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Deepening Local Democracy in Latin America

Participation, Decentralization, and the Left

Benjamin Goldfrank

Publication Year: 2011

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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Table of Contents

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p. vii-vii


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p. viii-viii

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pp. 1-10

Ever since Latin America began a phase of democratic renewal toward the end of the twentieth century, pessimistic voices about the quality of the new democracies have dominated. Political leaders, citizens, and scholars alike lament the clientelism, corruption, and ineffective and unaccountable governments that, among other ills, have plagued the region. At the same time ...

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Chapter One: Democracy, Participation, and Decentralization

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pp. 11-33

While the spread of local-level participatory democratic experiments across Latin America described in the previous chapter generated excitement in many corners, it also encountered considerable controversy. Especially when under the auspices of Left-leaning governments, a rapid increase in popular participation can raise fears of threats to democracy, including tyranny of ...

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Chapter Two: A Tale of Three Cities

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pp. 34-83

Why did Porto Alegre’s participation program succeed most compared to similar programs tried in Caracas and Montevideo? As the second part of this chapter illustrates, many of the keys to success and the stumbling blocks preventing it described by scholars seem unpersuasive answers. The three cities were fundamentally similar with regard to most of the elements emphasized ...

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Chapter Three: Caracas: Scarce Resources, Fierce Opposition, and Restrictive Design

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pp. 84-120

Of the three cities in this study, only in Caracas did the incumbents fail to consolidate their participation program. The initial enthusiasm with which city residents greeted the program in 1993 quickly gave way to disillusionment throughout most of the city’s nineteen parishes. By the end of the Causa Radical’s administration in 1995, popular participation within the program ...

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Chapter Four: Montevideo: From Rousing to Regulating Participation

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pp. 121-164

The story of participatory decentralization in Montevideo presents some parallels to that of the parish government program in Caracas. Montevideans welcomed the new opportunity to participate opened by the Frente Amplio in 1990 with massive attendance at budget assemblies throughout the city. Powerful, well-institutionalized opposition parties, however, prevented the ...

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Chapter Five: Porto Alegre: Making Participatory Democracy Work

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pp. 165-218

Porto Alegre’s now famous experiment with participatory budgeting initially gave little indication that it would endure, let alone become an international model. After planners at the United Nations Habitat meeting in 1996 selected the city’s participatory budget process as one of the world’s “best practices” in urban government, Porto Alegre began to host hundreds of visitors from ...

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Chapter Six: Stronger Citizens, Stronger State?

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pp. 219-246

Implementing a participation program that actually sustains ongoing citizen interest is not easy, even when political leaders have an ideological commitment to radical democracy. The Causa Radical’s parish government program in Caracas failed almost completely to keep city residents actively involved. In Montevideo, the Frente Amplio fared better, yet its program was still mired ...

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Conclusion: The Diffusion of Participatory Democracy and the Rise of the Left

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pp. 247-266

As Latin American leaders of both old and new democracies in the 1980s and 1990s began the transition away from the centralized and often authoritarian regimes of previous decades, the general notions that the region’s governments required more citizen participation and greater decentralization found support from an uncommonly wide swath of the ideological ...


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pp. 267-291


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pp. 292-299

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271053684
E-ISBN-10: 0271053682
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271037950
Print-ISBN-10: 0271037954

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 21 charts/graphs, 19 tables
Publication Year: 2011