The predominant interpretation of nineteenth century Latin America is
to see the failure of constitutional democracy in the region in terms of the
inability of liberal elites to break with an authoritarian past. Against these views,
we argue that the divorce between liberalism and democracy in Latin America
was the unintended outcome of the institutions created by the liberal elite in
response to the problems of territorial fragmentation and factional conflict that
emerged after the fall of the Spanish empire. Using the cases of Argentina and
Mexico, we support this proposition by focusing on the creation of a centralised
form of government and a system of electoral control by the ruling elites as the
main factors that through time prevented the evolution of the liberal regime into
a competitive democracy.
There is no good faith in America, nor among the nations of America. Treaties
are scraps of paper; constitutions, printed matter; elections, battles; freedom,
anarchy; and life, a torment.