South America’s governments have long been run by military oligarchies. Did this benefit South America?

Topics: Military dictatorship, Dictatorship, South America Pages: 6 (2325 words) Published: April 3, 2014

South America’s governments have long been run by military oligarchies. Did this benefit South America?
Most South American countries were overthrown by the military and have long been ruled by the military to this very day. An oligarchy is understood as rule by the few, in this case, that few would be the military. Under these regimes, citizens enjoyed few if any civil liberties. With the military taking over, South American countries had developed arrangements for governing that allowed both liberal civilian elites to establish order while also limiting political participation. What started off as an initiative to restore order has now begun to show its true colors. If one were to place the pros and cons on different sides of a balance, which one would outweigh the other: the good or the bad? While a military oligarchy was a saving grace from anarchy and a more reasonable path than dictatorship, one may begin to question the benefits of this type of government in South America. It is also logical for one to say that this military rule has yet to prove beneficial. In order to understand the advantages and disadvantages, one must fully understand what an oligarchy is exactly. Oligarchy is the most common form of government in all of history and also the most common today. The word "oligarchy" comes from the Greek words olígos, meaning "few," and archo, meaning "to rule". By definition, an oligarchy is a form of government where most political power effectively rests with a small segment of society. Oligarchy is not always a rule by wealth, but more or so a rule by the elite in society. These “few” are typically the most powerful, whether by wealth, military strength, ruthlessness, or political influence. If an oligarchy is rule by the few, what is a “military oligarchy”? Simply put, a military oligarchy is government controlled by the military. What makes it a military oligarchy is that a military is considered the “few”, being that the military is a group of people. The military oligarchy in South America was ruled by a junta, or a committee composed of several officers. In contrast, military dictatorships gives power to a single officer, often referred to as a caudillo, typically the senior army commander. A military oligarchy sounded more than excellent when South American countries were face with the age of caudillo anarchy. Caudillo anarchy took place in the 19th century during the Latin American independence movement. During this age, the countries were politically unstable due to the long experience of armed conflict. This instability gave rise to many leaders whose power derived from the control over armed followers. The caudillos’ rule and motives were always questioned, and only few could withstand the challenges of new leaders who emerged among their own followers and wealthy patrons. Since the majority could not stand these military dictators, an oligarchy did not sound so intrusive. This transition from anarchy with less brutal methods than dictatorship seemed like the perfect harmony. It was not too much of a change, and the little change seemed reasonable enough. Rule by more than one person: what could go wrong? With an oligarchy in place, South American countries could still have liberal civilian elites in control while also limiting political participation, which is not much different from the military dictator rule. In this sense, it is safe to say that dictator is really an oligarchy, if one were to really observe these two forms of government. An oligarchy is rule by the few, right? Dictators or kings tend to have their cabal or council alongside them, right? Their councils do not necessarily make the executive decision, but they do strongly influence the decisions being made and assist the dictator in ruling. So therefore, one can see the parallel between dictatorships and oligarchies.

“What does anarchy have to do with oligarchy?” one might ask. Well, anarchy tends to lead to oligarchy....
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