From Movements to Parties in Latin America. The Evolution of Ethnic Politics. Donna Lee Van Cott. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2005. Pp. 276

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The author analyzes how indigenous people’s movements in Latin America transformed into viable political parties. For her, these new parties are good for the democracy because they enrich and enhance the legitimacy of the political and electoral system. She assumes that the primary link between state and society are the parties and its accountability impact on the institutions. She proves that the crisis of the traditional parties and the transformation of the historical electoral constrains were determinant factors that contributed to ethnic party formation and consolidation. Van Cott conclusions were based on the study of six countries: Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela as successful cases, and Peru and Argentina as failed examples. The chosen time frame is from the early eighties to the late nineties. The puzzle that motivates this research challenges common places in the political parties’ scholarship. According to the author, the formation of strong ethnic parties is not an automatic outcome of societies with large ethnic population, also, the awake or the re-edition of the ethnic needs neither justify the alternative parties’ appearance, because those were there before, Indians could even vote and participate in democracy prior to become a party. Although, during the nineties, different ethnic groups refused to participate in the programmatic benefits provided by a consolidated party, and began to translate their specific demands into social cleavages and collective interest. They took advantage of the economic instability, the increasing rates of violence and corruption, plus the exhaustion of the class struggle’ discourse along with the armed subversive option; and turned, in some cases, into acceptable p... ... middle of paper ... ...fferent realities in despite of their geographical proximity. The book opens an unexplored trail by setting the conditions for further research on the social movements’ issue. To this point, it seems clear the path taken by certain indigenous communities after significant changes in the democratic panorama of the selected Latin America countries. Now different questions need to be raise: which social processes the violence have stopped and provoked? In the case of Colombia; also, what is the role of other minority groups in the political-electoral field? Are there any general recommendations for an ideal electoral system? How the current populist governments in Latin America affect the political scheme? And how the social movements with political components have reacted to this new feature? These are only some examples of the inquiries that produce the reviewed work.

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