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The availability of relatively reliable and comparable data online and the increasing emphasis on statistical and formal research methods has led many political scientists to dismiss research in foreign countries as a waste of time and money. We leave that debate to others (see, e.g., Comparative Politics Organized Section 2005; Qualitative Methods Organized Section 2004). Instead, we offer suggestions for maximizing the contributions of fieldwork to the production of original research. We pay particular attention to research in developing countries owing to the unique challenges of undertaking research there, but we believe our insights are applicable to field research more generally.
Owing to the standardization of the LPP throughout Bolivia, there is little variation in the experiences of local government with respect to the design of institutional innovations. All municipalities were required to formulate POAs and five-year municipal development plans using a prescribed participatory planning methodology. All were required to form vigilance committees comprising representatives from civil society organizations. As in Ecuador, indigenous political parties added features derived from indigenous and campesino-union cultures, such as the minga, the fila comunitaria (community line) method for selecting electoral candidates, and accelerated rotation of elected leaders.
Cases diverge with respect to implementation in relation to the political, social, and economic context. This context varied sharply between the departments of La Paz and Cochabamba. As in Ecuador, I chose a small set of geographically clustered cases from two regions where indigenous parties had their greatest electoral success. I show how distinct political conditions in the departments of La Paz and Cochabamba resulted in variations in implementation affecting the democratic quality of local governance. In contrast with Ecuador, where leadership was decisive, what is notable in Bolivia is not the impact of leadership but, rather, its conspicuous absence owing to the overweening influence of local and national movement–party logics and rules, cultural and political norms of accelerated office rotation that prevent mayors from establishing authority, and the top-down imposition of local governance designs that diminished the scope of mayoral initiative. Statistical information with respect to available socioeconomic indicators is presented in Table 6.1.
Certainly all historical experience confirms the truth – that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he reached out for the impossible. But to do that a man must be a leader, and not only a leader but a hero as well, in a very sober sense of the word.
Max Weber, “Politics as a Vocation” Gerth and Mills (1946a: 128)
Durable radical democratic institutional innovations have this in common: an exceptional mayor to initiate the innovation, to guide it through its initial, rocky stages, and to ensure that it survives the innovating mayor's departure. Mayoral leadership was particularly important in Ecuador because mayors there have broader scope to initiate and design new institutions. In the most acclaimed Ecuadorian cases (Cotacachi and Otavalo) the innovating mayor is still in office after multiple terms. In contrast, there are several once-acclaimed cases (Guamote and Guaranda) in which a mayor oversaw the design and implementation of promising institutional innovations but then left office and the new government was unwilling or unable to sustain the institution – even though the replacement mayor was from the same party. The close correlation between the presence of the initiating mayor and sustained democratic institutional innovation underscores the importance of particular leaders to any explanation of the conditions for beneficial reform.
To a social scientist seeking generalizable conditions that could point us toward replicable solutions for troubled, conflictual democracies, the apparent need for highly qualified leaders is frustrating.
Some observers – anthropologists, philosophers, human rights' activists, development professionals – were horrified when indigenous peoples shed their political innocence and entered formal politics in significant numbers in the mid-1990s. Would this be the end of “pure” native cultures uncorrupted by Western politics? Would we no longer have living, morally superior models of prepolitical human relations to juxtapose to modern, complex, failing states?
For the most part indigenous citizens (and not a few political scientists) were thrilled with the prospect of empowering Latin America's most-excluded groups and with the possible implications for democracy of this promising and unexpected turn of events. As a Pachakutik militant explained to me one afternoon in Quito in July 2005,
This is the reality today. Now, what happens is that the indigenous peoples have become politicized. We have maintained and we have ratified that we are a political organization, because politics is a science, no?, that seeks the common good. Given that the society in its entirety – not just the indigenous – is assuming a political attitude, the rich that run the country don't have to be políticos. And many people assume this, as if politics were bad and, thus, they should stay away from it. And we say that no, we are political. Our organizations are political. All of our actions, all of our activities are political actions.
(My translation; interview, Alberto Yumbay, July 7, 2005.)
In the 1990s, as South America's party systems began to undergo serious crises, indigenous peoples formed electorally viable political parties for the first time. In Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, and Venezuela, candidates emphasizing an ethnically indigenous identity and representing parties affiliated with indigenous social movement organizations gained control of local and intermediate governments, as well as a foothold in national legislatures. They became most successful in Bolivia and Ecuador, where today they dominate dozens of local governments and control significant blocs in Congress. In 2005 and 2002, respectively, indigenous parties elected the country's president.
It is no accident that the new indigenous parties emerged at a time when public confidence in parties had plummeted. The failure of parties to reduce poverty and inequality, to protect citizens from crime and violence, to promote economic development, and to protect human rights two decades after the end of military rule generated declines in public support for parties and for democracy itself (Drake and Hershberg 2006: 10; Hagopian 2005: 320; O'Donnell 2004: 46–51; UNDP 2004: 62). Latin American citizens view traditional political parties as corrupt, self-serving, incapable of addressing complex economic and social problems or protecting citizens rights and the rule of law, and unresponsive to increasing demands for action (Hagopian 2005: 321; Mainwaring and Hagopian 2005: 2; O'Donnell 2004). Voters are searching for representation alternatives that offer real solutions, as opposed to patriotic platitudes. Many are attracted to indigenous peoples' parties because they seem to provide an alternative.
Within the same legal and macropolitical framework, Ecuadorian municipalities responded differently to the opportunity presented by decentralization and the political ascent of indigenous social movements and their electoral vehicles. In this chapter I describe the evolution of local government institutions in five cantons in which Pachakutik won office in 1996 or 2000. In two, Pachakutik remains in power and presides over what outsiders consider to be “model” radical democratic institutions. In three others, Pachakutik lost power to rival indigenous sectors and leadership cupulas: to the evangelical party Amauta Jatari/Amauta Yuyay in Chimborazo province and to the mestizo party ID in Guaranda. The five case studies presented represent two distinct geographic biopsies of Ecuadorian democracy. The two model cases, Cotacachi and Otavalo, are located contiguously in the northern sierra province of Imbabura. The three more-problematic cases lie contiguously across the two southern sierra provinces of Chimborazo and Guaranda. Comparable socioeconomic statistics for each municipality are presented in Table 5.1.
Despite the lack of top-down diffusion of specific participatory–deliberative or traditional–cultural institutions, some common features may be observed in all five Pachakutik-led municipalities. First, mayors made a great effort to meet with constituents as individuals or in groups. In small, rural, majority-indigenous cantons Pachakutik mayors and councillors engage in considerable face-to-face interaction with indigenous communities. In larger cantons, distant communities are less able to participate directly but receive regular communications in their own language from municipal authorities.
Decentralization and democratization in Bolivia and Ecuador occurred in the context of regional and global trends that shifted powers from central to local governments and expanded citizen participation in public decision making. These trends converged with the return to civilian-elected rule in Latin America in the late 1970s and accelerated and deepened over the next decade. Latin America in subsequent decades produced some of the most admired decentralization experiences (Eaton 2004: 36). Development professionals embraced the writings of political theorists extolling the “normative, substantive and instrumental benefits of participation” (Humphreys et al. 2006: 585–6). By the 1990s virtually all major development players – multilateral and bilateral donors and civil society groups – had embraced a preference for governance methods that facilitate the autonomous involvement of stakeholders in the choice, design, implementation, and monitoring of development programs. Thus, when Andean indigenous governments sought new ways to link social-movement organizations with public decision-making bodies in the 1990s, they received enthusiastic support from many development actors.
Before we investigate the variations in institutional innovation in particular municipalities, it is important to understand the enormous impact of the larger legal, political, and economic contexts in each country. We must remember that the most important decisions that affect local living conditions are made in distant national, and even international, capitols (Bebbington 2005: 5; Grindle 2007: 182–3). In the first section I describe the development of decentralization in Ecuador and Bolivia.
The opportunity to operate as a social movement in the streets, outside the political system, while also holding elected office, maximizes the leverage that indigenous social movements can bring to bear against opponents. When such movements represent excluded groups, their participation in government improves the quality of local democracy by improving representation and strengthening its legitimacy. But expanding fields of contention into formal institutions carries risks. Powerful elites design institutions to control dissent and exclude challengers. Having surmounted these obstacles to inclusion, entering formal institutions subjects social-movement representatives to the same pressures and incentives that their predecessors faced. The result may be a change of faces in government but not necessarily an improvement in democratic quality.
The ambivalence of indigenous movements with respect to formal and informal politics is reflected in a well-known statement that MIP leader Felipe Quispe made after his election to Congress in 2002. He vowed that while he played with one hand the game of democracy, with the other he would hide a stone under his poncho (La Prensa 2002: 8). How can social-movement activists entering new democratic institutions be persuaded to put down their stones? How can they do so without betraying the principles of the social movements that launched their political careers and, consequently, losing support?
After a decade in local office, are indigenous peoples' governments in the Andes fulfilling their promise to provide a more participatory, accountable, and deliberative form of democracy? Using current debates in democratic theory as a framework, Donna Lee Van Cott examines 10 examples of institutional innovation by indigenous party-controlled municipalities in Bolivia and Ecuador. In contrast to studies emphasizing the role of individuals and civil society, the findings underscore the contributions of leadership and political parties to promoting participation and deliberation - even at the local level. Democratic quality is more likely to improve where local actors initiate and design institutions. Van Cott concludes that indigenous parties' innovations have improved democratic quality in some respects, but that authoritarian tendencies endemic to Andean cultures and political organizations have limited their positive impact.
In recent years, arriving on the job market with published work has
shifted from a desirable condition to a necessity. Even middling
universities can afford to ignore applications from job applicants without
peer-reviewed articles in scholarly journals. Thus, it is important for
graduate students to focus as early as possible on publishing their
work.I wish to thank Brian Brox, Jonathan
Hartlyn, and Nancy Maveety for comments on an earlier draft.