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Democratic Backsliding and Authoritarian Resurgence in Latin America

2K1590K San Salvador, El Salvador. 15th Sep, 2022. Never again corruption, reads a demonstrator's placard during a protest against President Bukele's government and the state of emergency that has been in effect for six months. Credit: Camilo Freedman/dpa/Alamy Live News
Assessing different aspects of democratic backsliding in Latin American countries
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Democracy is eroding “from the inside” across Latin America and beyond.

Popularly elected officials, typically presidents, are dismantling democracy through a series of incremental actions rather than a coup. While usually protracted, democratic backsliding can be swift and can be reversed, contained, or result in a transition to autocracy. Domestic democratic actors and international donors need advice on how to identify and respond to democratic backsliding as it unfolds.


An expert panel shares research insights and recommendations.

Political scientists have been studying democratic backsliding for several years. On April 28, 2022, NORC at the University of Chicago, in collaboration with the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame, convened an expert panel to present research and discuss recommendations with international development professionals. The panel featured Professors Matthew Cleary (Syracuse University), Javier Corrales (Amherst College), and Mneesha Gellman (Emerson College), and was moderated by Aníbal Pérez-Liñán (University of Notre Dame).


Insights and recommendations to identify and counter democratic backsliding.

The panelists defined backsliding and explained how the process unfolds through the experiences of Venezuela (Corrales), El Salvador (Gellman), and Mexico (Cleary). Based on those experiences, the group warned against ineffective tactics and discussed strategies that may succeed in reversing backsliding.

  • Unsuccessful responses: election boycotts, inflammatory labeling, and radicalization
  • Recommended responses: delay institutional capture, leverage legal tactics, support corruption probes, strengthen independent voices, and invest in “vaccines”

A two-pager presents the main takeaways and a brief summarizes the full discussion and provides additional information.

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International Programs Department Director

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