Law and Democracy in Latin America

Inequality in Latin America

Latin America is the most unequal region in the world. This fact speaks to two different issues. On the one hand, the level of poverty and underdevelopment, although very important, does not reach the level encountered in many African countries. On the other hand, the great inequality existent in the region--the poor distribution of resources, so that some people have very little, and others have much, much more--lies behind many of the legal and political problems the countries in the region have faced, are facing, and will face in the future. Furthermore, despite some advances in reducing poverty, inequality is actually growing worse.

We will read a text by Terry Karl that analyzes these problems in terms of a continuing cycle of inequality, by which political and economic power reinforce each other, making exclusion and poverty an endemic problem in Latin America. We will also read a text by Oxhorn that analyzes the progress of citizenship in Latin America, especially in the twentieth century. Many of the problems we analyze in future units are derived from or somehow related to the problems of inequality and poverty. This leaves us with an important question: if inequality is one of the causes of the democratic and legal deficiencies of the region, and it is getting worse, not better, what are the prospects for improving democracy and the rule of law over the long term?