What are the Main Characteristics of the Political traditions in Latin America?

These are cultural values based on social structures that deeply influence and shape the political culture and commercial transactions in these countries.

Brazil has the unique social institution of panelinhas, which are actually in formal groups composed of varieties of persons who are all linked together by personal ties of family, kinship, and friendship. Each panelinhas many have persons with diverse professional background such as law, engineering, medicine, etc.

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Members of each group refer to do business with each other rather than with outsiders, knowing they have the advantage of personal confidence and trust. In Mexico, personal relationships play an important role in getting employment, working out business deals, or when pursuing apolitical career.

There is the unique political structure of camarilla, and hierarchical interlocking unit of personal relationship headed by a politician. When the leader of the camarilla goes up the ladder of political power, so does everyone in the camarilla.

The political dynamics lead to the formation of new camarillas, and over years and generations, interpersonal bonds of confienza, compadrazgo, childhood friendships and blood relationship continue to provide a remarkable consistency, a kind of confidentiality to the political system.

For 75 years, between 1924 and 2000, every Mexican president has chosen his successor for reasons that in the final analysis were of personal bonds and trust, childhood friendship, or attending the same school.

Patrimonialismo:

In the Iberian philosophical and political traditions, society is viewed as a hierarchical, living organism whose ultimate goal is the pursuit of ‘common good’. Such a view can be contrasted with the Anglo-Saxon view of a contractual society where individuals and groups are engaged in pursuing their own rational interests.

A social and political legacy of the Iberian rule has come in the form of patrimonialismo. It involves a relationship between the unequal and hierarchically placed patron and clients. The two differ in status, resources and power, with the patron enjoying all of them and the client bereft of them.

The patron bestows upon his client various favours, ranging from getting him/her a job to patronizing the client’s family functions. In return, the client expressed his gratitude through personal loyalty and obedience. A kind of a charisma or hallow surrounds the patron, and his clientelistic followers would have nearly blind faith in the patron’s ability to protect them and reward and punish them.

Presidencialisrno:

In presidencialisrno, all goods and services, rewards and punishment, rules and regulations emanate from the presidency. More so in the 20th Century, as the role of the state expanded in areas of economic development and distribution, and political participation and control, the office of the president became more closely identified, even synonymous with the state.

In the period of the state-centric model of development, state emerged as the chief patron dispensing goods and services to the general populace.

No wonder, the preponderant role of a centralised state where powers are concentrated in the presidency has been the hallmark of Latin American politics since the times of Independence. Related to the concentration of powers in the office of the president is the tradition of centralism. Iberian rule in Latin America was highly centralised with viceroys governing on behalf of the crown.

This had given birth to a system of bureaucracy that was deeply hierarchical and bound by laws. Since then, the political systems have been highly centralised and legalistic.

Political and economic developments in the post-Independence period such as the rise of caudillos in the 19th Century and the state-led strategy of economic development had further encouraged the process of centralisation.

It is only now under democracies that constitutional and political effort are being made towards decentralisation; and many Latin American countries, for the first time, are experiencing the true meaning of federalism.

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