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21st Century Democracy Promotion in the Americas: Standing up for the Polity (Global Institutions)
21st Century Democracy Promotion in the Americas: Standing up for the Polity (Global Institutions)
By Jorge Heine and Brigitte Weiffen
Routledge, 2014, 208 pp
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The countries of the Western Hemisphere have pioneered regional political institutions—most notably the Organization of American States—as well as collective mechanisms for democracy promotion. Ratified by the OAS’ members in 2001, the Inter-American Democratic Charter codified a set of shared democratic principles but also bound the signatories to the principle of nonintervention in one another’s domestic affairs. There is some tension between those two aspects of the charter, and Heine and Weiffen competently describe the triumphs and frustrations of recent OAS responses to threats to democracy in the region, revealing how hard it is to respond to the gradual deterioration of democratic institutions, particularly when such institutions are vulnerable to wily, democratically elected would-be autocrats. Heine and Weiffen fret over the future of the region’s efforts to defend democracy, citing weaknesses in the structure and design of the OAS and in the political wills of its member states, whose publics and elites have become increasingly fragmented along ideological lines. The authors favor “participatory, social, and inclusive” models, and they repeatedly fault U.S. policy, sometimes heaping blame on Washington for what appear to be collective shortcomings and often downplaying the U.S. role in successful cases of democracy promotion, even in instances when Washington has carefully calibrated its support for OAS strategies.