A year ago, Latin American nations and their bevy of pragmatic, market-friendly, middle-of-the-road presidents stood out from some of their OECD counterparts. Eight presidential races later, the region looks less exceptional. Populism has returned to its historic home. Yet this time injustice, not economic class, turned voters against the political establishment, elevating outsiders who have threatened to undermine democratic norms.
Democracy’s supporters shouldn’t yet despair, as many of the region’s presidential contests reaffirmed its resilience. In Paraguay and Costa Rica, a new generation of leaders arose to revive the ruling parties. In Chile and Colombia, where voters threw out unpopular incumbents, new presidents Sebastian Pinera and Ivan Duque are far from political outsiders.
Still, the region’s politics are not well. According to Americasbarometro, a comprehensive poll conducted across 29 nations with more than 40,000 participants, faith in the democratic system has fallen to historic lows. The cure lies in more democracy, beginning with strengthening the third judicial branch of government.