In the Wake of War: Democratization and Internal Armed Conflict in Latin America

Reviewed by Yuhki Tajima

Examining the cases of Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru, the contributors to this timely edited volume explore how societies undergoing democratization in the aftermath of civil war can become mired in violent crime, poor governance, and illiberal political cultures. Despite the diversity of contexts among the seven cases explored, a similar dynamic appears in all of them: a history of political exclusion motivated armed actors and fueled wars that, in turn, limited the ability of the government to deliver basic services and weakened state institutions; this weakness hobbled postwar democratization processes intended to ameliorate the political exclusion that was so often at the root of the original violence. Corruption and a lack of basic security undermined public faith in democratic institutions, allowing for the rise of leaders with authoritarian tendencies. State-building projects promoted by international actors, such as truth-and-reconciliation commissions to address human rights abuses, have produced mixed results. By detailing the structural factors that have affected the prospects for democracy in these war-torn states, this book should be of keen interest to observers of postwar societies and democratization both within Latin America and beyond.

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