Latin America's problems owe a great deal to a tradition of caudillism, personal politics and authoritarianism." It will also give definitions for eight terms associated with Latin American studies: caudillism, liberalism, The Export Boom, Neocolonialism, Import Subsidizing Industrialization, Bureaucratic Authoritarianism and Privatization.
Latin America currently faces many problems, with diverse causes and manifestations, for example, huge external debts, lack of development in infrastructure, low levels of education for children, and low levels of health care for the population (with concurrent high infant mortality rates and low age expectancies). Many authors (such as Juan Manuel de Rosas, author of Argentine Caudillo, John Reed, author of Insurgent Mexico, and Jacobo Timerman, author of Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number) have argued that Latin America's current problems stem from a period of history (the National period), following independence, during which caudillismo was popular, and personalistic politics and authoritarianism were the rule.
This paper seeks to evaluate this premise, by analyzing a variety of sources and presenting various viewpoints concerning this particular posture. Indeed, Latin American political parties have often been allied with a particular leader - for example, the Peronistas in Argentina, or the Fidelistas in Cuba - and this particular branch of Latin American politics is commonly referred to as personalismo. This phenomenon is closely related to the phenomenon of caudillismo, under which a government is controlled by dictatorial leaders (caudillos) (Encyclopedia Britannica).
This type of political governance was rife in the period following independence from Spain in the early 19th century, during which time politically unstable conditions led to the emergence of such leaders - this particular period of Latin American history is referred to as 'the age of caudillos' for this very reason (Encyclopedia Britannica). It has been argued that this type of governance was a direct result of the form of governance common in Spanish-ruled colonial times in Latin America, where the King had overall power over all decisions made in the colonial states, and where, therefore, representative government and the concept of popular sovereignty had little, and very weak, influence over the regional political culture (Encyclopedia Britannica).
It is argued by many Latin American specialists that Simon Bolivar, leader of the independence movement, who oversaw Gran Colombia, was the first caudillo (Encyclopedia Britannica). Although many Latin American countries (i.e., Chile) developed more stable political systems throughout the 19th century, caudillismo remained a common feature of many Latin American countries: one can cite Argentina as a particular case in point, with Peron's regime being described by many as a form of political 'bossism' (Encyclopedia Britannica).
In many other countries, due to the lack of a strong central government, for example in Mexico, the typical pattern of governance was for regional caudillos to operate in their own regions, independently, with no contact with, or regard for, central government.
What effects did this type of governance have on the countries in question? Perhaps the lack of development in many Latin American countries can be traced back to this decentralized state of political representation, which led the country to be fragmented, physically and politically, and therefore to not benefit entirely from any potential overseas investments, or other forms of support. This is reflected today in many Latin American countries: in Colombia, which is still very regional, certain cities - Bogota, for example - are far more developed than others, reflecting the power of the caudillo in this region to gain benefits for this region, at the expense of less powerful, weaker caudillos in other regions of the country. This, therefore is one side-effect of this type of governance that has had repercussions up to and including the present day.
This lack of investment across the board in countries due to power hierarchies among regional caudillos, however, cannot explain all the problems that Latin America has, and for a deeper explanation, we could turn to look at many other factors, for example, colonialism, neocolonialism, foreign exploitation of natural resources, and also cruel investments made first by Britain, and then by North America, which tied repayments to unreasonable expectations and which therefore crippled the economies of many Latin American countries up to and including the present day (we only need to look at Argentina's current state to realize the effects of these policies).
Explanations such as these, which are far more wide-reaching, and include necessary outside sources, therefore need to be explored when looking at the root causes of Latin America's current problems: it is not…