In this study I shall develop two aspects: the patrimonialist tradition in Latin America and, secondly, how the countries there are coming out of patrimonialism.
The patrimonialist tradition
Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, who was president of Argentina in the second half of the 19th Century, expressed the need for a study on the essence of Latin American politics as follows: “In South America in general, and especially in the Republic of Argentina, we needed a Tocqueville who, forearmed with the knowledge of social theory, like a scientific traveller with barometers, octants and compasses, would penetrate into the inside of our political life, as in an absolutely vast field, as yet unexplored or described by science, and reveal – for Europe, or for France, so avid for new stages in the life of different segments of humanity – this new manner of existence that does not have clearly marked and well-known antecedents” [Sarmiento, 1996:9].
It is necessary, therefore, to take a wider and deeper look at the whole complex of Latin American reality. Let us discern the way in which the State consolidated itself in these countries. From their Iberian colonization they inherited the patrimonialist model, which is defined by Max Weber as that in which the state emerges from the swelling of an original patriarchal power, which expands its internal domination over territory, people and non-patrimonial things, going on to administer them as family or patrimonial property [cf. Weber, 1944; Wittfogel, 1955 and 1977].
We can contrast this model (which thrived in Spain and Portugal, as well as in Russia and the former hydraulic societies) with the contractualist model, defined by Weber as that in which the State emerges from the negotiation between the classes which struggle for possession of the power, giving rise to the social contract which would lead to parliamentarism (this is the model that flourished in Western Europe, from the exercise of feudalism, and which spread through the world in countries of Anglo-Saxon culture which incorporated the experience of representative democracy, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, etc.).
Spain and Portugal transplanted the patrimonial structure of the State in their colonies in the New World. The first political / administrative organization that the Latin America countries had was that which arose from the distribution of lands among the friends of the king, which led to the regime of "Capitanias Hereditárias" (Hereditary Captaincies) and of Provinces, later organised under Viceroyalties. The new lands discovered at the end of the 15th Century and the beginning of the 16th Century were incorporated into the royal Crown, much as the christian kings took possession of the lands taken from the Saracens in their “forays” or punitive expeditions, incorporating them into the royal possession as "presúria" (spoils). This practice meant that over the 12th to the 14th centuries the kings became the greatest landowners in Spain and Portugal and that on this basis were laid the foundations of the overseas enterprise, when the monarchs, who had become rich, went on to direct trade as merchants of merchants [cf. Azevedo, 1978; Faoro, 1958].
The colonial landed estates in Latin America appeared as a result of the patrimonialist distribution of lands among friends and faithful servants of the king (in Brazil this distribution gave rise to the system of land grants, which were the basis of the "Capitanias Hereditárias"). In this respect, the letter from Pero Vaz de Caminha to the Portuguese monarch, dating from the beginning of the 16th Century, is very significant. The organization of the landed estate around the feudal lord was to be the first political/ administrative experiment to take place in the New World. Later, towns were established, with their town councils which, although they prolonged the stay of the telluric liberalism of Iberian municipalities in our lands, were soon submitted to the privatising élan of the rural landowners, and were later co-opted by the centralism of the crown, during the Philipine period in the 17th Century.
It is evident that there was, in the Spanish universe (and, of course) in the Hispano-American colonies, fundamental differences as to the type of patrimonialism that was in force in the Lusitanian and Luso-American world. The most important of those is related to the stronger propensity towards state ownership of the Portuguese universe, which became manifest, throughout the 19th Century, in the preservation of the continental unity of the Portuguese ex-colony, unlike the atomization that affected the Spanish ex-colonies, who soon went the way of caudillo republics. But this complex historical process does not invalidate our grasping the basic cultural feature of the political organization in both contexts: the patrimonial aspects of the power of the State. The comparative studies by O’Donnel , Uricoechea , Véliz , Tavares-Rojo  and others make this clear.
The fundamental features of Latin American patrimonial states are as follows:
1) They are organizations which are stronger than society. Societies subjected to patrimonial states have very fragile tissue, which leaves them in a position of perpetual subservience to the state. The characteristic mark of Latin America politics, over the five centuries of our history, has been the authoritarism of the "donos do poder" (“the man with the big stick") [cf. Faoro, 1958]. Let us remember the record of this characteristic that has been left by events throughout the 20th Century. This mixing up of what is public and private, in a context marked by caudillo regimes and the terror of police rule, is certainly an important leitmotiv in works such as El señor presidente by the Guatemalan Miguel Angel Asturias, El otoño del patriarca by the Colombian García Márquez, Yo el supremo by the Paraguayan Augusto Roa Bastos, Sobre héroes y tumbas by the Argentinian Ernesto Sábato, and La fiesta del chivo by the Peruvian Vargas Llosa. In the case of Brazil, just to mention one author, there is the exquisite description of positivist, paternalistic and clan authoritarianism which grips Chimangos and Maragatos in the beautiful novels O tempo e o vento and Incidente em Antares by Érico Veríssimo. Moreover, the Mexican poet and essayist Octavio Paz  left us a magnificent description of the patrimonial leviathan of Latin America in his incomparable book El ogro filantrópico which no doubt inspired the essay O dinossauro by the Brazilian thinker Meira Penna [Penna, 1988].
2) The State, although stronger than society, does not strictly speaking constitute a public affair, designed for the well-being of its citizens. On the contrary, the State machinery tends to be privatised for the benefit of its governors, the burocratic sector and the social segments coopted by them. The social classes have, in the context of Latin American societies and other societies ruled by patrimonial states, particular characteristics which make them different from the social classes in the bosom of societies ruled by contractualist States. The basic difference is as follows: whereas the participation of the classes in the latter is put into effect through the struggle to defend their own interests in the midst of the organs of representation (town councils, state or regional assemblies, parliaments), through political parties, in societies ruled by patrimonial States political participation is realized through the co-option of individuals and classes by the governors and by the burocratic sector. This situation was characterised by Simon Schwartzman  like this: while for other nations politics is a means of improving business, for Brazilians (and the same could be said of the other Latin Americans), being in politics is itself big business.
3) Individuals and social classes are affected by the clan complex, a phenomenon which was especially studied by Oliveira Vianna [cf. Vianna, 1982]. This complex consists of extending social solidarity only to members of one’s family clan or political clan. This produces, firstly, lack of solidarity, which is responsible for the fragility of the social tissue, and, secondly, causes the tendency of the State to privatise “to benefit friends and to harm enemies”, as the popular saying goes. The practice of nepotism and clientelism is the main way in which privatization of the State takes place. Oliveira Vianna [1982:553-554] writes about this phenomenon: “This tenuousness or this lack of density of our feeling of collective interests is what gives us the scientific reason for the fact that personal or family interests have, in our nation (in the collective behaviour of our public figures), more weight, more strength, more determining importance than considerations of collective or national interest. This State of mind has a general cause (...), a logical reason, a scientific reason: and this scientific reason is the absence of the perception of the power of the State as an organ of public interest. The organs of State are for these heads of clans, whether local or provincial, just a force put at their disposition to serve their friends and their interests, or to oppress their opponents and their interests.”
The clientelist way of doing politics is expressed in the popular saying: “aos amigos marmelada; aos inimigos, bordoada” (for friends, a rake-off; for enemies, a drubbing); “governar é nomear, demitir e prender” (to rule means to put people into jobs, sack people and arrest people); “é dando que se recebe” (you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours); etc. About this, Laureano Gómez, president of Colombia in the middle of the last century, wrote: “Apart from activities that are strictly individual and for individual progress, collective life in the nation is paralysed. All stimuli of an intellectual nature have disappeared, and have been replaced by intrigues, by the efficacy of bossism, by the preponderance of thievery. It is better to be a relative of a functionary than it is to be an intellectual. It is more advantageous to join in thievery than to be competent and honest; and there are no lofty thoughts, nor deep studies, nor irreproachable behaviour that are worth anything equivalent to erolling in the clientele of a political boss. The vast web of these nurtured interests is maintained by means of silence, of opposition to change, and by the lack of transparency” [Gómez, 1928:141-142].
4) In the context of Latin American societies, an economic model emerged which was an emulation of Spanish and Portuguese mercantilism. On this subject the Brazilian thinker Roberto Campos writes: “We are a patrimonialist society. Patrimonialism is quite simply the Iberian form of European mercantilism of the beginning of the Modern Age. That is, mercantilism worsened by the cultural influence of the Counter-Reform, the confiscation of the Inquisition and the vestiges of Arab despotism” [Campos, 1992]. The central point of this mercantilist model is the supposition that it is the responsibility of the entrepreneur State to guarantee the wealth of the nation. Society’s place would be to lean on the State only to get rich at its expense. It is this conviction that even today nourishes entrepreneurs’ demands for subsidized profit, as well as market reserve, political appointments, and the tendency to corruption (in the sense of citizens’ growing rich on public money). The State budget is understood to be booty to be distributed clientelistically among friends and faithful servants [cf. Penna, 1988 and 1991]. Taxation, in Latin American societies, has turned into a policy of confiscation, nourished by the budget-devouring capacity of the state and its burocratic sector. Its is not unusual to have superimposed taxation, as happens for example in Brazil where the citizen pays 52 different taxes, seriously compromising the capacity to save and invest, thus bleeding the economy.
5) The practice of clientelism and coopting lead to authoritarian regimes, whose basic preocupation is to banish any dissidence. Police terrorism, single party caudillo presidentialism, and “scientific dictatorships” of technocrats and the military are the most common forms of expression of the patrimonialist way of doing politics in Latin America. The Rousseaunian, Comtean, and Marxist-Leninist political philosophies have, from the theoretical point of view, reinforced this tendency.
6) Apart from family, sectorial and political clans, the only unifying links among citizens are the corporations, which are made up basically of clientelistically structured organizations, in order to guarantee a share of the State’s power or its wealth, for its own benefit. This corporative structure enables us to understand phenomena that are so common to trade unionism in Latin America such as the Brazilian “peleguism” or the Argentinian “peronism”. We could also include within this structure the oligopolic and cartel-forming tendency of the owners of businesses [cf. Vélez Rodríguez, 1989].
7) The main result of this state of things is the weakness of citizenship in the context of Latin America. To be a citizen means to be a nobody. People have no value in themselves, in their inalienable rights, but only in their clientelistic relationships. As a result, there are first and second class citizens, depending on the degree of individual relationship with the governors and the burocratic sector [cf. Matta, 1991].
8) The law and legal institutions in Latin American patrimonial societies feel the effect of the above-mentioned tendency to privatisation. They do not express impersonal norms established by a social consensus, but are composed basically of casuistic machinery to be administered according to the individual or clan interests of whoever is in power. Certain popular sayings, like the following, express this idea very well: “aos amigos, os cargos; aos inimigos, a lei” (for friends, jobs; for enemies, the law); “aos nossos inimigos, o único que lhes resta é uma sincera penitência” (the only thing left for our enemies to do is to sincerely repent).
9) Political ideologies, in these societies, serve as a rhetorical pretense which covers up the deepest reality of the fact that power is administered in clans. Coups d’état were, until the 80s last century, a monotonous merry-go-round of the holders of power. The exercise of democracy, taken up again in the region at the end of last century, has not, however, been able to rely on the continual and mature exercise of representation. In this context, the political parties are no more than parliamentary blocks grouped around charismatic figures through the practice of coopting, nepotism and clientelism [cf. Vélez, 2000b).
10) The rhetoric of democratism generally takes the place of a real political project, which would lead to the maturing of citizenship and representation. In the light of this rhetoric, the holder of the power tends towards a charismatic legitimisation, appearing as “father of the nation”, “protector of the poor”, etc. The new Messiah will try to banish, as an enemy of the collective happiness, anyone who plans opposition to his messianic designs. The eminent political scientist Seymour Lipset showed in a classical study that Marxist Messianism accompanies the countries of lowest income, among them those of Latin America [cf. Lipset, 1970:40-41]. It is common in them for a single party to emerge, guaranteeing unanimity around the pure ones, who embody the regime of virtue. This phenomenon, clearly inspired by Rousseau, has appeared in the most varied forms in Latin America, from Papa Doc in Haiti, through the authoritarianism of Dr. Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia in Paraguay, continuing with the scientific dictatorship of Júlio de Castilhos and of Getúlio Vargas in Brazil, and reaching, in our days, the totalitarian regime of Castro in Cuba and the Bolivarian authoritarianism of Chávez in Venezuela.
11) Going together with the aforementioned characteristics, as an axiological foundation which regulates social behaviour, is a set of ethics which could be characterized as that of the jeitinho (way round obstacles) or atalho (short cut), that is, inspired by the categorical imperative of gaining the upper hand in everything, avoiding productive work. This set of ethics was incorporated by the élites of Latin America during the colonial cycle, from the anti-values of sumptuary consumption and aversion to productive work, which inspired the decadent Spanish and Portuguese nobilities, during the 16th to the 18th Centuries. This phenomenon has been mentioned by scholars such as Américo Castro  and Oliveira Vianna . The main outcome of this set of ethics is corruption, which has spread uncontrollably in all the different levels of public administration. We should remember here the sense in which the term corruption is understood, in the light of Aristotelian thought: something is corrupted when it loses its substance, which in terms of politics is the same as saying "when the State loses its raison d'être". The thinkers of the second Iberian scholasticism, particularly Francisco Suarez, pointed out the loss of meaning of the State, when the latter stops looking after the well-being of its citizens, or, in other words, when it stops striving for the common good. However, the essence of the State, in the heart of the patrimonialist tradition, consists of privatizing it for the benefit of a minority, which does not exactly constitute a class, but a type of sectorial caste, of nomenclature, which administers the State as if it were its own private property. The essence of patrimonialism is the corruption of the notion of the State as a sphere of public things, of what refers to the common good, to the well-being of its citizens, to the defence of their inalienable rights to life, freedom and property, as John Locke's liberal creed read. When the State is privatized for the exclusive benefit of one part of a nation, it is corrupted. The rest follows on from this. The use and abuse of public money for the enrichment of individuals or their families, the buying and selling of favours, the manipulation of restricted information by the people in power and their assessors etc.; all this arises out of the primordial fact.
12) The dominant religion, in the case of Latin America catholicism, has tended to become the raison d'État in the context of post-feudal absolutism, which has led to the wide involvement of the Church in the counter-reform sponsored by the Iberian monarchies [cf. Paim, 2000]. Let us not forget that this secular involvement also took place in the inquisitorial struggles against the Jews in Spain, Portugal and their respective colonies, throughout the 15th to the 18th Centuries. The phenomenon of clericalism, and its latest variant, the Marxist-Leninist version of the theology of libertation, fit without a doubt into this context [cf. Vélez, 2000b: 313-327].
13) It is worth commenting that within the patrimonial societies of Latin America there have emerged throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, projects of modernisation of limited scope, which although unable to bring about a definitive transformation in them, have at least laid the foundation for later reforms. One such case, for example, is that of the parliamentary experience in Brazil during the Second Reign, after the Additional Act, in the period from 1841 to 1889. This experience, incidentally, stimulated comments of praise from François Guizot , who saw in it the establishment of the ideals of freedom, political rationality and justice through the exercise of representative monarchy.
14) These modernising experiences have been inspired by liberalism, which in its Latin American version has appeared closely linked to other philosophical streams such as Spencerism, enlightened Positivism, Krausism, spiritualist Eclecticism, etc. So, for example, the parliamentary experience of the Brazilian Empire, which made it possible to limit the influence of the patrimonial State, was inspired in Lockean liberalism and its liberal-conservative version of Benjamin Constant de Rebecque . Similarly, the reforms that allowed political representation in Spanish America were inspired at one time by Iberian liberalism [cf. Gortázar, 1994; Perdomo, 1991; Romero, 1989], then by Krausism, which in Spain corresponded to an important liberal variation with the work of Francisco Giner de los Rios [cf. 1969 and López-Morilhas, 1988], then by the retaking of Anglo-American and French libertarian philosophy by the civil leaderships of the New Republics, which made it possible to resist against Iberian conservatism and authoritarianism. Bolivar's Rousseauism undoubtedly met determined opposition in the liberalism of Francisco de Paula Santander [cf. 1988] and the positivism of the military government in Brazil, at the beginning of the Republic, was held in rein by the liberal preaching of Rui Barbosa [cf. Vélez; 1980, Paim, 1978].
Moreover, the influence of liberalism is situated in Latin America, at the beginning of the struggle against absolutism, which started in the 18th Century with the conspiracy in New Granada in 1781 and the conspiracy in Minas Gerais in 1789, both inspired by the Iberian libertarian and municipalist tradition [cf. Ots, 1969:10-25], as well as by the philosophy of the French enlightenment and by the Anglo-American liberal ideologists [cf. Macedo, 1977].
Coming out of patrimonialism
The meaning of the term development is complex. Very sensibly, the Brazilian thinker Roberto Campos [1994:1272] emphasized this, stating the following: "Development, in its wide sense - including economic growth and social improvement - continues to be something mysterious, since it depends on a complex interaction of economic, social and political factors. This mystery has not yet been fathomed by any of the varieties of the theory of development, some of them optimistic, others pessimistic". Lord Keynes was thinking on similar lines when he emphasized that economic reality needed to be learnt in the light of "general trends of society", which involved such a complex infinity of factors as human life [Keynes, 1984:151]. A similar comment was made by the well-known scholar Gertrude Himmelfarb regarding studies of poverty. In its complexity, the idea of poverty constitutes "a hybrid subject, a cross between two different species: social history and intellectual history" [Himmelfarb, 1988:19].
To be witness to the societies of Latin America coming out of patrimonialism, is therefore to perceive a complex fact, endowed with countless variables. But this complexity does not mean we cannot record general trends, rather as Guizot discovered, beneath the multifaceted series of phenomena, general trends in the European society of his time, which pointed towards democracy. There is no doubt that Latin American societies, as they became largely urban during the last century, evolved progressively towards a more modern model, which involved opening up to foreign capital, strengthening of national industry, improvement of agricultural production, as well as reforms in the areas of politics, education and employment. Even if this process did not at first mean democratization (as with Getúlio Vargas in Brazil, with Perón in Argentina or with Porfírio Díaz in Mexico), the foundations of new labour practices had been laid, under the leadership of the interventionist State, which helped to set off the spate of industrialization, which in the middle of the 20th Century had been channeled to a policy of substitution of imports. As a result, the patrimonialist tradition, which was rooted in rural life, was forced into a modernizing thrust.
The process of globalization of the world economy that took place in the final decades of last century speeded up this set of changes within the societies of Latin America. Loser and Guerguil, economists of the IMF, characterize as follows the changes that have taken place in this region, in the area of economic policy: "After the crisis of their debts, the economic policy of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean experienced a profound change: most of the countries in this region, oppressed by strong distortions in the use of their productive resources, decided to abandon the old model of industrialization based on the substitution of imports and intervention of the State, and adopt policies of freedom of markets and opening to overseas. At the end of the eighties the struggle against inflation and, more generally, the search for financial stability became the main aim of economic policy for many governments in the world, including those of Latin America and the Caribbean. Economic administration became more rigorous, programmes of public spending were adjusted, public administration was downsized and taxation systems were overhauled. As a result, the fiscal deficit of the region went down to an average of 2% of the Gross Domestic Product in the mid-nineties, compared with 4-5% towards the end of the previous decade. Progress was made towards a more balanced tax load, with lower taxes on overseas trade and lower levels of evasion, and the weight of taxes in the Gross Domestic Product increased. The ratio between the external public debt and the GDP went down from 50% in the late eighties to less than 20% in 1997. With this progress in the area of taxation, it has become less necessary for the central bank to provide financing for the public sector, giving rise to more rigorous monetary administration (...). Most countries in the region have implemented a wide range of structural reforms, doing away with price control and de-regulating markets. The three main areas of structural reform have been the opening of trade, financial liberalization, and the privatization of public companies" [Loser-Guerguil, 2000:7-8].
This set of changes in the economic area has brought better standards of living for the civilian population, who have at the same time pressured for democratization of State administration. The result of all this has been an improvement in the rate of human development in Latin America in general. In this context the most significant changes have taken place, such as the structural reform in Argentina in the 1990s [cf. Pou, 2000:13-15], the economic reform in Brazil in the same period [cf. Fraga Neto, 2000:16-18], as well as the process of economic and socio-political changes that took place in Chile and Mexico in the final decade of last century [cf. Animat, 2000:19-21; Gurría, 2000:23-26].
I can say, without fear of being contradicted by the facts, that the perspective that is being sketched for the 21st Century in Latin America is that of gradually overcoming the patrimonialist tradition, through the full development of market economy and representative democracy. This, evidently, does not avert fears of localized, but not global, retrocession. The negative aspects, which are focal points of concern in that they nourish this old tradition, are the following:
a) The barbarous patrimonialism or "armed clientelism" of the FARCs / ELN in Colombia is more and more predominant. This is a real danger, as these subversive forces control practically half the country and the Colombian government is in a tighter and tighter corner, with the civilian population hostage to the armed groups. The so-called "Colombia Plan" has not succeeded, so far, in putting the Bogotá government in a position to be able to take the lead in a process of negotiation that does not involve capitulating to the subversive forces [cf. Vélez, 1998 and 2000a].
b) An upsurge of Rousseaunian democratism in Venezuela, in the so-called "Bolivarian movement" of President Chávez, who seeks alliances throughout the world with countries whose interests conflict with western interests and who has shown signs of a sympathetic leaning towards the Havana regime (copying the Castro practice of creating "committees for the defence of the revolution") and who approves of the genocide caused by the Colombian guerrilla fighters, asserting that theirs is a legitimate struggle against the bourgeois oligarchies, attempting to establish a democracy of the masses.
c) The de-stabilizing presence of Cuba on the Latin American scene. It is clear that Castro's regime is sympathetic to a possible future "Republic of the FARCs / ELN "in Colombia, as well as to the model of "Bolivarian dictatorship" of Chávez in Venezuela, or to movements on the fringe of the law and which aim to establish a Castro-type socialism in Brazil, as is the case of the "Movimento dos Sem Terra" (The Movement of the Landless) [cf. Vélez, 2000c].
These negative aspects are not, however, predominant, compared with the achievements in Latin America to overcome the old tradition of patrimonialism. To round off, I shall mention the two points which seem to me most positive:
a) The consolidation of democracy and market economy in the countries of Mercosur. Despite the scares of the Argentinian and Brazilian economies, the progress made will undoubtedly lead to a strengthening of trade in Latin America, and in the medium term, an acceleration of the entry of South American countries into the Alliance of Commerce of the Americas. A communication issued (in February 2001) by the Council on Foreign Relations, made up of American entrepreneurs, recommended that the Busch government take into consideration the fact that Brazil is one of the United States’ most important partners in the western hemisphere for the advancement of economic development. It will be very difficult for a country like Brazil to reverse the process of modernization of its economy, even if a left-wing president wins the next elections. The benefit of economic stability achieved with the Plano Real can not be ignored. There is no doubt that the voters appreciate this fact. The left-wing forces in Brazil, still tuned-in to outdated discourse about irresponsible statesmanship, are having to change the outline of their programmes in order to gain the support of the voters.
It is likely that in this remodelling of the face of left-wing politics in Latin America, the model of the new British labourism or of the Portuguese and Spanish Social democrats will not be ignored and will start to guide the next steps of the political actors. At the same time, the political forces at the far end of the ideological spectrum are polishing up their party proposals, taking into account the modernization of the political associations of conservative leaning in the Iberian Peninsula. President Aznar’s party nowadays inspires the updating of traditional conservative political associations in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, etc.
b) The progressive consolidation of democracy and market economy in the countries of Central America and the Caribbean, influenced directly by the dynamism of Mexico in the sub-region. The recent visits by the Mexican president to the countries of Central America make it clear that there is an affinity and a common will to find joint solutions for the problems of poverty and natural disasters, in the context of capitalist development and of representative democracy. The strengthening of the Mexican economy is fundamental to stimulate the development of the countries of Central America and the Caribbean. The Mexicans are seen by the nations in the sub-region as more developed brothers who can help them, away from the traditional anti-yankee prejudice.
A last comment regarding the important role that liberalism has been playing as a source of inspiration of the process of change in Latin America. Just as liberal doctrines provided the foundations for the modernizing changes that took place within the patrimonial States of Latin America during the 19th and 20th Centuries, in the same way they continue today to be the inspiration (and will do so throughout the century that is beginning) of the progressive coming out of patrimonialism.
As I emphasized in the presentation of a recent book dedicated to Alexis de Tocqueville, "our history, in Latin America, has always developed between two anti-democratic extremes: on the one hand, the old Iberian absolutism and its heir, caudillism; on the other hand, revolutionary anarchism. Freedom, in this barbarousness, has been the victim. Alexis de Tocqueville showed us that the way to enlighten the struggle to achieve real democracy in our countries should be to uphold freedom for all citizens. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and with it the model of democracy without freedom proposed by Marx, the Tocqueville model of liberal democracy has been in ascendency and is still able to inspire the process of political renewal and State reform that is in progress in Brazil and the rest of Latin America" [Vélez, 1998].
Besides, Tocqueville was optimistic about Latin America. He thought that the state of backwardness of the countries in the continent would be transitory and that, just as England managed to have a positive influence on the countries in Continental Europe in overcoming the ailments of poverty and authoritarianism, in the same way the United States would manage, sooner or later, to have a benefic influence on its southern neighbours, getting them to improve their self-esteem through work, development and democracy, activating the elements of christian civilization that are present in Iberian traditions. The great French thinker foresaw the proposal of the Alliance of Commerce of the Americas, which today the United States are trying to implement in Latin America. Tocqueville may be close to the idea of Nisbet [cf. 1969], in the sense that social change does not obey only internal factors, but is implemented fundamentally by external influence.
Finally, it is worth quoting Tocqueville's words on this subject: "The Spanish and the Portuguese founded, in South America, great colonies which later became empires. Nowadays, civil war and despotism are desolating those vast territories. The movement of the population has stopped and the small number of men who live there, concerned with their own defence, only experience the need to improve their lot. But it is not possible that it will always be like this. Europe, left to its own means, managed to overcome the darkness of the Middle Ages; South America is christian like us; it has our laws, our customs; it contains all the germs of civilizations that developed in the midst of the European nations and their offspring; South America has, more than we do, our example: why should it remain barbaric for ever?"
"In this case it is obviously a question of time: an age will come, sooner or later, in which the South Americans will form flourishing and enlightened nations. (...) There can be no doubt for us that one day the Americans from the north of America will be called upon to provide for the needs of the South Americans. Nature put them near them. In this way it provided them with great facilities to get to know and judge their needs, so as to establish permanent relationships with those nations and gradually gain control of their market. The businessman of the United States could only lose these natural advantages if he were much worse than the European businessman. It so happens that, on the contrary, he is better than the latter in many aspects. The Americans of the United States already have a great moral influence on all the nations of the New World. It is from them that knowledge comes. All the nations that inhabit the same continent have become accustomed to seeing them as the most enlightened, most powerful and wealthiest children in the great American family. They constantly turn their eyes to the Union, and, as far as possible, take after the nations that it consists of. Every day they turn to the United States looking for political doctrines and borrowing laws from them."
"The Americans of the United States are, in relation to the nations of South America, in exactly the same situation as their English fathers in relation to the Italians, the Spanish, the Portuguese and all those nations in Europe that, being less advanced in civilization and industry, receive from their hands the majority of their consumer objects (...)" [Tocqueville, 1992:471-473].
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