Dissatisfaction with politicians reveals doubts about the future of democracy in Latin American countries

Dissatisfaction with politicians reveals doubts about the future of democracy in Latin American countries

Almost two years after the first edition of the Citizen Engagement Index, developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) together with Humanitas360, some of the issues raised by the research in different Latin American countries may be regarded as premonitory. The most flagrant case is Chile, which has the highest educational indices of the compared nations, where the study revealed great dissatisfaction towards the offer of education and the access to health care – two central issues fueling the recent protests happening around the country.

In the last three months a series of events in Latin American countries reshaped the relationship nurtured by the region’s population towards politicians. In summary: in Peru, congress has been dissolved; in Ecuador, protests following the rise in fuel prices brought more violence to the region; in Chile, uproar against the 30 pesos (approximately R$ 0.20) increase in the subway fare brought thousands of young men and women to the streets, and the repression against the protests amplified the popular mobilization that demands a new Constitution; in Bolivia, after a fourth and questioned reelection, president Evo Morales resigned his post during a political process led by the police and the militaries.

It is worth noting that this year Colombia carried out local elections, which elected new mayors and members of Congress, and more recently, the country joined the wave off protests. Guatemala elected the conservative Alejandro Giammattei in a symptomatic process: only 42% of the population voted. Next year, expectations still roam the elections in the United States and the election of mayors, congressmen, and senators in Brazil. These troubled moments should persist throughout 2020.

According to Andrés Velasco, adviser for Humanitas360, in an article for “Project Syndicate”, there is an enormous lack of confidence in politicians. In Chile’s case, for example, some of the problems are the absence of limits in mandate renewal and the high compensations and privileges maintained for the legislative and executive powers. The Citizen Engagement Index also shows how little confidence the population have in institutions such as the judiciary system, as well as the low representation of women and minorities in legislative roles.

Though each local context and follow up is different, all recent cases demonstrate the popular dissatisfaction and the doubts people carry regarding the paths ahead for democracy. Professor María Victoria Murillo of the University of Columbia wrote in an article for the November issue of “Americas Quarterly” that “the legitimacy of democratic institutions is based on a sense of fairness that was being questioned from different angles and that fostered the anger of South Americans. They become angry to be asked to respect the rules when others are excepted. They become angry because they feel they have lost status at the expenses of others. They become angry because they need to defend a status, which they had made much effort to attain and yet feels so fragile.” Getting to know the limits of our democracies and working hard to create new collective solutions able to accommodate the needs of diverse groups are some of the challenges to be faced next year in the continent.

(Tradução: Pedro Brener)