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CSC faculty member discusses Mexico's level and type of democracy

November 18, 2013

Robert Knight Robert Knight

Dr. Robert Knight, associate professor and chair of the Communication and Social Sciences Department, shared his expertise regarding the development of democracy in Mexico during the final Graves Lecture of the semester.

Knight, who grew up south of San Diego, has always had an intense interest in Mexico.

He observed that the country has moved away from a “soft” authoritarian type of a regime for more than two decades.

“They are a democracy, but what type?” he said.

A minimalist or procedural description of democracy is the meaningful replacement of one of set of elite by another set of elites. Free and fair elections determine which set of elites will govern.

On the other hand, a truly liberal democracy, in the classic meaning of liberal, includes every adult with the right to vote, due process, rule of law and human rights – freedom of religion, freedom from arrest, and related freedoms.

“Even the United States didn’t have this level of democracy until 1965 and some would say we still don’t today,” Knight said.

He provided an overview of the progress made during presidential elections in Mexico in 1994, 2000 and 2006 observing that there has been a deepening of democratic values - making democracy more genuine and complete. 

He said deepening of democracy is often confused with consolidation. Consolidation is the firming up of democratic gains so the country is unlikely to lose those gains. 

“Congress is a significant player in the Mexican system now which is a piece of evidence that Mexico has transitioned to a clearly consolidated procedural democracy if not a full democracy,” Knight said.

He added that negative evidence of a liberal democracy in Mexico includes drug cartels’ intimidation of the media, lack of rule of law, poverty, political corruption and human rights abuses.

Knight offered several public policies that may create an effective government with characteristics such as economic growth, social justice and security - government investment in education and infrastructure, reform of rigid labor markets and strengthening the rule of law, among others.

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