6) Perhaps the biggest success for the region has been the increasing trend towards democratisation, in spite of some limitations in the depth of democratic culture in the region (see lecture 9). Thus democracy is now the norm in Latin America, even if it is disturbed by past financial instability (Argentina), by perceptions of corruption (Brazil), by presidentialism and political polarisation (Venezuela), by ongoing political violence (Colombia), by a 'deficit in collective leadership' (Cooper & Legler 2001), and by the bitter struggle for a more open media over the last thirty years (see Look 2004). Thus it can be noted that: -
In spite of the above mentioned weaknesses of democratic institutions in Latin America, in spite of corruption, terrorism and human rights violations, the democratic system has recently emerged as the only legitimate framework for political action. Even in Central America, where authoritarianism, open or otherwise, has been endemic for many years, there has been a strong movement towards democracy in the 1990s (Larrain 1999, p201)
7) International wars within Latin America are now a thing of the past, and borders throughout the region have been largely stabilised (see lectures 2, 9). On this basis, Latin America has been able to evolve a number of relatively effective regional organisations, including the OAS, Summit of the Americas, the Rio Group, and Mercosur. Such organisations are crucial in meeting the regional challenges of globalisation and democratisation (Orango 2000). However, as we have seen, no single organisation or group of these organisations really provides comprehensive governance, requiring a need for further institutional reform. Likewise, Mercosur will need to go through another round of innovation if it wishes to the main driver of economic cooperation in South America, e.g. the proposal of the single currency for the region, or for a supranational parliament, ideas being considered in Brazil (Sader 2003; Pang 2003; see lectures 5, 11). As we have already seen, from 1995 Mercosur hoped to create a South American Free Trade Area (SAFTA), a vision which has gained some reality via negotiations with Chile, Bolivia and Peru, and the rest of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN, also known as the Andean Pact) through 2004-2005. However, at present Mercosur itself has had serious problems in meeting the needs of Uruguay and Paraguay, and seems to concerned with Argentina-Brazil internal balancing to provide a strong core for wider integration, at least in the near future.
8) Economic reform has continued to generate increased growth in GDP, but this may not be enough to ensure political and social stability. Estimated extra growth from reforms was suggested to be in the range of 1.9-2.2 percent, though this may need to re-estimated at only 1.3% for the 1991-3 period, and only 0.6% for the 1997-1999 period (Lora & Panizza 2002, p12). Economic growth is important, but has not generated all that was hoped for in terms of balanced social gains (Petras 1999; see further below). In general terms, only countries with strong institutions, good rule of law, and effective regulatory frameworks can easily benefit from the reform process - otherwise a post-liberalisation crisis may occur, e.g. via a weak or poorly controlled banking system, problems that in part generated the Mexican and