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Guess Which South American Nation Is More Democratic than the U.S.

By: Pedro García Otero - Jan 22, 2016, 10:52 am
Latin America's democratic progress has stagnated, according to The Economist.
Latin America’s democratic progress has stagnated, according to the Economist Group. (Estrategia y Negocios)

EspañolUruguay is the only country in Latin America that can be considered a “full democracy,” according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research and analysis division of the Economist Group.

The unit’s Democracy Index 2015, published on Thursday, also notably ranks Uruguay one step above the United States in terms of its democracy score. The only outright authoritarian regimes in the region recognized by the EIU are Haiti, which ranked 119 out of 167 countries, and Cuba (119). Other countries in the region, like Guatemala (80), Ecuador (83), Honduras (84), Bolivia (85), and Venezuela (99), fall into the category of “hybrid regime,” meaning these nations suffer from significant irregularities in elections, corruption, state pressure on journalists, and a compromised judiciary.

Furthermore, the index recognizes Canada as the seventh most democratic country in the world, behind Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and New Zealand. At the very bottom of the list, the least democratic countries on the plant, are the nations of Chad, Syria, and North Korea.

After Western Europe and North America, Latin America is the third most democratic region in the world, according to the report. The study further notes that Latin America has been unable to effectively nurture the “extraordinary democratic development” of past decades, which has led to public indignation over corruption scandals, such as those in Guatemala in Brazil.

“Latin Americans in the past have often tolerated lower levels of democracy in exchange for economic progress. Where this trade-off is no longer possible, public attitudes towards political leaders will be increasingly hostile,” the report notes. Brazil, which ranks 51 overall, is categorized as a “flawed democracy,” like most other countries in the region.

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The EIU Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation, and political culture. Each country’s score is based on measurements for 60 indicators grouped in the five categories.

In terms of its overall democratic landscape, Latin America remained relatively unchanged from 2014 to 2015. The report notes, however, that a slight deterioration in the score for Costa Rica caused the country to drop into the “flawed democracy” category. Six nations in the region, including Argentina (50), moved up the ranking, while three others — Brazil, Mexico (66), and Ecuador — went down.

The title of the 2015 index, “Democracy in an Age of Anxiety,” refers to the effect of “war, terrorism, mass migration, and other crisis” on democratic standards around the world. “In our age of anxiety, the first casualty of fear and insecurity is often freedom. Latin America is not immune from this global trend,” the EIU states.

Translated by Guillermo Jimenez.

Pedro García Otero Pedro García Otero

Pedro García is the Spanish managing editor of the PanAm Post. He is a Venezuelan journalist with over 25 years of experience in local newspapers, radio, television, and online media. Follow him @PedroGarciaO.