April 17, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 14

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    Latin American scholars will review democracy’s breakdown

    By William Harms
    News Office

    The Latin American Studies Center has arranged two lectures for the Spring Quarter that will feature Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas and Eduardo Posada-Carbó, two Visiting Tinker Professors in Latin American history.

    Cárdenas, a leading figure in Mexico’s transition to democracy, will speak at 7 p.m. Monday, April 28, in the Assembly Hall of International House.

    He will discuss the topic, “Mexico in the World Today,” and explore the legacy of his father, Lázaro Cárdenas, who was president of Mexico from 1934 to 1940, and was responsible for agrarian reform and the nationalization of Mexico’s oil industry.

    Cárdenas, who formerly was a senator and governor, ran unsuccessfully for president in 1988, after attempting to bring democratic reforms to the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), Mexico’s then dominant political party.

    “These elections are acknowledged to have been highly irregular, with a suspicious week-long breakdown in the electoral computing system,” said Claudio Lomnitz, Professor in History. The PRI candidate, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, was the eventual winner.

    “The mass mobilization surrounding Cárdenas’ bid, however, marked the beginning of the end of the single-party system in Mexico,” Lomnitz said. Cárdenas helped form a new political party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, which is a force in Mexico’s elections today.

    Cárdenas was a candidate for president on the PRD ticket in 1994 and 2000, and served as the first elected mayor of Mexico City from 1997 to 1999.

    He is a graduate of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

    Posada-Carbó, recently a senior research fellow at the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London, is a leading Latin American historian and has a specialty in the history of his native Colombia.

    Posada-Carbó will speak on the history of violence and democracy in Colombia at 7 p.m. Monday, May 5, in the Assembly Hall of International House.

    “He works within a set of traditionally very important concerns in Latin American scholarship, such as electoral politics, the role of regions in national identity formation and the causes of civil war from the 19th century until today,” said Lomnitz.

    In addition to his work as a scholar, Posada-Carbó also is a public intellectual, serving as editor of the principal newspaper, El Heraldo, in Barranquilla, Colombia, in the mid-1980s. Currently he is a columnist writing on the civil war crisis in Colombia.

    “Eduardo Posada-Carbó is widely considered one of the two or three most important intellectuals to emerge from Colombia,” Lomnitz said.

    Posada-Carbó is the author of The Colombian Caribbean: A Regional History, 1870-1950, which looks at the role of regions in the development of national identity in Colombia.

    He also is the author of Colombia: The Politics of Reforming the State, which is considered one of the major works in English on the current crisis in that country. He argues in the book that the emergence of a two-party system in Colombia is a reason for the breakdown of democracy in the country because the development reduced choices for voters.

    Posada-Carbó earned a B.A. in law from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, an M.Phil. in Latin American studies from Oxford University in 1983, and a D.Phil in modern history from Oxford University in 1991.