Is 2020 a Déjà vu of 1920 for Latin America?

A century ago, Latin America as a region was evolving in economic, social and political terms. In 1920, the Mexican Revolution (1910) and its 1917 constitution, and the effects of World War I (1914-18) were still important reference points for economic and political developments for the region.  The export oriented Latin American economies produced a relative period of prosperity in a number of countries, such as Argentina (beef and wheat), Mexico (henequen, sugar, mining), and Chile (copper, fruits). This in turn, produced a relative grow in the middle class, the emergence of local working classes, immigration from Europe, and an expansion of democracy from the upper class to a small emerging middle class.  And yet, in spite of that evolution, the region as a whole and in each specific case showed in the 1920s levels of fragility, underdevelopment and inequality.   Governments were run top-down by strong men supported by small group of wealthy families who controlled the pace and depth of policies.  Concentrated economic and political power resulted in the exclusion of women, indigenous groups and rural residents.  In the 1920s, in great part due the export economic model Latin America was connected to the global economy and thus was vulnerable to the ups and downs of demand.  A century later in 2020, the region has also made impressive progress in many economic, political and social dimensions, but remains vulnerable and prone to risks and crisis. Why?

¿Es 2020 un Déjà vu de 1920 para América Latina?

Hace un siglo, América Latina como región estaba evolucionando en términos económicos, sociales y políticos. En 1920, la Revolución mexicana (1910) y su constitución de 1917 y los efectos de la Primera Guerra Mundial (1914-18) seguían siendo puntos de referencia importantes para el desarrollo económico y político de la región. Las economías latinoamericanas orientadas a la exportación produjeron un período relativo de prosperidad en varios países, como Argentina (carne y trigo), México (henequén, azúcar, minería) y Chile (cobre, frutas). Esto, a su vez, produjo un crecimiento relativo en la clase media, el surgimiento de clases trabajadoras locales, la inmigración desde Europa y una expansión de la democracia de la clase alta a una pequeña clase media emergente. Y, sin embargo, a pesar de esa evolución, la región en su conjunto y en cada caso específico mostraba en los 1920 niveles altos de fragilidad, subdesarrollo y desigualdad. Los gobiernos eran dirigidos de arriba hacia abajo por hombres fuertes apoyados por un pequeño grupo de familias ricas que controlaban el ritmo y la profundidad de las políticas públicas. El poder económico y político concentrado tenía como un resultado la exclusión de mujeres, grupos indígenas y residentes rurales. En la década de 1920, en gran parte debido al modelo económico de exportación, América Latina estaba conectada a la economía global y, por lo tanto, era vulnerable a los altibajos de la demanda. Un siglo después, en 2020, la región también ha logrado un progreso impresionante en muchas dimensiones económicas, políticas y sociales, pero sigue siendo vulnerable y propensa a riesgos y crisis. ¿Por qué?

On Legitimacy, Accountability and Governance

A recent article published in April 2019 argued that the increasingly widespread belief that Latin American and Caribbean countries were governed to benefit “the few” rather than “the many” suggested that the legitimacy of institutions may be declining. Using data from the latest Latinobarómetro, the article put forward the idea that because people believed that rules were unfair, they will be more likelihood to not comply with them.  According to the article no legitimacy on norms, meant no compliance.   While some data may show correlation and support this conclusion, legitimacy is intertwined with the dynamics of accountability and democratic governance.  As such, legitimacy is not uni dimensional.  To the contrary, the interplay of legitimacy, accountability and governance is a multidimensional enterprise, that continues to evolve not only in Latin America and the Caribbean, but across the globe. Legitimacy is but one ingredient of outcomes, procedures and relations in a democratic socio-political space.   How can we analyze and measure legitimacy at the end of the second decade of the 21st Century?