The democratic transitions that swept away military regimes throughout much of Latin America in the 1980s caught academic observers by surprise. Previously, these observers had had to explain the failure of political democracy in the region, rather than its apparent success (Remmer 1991: 479). Dominating the field, consequently, was a whole range of structuralist models that accounted for Latin America’s authoritarian politics as variously due to low levels of modernisation in the region which therefore had a weak middle class; authoritarian values inherited from Iberian colonialism and Catholicism; excessive political demands from the popular forces in the absence of developed institutions; and economic dependency between core and periphery. When democratisation occurred without any of these structural conditions changing to a significant degree, structuralist paradigms were at once robbed of their predictive power and also rendered largely obsolete for the new task of explanation.