‘Fast democratic deliverables’ can fend off populism


The sharp rise in authoritarian populism in Latin America reflects what is known as “democracy fatigue” – or, more specifically, “democratic frustration,” according to New York University’s Jorge G. Castañeda, a former foreign minister of Mexico, and Carlos Ominami, a former economy minister of Chile. Major segments of the region’s population – not least the middle class – are fed up with successive governments’ failure to tackle social and economic problems, including high crime rates, soaring inflation, low salaries, inadequate education and health services, scant pensions, and precarious and overcrowded transportation.

Here, the construction of effective welfare states in Northern Europe remains paradigmatic. To hold off the immediate threat of authoritarian populism, it is also imperative to devise “fast democratic deliverables” – inventive interventions that can bring tangible results quickly, they write for Project Syndicate:

In fact, the countries that rank the highest on the EIU’s Democracy Index – Norway, New Zealand, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark – all have particularly strong social-safety nets. We at Alternativa Latinoamericana – a representative group of Latin American intellectuals and political leaders who have been working since 2020 to formulate a proposal on how to strengthen democracy in the region – are convinced that Latin America must follow suit, building strong welfare states.

Building human capital is the best strategy to neutralize China’s malign influence in the region, analyst Julio Guzmán writes for Foreign Affairs. Leaders and citizens who are educated about liberal democratic values are more likely to adopt transparent, accountable, and corruption-free institutions and policies, the former NED Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow argues.

But it is in the realm of security and law enforcement that progress is most urgently needed, Castañeda and Ominami add. Across Central and South America, the middle classes and leading economic sectors are clamoring for a reduction in violent crime and delinquency. Devising short-term solutions that uphold human and constitutional rights will be no easy feat. But without progress on this front, threats to the region’s democracies will continue to grow. RTWT

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