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A demonstrator wearing a mask in front of a burning barricade during a protest in Chile A demonstrator wearing a mask in front of a burning barricade during a protest in Santiago, Chile, Nov. 28, 2019 (AP photo by Esteban Felix).

In a Season of Discontent, Are Latin American Democracies at Risk?

Friday, Dec. 6, 2019

A season of discontent has descended across Latin America, where economies have stalled, politics have become more polarized and poisonous, and millions of newly middle-class citizens have begun to wonder whether they will be able to hold on to their hard-won gains. Sparked by a stolen election here, an increase in the price of gasoline or subway fares there, people from Ecuador to Chile to Bolivia and now Colombia have spilled into the streets angry with their leaders. Where mass protests haven’t erupted—in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico—voters have instead registered their mounting frustrations against incumbents at the ballot box.

It all represents a sharp rebuke of the cozy political and economic arrangements from both the left and the right that continue to hold back the full promises of democracy in the region. Latin Americans en masse seem to be rejecting the self-dealing of their elites and demanding a better quality of life. Regrettably, this popular outcry is also an invitation for outsiders to meddle for their own purposes. ...

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