The rapidly deteriorating quality of democracy in Latin America


While some of Latin America’s democracies, such as Uruguay and Costa Rica, are among the best in the world, others — for example, Brazil — have experienced democratic erosion in recent years, notes Daniel Zovatto, Nonresident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at Brookings’ Latin America Initiative. 

It’s important to identify both the positive trends in Latin American democracies and the main challenges they face. The most notable positive aspects are:

  1. In the last 40 years, Latin America made the most significant gains worldwide, becoming the third most democratic region in the world, after North America and Europe.
  2. The vast majority of the democracies in the region have displayed notable resilience: Only 27% experienced any interruption in these last 40 years.
  3. Latin America has made major gains in the electoral sphere — indeed, elections are popularly accepted as the only legitimate means of coming to power — and the region has the highest levels of election participation in the world, with a regional average of 67%….

There is a long list of challenges as well, including:

  1. Four decades after the beginning of the third democratic wave, the region is showing signs of democratic fatigue. According to Latinobarómetro (above), overall support for democracy fell to 48%, the lowest level in recent years, while indifference between a democratic regime and an authoritarian one climbed from 16% to 28%. Dissatisfaction with democracy increased from 51% to 71% between 2009 and 2018.
  2. The crisis of representative democracy is worsening. Trust in the legislatures is at a mediocre 21%, whereas trust in political parties has plummeted to an anemic 13%.
  3. The region still has the highest levels of income inequality in the world: Of the 26 most unequal countries in the world, 15 (58%) are Latin American…..RTWT
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