During the last 20 years ombudsmen have been established in most Latin American countries. This article provides an overview of the how these institutions have evolved in six countries, particularly with regard to their political independence and strength. In spite of the potentially important role that such institutions may have in promoting public accountability, respect for human rights and the rule of law in new democracies, some ombudsmen have been more successful than others in these tasks. This article reflects on possible factors accounting for the relative effectiveness of the ombudsman, and discusses the role that this institution plays in contemporary Latin America.
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