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José Sánchez

How to banish the messianic figure of the caudillos in Latin America?: The staging of non-central governments

- What does it depend on to turn the page of the caudillos in Latin America? Let's decentralize power!

How to banish the messianic figure of the caudillos in Latin America?: The staging of non-central governments

The Latin American (LA) region presents in its history a constant manifestation of regimes, both civil and military, that have tried to charge on their person the messianic figure that will solve all the ills that afflict the population. The constant polarization discourses in which an enemy is identified, and on which all the problems are encompassed, create the false perception that, at the moment of eradicating it, all the shortcomings will be solved.

This dynamic has been maintained since, progressively, the entire LA region became independent and established its own power structures; a constant that remains in the 21st century, when figures like Lula da Silva in Brazil are still in force, or Evo Morales in Bolivia, who still maintains an important political influence in his country.

In this sense, the central question of this article fits, how to banish the messianic figure of the caudillos in LA?, having as main hypothesis that the active and constant presence of non-central governments (GNC) in the local and international scenario , it would decentralize the power of the presidential figure, and, therefore, it would bring the population closer to the control process and decision-making that directly impact their locality.

For this, it is necessary to highlight that the structure of both federal and unitary countries is not considered an essential factor, since clear and concise legislation is required to carry out this activity by the GNCs; In this sense, the specialized literature calls the international action of GNCs paradiplomacy, city diplomacy, decentralized diplomacy, multilevel governance, etc. However, I advocate the use of the term paradiplomacy, as a concept that encompasses all of the above, but that does not rule out the use of the other terms, in specific situations that are justified.

For it,

Paradiplomacy can be defined as the participation of non-central governments in international relations, through the establishment of [formal and informal,] permanent or ad hoc contacts with foreign public or private entities, with the purpose of promoting various socioeconomic or cultural aspects, as well as any other external dimension of their own constitutional powers (Cornago 2001, 56).

Certainly this characteristic responds more to countries with federal systems such as the United States, Mexico, Brazil or Canada; but this does not prevent taking the definition and applying it to unitary countries such as Chile or Peru, in addition, the case of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government can be highlighted, which exercises an outstanding paradiplomatic activity, having a structured plan of international projection despite being under a unitary regime of government.

Likewise, it can be added that paradiplomacy,<<[is] the ability of municipalities, states or regions and private companies to dialogue directly with other parts of the world... as a response to the State's inability to resolve local problems >> (Zeraoui s/f) Being the definition that best suits the central hypothesis of the article, since it highlights the need for a specific solution, for a problem that occurs in a certain locality, since the degree of attention that may have the central government is not required.

This scenario has been especially highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the cases of the Governor of New York (United States) and that of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), which, at the time, differed regarding the handling of the crisis. , and they did not follow the provisions that the presidents of both countries stipulated, leaving a clear example of how the decisions of the central government can be contrary to the specific needs of a GNC. Likewise, it demonstrates how power is decentralized without this implying a rupture within the country, so that the reasons that prevent the culmination of the decentralization process in many LA countries (for example, Peru) go through a decision to keep power centralized and , therefore, the resources.

In this sense, the policies that were implemented in LA to contain the economic decline resulting from the stoppage of activities, were thought at the national level, but not to the particular cases that each zone represents, being a region with a <> (United Nations Organization 2020, 6), so this could explain that <<the effect on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could be a contraction of around 9% in the region as a whole >> (Acevedo et al. 2020, 4) which will bring with it discouraging figures regarding unemployment, and the increase in people living in extreme poverty.

That is why we must move away from the centralist view that central governments represent, and start looking at the GNCs, as the main decision-makers, to exercise focused oversight, and actively participate as citizens in the local agenda, National and international. For this, it is necessary to have information on the policies that have presented a better option to minimize the social impact of the pandemic, in this case,

The policy with the greatest benefit-cost ratio is the postponement of payroll tax payments and social security contributions, since it represents a direct effect of increasing the level of liquidity for companies that can be used to maintain employment and the value of salaries, and with an adequate design that postpones its repayment into the future, its net fiscal cost can be close to zero (Acevedo et al. 2020, 22).

Being a measure that is applied at the national level in the majority of LA countries, therefore, the adaptation to the different realities of each GNC of this public policy can mean a greater degree of success in its execution.

This can be supported by the degree of importance that the GNCs give to citizen participation, for example, in Peru, a recent study shows how, the closer the level of government is to the population, the greater the projects executed based on participatory budgets.

Table No. 1

Source: (Remy, Urrutia, and Veas 2020, 84).

From the table, in order of CNG closest to the population (Regional Government, Province and District), it can be seen how the percentages of inclusion in the annual budget of the projects elaborated based on citizen participation are more effective when the level The government is closer to the population, as long as the ruler does not feel like a distant figure, over which the population cannot exercise a more direct control, as it happens in the first levels of government.

In this sense, advocating for a greater participation of the GNC in the making of public policies at the national level, will allow a realistic look at the central government, achieving the necessary coordination to manage the pandemic, and the challenges that it is already bringing with it. , eliminating the messianic figure of the president, and democratizing power.


    Acevedo, Ivonne, Francesca Castellani, Iván Flores, Giulia Lotti, y Miguel Székely. 2020. “Implicaciones sociales del Covid-19: Estimaciones y alternativas para América Latina y El Caribe”. IDB-DP-820. Documento para Discusión.

    Organización de las Naciones Unidas. 2020. “Informe: El impacto del COVID-19 en América Latina y el Caribe (julio 2020)”. Grupo de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo Sostenible.

    Remy, María Isabel, Jaime Urrutia, y Alejandra Veas. 2020. “El presupuesto participativo en Perú: un estudio de casos”. 42. Serie de Estudios sobre Desarrollo. Documento de Trabajo. Lima.

    Zeraoui, Zidane. s/f. “Qué es la paradiplomacia”. Fundación Safe Democracy. Consultado el 21 de octubre de 2020.

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