Political Science: Argentina

Democracy in Argentina

How well has democracy been consolidated in Argentina? Things are certainly much better than they were between 1976 and 1983, when "as many as 30,000 people disappeared, thousands were imprisoned for political reasons, and thousands more were killed" (Bonner 2005) during the last military dictatorship (when democracy was only a distant dream of the people). The publication Latin American Politics and Society explains that today in Argentina the main thrust of citizen action for fairness and justice comes through the human rights organizations (HROs). And the political leadership in Argentina responds more quickly and thoroughly when HROs address "family relationships." But the article explains that Argentina's political system may not have paid any attention to HROs if those human rights groups had not put pressure on Argentina's leaders through the leverage of international courts. The obstacles facing HROs include the fact that paying attention to today's families in Argentina allows to some degree the government to overlook the children of the "disappeared."

Meanwhile, in an article in the British Journal of Political Science (Gelineau, et al., 2006), the authors review and analyze the issue of how decentralization in Argentina is affecting the political dynamics in "subnational" (local and regional) areas. In other words do local (often rural) citizens vote and participate in democracy based on how they are responding socially to the national political scene? The authors note that there is an international trend of late for governments to pass administrative, political, and economic responsibilities along to local and regional authorities; "decentralization" in effect amounts to the national political establishment washing its hands of the decisions in the outlying areas; in another way, it is passing along power to local and regional authorities.

The results of this research indicate that, "...vote choice in provincial elections is heavily influenced by the track record of the national administration" (Gelineau et al.). That having been said, it is also a finding in the article that if things are going well on the national level, and the economy is "booming and presidential popularity high," the chances of political success for candidates at the local level are "more likely to be shaped by partisan affiliation than by the effectiveness" of the politicians at the local level who identify with the political party of the national leaders. And when things are not going well at the national level, those in local government aligned with the president politically, will suffer, no matter how well they do in their jobs.

Another article, this on in the Journal of Latin American Studies (Wolff 2007) the writer, Jonas Wolff, a research associate with the Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, explains the rise in the "piquetero movement" as protests broke out around the country in the 1990s in response to unemployment and poverty. Those protests started in the country's interior but it "quickly spread across Argentina and, especially, into the de-industrialized suburbs around Buenos Aires." By 1997, there were 170 piquetes and by 2001 there were 2,336 piquetes. It was a fast-growing movement of demands for jobs, and for dignity. It was "a poor people's movement," Wolff writes, and all these piquetes, while initially being allowed to take over responsibilities at local levels, did not successfully unite nationally. Still, when the economy of Argentina collapsed in 2002, the piquetero movement did not take full advantage of the opportunity to push its agenda for democratic reform.

There were roadblocks and protests, yes, and the piquetero movement…