The New Democracy Wars: The Politics of North American Democracy Promotion in the Americas (The International Political Economy of New Regionalisms Series)
Neil A. Burron
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Burron provides a critical analysis of Canadian and US democracy promotion in the Americas. He concentrates on Haiti, Peru, and Bolivia in particular but situates them within a larger analysis of Canadian and US foreign policy - bilateral and regional - in the areas of trade, investment, diplomacy, security and, for the United States, the war on drugs. His main argument is that democracy promotion is typically formulated to advance commercial, geopolitical and security objectives that conflict with a genuine commitment to democratic development. Given this broad scope, the book is well positioned to contribute to a number of debates in comparative Latin American politics and international political economy (IPE) with a focus on North-South relations in the hemisphere.
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Polyarchy at any Cost in Haiti 75 CIDA official in Port-au-Prince, Canada and the US coordinated most of their democracy promotion efforts following the controversial 2000 elections, and there was little difference between them. 9 Figure 3. 1 US and Canadian democracy assistance before and after the coup But if the United States and Canada both mobilized elite social forces against Aristide’s government, they did not use the same tactics, nor did they target the same actors. Elite civil society was composed of different sectors and a certain informal division of labour between Canada and the United States occurred in supporting different groups in the overall interest of creating a larger hegemonic bloc.
The events suggested that the Latin American right had not forsaken the authoritarian tactics of the past, and that the two countries which had long claimed the mantle of democracy in the hemisphere were once more not as idealistic as they purported to be. The struggle over the meaning of democracy – and who possesses the legitimacy to promote it – constitutes the political backdrop of the investigation in the pages that follow. There is nothing new about the incongruence between stated objectives in support of democracy and actual foreign policy practice, however, 2 To date, however, Cuba has not applied for readmission.
In terms of US democracy assistance, state-building efforts were complemented by programmes which further developed the capacity of elite parties and civil society organizations in preparation for elections. USAID directly administered approximately $1. 5 million in democracy assistance in addition to providing funds to IRI, NDI, and Creative Associates International. These efforts were complemented by a ‘cross-cutting’ initiative administered by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, designed to stabilize the situation through ‘quick, visible small projects to promote peace and community cohesion’ (USAID 2006a).
The contrast exposes the shallowness of the implicit cultural claims to superiority that justify democracy promotion as a legitimate enterprise. Whatever form of democracy is emerging in many Latin American countries, it is clear that it is not the place of Canada or the United States to shape this process. The monopolization of political power by a plutocracy in the United States, the outrageous barriers to participation in political life imposed by campaign finance laws and the inability of the party system to channel the interests of the poor and excluded suggest that the focus on democratic backsliding in the hemisphere could just as easily be reoriented northward.