Most of the nineteen Latin American countries experienced processes of electoral democratization.
The goal of political scientists who study Latin America is not just to understand the origins and nature of the region’s new democracies but also to determine ways in which they can be strengthened and deepened.
In the early 1980s most Latin American countries made a transition from authoritarian to democratic regimes.
They went along with the third wave of democratization that had started in the 1970s in Southern Europe (Linz , Stepan and Gunther 1995, 124).
The last twenty years of the 20th century, however.
saw important changes in the democratization processes of the region.
Lately, the discipline has taken up the notion of “democratic consolidation” as a way of avoiding that error.
Next it will examine the considerable variance in the degree of democratic consolidation and democratic quality in the region as of 2012.
Nevertheless, within this broader regional success exists considerable country-by-country variation in democratic experience and quality.
This article will first review the stark differences in the foundations upon which the region's Third Wave democracies were constructed, with particular focus on the nature of the democratic transition and prior experience with democratic elections and governance.
All Latin American democracies succeeded authoritarian forms of government without the accompaniment of major changes in socio-economic structures; at most there was some reordering of relations between certain social strata and the state as a result of “marketizing” reforms.
Hence, these countries must contend with strata and interest groups—the military, elements of the business sector, parts of the political or administrative elite—that supported a previous authoritarian regime and still wield enough power to make democratic governance difficult or impossible, if they choose to do so.