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Term paper on democracy

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"Two of the nations freed by the Liberator, Sim'n Bol'var, enjoy particular prominence. Although their historical experiences were quite different, since 1958 both Colombia and Venezuela have maintained democratic institutions and practices. For Colombia, military dictatorship and rural violence led to a power-sharing agreement in 1957 and 1958 between the traditional Conservative and Liberal parties. This stayed in place until 1974, but two-party domination has continued to the present. Conservative President Belisario Betancur, elected in 1982, undertook a program including domestic pacification, seeking to end the endemic guerrilla fighting and banditry in the countryside. Despite doubts from the military and the opposition of traditional economic elites, he negotiated a formal truce with three rebel organizations. Signed on August 31, 1984, the truce extended amnesty to members of the M-19 group, the Communist party's Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), and the dissident Marxist Ej'rcito Popular de Liberaci'n (EPL). In exchange, participants were to cease armed hostilities. Next Betancur faced down traditionalistic congressmen who questioned reforms that would open all mayoralties to direct elections. The nation's worsening economic situation also threatened the limited pacification that the government had achieved, and the climate of partisan debate grew more heated toward the close of 1985, because of legislative and presidential elections scheduled for March and May 1986 respectively. By that time the truce was shattered and the president's policy lay in ruins. The M-19 denounced the truce in June and, although badly divided over strategy, increased its activities. In November it seized control of the Palace of Justice in Bogot'. The army responded with a violent assault on the building that left 95 dead, including 11 Supreme Court justices and 35 M-19 members. The controversy over the action was still raging when the EPL rejected the truce agreement at the close of the month. Only the Communist party and the FARC, its military arm, remained moderately cooperative in the hopes of participating in 1986 elections."
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"Where some pluralism in social and political life already exists, in the one-party regimes, the most realistic hope would be for the development of genuine political competition within the framework of a single legal party, on the model of Kenya. Cameroon may well transit this path; Sierra Leone may or may not continue its hesitant progress in this direction under its new president. This is not to concede to the pessimistic assessment that "single-party democracy" may be the only form capable of enduring in African multiethnic states, but simply to underscore that democratic progress in Africa is likely to be incremental (as it has been historically elsewhere in the world). Where there has been no tradition of political competition, open debate, free political organizations, judicial autonomy, and other checks on executive power, it is most unlikely that a multiparty democracy can suddenly emerge and endure. Of the limited military regimes, Nigeria and Ghana may both return again to democratic government by the end of this decade, and Guinea for the first time, but these prospects are clouded by the absence of any democratic tradition (and the legacy of tyranny) in Guinea, the weakness of state authority in Ghana, and the grave economic crisis in all three."
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"No principle is more centrally important to the democratic idea than the limitation of the state by the demand that it respect basic human rights. It is impossible to forget that in our century, democracy's principal adversary has not been the monarch ruling by "divine right" nor the oligarchy of landowners and feudal lords but totalitarianism; and that in order to combat totalitarianism, nothing is more important than the recognition of limits to state power. This feeling is so strong that we are now tempted to accord much less importance than did the thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the idea of the sovereignty of the people or to the idea of equality as Tocqueville defined it. This is so because the structured, hierarchical communities that were once protected by powerful mechanisms of social control have been completely destroyed by the blows of rapid change under modernization and in the decomposition of the established order. The traditional order was destroyed by no founding act or oath of social contract but by modernity, with or without democracy. Traditional monarchies and ruling classes are things of the past the world over, and so are the forms of family- or school-based authority that instilled a respect for supposedly natural hierarchies. Throughout the world, "orders" have been replaced by classes, and classes may in turn be replaced by a multiplicity of interest groups. As a result, the state's power can be limited only by political decision or moral conviction. History, however, tends to give the state increasing power in mobile societies where it is more than an agent of reproduction of the social order, a central actor in the processes of change and of accumulation and redistribution. The assertion of the democratic idea is therefore much more clearly present in such voluntary self limitation, which runs counter to modern society's tendencies, than in the rupture of traditional authority by states that have been more often authoritarian than democratic."
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