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Rising Authoritarianism in Latin America: A Threat to Democracy

Democracy in Latin America has experienced a decline in support over the past decade, while backing for authoritarianism has grown, particularly among the youth, revealed the latest Latinobarómetro survey released this Friday in Santiago.

“The democracy, far from consolidating, has entered into a recession” in Latin America, warned sociologist Marta Lagos, director of the Latinobarómetro Corporation, while presenting the results of the survey conducted with 19,205 people in 17 countries across the region.

The study shows that only 48% of Latin Americans currently support democracy as a political system, marking a 15-percentage-point decrease from the 63% in 2010.

Meanwhile, support for authoritarianism rises, with 17% of Latin Americans endorsing the statement “an authoritarian government can be preferable,” compared to the 15% from 13 years ago.

“Latin America is a vulnerable region open to populism and antidemocratic regimes, with a clear setback in democracies,” warns the report.

The survey was conducted between February 20 and April 18 and has a margin of error of 3%.

Deficit of Democrats

According to Latinobarómetro, Uruguay is currently the country with the highest support for democracy, with 69%, followed by Argentina with 62%, Chile with 58%, and Venezuela with 57%.

“Argentina is in a very good situation, much better than it appears in political opinion and the economic crisis. According to this data, no populist could be elected in Argentina,” says Marta Lagos. This country will hold general elections on October 22.

Conversely, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Paraguay are the nations with the strongest leanings toward authoritarianism, along with Peru and Costa Rica.

In this regard, 20% of young people between 16 and 25 years old expressed their support for strong-handed governments, compared to 13% of those over 61 years old who voiced the same.

Likewise, 43% of people between 16 and 25 years old support democracy, while among those over 61, the backing reaches 55%, with a difference of twelve percentage points.

“The political regimes are not producing democrats in the region,” states the report.

Although successive economic crises in Latin America have influenced this decline, the most significant factor is “the deficiency of democracy in producing political goods demanded by the population,” such as equality before the law, justice, dignity, and fair wealth distribution, according to the study.

Corruption and the leader’s personality are also influencing this decline. In the region, 21 former presidents are currently convicted of corruption cases, and 20 did not complete their terms in office since 1978, added Latinobarómetro.


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