Democracy is failing, says experts on Latin America and the Caribbean

Foto por Ed Kennedy

FIU’s Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) hosted in March a Miami Conference on Global Democracy 2023. The tone of the conference was not overly optimistic about the permanence of global democracy.

Christopher Walker of the National Endowment for Democracy said that “authoritarian regimes around the world are a threat to democracy”. He mentioned specifically what has happened in China over last 10 years and asserted that China’s government is using technology such as TikTok to exploit its people and to increase its authoritarianism. 

He referred to Venezuela as “a cruel, hollowed-out state” due to its backsliding away from democracy first under President Hugo Chavez and then, after his death in 2013, Nícolas Maduro.

FIU Professor Marcie Washington had similar comments, one of which is that “illiberal democracies are using internet and social media to stimulate autocratic values and reject and undermine democratic values”.  (Below is a choropleth map showing various countries’ restrictions on their citizens’ access to the Internet).

Jessica Ludwig, of the George W. Bush Institute, claimed that there is still “…deep inequality in Latin America, even after military dictatorships have been gone.”  She raised the rhetorical question of “[W]hy has democracy not delivered (on its promises in the region)?” 

She said that she believes that China is trying to convince Latin Americans that western democracy does not work and that they should try another political system (such as China’s).  Brian Nichols, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs asserted the viewpoint that the failure of democratic institutions to fulfill promises in various countries reduces trust in democracy. He also believes that many citizens feel democracy is not working on their behalf because of corruption (see map).  

Index of perception of corruption in Latin America in 2018

FIU’s Political Science Professor, Eduardo Gamarra, said that there has been an “absolute collapse of trust in politicians and parties” in Peru & Ecuador. Furthermore, he claims, it is “impossible to govern, whether on the Left or Right” in those two countries. 

Questioned if recently elected President Gustavo Petro be a threat to democracy in Colombia, or will he restore trust in it by reducing inequality, professor Gamarra answered:  “There are a lot of absences in this discussion and one of them that concerns us the most here in Florida is the situation in Haiti.  At some point, we need to address Haiti, but I need to point out that Petro was democratically elected in a country that takes pride in itself for its democratic institutions. Having said that, I think there are some worrying signs coming out of Bogotá.  I think it’s abominable that some democratically elected presidents, like Petro, have not said a word about what’s happening in Caracas (Venezuela).  This is where I think liberal democracy is facing its utmost challenge.” 

At the end of the Conference, the keynote speaker, Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, of Freedom House, reminded the audience of the conference’s main theme, that is, “Democracy has never felt more fragile…forces are working to erode the free arena that is so fundamental to a democratic society.”

Ed Kennedy tiene una licenciatura en economía de la Universidad de Nueva Orleans. Obtuvo una MBA de FIU en 2008 y una Maestría en Estudios de América Latina y el Caribe de FIU en 2019. En 2018, Kennedy se retiró de una carrera en seguro comercial y ahora trabaja para Miami-Dade College como tutor de escritura en inglés. También está estudiando para una maestría en Periodismo en Lengua Española en FIU.