Latin America and the Caribbean

To global findings

or the sixth BTI edition in a row, the level of democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean has been on the decline. The number of autocracies in the region has reached an all-time high, and the economic performance and innovative strength seen in most countries is too low to sustain hopes of economic opportunity and social inclusion. Doubts about democracy are growing – as is the intensity of political and social conflicts.

Representation deficits, the growing influence of ultra-conservative evangelical churches and declining approval ratings for democracy: a whole range of developments in the region are fueling authoritarian tendencies. Despite all this, substantial progress is also being made.

The resource boom has long since passed and the region’s structural economic problems are increasingly apparent. At the heart of the matter is a lack of productivity, and failed modernization policies have only helped sustain an informal sector that gets in the way of development.

Growing social demands and increasingly acute conflicts are complicating governance in the Latin American and Caribbean democracies. Nonetheless, in most cases, they are maintaining a stable baseline, while the region’s six authoritarian countries are increasingly characterized by bad governance.

While BTI findings point to regression in some countries, they also underscore the capacity to adapt that is thus far found in most of the region’s countries. However, in the medium term, it is likely that the “conservative counter-revolution” spurned on by increasingly influential and politically mobilized evangelical sects will have a lasting impact on the sociopolitical foundation of democratic structures in most countries. The fact that many politicians – from Chilean President Piñera to his Mexican counterpart López Obrador – are actively courting these groups and parties would appear to be further evidence of a far-reaching political-cultural paradigm shift.

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