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Blocked Democracies in Central America

GIGA Focus International Edition (5/2011) by Otto Argueta, Sebastian Huhn, Sabine Kurtenbach, Peter Peetz

Download: <www.giga-hamburg.de/giga-focus/international>

The elections of 6 November 2011 have further damaged Central American democracy. Otto Pérez Molina, a right-wing conservative former general, was elected president of Guatemala with 54 percent of all votes cast. On the same day, Daniel Ortega was confirmed for a third term as president of Nicaragua in office with 62 percent. Both elections emphasize the growing trend of authoritarian rule in Central America.

The shortcomings within the Central American transformation towards democracy, the establishment of the rule of law, and a policy of social development are clearly not of a transient nature, as they have become more and more prominent. These shortcomings prevent the rooting of democracy in society that is necessary for its consolidation.

- After two decades of political transformation, neither social injustice nor poverty have been reduced in Central America. Dealing with these historically ingrained problems, however, is necessary to politically strengthen and legitimize democracy.

- The political minimum consensus is increasingly under threat. The supposedly leftwing parties demand a government policy of active intervention by establishing welfare programs; however, they attempt to put their policies into practice at the cost of the existing legal framework.

- The political right, on the other hand, insists that formally democratic procedures must be adhered to, but suggests that social injustice and political disintegration can be overcome only with a completely free market and a security policy best described as an "iron fist" approach.

- At the same time, both camps try to mobilize their supporters not with policydriven programs that aim to solve these critical issues, but with populist slogans and loyalty towards certain individuals. The result is a political blockade that prevents the deepening and consolidation of democratization.

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idw :: 02.12.2011