May 11, 2017

Sustainable Development Goals: Bolivia's Development


After a while, I am posting something interesting. The World Bank (WB) just released its Sustainable Development Goals Report for 2017. For those of you who remember, these are the former Millennium Goals.

This measurement, which looks at some 17 categories, to rank countries on a four quarter scale of low income, lower middle income, upper middle income and high income pretends to measure the stage of development a country finds itself at a certain time, in this case, it would be 2017. The categories are listed below for your information. They have been extracted from the document, hopefully with the good will of the WB.

“World Bank. 2017. Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2017 : From World Development Indicators. World Bank Atlas;. Washington, DC: World Bank. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.”
If you need more detailed information on each of the categories head to the link above and download the report. It will give you a load of information based on the WB's data, neatly arranged data following the categories, fully illustrated, in about 131 pages.

If you want specific information on a country, I suggest you go directly to the WB's data site. To get information on a specific country through the report is a bit difficult. You will have to read the whole report. If you have time, by all means, do it.

My own impression on Bolivia is the country has been accumulating a positive record on many of the SDGs goals. This is most notably in the areas of poverty, hunger, health, well-being, education, gender equality, clean water, and sanitation as well as clean energy. The critic on this positive development has been the marginality of the improvement versus the available resources ($$$).

In other areas, especially on institutions (justice, government, civil society), sustainability of cities and of economic development, as well as action on climate issues, the country's development has been more than questionable, measured with the SDGs tools.

Overall, an interesting read. Enjoy.

January 27, 2017

The Meaning of a Trump Government for Latin America


On November 12, 2016 I wrote about what a #Trump government would mean for the Latin American region and Bolivia. In that post, I highlighted the many measures affecting the region that Mr. Trump wanted to implement in the first 100 days after he took office. I also mentioned that it was important to know who his collaborators in the cabinet would be, and in the government positions below the cabinet level. Some days after Mr. Trump's inauguration as @POTUS and some weeks after the beginning of the confirmation process of Mr. Trump's cabinet, we have more facts on which to rely on, to be able to look ahead on the shape of the #US-Latin American relationship.

For instance, we can look at Rex Tillerson's (former CEO of Exxon Mobile) confirmation process for Secretary of State. Mr. Tillerson's confirmation vote is scheduled to happen next week, but his ongoing testimony and prior record has opened a window on his beliefs and, perhaps, on his future behavior. One emerging fact is that such scrutiny on Mr. Tillerson's views is revealing important differences with Mr. Trump's views. Examples are, his views on Putin's oppressive or totalitarian tendencies or views on the existence of climate change.

As far as Latin America is concerned, Mr. Tillerson's experience with the region can be characterized as direct. In fact, as Exxon-Mobile's CEO, he has had the necessity, if not the obligation, to think about the relationship of that company with many governments of that region.

One such government has been that of Mexico. In contrast to Mr. Trump's words about reconsidering NAFTA and Mexican immigrants being "rapist" and "criminals", Mr. Tillerson once said that the economies of US, Mexico and Canada were interwoven because of the NAFTA deal. It is understandable, that he would want more cooperation between the two nations and, specially, between two of the largest oil companies in the world, namely Exxon and Pemex. Further, he considered the trade deal a productive, job-creating, mutually-beneficial deal for the US and Mexico. In fact, in his confirmation hearings, Mr. Tiller described Mexicans as trusting friends, on whom the US could rely on.

In contrast, his relationship with Venezuela could not be considered as positive. First of all, as Mr. Hugo Chavez nationalized Exxon's assets in 2007, as part of his "Bolivarian Revolution", he had no choice as to take the Venezuelan government to court. However, the result of that process was a $ 1.6 billion award in favor of Exxon Mobile, when the estimated cost should have been $ 15 Billion. In conclusion, Mr. Tiller could not have been happy with this outcome. In similar manner, in 2015/2016, Exxon made a discovery of oil reserves on the Essequibo river, which lies in a disputed border area between Guyana and Venezuela. That has also become a disputed issue between the Venezuelan government and the Exxon Mobile company. The larger interpretation of these issues is, that Mr. Tiller has already plenty of experience with dealing with Latino caudillos such as Mr. Chavez.

Finally, Mr. Tiller's words concerning Colombian and Cuba were also interpreted having a certain distance with what Mr. Trump said. According to his comments, for Mr. Tiller, Colombia is a successful partner in the war against drugs and deserves continued aid support. Especially on the plan Peace Colombian, which is yet to pass in Congress and aims at continuing supporting the peace efforts the current government is engaged in. As for Cuba, he recently mentioned that if he were to appointed, he would take a careful look at the current policies towards Cuba.

Another figure is Ret. Gen. John F. Kelly, newly appointed head of Home Land Security. Gen. Kelly (a.k.a. mad dog Kelly) has been the head of the US Southern Command between 2012 and 2015. In such as post, he was intimately linked with, at least, the military side of the North American policy towards the Latin American region. As such, he oversaw the all important war on drugs, and other measures to deal with illegal migration, crime an, to a larger extent, security.

For instance, he repeatedly highlighted the activities of Hezbollah terrorist cells within Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil, as well as Venezuela. He also mentioned the possible threat it would mean for the US of increasing the Chinese military in the region. At the same time, he highlighted the importance of continued support of the Colombian peace process and fight against drug trafficking. Furthermore, he argued for a continued support of those efforts beyond Colombia, highlighting the willingness of Peru to work with the US against such a threat. According to the New York Times, he has supported for: "He has supported increased aid for economic development, education and a focus on human rights to combat unauthorized immigration and drug trafficking."

Another important figure should be Robert Lighthizer, nominated for heading the US Trade Representative Office. Mr. Lighthizer, however, has been a known figure in Wasington, DC and therefore his tendencies are more or less easy to discern. His tendency to protectionism and his criticism towards NAFTA and other free trade agreements are well documented in the public record. His approach can be summarized as blaming the free trade agreements sought by the US government so far as being too generous to outside partners and not careful enough to keep benefits for the US. He has been know to criticize, among others, Latin American nations as not holding up to the standards of trade agreed upon and unfairly benefiting from the agreements in place. He is widely expected to carry out Mr. Trump's policies towards the region without hesitance.

Lastly, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, suggested by Mr. Trump to head the Energy Department. This is the same department which Mr. Perry said he wanted to eliminate during his candidacy campaign during the republican primaries in 2011. Mr. Perry, as Texas governor is intimately familiar with the immigration issues with Mexico. Moreover, since a large part of those people who enter illegally the US through the Mexico border are not Mexicans, but Latin Americans and even Africans, he should have a highly differentiated knowledge of the problem. However, his comments tend to confirm that he will pursue Mr. Trump's policy without any criticism. That is, if he does not reveal any new views on the matter on the remaining confirmation session.

January 23, 2017

Morales' New Cabinet


Source: ABI, Jose Lirauze
Source: ABI, Jose Lirauze
Evo Morales has once again renewed his government and made changes to his cabinet. He created the Ministry of Energy, while he abolished the Ministries of Autonomies and of Transparency. It is worth mentioning that Juan R. Quintana (Ministry of the Presidency), David Choquehuanca (Ministry of Exterior) and Marianela Paco (Ministry of Communications), two (Quintana and Choquehuanca) of the most experienced Ministers have left the government. Quintana was very unpopular with the MAS organizations and Choquehuanca was well respected. Both are sure to get posts in the diplomatic core.

The following list is the new Cabinet.
  1. Fernando Huanacuni Mamani- Canciller de Bolivia (Minister of Exterior)
  2. René Martínez Callahuanca- Ministro de la Presidencia (Ministry of the Presidency)
  3. Carlos Romero - Ministro de Gobierno (Ministry of Government) (ratified)
  4. Reymi Ferreira - Ministro de Defensa (Ministry of Defense) (ratified)
  5. Mariana Prado Noya - Ministra de Planificación del Desarrollo (Ministry of Planning and Development)
  6. Luis Alberto Arce Catacora - Ministro de Economía y Finanzas Públicas (Ministry of Economy and Public Finances) (ratified)
  7. Luis Alberto Sánchez Fernández - Ministro de Hidrocarburos (Ministry of Hydrocarbons) (ratified)
  8. Eugenio Rojas - Ministro de Desarrollo Plural Productivo (Ministry of Plural Productive Development)
  9. Milton Claros Hinojosa - Ministro de Obras Públicas y Servicios y Vivienda (Ministry of Public Works, Services and Housing) (ratified)
  10. Félix Cesar Navarro - Ministro de Minería y Metalurgia (Ministry of Mining (ratified)
  11. Héctor Arce Zaconeta - Ministro de Justicia (Ministry of Justice)
  12. Hector Hinojosa Rodríguez - Ministro de Trabajo, Empleo y Previsión Social (Ministry of Work, Employment and Social Security)
  13. Ariana Campero Nava - Ministra de Salud (Ministry of Health) (ratified)
  14. Carlos Ortuño Yañez - Ministro de Medioambiente y Agua (Ministry of Environment and Water)
  15. Roberto Iván Aguilar Gómez - Ministro Educación (Ministry of Education) (ratified)
  16. César Cocarico Yana - Ministro de Desarrollo Rural y Tierras (Ministry of Rural Development and Lands) (ratified)
  17. Vilma Alanoca - Ministra de Cultura y Turismo (Ministry of Culture and Tourism)
  18. Gísela López - Ministra de Comunicación (Ministry of Communication)
  19. Tito Rolando Montaño - Ministro de Deportes (Ministry of Sports (ratified)
  20. Rafael Alarcón – Ministro de Energías (Ministry of Energy)

Source: El Deber (N stands for New and R for Ratified) If you hover on the letters you will get a brief statement about the person in Spanish.


December 12, 2016

Regional Trade Groups - Where is Bolivia a Member?


These are four images from the newly released World Trade Report from the WTO. The images show a complete list of regional trade blocks around the world. They also show where Bolivia is engaged and where not.

Source: World Trade Report 2016

November 23, 2016

Bolivia's Democratic Evolution


I might as well publish this other article which was also to be published in the failed Sage encyclopedia of democracy and democratization. Once again, enjoy.


Bolivia’s democratic evolution


Over the last 33 years Bolivia’s democratic process developed through three distinguishable periods. An initial period (from 1982 to 2000) was marked by the transition from a military dictatorship to a representative democracy, and the subsequent effort to consolidate the democratic process. A second period (from 2000 to 2005) was dominated by a loss of political legitimacy and deep social crisis, which, in spite of the efforts to consolidate the democratic process, placed the survival of democracy into serious question. The third period (from 2006 on) was marked by the emergence of Evo Morales, who, together with the country’s indigenous political forces managed to take control of power with a political alliance denominated Movement Toward Socialism. This entry aims to outline the development of the democratic process in Bolivia from the return of democracy to current times.

Re-democratization and Democratic Deepening

Bolivia’s transition to democracy began in October 1982 after a long spell of military dictatorships. This period was marked by a deep economic and social crisis, the implementation of neoliberal policies in response to that crisis and the efforts of subsequent governments to consolidate the democratic process. In response of the crisis, the Victor Paz government took the first steps towards its abatement by introducing neoliberal policies such as: liberalization of the economy, reduction of public expenditures, increase of government revenues and reduce the role of the state in the economy. While these measures promptly replaced the deep economic uncertainty with a new sense of macro-economic stability, over the rest of the period, the measures had negative social effects in the form of massive unemployment and low economic growth. Once the worst of the crisis was surmounted, the subsequent governments sought to consolidate the economic process. One first factor was the application of a coalition-building mechanism already present in the Constitutions known as Accorded Democracy, which allowed the establishment of arguably one of the most institutionally and procedurally stable periods for the Bolivian democratic process. Accorded Democracy greatly reduced the risk of congressional deadlock by promoting the building of majority governments. Another factor was the implementation of a decentralization program in 1994 under the label of popular participation, which sought the official recognition of indigenous and civil society organizations as legitimate political entities, the incorporation of such organizations in the political and economic process, the introduction and promotion of participative democracy, the guarantee for equality, and the perfecting of the representative democratic system. With this law, the government achieved the deepening of the democratic process by guaranteeing the involvement of citizens in the political process.

Political and Social Crisis

While the re-democratization process had been relatively successful from the institutional and procedural points of view, the efforts to consolidate the democratic process were deficient. On the back of citizen frustration over democracy’s unfulfilled expectations, the political system lost legitimacy through: first, the implementation of neoliberal policies, of which the most damaging was privatization. The government’s efforts to privatize the many state industries resulted in massive unemployment; and second, the public and indiscreet manner in which political actors practiced Accorded Democracy, which often concentrated on the distribution of public posts rather than the formulation of policy.

The period was marked by citizen frustration and it manifested itself in the form of massive and confrontational protests, road blocks and marches, most of which made uncompromising demands to the government while expecting results. The most significant protest episodes in this period were: the April 2000 successful reversal of the water supply system privatization in the country’s third largest city, Cochabamba; the episodes on February and October 2003 when there were violent confrontations between demonstrators, military and police forces where dozens of demonstrators fell victim of police repression; the times protests forced, and not exactly in a constitutional manner, the forced removal of two presidents: Gonzalo Sanchez and Carlos Mesa; and the largely irregular election of Eduardo Rodriguez, the third candidate in the line of succession. The former President of the Supreme Court and newly elected President Eduardo Rodriguez became president on June 2005 with the only task of organizing the next general elections.

Post-neoliberal era

The post-neoliberal era began with the arrival of Evo Morales in January 2006 to the government. His rise has been of historical significance for the country because he is the first president with indigenous background elected through popular vote. While his government has continued the economic progress began in prior governments, it has also placed emphasis on the inclusion of indigenous peoples in the political process, consolidating the government’s central role in the economy and relying on a strong anti-capitalist and anti-neoliberal discourse to maintain its support. At the same time, Evo Morales has been criticized for attempting to restrict certain rights and liberties and for using the law in his favor to solidify his position of power in government.

During the two terms Evo Morales and the MAS have been in government they have been able to raise revenues by nationalizing Bolivia’s natural resource industries. In fact, the export of natural gas to Brazil and Argentina has become the single most significant source of revenue for the country. In addition, the government introduced financial transfers to incentivize children to stay in school and pregnant women to have medical check-ups before and after birth. It also introduced a minimal retirement benefit for seniors. These programs have lifted many people out of indigent poverty. On the other hand, critics have keenly observed Morales’ repeated disregard for the country’s new constitutional order and of the rule of law. He has been criticized for the manner in which he and his government have used the almost absolute majority in Congress to pass laws virtually without debate or opposition; to gain control of important public offices by removing opposition leaders with the use of recently passed legislation; and to appoint government-friendly justices. In addition, he has also been criticized for his efforts to silence criticism from the media by invoking recently passed legislation which punishes any statement that can be interpreted as racially motivated.

On October 2014 Evo Morales won a third consecutive presidential term with enough support to avoid a second round of elections. This time around, one important objective is to solidify the central role the government plays in the economy by creating national industries capable of diversifying the country’s production base. At the same time, the government plans to guarantee food security by playing a role in the production and distribution of important foods as well as assuring the price is accessible for all.

Dr. Miguel A. Buitrago

See also: Stages of Democratization; Political Realignment; Protest Movements; Social Movements; Ethnic Mobilization.

Further readings

Farthing, Linda and Benjamin Kohl. Evo’s Bolivia: Continuity and Change. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014.

Creabtree, John and Ann Chaplin. Bolivia: Processes of Change. London and New York: Zed books, 2013.

Peñaranda, Raul, et. al. Treinta Años de Democracia en Bolivia: Repaso Multidisciplinario a un Proceso Apasionante (1982 – 2012). La Paz: Pagina Siete, 2012.

Dargatz, Anja and Moira Zuazo, eds. Democracias en Transformacion: Que hay de nuevo en los nuevos estados Andinos? La Paz: Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, 2012.

Pearce, Adrian. Evo Morales and the Movimiento al Socialismo in Bolivia: the first term in conttext (2005 – 2009). London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2011.

Cameron, Maxwell and J. P. Luna, eds. Democracias en la Region Andina. Lima: IEP, 2010.

Dunkerley, James. Bolivia: Revolution and the Power of History in the Present. London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2007.

Kohl, Benjamin and Linda Farthing. Impasse in Bolivia: neoliberal hegemony and popular resistance. London and New York: Zed Books, 2006.

November 21, 2016

Conceptual Context to Bolivia's Democratic Process: Waves of Democracy


This piece should have been published in a Routledge-sponsored "encyclopedia of democracy and democratization". But since the publication fell off the ground (I do not know why) and I had already written the article on waves of democracy, I am publishing it here. Enjoy! Please, do not forget to cite me.


Waves of democracy


Is democratization an irreversible, long-term, global trend? Is democracy a form of government that, under certain conditions and contexts, alternates with various forms of authoritarian rule over a long-term? These are the most meaningful questions the notion of waves of democracy addresses at its most fundamental level. Embedded within the democratization field of studies, the concept of waves of democracy (also referred to as waves of democratization or even as democratization waves) refers to the increasing propensity of non-democratic governments to transition towards democratic systems of governments over, more or less, distinctive periods of time. This observation was made by political scientist Samuel Huntington who coined and developed the concept. He first wrote about waves of democracy in a 1991 article published in the Journal of Democracy. He later expanded the concept in a seminal book entitled The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, published the same year.

Remarkably distinctive, the concept of democratic waves has been very useful to better understand regime transitions and, in a more indirect manner, the dynamics of larger issues such democratization processes, and ultimately, the application, endurance and stability of democracy as a regime system. In order the conceptually frame his analysis, Samuel Huntington took a chronological approach to the analysis of regime changes over a long period of time. This approach made it possible to shed light on the pattern of development, i.e. waves, through which this process could be better understood. In addition, it must be highlighted that the main focus of analysis were the so called third wave democratization processes. Samuel Huntington’s main conclusion drawn from his analysis has been to recognize that most probably, not one, not two, but many factors contribute to the democratization of countries; more likely, in a simultaneously and/or often contradictory manner. That is, for example, transition explanations for the first two waves covering from the early 1800s to the post-WWII period tended to concentrate on the role of factors such as economic development, cultural traits, decolonization and prior experience with such a government. Alternatively, the explaining factors concerning the transitions during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, tended to concentrate on the role of legitimacy problems of authoritarian systems, unprecedented global economic growth, changes in the Catholic Church’s doctrine against authoritarianism, changes in the foreign policies of international actors, and the enhancing of international communication which contributed to the snowballing effect.

This entry aims at explaining the nature and meaning of the concept of waves of democracy by, first and foremost, addressing the question: what is it meant by democracy? In second place, the entry presents the development of the term, to thirdly, present the more contemporary debate.

What is it meant by Democracy?

In order to delve into the waves of democracy subject it is necessary to understand first what type of democracy we are dealing with when we speak of ‘democracy’ in this context. To be able to follow the development of the democratic waves over time, Samuel Huntington used a contextualized definition of democracy. In that manner, in order to categorize democracies during the first wave, for example, the definition of democracy focused on two rather constraining requirements from today's point of view but adequate at the time. In the context of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a country that implemented male universal vote and chose its heads of states in a more or less competitive elections, was considered democratic. In a more modern context, this type of democracy can be understood as electoral democracy. However, the conception of democracy has evolved as has the practice of democracy. For that reason, in more recent times, both, academics as well as practitioners, starting with Samuel Huntington, have had liberal democracy in mind when speaking about the democratization of a country. There may well be many reasons for that, among them that the debate has been dominated by English speaking scholars who live in the United States of America or the fact that for many who dedicate their work to measuring the degree of democracy in a country have tended to have liberal democracy as a model of an ideal system of government or, not least, the fact that the American liberal democracy has become a model due to its resilience and stability since its inception.

As Samuel Huntington analyzed democratization processes in the twentieth century, he had liberal democracy in his mind when he thought of democratization. Liberal democracy has been defined as a type of democracy where democratic as well as liberal values come together. It includes the idea of free, fair, competitive and frequent elections; that political representatives get elected through an electoral process; that those results are respected by everyone with the full knowledge they are not permanent; the existence of political and civic pluralism; that people can express and associate themselves freely; that the rule of law guarantees equality and fairness; that people have free access to alternative forms of information; and that people can take part freely in the political process.

However, some authors criticize this assumption. For some scholars Samuel Huntington’s definition to democracy is not explicit enough, giving way to classify some countries as democracy which otherwise defined would not be considered as such. For other critics the definition is too narrow. They argue that it should be more inclusive of democratic as well as semi-democratic patterns. On the contrary, this last criticism often opens indeed the way for some countries with semi-democratic systems or even with apparent democratic systems to be defined as democracies.

Waves of democracy

The concept of waves of democracy is understood as the process through which groups of transitions from authoritarian to democratic regimes take place within a specified period of time. Within each wave, there is an initial period where an increasing number of transitions towards democratic systems of government take place reaching a maximum after some time. Once that peak is reached, the direction of transition reverses and a smaller number of those transitions revert towards authoritarian or non-democratic regimes. Samuel Huntington observed three waves of democracy in world history. The first wave took place between the American and French revolutions in the last quarter of the XIX century and the first decades of the XX century. The second wave took place in the post WWII period and the third wave of democratization began in 1974 with the Portuguese return to democracy, with no end in sight.

The first wave of democratization

The first wave of democratization took place between the years 1828 and 1926. Rooted in the American and French revolutions, the first wave took roughly one hundred years. The most active time was however the time after the collapse of the Habsburg, Hohenzollern and the Romanov empires. During this time somewhere in the order of thirty countries established some type of democratic institutions in their systems. Subsequently, the first reverse wave took place from 1922 to 1942. Notable was, the reversal occurring in the nations which had less experience with democracy and those new nations which emerged after World War II. Notable was also that almost none of the nations with long-term democratic experience had experienced reversal. The reasons for the reversals have been traced to the great depression, the inexperience with democracy of newly created nations, and the emergence of communist, fascist and military nationalist ideologies.

Second wave of democratization

The second waves of democratization, and the shortest of them all, took place from 1943 to 1962. This wave began in the aftermath of World War II and was, to some extent, reinforced by the beginning of the decolonization process. A counter balancing force, however, was the expansion of communism in the context of the Cold War.  All in all, around forty countries became democracies in this period. The second reverse wave happened between 1958 and 1975. By all accounts, this reversal period was the most significant. Not only because from thirty democracies twenty two had reversed to some type of authoritarian regime, but also because the decolonization process gave way to many new independent nations which turned authoritarian right away and also because this reversal had included some nations which had had experience with democracy for the best part of a quarter of a century.

Third wave of democratization

The third wave of democratization began in 1974 in Portugal. In contrast to the previous reversal, this rise in the number of democracies by a number of thirty five countries was impressive. Not only did this wave reach parts of Southern Europe, Latin America and Asia during the 1970s, where there had been prior experience with it, but endured throughout the 1980s and some part of the 1990s reaching Eastern Europe and some parts of Africa and the Middle East where democracy for the most part was a relatively new experience. The third wave is seen as a truly global event.

Debating about the waves

The overarching conceptual category framing the debate about democratic waves is regime change. Within this debate, regime change or transition may refer to a change from authoritarian to a democratic regime, from a democratic to an authoritarian regime or even to a change from an authoritarian to another authoritarian regime. The focus here is on the transition of the particular regime, without any specific direction. However, the debate over waves of democracy has a distinct direction which denotes a transition from a non-democratic towards a democratic regime. In this debate, which has generated a vast amount of literature, the questions have concentrated on the existence of waves and reverse waves, wave patterns, on whether these waves have happened in distinguishable periods, on whether there were only three distinct waves, and on whether the third wave is still happening or is it over or the waves in general are over.

The existence of waves

This part of the debate focuses on whether the waves of democracy were indeed waves. While the original argument makes use of the concept of waves to characterize the increase in regime transformations from non-democratic to democratic systems and the subsequent reversal of these transformations in a given time, Samuel Huntington warned that history was messy and not unidirectional and therefore it could not be expected that these historical events would fit a neat pattern as the one the idea of waves portraits. Nevertheless, he argued further, the conceptualization of waves of democracy was useful to understand the phenomenon.

In contrast, for many critics, the idea of wave patterns was difficult to argue, if not impossible. A group of scholars argued the different regime transformation patterns in question did not reflect waves precisely because these events did not fit neatly into the pattern of a wave. Instead, these processes could be better understood by looking for regional patterns, e.g. Western Europe, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Maghreb. This approach takes into account the structural, socio-economic, cultural and contextual differences in each region. Moreover, for a number of scholars the manner in which Samuel Huntington defined waves using the percentage of democracies in the world at some point in time was problematic. Had he instead focused on regime transitions rather than the number of democracies he would have found no evidence for waves. Similarly, other critics find no evidence for reverse waves, which supports the contention of no waves.

Other critics, while accepting the idea of waves, criticized the manner in which waves themselves were placed in time and the number of waves that took place. Contrasting to what Samuel Huntington proposed, scholars have pointed out that the first wave was really two distinct ones. One involved the European-settled countries which had already managed to establish certain freedoms and rule of law and that over this period moved towards an expanded understanding of democracy by extending voting rights. The second cluster was made up of countries which in the aftermath of WWI became democratic because they lost the war. Additionally, the second Huntington wave could be divided into three waves. One made up of countries defeated in WWII, a second wave made up with countries born out of decolonization, and a third cluster included coincidences, mainly in Latin America. Lastly, during the so called third wave, two clusters could be distinguished. One was the wave of democratization that swept Southern Europe and Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. The second cluster had to do with the disintegration of the USSR.

Furthermore, other scholars argue a fourth wave is under way. With this scholars refer to the events beginning in 2011 known as the Arab Spring, albeit this wave having not produced as many stable democracies as one might expect in a wave. The argument highlights the differences in types of regimes and the time in which these events took place. In addition, other arguments have been proposed following this logic which introduces further waves at distinct points in time. This debate, to this day, has not been resolved, and it will continue until a clear pattern of reversals can be observed which would signal the clear end of the third wave of democratization.

Why do waves happen? External and internal factors

Another part of the debate concentrates on the factors that trigger waves. Based on Samuel Huntington’s argument, scholars have been able to identify internal and external factors playing a role in the transition process for an authoritarian regime to turn democratic. By the same token, scholars, by observing the transitions from democratic regimes towards authoritarianism or other non-democratic systems have also been able to discern relevant factors. The relevance of such factors and their contribution towards the establishment or reversal of democracy is what largely makes up the content of the current debate in this field.

Samuel Huntington proposed four ways in which waves happened. He first pointed to factors that could evolve parallel to each other, such as socio-economic developments. Second, he argued that many times there is an agreement among political actors across societies that institutional reforms are needed as solution to a particular situation. Third, he argued there were spill-over effects of democratization from one country to another. These could be elite-led or opposition-led. Finally, he argued that there could be one significant factor happening, mainly external - changing attitude of a great power or wars, etc.

Arguments highlighting internal factors tend to explain the first and third waves in the following manner. The first wave transitions before WWI signified a change to democracy from oligarchies by the extension of political rights such as universal vote and were primarily affected by internal factors. The third wave transitions were relatively quick and affected largely by internal factors and they were from an authoritarian to a democratic regime pushed by popular demand. Those scholars who tend to emphasize external factors explain the second wave thus. The transitions after WWI and the ones after WWII were affected mostly by external factors such as the aftermath of the two wars, the end of the major empires and the efforts to decolonize.

More often than none, however, there are explanations that combine both external and internal factors contributing to a democratization wave. Most of those arguments support Samuel Huntington’s proposition that regime changes do occur in waves, in particular regions and in particular times. For example, external factors simultaneously impact the systems of multiple countries, whereby the system in each particular country finds itself in an unstable period being affected by particular internal factors. Particularly susceptible are the countries where the institutional arrangements are not solid and the influences of neighboring countries are significant as are any external shocks to the interstate system. These, combined with the slow but certain impact of economic development, are the causes for waves.

Is the Third Wave Over?

Indeed, it is precisely the definition of this wave that triggered the most significant and enduring debate. The wave had been defined as beginning in 1974 and was literally left with no recognizable end. However, in most recent times, many scholars have argued the third wave did come to an end, while others argue it continues but in a different quality. Marc Plattner has suggested the waves are over. Primarily because within the pool of countries, the ones more apt for democracy have already transitioned while those remaining are less prone to democracy. Also, the attractiveness of the world's leading democracies has been declining and their institutions have been functioning poorly, therefore the attractiveness of democracy has diminished. In addition, foreign policies and supporting actions for democracy have been discredited. Finally, the influence and assertiveness of authoritarian regimes has been increasing. Moreover, many scholars have even go as far as recognizing a reverse wave, especially in the Latin American region, which would definitely bring the third wave to an end.

Other scholars argue the third wave has not come to an end but it is stagnating. They point out at the vast literature showing empirical evidence that very few democratization processes are being started. Finally, other scholars characterize the third wave as continuing to progress but in a different quality. With that is meant the various deepening or consolidation processes having been started around the world.

Dr. Miguel A. Buitrago

See also: Democratic Process; Stages of Democratization; Liberal Democracy; Regime Type; South American Transitions to Democracy; South Asian Transitions to Democracy

Further readings

Huntington, Samuel P. The Third Wave: democratization in the late twentieth century. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

Huntington, Samuel P. “Democracy’s Third Wave”. Journal of Democracy, 2, 2, pgs. 12 – 24, 1991.

Plattner, Marc. “The end of the transition era?”. Journal of Democracy, 25, 3, pgs. 5 – 16, 2014.

Moeller, Jurgen and Sven-Erik Skanning. “The Third Wave: Inside the Numbers”. Journal of Democracy, 24, 4, 2013.

Moeller, Jurgen and Sven-Erik Skanning. Democracy and Democratization in Comparative Perspective: Conceptions, Conjunctures, Causes and Consequences. London: Routledge, 2013.

Perez-Liñan, Anibal and Scott Mainwaring. “Hegemony or Contagion? International Factors and Democratization in Latin America, 1945 – 2005”. Paper prepared for the FLACSO-ISA Joint International Conference in Buenos Aires, July 23 – 25, 2014.

Doorenspleet, Renske. “Reassessing the three Waves of Democratization”. World Politics, 52, 3, 2000.

Dahl, Marianne, Scott Gates, Havard Hegre, and Havard Strand. “Why Waves? Global Patterns of Democratization, 1820 – 2008”. Accessed on December 24, 2014.