Latin America’s Authoritarian Drift: The Threat from the Populist Left

Issue Date July 2013
Volume 24
Issue 3
Page Numbers 18-32
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Democracy has been on the defensive in contemporary Latin America; under the cover of progressive rhetoric, competitive authoritarianism has emerged. Leftist leaders like Hugo Chávez relied on populism to establish their political hegemony, erode institutional checks and balances, marginalize the opposition through discriminatory legalism, and severely skew political competition. Left-wing populism has done more damage to democracy than the rightist, neoliberal populism of the 1990s. Self-styled socialist leaders command more solid, durable support, use growing economic interventionism to boost their power, invoke nationalism as a shield against foreign democracy promotion, and act as a coordinated group in suffocating democracy.