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Although the 1970s witnessed a convergence of neoliberal economic policies and authoritarianism in the Southern Cone countries of Latin America, the 1980s gave way to a new combination of economic orthodoxy and democracy in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. Neoliberal economic projects emerged in these central Andean countries as they confronted broadly similar economic problems. Plummeting prices in the international market for key exports, decreased investment, and growing financial burdens imposed by the international debt created the parameters of la crisis—the topic that became a central focus of political discourse in these new democracies. At different points in time, each of the three countries responded to the crisis with neoliberal economic experiments. In Peru a turn toward neoliberalism occurred under the administration of Fernando Belaúnde Terry (1980-1985), only to be completely reversed by the heterodox policies of Alan García (1985–). In Ecuador basic stabilization measures had already been undertaken by the government of Osvaldo Hurtado (1981-1984). León Febres Cordero (1984-1988) then committed the country to a monetarist and antistatist model. In Bolivia following the enormous instability and hyperinflation during the government of Hernán Siles Zuazo (1982-1985), the country adopted a neoliberal approach under the presidency of Víctor Paz Estenssoro (1985-1988).
Launched as a leftist vehicle for the presidential candidacy of Rafael Correa, the Alianza País (AP) dominated Ecuador’s electoral politics for a decade. Electoral success, however, was never paired with a democratically minded project of party building. Wielding expansive executive powers as president from 2007 to 2017, Correa consolidated his personal control over the AP and set the country on a course of democratic backsliding. Horizontal coordination among elites and operatives inside the party was enforced through a top-down command structure. Decisions about messaging, candidates, and discipline were tightly controlled by Correa and his inner circle of hand-picked loyalists. Eschewing grassroots participation in favor of technocratic governance, Correa systematically undercut independent groups in civil society and used executive-branch resources to subsidize select groups and maintain electoral support. For the most part, the AP was consigned to the sidelines, purposefully diminished by its leader. While mobilizing effectively for elections, the AP failed to develop as a conduit for citizen participation and interest representation. Rather than acting as a democratizing agent of change, the AP evolved into a caudillista-style vehicle reminiscent of personalistic parties in the country’s past.
Across Latin America, many former presidents have faced criminal prosecutions on corruption charges, with widely varied outcomes. As with an impeachment, law and politics intersect in the prosecution of a president. In this essay, I examine this nexus by mapping the actions of agents who mobilise to influence how the justice system processes presidential prosecutions: first, accountability actors located in state-based institutions and civil society; second, partisan actors in the executive and legislative branches; and third, defendants, and their partisan and civil society supporters. This study argues that variations in the make-up, resources and alignment of these sets of actors fundamentally shape the trajectory of legal cases. Proceedings against three former presidents of Ecuador are analysed: Abdalá Bucaram, Jamil Mahuad and Gustavo Noboa.
Charting the historical paths to democracy has been a long-standing concern of political sociology.1 With the demise of authoritarian rule in Latin America over the last decade, a classic question of the genre has resurfaced: are there certain developmental sequences that are more likely to produce successful transitions to democracy? If there is any conclusion to be drawn from recent experiences, the answer is no. Highly heterogeneous circumstances have produced Latin America's most recent wave of democratisation. From the Caribbean to the Southern Cone, countries at different levels of economic development, with distinctive authoritarian legacies and divergent class structures, all underwent transitions to elected civilian governments in the last decade.
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