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Abstract

José Antonio Aguilar Rivera discusses recent reforms to the constitutions of several Latin American states. According to Aguilar Rivera, these reforms tend to recognize and protect the multiethnic and multicultural nature of Latin American socieites. While acknowledging that some have lauded these changes as progressive moves towards a more developed form of democracy, Aguilar Rivera reaches the opposite conclusion. He argues that these trends in Latin American constitutionalism represent an "authoritarian regression" rather than an enhancement of democracy. Aguilar Rivera begins by discussing and critiquing prevalent Western theories of multiculturalism, particularly the versions set forth by Canadian theorists Charles Taylor, Will Kymlicka, and James Tully. He then proceeds to contextualize the discussion of multiculturalism within the framework of Latin American constitutionalism, providing an overview of the history of constitutional development in Latin America. Following this contextualization is a discussion and a criticism of recent Latin American constitutional reforms aimed at protecting minority cultures. Drawing on examples from Colombia, where courts, wishing to respect the autonomy of indigenous communities, have permitted those communities to practice forms of criminal adjudication and punishment that Aguilar Rivera views as inimical to the values of a liberal democracy. Ultimately, Aguilar Rivera determines the efforts to protect multiculturalism in Latin America to be a "toxic cocktail" of cultural relativism and accommodation.

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