Support for democracy in Latin America has fallen in the last decade, while support for authoritarianism has grown, especially among the youngest, revealed the latest Latinobarómetro survey released this Friday in Santiago, Chile.
“Far from consolidating democracy, it has entered a recession” in Latin America, said sociologist Marta Lagos, director of the Latinobarómetro corporation, when presenting the results of the survey applied to 19,205 people in 17 countries in the region.
The study was not carried out in Nicaragua in 2023, country number 18, “because there are no security conditions for pollsters in the Daniel Ortega dictatorship,” Latinobarómetro explained in the introduction to its report.
The report shows that only 48% of Latin Americans today support democracy as a political regime, which marks a decrease of 15 percentage points from 63% in 2010.
Support for authoritarianism is also rising. 17% of Latin Americans support the expression “an authoritarian government may be preferable” compared to 15% who did so in 2010.
“Latin America is a vulnerable region that is open to populism and undemocratic regimes, with a clear decline in democracies,” the report alerts.
The authors of the paper try to explain the reasons for this “democratic recession.” And they point out: “When analyzing the presidencies of the region, it can be observed that there are few countries without rulers imputed, accused or convicted of some charge of corruption.”
Protests in Guatemala and accusations of corruption against the ruling party, after elections questioned due to alleged irregularities. Photo. AFP
The text adds that “it is the elites that have failed in Latin America. They have eroded the strength of the institutions by trying to force the rules of the game to stay in power.”
Latinobarómetro points out that “Latin America has a crisis, primarily of its elite, which in turn unleashes a crisis of representation.” And he warns that “personalisms have weakened democracy. There is an excessive ambition for power that motivates presidents, political parties and coalitions to stay in power, even at the cost of breaking the rules of democracy.”
On the other hand, the survey adds, the reasons for the democratic recession are also related to the economic crises, which have increased social inequalities and poverty, and “the deficiency of democracy to produce political goods that the population demands, mainly equality before the law, justice, dignity, the fair distribution of wealth.”
Another cause is the collapse in government performance and their inability to respond to public policy demands, which has resulted in “alternations in power in all but one presidential election since 2018,” the survey said.
“What has failed is not democracies, but governments have collapsed, they have generated a demand for populism, alternation and authoritarianism because for at least a decade they have not been able to change the living conditions of the population,” Lagos said.
The elections in Argentina
In 2023, the country with the greatest support for democracy is Uruguay, 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 these data, no populist could be elected in Argentina,” says Marta Lagos.
The report refers to the presidential elections next October in Argentina. And he points out: “In that country there is 62% support for democracy, with an increase of seven percentage points since 2020 (55%). It has the smallest number of citizens who are indifferent to the type of regime (15%), without variation since 2020, while those who support authoritarianism are 18%, with a growth of five percentage points compared to 2020 (13%). This is surprising in Argentina.”
Protests against President Dina Boluarte in Lima, Peru, immersed in a strong political crisis. Photo. Bloomberg
According to these data, Argentina is much better equipped than other countries to resist the ravages of a presidential election that pushes towards populism. There is a majority that wants democracy without holding back, although its authoritarian and populist minority is forceful, representing a third of the citizens.
On the contrary, the Dominican Republic is the country with the greatest support for authoritarianism, with 21%, followed by Peru, with 17%, and Costa Rica, with 16%.
Compared to the study carried out by Latinobarómetro in 2020, the countries with the greatest decrease in support for democracy are Venezuela (-12%), Costa Rica (-11%), and Guatemala and Mexico (-8%). It can be said that this drop is abrupt, especially for a country like Costa Rica that has historically been among the most democratic in the region.
With 20%, young people between the ages of 16 and 25 are the ones who show the most adherence to an authoritarian regime compared to 13% of people over the age of 61, according to the Latinobarómetro.
At the same time, 43% of young people (between 16-25 years old) support democracy, while among those over 61 support reaches 55%.
The poll was conducted between February 20 and April 18 and has a 3% margin of error.
Source: EFE and Clarín newsroom