Enforcing the Rule of Law

Enforcing the Rule of Law: Social Accountability in the New Latin American Democracies

Enrique Peruzzotti
Catalina Smulovitz
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Enforcing the Rule of Law
    Book Description:

    Reports of scandal and corruption have led to the downfall of numerous political leaders in Latin America in recent years. What conditions have developed that allow for the exposure of wrongdoing and the accountability of leaders?Enforcing the Rule of Lawexamines how elected officials in Latin American democracies have come under scrutiny from new forms of political control, and how these social accountability mechanisms have been successful in counteracting corruption and the limitations of established institutions.

    This volume reveals how legal claims, media interventions, civic organizations, citizen committees, electoral observation panels, and other watchdog groups have become effective tools for monitoring political authorities. Their actions have been instrumental in exposing government crime, bringing new issues to the public agenda, and influencing or even reversing policy decisions.

    Enforcing the Rule of Lawpresents compelling accounts of the emergence of civic action movements and their increasing political influence in Latin America, and sheds new light on the state of democracy in the region.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7288-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Part One: Civil Society and the Control of Political Power
    • 1 Social Accountability: AN INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 3-33)
      Enrique Peruzzotti and Catalina Smulovitz

      A somber diagnosis has predominated in recent debates about and evaluations of the nature and quality of democracy in Latin America. Most authors seem to agree that the democratic regimes established in the last democratizing wave present serious institutional deficits, particularly in relation to the development of adequate and effective mechanisms of accountability. Most administrations, they argue, can effectively avoid the usual constraints posed by the various mechanisms of control of governmental decisions. Undoubtedly, these arguments call attention to the persistence of political practices and institutional deficits that prevent the consolidation of strong and accountable democratic institutions. However, the political...

      (pp. 34-54)
      Rosangela Batista Calvancanti

      In opposition to the obstacles to implementing participatory democracy processes in the context of the division between state and society, the Brazilian federal constitution currently in force, including the rules and regulations derived from it, seems to have been created with the understanding that representative democracy mechanisms used in combination with participatory democracy elements not only provide additional legitimacy to the decision-making process but also result in enhanced government performance.

      In this context, where social actors are provided with new mechanisms to legitimize their active involvement in the public arena and their ability to pressure public authorities at different levels,...

    • 3 Judicialization of Protest in Argentina: THE CASE OF CORRALITO
      (pp. 55-74)
      Catalina Smulovitz

      Highly mobilizational forms of protest are one of the trademarks of the current social, political, and economic crisis in Argentina.¹ Images of middle-class citizens pounding on bank doors, picketers’ demonstrations, roadblocks, and supermarket lootings dominated public images of the recent explosion of protest. People were back in the streets, and social defiance appeared to challenge the ability of the state to impose political order. Institutions seemed to be withering away, and many social and political actors explicitly questioned the representative role and recent performance of political institutions. In this context, where massive, although fragmented, social and political protest regained the...

    • 4 Multiple Activation as a Strategy of Citizen Accountability and the Role of the Investigating Legislative Commissions
      (pp. 75-114)
      Ana Tereza Lemos-Nelson and Jorge Zaverucha

      The deepening of democracy in Latin America is happening in the context of a complex framework of previously dominant forms of authoritarianism, presenting to progressive reformers the challenge of destroying these sources of conservatism. One characteristic of this framework hangs in the axis of the opposition between five-century-old patrimonialism and aspiring republicanism. As Guillermo O’Donnell has pointed out, republicanism is one of the sources of contemporary democracy. In Latin America, however, patrimonialism, and its lack of separation between the public and the private realms, has had a negative impact on the democratic experience by obstructing the development of republican traits...

    • 5 Critical Junctures of Social Accountability: LESSONS FROM LATIN AMERICA
      (pp. 115-133)
      Nuria Cunill Grau

      No one seems to doubt the importance of social accountability in optimizing the performance of the governmental apparatus. This lack of doubt is indicated in the recent increase in specialized literature on the subject. However, there still exists an excessive amount of ambiguity concerning this complex topic, which results in contradictions not only in terms of its intrinsic purposes but also for the strengthening of democratic governability.

      An inconvenient homogeneity usually becomes apparent when there are failures to take into account the fact that the accountability of nonelected officials is not subsumed into the accountability of politicians. Our institutions do...

    • 6 Violent Police, Passive Citizens: THE FAILURE OF SOCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY IN CHILE
      (pp. 134-177)
      Claudio A. Fuentes

      The reestablishment of a democratic regime should imply an improvement of political and civil rights, but almost twenty years of democracy in Latin America have clearly shown that this is not the case regarding civil rights. While new democratic governments are theoretically protecting citizens’ rights, the empirical record of human rights abuses shows that in many countries little real progress has been made. This is particularly true of a fundamental right: the protection of individuals’ physical and psychological integrity. In many countries of Latin America today, citizens are subject to mistreatment and torture by the police, and most of the...

    • 7 Social Accountability in Mexico: THE CIVIC ALLIANCE EXPERIENCE
      (pp. 178-212)
      Alberto J. Olvera Rivera

      In Mexico, the study of social actions, procedures, and institutions referring to the diverse forms of accountability is yet to be accomplished. The fact that the country rid itself of the octogenarian authoritarian regime only recently explains the lack of political as well as intellectual traditions in this area.¹ Nevertheless, this does not imply that civil society did not develop means of accountability in the past or, much less, that this is not done in the present. As we will see in this chapter, the experiences that Catalina Smulovitz and Enrique Peruzzotti (2000) call “societal accountability” are numerous and varied,...

    • 8 Mobilization and Accountability: A STUDY OF SOCIAL CONTROL IN THE “CABEZAS” CASE IN ARGENTINA
      (pp. 213-246)
      Jacqueline Behrend

      In January 1997, only eight months before midterm elections in which Argentine president Carlos Menem’s party lost its absolute majority in the Lower House, the charred body of press photographer José Luis Cabezas was found in what remained of his car outside the coastal city of Pinamar. The murder shocked press workers and media executives alike and sparked a mobilization and social response that was to keep the case at the center of society’s and politicians’ attention over the next few years. The visibility of the protests against Cabezas’s murder led politicians and institutions to respond to the claims of...

  7. Part Two: Watchdog Journalism and Social Accountability
    • 9 Media Scandals and Social Accountability: ASSESSING THE ROLE OF THE SENATE SCANDAL IN ARGENTINA
      (pp. 249-271)
      Enrique Peruzzotti

      The public life of many democracies, old and new, is being shattered by the recurrent breakout of media scandals. From the United States to Australia, from France to Colombia, the behavior of presidents, members of cabinet, legislators, and high-ranking public officials has been the object of intense public scrutiny as the result of the uncovering of questionable acts by the media. The prominence that political scandals are gaining in contemporary democracies has generated an important debate about the role and consequences of such media scandals. The aim of this chapter is to contribute to the ongoing debate by analyzing the...

      (pp. 272-304)
      Silvio R. Waisbord

      A few weeks after a cease-fire was declared in the 1995 Ecuador-Peru war, a scandal broke out in Argentina. Initial revelations that Argentine weapons had been sold to Ecuador flew in the face of what was publicly known about the involvement of the government in the war. Because Argentina was one of the guarantors of the 1942 peace treaty, the government had adopted a neutral position and made efforts to bring both countries to the negotiation table. Revelations suggested, however, that it had armed one of the parties at war. Early denunciations were found to be just the tip of...

  8. Part Three: Some Theoretical Issues
    • 11 Accountability and Civil Society
      (pp. 307-322)
      Andrew Arato

      Representative government is a medieval, Western invention. Whether we agree with Rousseau’s condemnation or Hegel’s applause concerning the meaning of feudal origins, we should certainly notice that medieval representation faced no legitimation problems. Estate assemblies simply made present to the prince, directly or through the imperative mandate, social orders that were already powerful and that retained or increased their power through representation. All who counted as parts of the political nation were included, and there was no division between represented and representatives. But when the heirs of the estates, Parliament in the seventeenth century and the Constitutional Convention and the...

    • 12 Social Accountability in Latin America and Beyond
      (pp. 323-333)
      Adam Przeworski

      Here is how I understand the problem to which this volume is addressed. Suppose that you live in a situation where teachers do not appear in school, mail is delivered irregularly, police extort bribes, people languish in jails without being judged, social security checks fail to arrive, perhaps even salaries of public employees are not paid on time. What can you do about it?

      You can vote in the next election for a party that offers a program for correcting this situation. You will be exercising prospective electoral control.

      You can vote in the next election against the incumbent government....

    • 13 Notes on Various Accountabilities and Their Interrelations
      (pp. 334-343)
      Guillermo O’Donnell

      I have for some time been involved in, and concerned about, a subject that I call “horizontal accountability.” The definition I have offered of this term is as follows: “The existence of state agencies that are legally enabled and empowered, and factually willing and able, to undertake actions that span from routine oversight to criminal sanctions or impeachment, in relation to actions or omissions, by other state agents or agencies, that may be qualified as unlawful.”¹

      I differentiate this type of accountability from vertical accountability, which I define as the mechanism of elections. I also notice, among the good news...

    • 14 Concluding Remarks
      (pp. 344-354)
      Enrique Peruzzotti and Catalina Smulovitz

      What can be learned from the different initiatives of social accountability that have been analyzed in this volume? Can they help us to shed new light on prevailing diagnoses of the state of democracy in Latin America? Are social accountability mechanisms changing the ways in which democracies operate in the region? Do they represent a voice strong enough to improve the quality of representative arrangements in Latin America? While the set of experiences that are the focus of previous chapters might be too limited for challenging long-standing and deep-rooted institutional and political practices, they nevertheless serve as an index of...

  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 355-358)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 359-362)