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Elusive Reform: Democracy and the Rule of Law in Latin America

Mark Ungar
Elusive Reform: Democracy and the Rule of Law in Latin America
ISBN: 978-1-58826-035-2
ISBN: 978-1-62637-133-0
2001/273 pages/LC: 2001034950

"International reformers have often expressed their frustration over the slowness of reform; this work demonstrates why that occurs despite the best efforts."—Roger Handberg, The Latin Americanist

"Important and welcome.... Few volumes to date have undertaken such an in-depth study of the complex issue of rule of law and its problematic construction in fragile democratic systems in the region.... Will be a key text for students and scholars of judicial politics in Latin America."—Pilar Domingo, American Political Science Review


Elusive Reform explores one of the Latin American countries' biggest challenges: establishing a rule of law. Based on a close examination of historical patterns, it demonstrates how executive power and judicial disarray thwart progress toward judicial independence, state accountability, and citizen access to effective means of conflict resolution.

Ungar critiques the wide spectrum of agencies responsible for enforcing the law, from the police and prisons to provincial governors, the attorney general, and the judiciary itself. He similarly analyzes the region's most recent reform innovations, among them judicial councils, national ombudsmen, and community justice forums. Although his focus is on Argentina and Venezuela, he presents valuable material on other Latin American countries, particularly Bolivia.

Exposing many overlooked vulnerabilities of Latin America's democratic institutions, Elusive Reform broadens our understanding of democracy itself.


Mark Ungar is associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College, City University of New York.


  • Introduction.
  • The State and the Rule of Law.
  • The Police: Nerve Center of the State.
  • Independent Judicial Functioning.
  • Judicial Councils.
  • Judicial Access.
  • Community Justice.
  • Conclusion.
  • Rule of Law Reform and Democratic Consolidation.