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Continuismo, the practice of maintaining a president in office beyond his legal term. Because most Latin American constitutions contain one-term limitations for the president, a variety of devices have been used by resourceful chief executives to continue in office. Among the more common have been: (1) constitutional revision (Juan Domingo Perón [Argentina] in 1951 and Alfredo Stroessner [Paraguay] in 1954), (2) legislative enactment (Jorge Ubico [Guatemala] in 1941), (3) plebescite (Carlos Castillo Armas [Guatemala] in 1954 and Marcos Pérez Jiménez [Venezuela] in 1958), (4) internal coup (Getúlio Dornelles Vargas [Brazil] in 1938), (5) imposition of a weak candidate to serve as a figurehead while the outgoing president rules behind the scenes (Plutarco Calles's [Mexico] choice of Emilio Portes Gil to succeed him in 1928 and Luis Somoza's [Nicaragua] decision to install René Schick Gutiérrez in the presidency in 1963), (6) conferral of the title President for Life to François Duvalier in 1964 by the Haitian legislature, and (7) maintenance of a leader's power by a political movement or hegemonic political party (Fidel Castro [Cuba]).

Based on these practices, a number of types of continuista regimes can be identified. First is classical continuismo, which is the manipulation of the constitutional or legal system by a personal dictator to perpetuate himself in power. The "depression dictatorships" of Central America and the Caribbean, such as that of Maximiliano Hernández Martínez of El Salvador, are of this type. Second, dynastic continuismo is the passing of power from father to son (for example, the Duvaliers [Haiti] and the Somozas [Nicaragua]), from husband to wife (Juan Perón to Isabel Perón [Argentina] through the vice presidency in 1974), and, potentially, between brothers (Raúl Castro is generally considered to be Fidel Castro's heir apparent). A third type, institutional continuismo, is the perpetuation of a ruler in office or the naming of his successor by a hegemonic party (Mexico and Cuba). Finally, there is a type of military continuismo, which is the circulation of power among a succession of military rulers by the general staff, a practice evident in the bureaucratic-authoritarian regimes in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.

See alsoMilitary Dictatorships: Since 1945 .


Mainwaring, Scott, and Matthew Soberg Shugart. Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Nohlen, Dieter, and Mario Fernández Baeza. El presidencialismo renovado: Instituciones y cambio político en América Latina. Caracas: Nueva Sociedad, 1998.

Rossi, Ernest E., and Jack C. Plano. "Continuismo," in Latin American Political Dictionary (1980).

                                        Roland H. Ebel

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