, for the upheavals. Abente Brun is a member of a relatively new party, the Encuentro Nacional, and was recently made Minister of Justice. His article underscores the role of public protests in stopping Oviedo, and therefore shows optimism about the survival of democracy in Paraguay. Pane, a former ombudsman for the city of Asunción is similarly upbeat (item #bi2001005665#). On the other hand, Fogel points to the persistence of the latifundio system (item #bi2001005644#), while Martini describes the rampant corruption that saps public confidence in the country's institutions (item #bi2001005646#). Paraguay needs a real turnover in its government, but Paredes concludes that the opposition is so divided that this prospect seems very remote (item #bi2001007244#). On the other hand, he also perceives the ruling Colorados to be so divided that the future is bound to be turbulent (item #bi2002003430#).

As usual, Uruguay is fascinated with its electoral and party systems. In 1996 the old, cumbersome "double simultaneous vote" procedure was replaced by a new law that mandated the holding of primaries and the use of a runoff election for the presidency. As Buquet observes, the new law aimed at checking the growing strength of the leftist Frente Amplio (items #bi 00002691# and #bi 00001925#). This seemed to work in 1999 when the Frente Amplio's Tabaré Vázquez, the front-runner in the first electoral round, lost to Julio Sanguinetti in the runoff as the third place Blancos threw their support to their traditional Colorado rivals. The long-term effects of this change are hard to discern, but Cason predicts that the traditional parties eventually will merge to restore Uruguay's two-party system (item #bi 00006955#). Cason's other chief prediction, that the Frente Amplio will have to move toward the center, seems borne out by a speech Tabaré Vázquez gave before a group of businessmen denying that he was anticapitalist (item #bi 00002535#).


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