f_0016622_14364 - Democratic Reform and Injustice in Latin...

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The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations Democratic Reform and Injustice in Latin America: The Citizenship Gap Between Law and Society by Alison Brysk L atin America is a paradoxical world leader. In the twentieth century, Latin America led the struggle for democracy—and now, Latin America leads in unjust societies that cannot fulfill the promise of universal human rights despite elections and theoretical rule of law. The “citizenship gap” between developed formal entitlements and distorted life conditions, including massive personal insecurity, is greater than in any other region. 1 While Latin America receives the highest scores on electoral democracy and political participation in the developing world, the region has the worst record on effective rule of law, crime, and corruption except for grossly impoverished Africa and South Asia. 2 Latin America’s experience demonstrates how the rule of law can be systematically undermined by private and transnational displacement of power, as well as incomplete democratization of state institutions. The persistence of injustice demonstrates the interdependence of democratic processes in the public sphere and democratization of social relations. 3 The transition to electoral democracy does make a difference in the level, incidence, and amelioration of political repression. In a pale echo of the past generation’s right-wing military authoritarian regimes, it is now egalitarian but undemocratic Cuba that has more than 300 political prisoners, the death penalty, and the world’s second highest number of journalists in jail. 4 Nevertheless, democracy is not enough—the region’s most violent countries are democratic but insecure: Colombia and desperately impoverished Haiti, which some consider a failed state despite a series of internationally supervised elections and reconstruction efforts. Below the level of these signal political pathologies, for most Latin American countries, such as Mexico and Brazil, injustice is a chronic condition metastasized through an ostensibly democratic political body, most visible at the extremities of social marginality. This essay will argue that injustice in Latin America is a problem of democratic deficits in function —despite the democratic structure of elections and institutions— Alison Brysk is a professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of California, Irvine. 55
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BRYSK The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations and that better and broader human rights are the bridge between equal laws and unequal societies. The citizenship gap is not an inherent insufficiency of democracy for addressing social problems, as some populists claim, but rather an insufficient application of democracy to functional arenas of power outside the formal legal system that distort the juridical equality of citizenship. 5
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f_0016622_14364 - Democratic Reform and Injustice in Latin...

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