January 6 hearings highlight the hard truths about democracy

Both sides claimed to be defending democracy from the other. Both turned to the Peruvian army, which has traditionally played the role of final arbiter, almost similar to that of the Supreme Court. The audience, deeply polarized, split. The military was also divided.

At the critical moment, there are enough political and military elites signaled support for Mr. Fujimori that he prevailed. They gathered informally, each reacting to the events individually and many of them appealed to different goals, such as Mr. Fujimori’s economic agenda, ideas of stability or a chance for their party to prevail in the new agenda.

Peru has fallen into quasi-authoritarianism, with limited political rights and elections still held, but on terms favorable to Mr. Fujimori until he was removed from office in 2000 on corruption charges. Last year, his daughter ran for president as a right-wing populist, losing by less than 50,000 votes.

Modern Latin America has repeatedly collide such crises. This is due not so much to shared cultural traits, many scholars say, as to a history of Cold War intervention that weakens democratic norms. It also stems from American-style presidential systems and the deep social polarization that paves the way for an extreme political battle.

Presidential democracies, by dividing power among competing branches, create more opportunities for clashes between rival services, even to the point of usurping the power of the other. Such systems also blur the question of who is responsible, forcing their branches to resolve disputes informally, on the go and sometimes by force.

Venezuela, once the oldest democracy in the region, has suffered a series of constitutional crises as President Hugo Chavez they collided with judges and other state bodies blocking his agenda. Every time, Mr. Chavez, and later his successor, Nicolas Maduro, appealed to legal and democratic principles to justify the weakening of these institutions, while over time the actions of the leaders, ostensibly to save democracy, were not everything, but do not gut him.

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