Deepening Local Democracy in Latin America

Deepening Local Democracy in Latin America: Participation, Decentralization, and the Left

Benjamin Goldfrank
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Deepening Local Democracy in Latin America
    Book Description:

    The resurgence of the Left in Latin America over the past decade has been so notable that it has been called “the Pink Tide.” In recent years, regimes with leftist leaders have risen to power in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Venezuela. What does this trend portend for the deepening of democracy in the region? Benjamin Goldfrank has been studying the development of participatory democracy in Latin America for many years, and this book represents the culmination of his empirical investigations in Brazil, Uruguay, and Venezuela. In order to understand why participatory democracy has succeeded better in some countries than in others, he examines the efforts in urban areas that have been undertaken in the cities of Porto Alegre, Montevideo, and Caracas. His findings suggest that success is related, most crucially, to how nationally centralized political authority is and how strongly institutionalized the opposition parties are in the local arenas.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05538-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  7. Overview
    (pp. 1-10)
  8. 1 Democracy, Participation, and Decentralization
    (pp. 11-33)

    While the spread of local-level participatory democratic experiments across Latin America described in the previous chapter generated excitement in many corners, it also encountered considerable controversy. Especially when under the auspices of Left-leaning governments, a rapid increase in popular participation can raise fears of threats to democracy, including tyranny of the majority and tyranny of the active minority. As a result, long-standing debates over the appropriate types and levels of participation and decentralization have resurfaced vigorously in recent years. For some analysts, increasing decentralization and expanding citizen participation are the keys to ensuring democratic stability or deepening democracy, while for...

  9. 2 A Tale of Three Cities
    (pp. 34-83)

    Why did Porto Alegre’s participation program succeed most compared to similar programs tried in Caracas and Montevideo? As the second part of this chapter illustrates, many of the keys to success and the stumbling blocks preventing it described by scholars seem unpersuasive answers. The three cities were fundamentally similar with regard to most of the elements emphasized in the literature: type of incumbent party and civil society organizations, city size and level of development, and the quality of municipal bureaucracies. Initially, even the participation programs themselves were remarkably alike. Yet two crucial differences changed the trajectory of the participation programs...

  10. 3 Caracas: Scarce Resources, Fierce Opposition, and Restrictive Design
    (pp. 84-120)

    Of the three cities in this study, only in Caracas did the incumbents fail to consolidate their participation program. The initial enthusiasm with which city residents greeted the program in 1993 quickly gave way to disillusionment throughout most of the city’s nineteen parishes. By the end of the Causa Radical’s administration in 1995, popular participation within the program had fallen dramatically in all but three parishes. In the administration that followed, the mayor from Acción Democrática completely dismantled LCR’s participation program. This chapter describes the participation program in detail and explains its inability to sustain large numbers of participants. After...

  11. 4 Montevideo: From Rousing to Regulating Participation
    (pp. 121-164)

    The story of participatory decentralization in Montevideo presents some parallels to that of the parish government program in Caracas. Montevideans welcomed the new opportunity to participate opened by the Frente Amplio in 1990 with massive attendance at budget assemblies throughout the city. Powerful, well-institutionalized opposition parties, however, prevented the incumbents from consolidating the original design of the participation program. After the opposition impelled a change in the design, the number of participants began to decline, and within a few years city officials and residents worried about the “crisis of participation.” Participation never dwindled to the abysmally low levels seen in...

  12. 5 Porto Alegre: Making Participatory Democracy Work
    (pp. 165-218)

    Porto Alegre’s now famous experiment with participatory budgeting initially gave little indication that it would endure, let alone become an international model. After planners at the United Nations Habitat meeting in 1996 selected the city’s participatory budget process as one of the world’s “best practices” in urban government, Porto Alegre began to host hundreds of visitors from across the globe to study and emulate its success in providing public services and revitalizing civic life. Yet judging from the first two years of the participatory budget process, when participation rates were anemic, the budget for public works was minuscule, and dissension...

  13. 6 Stronger Citizens, Stronger State?
    (pp. 219-246)

    Implementing a participation program that actually sustains ongoing citizen interest is not easy, even when political leaders have an ideological commitment to radical democracy. The Causa Radical’s parish government program in Caracas failed almost completely to keep city residents actively involved. In Montevideo, the Frente Amplio fared better, yet its program was still mired in a “crisis of participation” by the end of 1990s. Only the participatory budget program in Porto Alegre continued to attract an ever-growing and diversifying number of participants throughout the decade. The preceding chapters argued that these differences were most immediately related to the different design...

  14. Conclusion: The Diffusion of Participatory Democracy and the Rise of the Left
    (pp. 247-266)

    As Latin American leaders of both old and new democracies in the 1980s and 1990s began the transition away from the centralized and often authoritarian regimes of previous decades, the general notions that the region’s governments required more citizen participation and greater decentralization found support from an uncommonly wide swath of the ideological spectrum. Mainstream international development organizations like the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program encouraged adoption of these policies as part of a larger reform of the state. They viewed decentralization and participation as methods of expanding and improving public services, which in turn would help...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-291)
  16. Index
    (pp. 292-300)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 301-301)