Similar to various other Latin American countries, Brazil suffered through a right-wing military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.1 The aim of this dictatorship was to eliminate any and all threats of communist uprising within the country. This is similar to Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay, but, unlike such countries, Brazil has only now acknowledged the torture and other atrocities committed during the 21-year dictatorship.
Despite the return of electoral democracy to most of Latin America in the 1980s and early 1990s, thousands of protesters continue to be arbitrarily arrested, injured, or even killed by police.1 At the most extreme, dramatic events result in many people losing their lives to police violence. For example, during the December 2001 economic and political crisis in Argentina, 39 protesters were killed. Yet such repressive protest policing is not limited to dramatic and destabilizing events.
Latin American nations are notoriously poor tax collectors and Argentina is among the least effective. Despite a relatively high level of development, Argentina’s governments are unable or unwilling to extract at levels comparable even to the surrounding nations. One possible source of this weakness is Argentina’s political structure, including its fiscal federalism and the incentives provided by elections and national governance. Crucially, taxing is unpopular, so politicians that face reelection or can gain resources elsewhere will avoid it.
Argentina adopted the world’s first gender quota law in 1991, mandating that political parties nominate women for 30 percent of the electable positions on their candidate lists.
On July 31st 2014 the clock ran out on the deadline for Argentina’s government to make a $539 million interest payment to the 93 percent of its bondholders which had agreed to debt restructuring in the years since the country’s 2001/2 economic and political crisis. At that time Argentina had been forced to declare the largest sovereign default in world history, but with the latest deadline having been missed, the South American nation is now once again in ‘technical default’ with the doom merchants forecasting profound economic upheaval.
As the specter of economic crisis continues to haunt Europe and the global north, a deepening and simultaneous crisis of representative democracy looks set to bring anti-system parties to power in Spain (Podemos) and Greece (Syriza) in the coming months.
In a recent article I discussed how the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman has fomented mass protests and suspicion throughout Argentina that the government might be complicit in his death. In this piece I provide evidence that the handling of Nisman’s death by the Fernandez administration may support the claim that Argentina continues to function as a delegative and not representative democracy.