Los Angeles Times | 10/27/2009 12:00:00 AM
Knowing when to leave in Latin America
Oct 27--Leaders who circumvent term limits undermine the region's democratic progress.
But as democracies took root and civilian governments tried to implement ambitious economic and political reforms, they began to feel constrained by term limits. Soon,elected leaders from right to left sought to extend their mandates. Driven by ego and arrogance as well as ideology, some pursued the changes legitimately through the legislature. At least that was the case when the leaders of Peru, Argentina and Brazil sought second terms in the 1990s.
Problems arose, however, when Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and Argentine President Carlos Menem still weren't satisfied and, despite charges of corruption, sought third terms. Other leaders went even further, using and abusing the tools of democracy to eliminate term limits altogether. That would include Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who lost one referendum to extend his term before winning passage of a second in February, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, whose allies on the Supreme Court lifted a ban on reelection last week, raising fears that Nicaragua might return to the kind of entrenched power that Ortega took up arms to defeat in 1979.
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