Governments’ and security actors’ dynamics in transitions to democracy

The experiences of the transition to democracy in Latin America could be useful for understanding achievements and mistakes that are common in all transitions. What are the appropriate mechanisms to build up a democracy? How much caution is appropriate in reviewing the past, without weakening the democratic foundation? Lessons from Latin America reveal that the search for truth is a required method in establishing the rule of law.

In many cases, political leaders have chosen to ignore the military problem, thinking that they will avoid the political costs of reforming the security sector, because limiting the independence of the military, in general, erodes political capital.

Democratic civilian institutions, such as parliaments and organisations of civil society, are central to managing the security sector. This is an ongoing process. It is a political decision that is maintained and constantly reaffirmed. To avoid intervention by the armed forces, the government has to give a role to the military. This requires institutionalising a professional model of relations between civil and military authorities, establishing a clear mission and a democratic chain of command.