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6 of the most important democracy books of the past 6 months

"Groaning bookshelves about our divisive times" are one of the main features of the publishing world these days, Kirkus Reviews notes. So we identified six books, all published since last summer, that are particularly worthy of note in a campaign season when the faulty functionality of American democracy is getting discussed more than in any previous modern election.

The authors come from the political left, right and center — but they all have a broadly similar panoramic view of the dysfunction plaguing our democracy. And their prescriptions for reversing the decline have more in common than not. What they all agree on: The principles of our Constitution are under assault and the citizenry's only chance at a successful counter attack is by embracing a broad array of plans for strengthening democratic institutions.

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President Hugo Chavez waving a Venezuelan flag during a march to support his government in Caracas in 2002.

The instruction manual for autocratic governing was written just south of here

Botsford spent most of his professional career in Latin America, providing strategic advice to more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies doing business in the region.

Having lived and worked for more than 30 years in countries including Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia — all places with authoritarian regimes elected democratically — I have watched plenty of times as democratic institutions were systematically weakened and corruption allowed to flourish.

The comparisons between these countries and the United States today should be alarming to all of us, as the similarities are striking. An instruction manual exists on how to destroy the rule of law.

The United States is in the process of becoming authoritarian. No need to look any further than our hemispheric neighbors in Central and South America. Authoritarianism, as a result of military dictatorships, has become engraved into their societies and honed to perfection. Generals became strongmen, preferred by a society dependent on paternalistic leaders -- conservative or liberal, but always nationalist. Think Panama's Manuel Noriega or Argentina's Juan Peron on the right, or Venezuela's Hugo Chavez or Bolivia's Evo Morales on the left.

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