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The rapidly deteriorating quality of democracy in Latin America

March 03, 2020 • By Daniel Zovatto
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this commentary are those of the staff member. This commentary is independent of specific national or political interests. Views expressed do not necessarily represent the institutional position of International IDEA, its Board of Advisers or its Council of Member States.


Democracy is facing deep challenges across Latin America today.

On February 16, for instance, municipal elections in the Dominican Republic were suspended due to the failure of electoral ballot machines in more than 80% of polling stations that used them. The failure sparked large protests around the country, where thousands took to the streets to demand explanations and to express their discontent with the Junta Central Electoral (JCE), the Caribbean nation’s electoral body. This has not only left the country in a deep political crisis, but has led citizens to lose trust in democratic institutions.

Another country facing a democratic crisis in the region is El Salvador. On February 9, thousands of Salvadorians gathered outside the country’s legislative assembly as the country faced its most significant constitutional crisis since signing a peace agreement to end the civil war in 1992. The crisis started when President Nayib Bukele called the country’s legislators to an emergency session to approve a $109 million loan for the third phase of his security plan, called the Territorial Control Plan. After legislators rejected the plan, the president called military officers into the chamber. The president of the assembly called the show of force an “attempted coup” that threatened the separation of powers in the country and disregarded core democratic institutions.

On January 5, the authoritarian regime of Nicólas Maduro in Venezuela orchestrated what opposition officials called a “parliamentary coup” against Juan Guaidó, with police forces blocking the opposition leader from entering the National Assembly to elect the president of the parliament. This clearly exposes the regime’s strategy to dismantle the last legitimate organ among the country’s constitutional powers.

Finally, there have been violent protests and social movements in Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile.

To read the full commentary, please visit The Brookings Institution webpage:

About the authors

Daniel Zovatto
Director for Latin America and the Caribbean
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