Table of Contents

Summary

Divisive politics have hit many Latin American countries hard in recent years, fueled by numerous underlying fissures and issues including economic inequality and exclusion, corruption, ideological differences, high levels of violence, and chronically weak state capacity. The coronavirus pandemic has only intensified these pressures. Latin America thus enters 2021 shadowed by an ominous sense that democracy is under extraordinary strain.
 
To help shine a light on these troubled waters and chart the risks ahead, this collection of essays by a notable set of regional experts examines recent developments in six key countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. Taken together, the different country accounts present a sobering picture, though not an unrelievedly negative one. Divisions are deep, economic troubles are widespread, and the pandemic continues to devastate the lives of countless people in the region. The risks for democracy are serious, ranging from the rupture of basic democratic structures to the potential emergence of new illiberal political figures and forces. Remedial steps are possible, but they will be challenging to carry out. The collection seeks to help engaged actors and observers throughout the region and beyond better understand the troubling dynamics of rising political division and formulate effective responses.

The Carnegie Endowment gratefully acknowledges support from the Ford Foundation that helped make this compilation possible.