Monday, April 23, 2018

Democratic Fragility in Latin America

This New York Times article about the Paraguayan election caught my eye, especially one quote:

“I didn’t live through the dictatorship, but I know that life was good, and I think we could use another period like that,” José Rodríguez, a 19-year-old medical student, said on Sunday night. “There are too many thieves and assaults, and it wasn’t like that before.”

A young, educated Paraguayan says dictatorship sounds OK. Of course, this is one cherry-picked quote so let's look at the data from the Latin American Public Opinion Project. A 2014 poll showed some indifference to democracy (see p. 64 and around there for that data). Almost 40% think a dictatorship can be preferable, or they don't care much one way or another.

This is troubling and reminded me of the calls for military intervention in Brazil. We are a full generation removed from the end of military dictatorships and so they are much easier to romanticize. In some cases the people are young enough not to have been alive at the time. LAPOP's 2016-2017 regional report notes "a significant decline in the extent to which the public agrees that democracy, despite its flaws, is better than any other form of government" (p. 24).


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