What are the factors that threaten Latin American democracy?

Today we celebrate the day of democracy and in LatinAmerican Post we analyze the antidemocratic practices that affect it

What are the factors that threaten Latin American democracy?

Today is the worldwide commemoration of the International Day of Democracy, a date to reflect regarding the state of democracies in the world, the viability of this form of government, and the challenges it faces regarding the constant risks and threats that it faces.

Leer en español: ¿Cuáles son los factores que amenazan a la democracia en Latinoamérica?

According to the UN, the International Day of Democracy is an opportunity to propose and implement new ways to invigorate democracy and seek answers to the systematic challenges it faces. This includes addressing economic and political inequalities, making democracies more inclusive, attracting young people and other marginalized groups to the political system, and making these democracies more innovative in their response to emerging challenges, such as migration and climate change.

In the case of Latin America, the conflicts that are experienced in countries such as Venezuela and Nicaragua with the regimes that govern there are well known; in Guatemala and Honduras there are acts of corruption; Mexico is experiencing the war between drug cartels. Colombia, likewise, lives corruption scandals and the systematic and selective deaths of social leaders and human rights defenders. These are just some examples.

The fragility of Latin American democracy

"I wish it were so easy, then, to think that the problems of absence and democratic deficiencies in the region are limited to cases like those of Cuba and Venezuela. It is not like this. In most of the countries of Latin America, we see a series of phenomena that have generated a weakening of institutions and a growing skepticism with democracy", said international analyst Boris Yopo in the newspaper La Tercera de Chile.

According to Yopo, the uncovering of scandalous cases of corruption is one of the main causes of the weakening of democracy in the continent. For the analyst, if we add to this the threats to freedom of expression or the concentration of information that exists in several countries, the expansion of drug trafficking, public security problems, the growing political polarization or the struggle between State powers the situations gets worst. It is not surprising that the public assessment of democracy is in decline and is at a delicate moment.

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It should be noted that, as Yopo says, it is not a problem of right or left tendencies, as he states: "Any impartial analysis reveals that antidemocratic practices are found throughout the political spectrum."

This makes sense when you expand the view to what happens in the entire region and not only those cases that have greater media coverage, as in Cuba, Nicaragua, or Venezuela. Violence, corruption, censorship, authoritarianism, and other practices that threaten democracy can be presented in the same way in any government, regardless of their tendency or political orientation.

In that sense, the newspaper El País of Spain refers to a study published at the beginning of 2018 by the German Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation. In this article, the events that occurred recently in Latin America are analyzed and how these have impacted on the increase in the distrust of citizens. For example, with respect to the capacity of the governments of the region to offer guarantees to citizens and their legitimacy, generating mistrust in democracy itself:

Also read: Latin America: The region with the highest number of enforced disappearances

"This crisis of confidence, stress the specialists of Bertelsmann Stiftung, is beginning to erode the legitimacy of regional executives, whose levels of approval are - except in rare exceptions - at historically low levels. Moreover, there is a growing threat to the legitimacy of democracy itself, which continues to lose support among the population. In Latin America, dissatisfaction with the functioning of democracy is threatening to mutate IGNORE INTO a discontent in democracy as such", says El País.

The Spanish newspaper, based on the report of the German foundation, also says that the consensus around the democratic model continues to be the predominant note in Latin America, but its strength is decreasing. "In their diagnosis, specialists of the German organization detect a low social mood fueled by a growing discrepancy between the greater demands of citizens and the lack (real or perceived) of ability to solve problems by political elites, whose reputation has been diminished by corruption scandals in recent years", he says.

Democracy requires a critical and active citizenship that allows exercising control to offer guarantees in a society that considers itself democratic. It is not a simple coincidence that many of the actions that threaten democracy on the continent today are carried out by governments that, despite their questions, have been chosen by those same citizens who today suffer the repercussions of such actions.


LatinAmerican Post | Samuel Augusto Gallego Suárez
Translated from “¿Cuáles son los factores que amenazan a la democracia en Latinoamérica?”