The dispute over Pedro Castillo’s removal as president in Peru is the latest messy transfer of power in Latin America and another instance when regional governments could not agree on a basic interpretation of events. More broadly, the region’s democracies face two related challenges: creeping authoritarianism and election denial.
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele appears to have found a formula to maintain sky-high popularity in a region more accustomed to street protests and leaders nose-diving in the polls. Critics of his “war on gangs” revile him for his autocratic ways. But citizens and leaders across Latin America have looked to him for inspiration.
In March, Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele declared a state of emergency and suspended fundamental rights, giving security forces extended powers to detain and arrest people suspected of gang crimes. Since then, over 58,000 people accused of being gang members have been arrested—and human rights violations have spiked.
Recent elections in Brazil and the U.S. may have reinforced the impression that democracy is alive and well in the Americas. But in Guatemala, where in the past few years a backlash against anti-corruption efforts has gathered steam, upcoming elections in 2023 are unlikely to reverse democracy’s downward slide.
In the countries where they have gained power, Latin America’s left-leaning leaders have usually won by campaigning on economic and social issues. Now that they are in power, they must deal with the region’s security challenges—and the political fallout for the failures that occur, whether or not they are to blame for them.