Buenos Aires Times

The vices of our democracy

Even the most recognised character in the literary history of Argentina, Martin Fierro, is the perfect example of someone who cheats in order to achieve goals in life. What does this say about us?

Thursday 2 November, 2017
Foto:Pablo Temes - Cedoc.

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Even though Argentina is an acknowledged democratic country of the western world, its democracy is only young and naïve. In a nation of more than 200 years of age, a greater respect for government agencies and institutions is to be expected. In fact, it would be fair to expect a mature and strong system of checks and balances. However, reality shows that this sort of democratic system has not yet been achieved by neither past nor present governments. A probable reason for this lays in the short life of Argentina’s democracy: it is merely 34 years old, with a history of democratic Presidents who had (and may still have) superpowers, implying direct control over Congress and the Supreme Court. It seems like old vices were not abandoned.

While the United States founded a constitutional government based on The Federalist Papers, Argentina was drafting two Constitutions, given that the first one did not include the epicentre of political and economic power: Buenos Aires. Federalism was never really applied in the southern cone of the world. In fact, the making of Argentine law was based on foreign systems not necessarily compatible with the reality at the moment. Perhaps this occurred because the local founding fathers denied their own identity or maybe they just ignored the slanted views and actuality of the country. Certainly, something went wrong since the very beginning.  

Moreover, while advanced western democracies based their republican system of government on the ideas brought upon by Montesquieu (amongst others), Argentina suffered several military coups and the establishment of authoritarian regimes. The history of the Argentine Republic is as fragile as one can be. A democracy was not effectively implemented until 1983. Therefore, it is not surprising that nowadays people still wonder why the system of checks and balances does not work properly. Well, because it has been methodically abused for centuries.

The abuse of political power has been an ongoing issue for Argentina since its foundation, marked by black or white positions. Hence, it is no surprise that today, during its fourth decade of democracy the country is still facing a 150-year-old dilemma: civilisation or barbarism? In fact, the most recognised character in the literary history of Argentina, Martin Fierro, is the perfect example of someone who cheats in order to achieve goals in life, acts upon with revenge and despises authority. Extraordinarily, the national fictitious leader is a representation of the repudiation towards civilization and public order. Unfortunately, the end product of these constructions is a society filled with hate towards authority and, on the other hand, careless governments.

Taking into consideration the “anti-democratic” creation of Argentina, it is factually impossible to expect an efficient functioning democracy, even in the 21st century. Many more years of tailoring the system and adapting laws to reality are needed. As Perón once said, “revolutions are made with either time or blood”. In this case, time and hard work must be our salvation.

(*) Lawyer, Universidad de San Andrés.

By Juan Manuel Porta (*)

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