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Monday, April 22, 2024

The Fragile State of Freedom: A Closer Look at Democracy’s Global Retreat

Democratic standards deteriorated worldwide in 2023 due to wars, authoritarian measures, and the loss of confidence in major parties, according to a study by the analysis unit of the British group The Economist (EIU) released this Thursday.

Although two countries –Paraguay and Papua New Guinea– were added to the category of democracies, the annual index prepared by EIU warns that its global average fell to its lowest level since its creation in 2006: to 5.23 out of 10.

“This deterioration in the state of democracy worldwide was mainly due to negative developments in non-democratic countries, such as the intensification of violent conflicts and authoritarian measures,” it points out.

The London-based analysis group also notes an intensification of anti-immigration sentiment in many countries, a decrease in levels of trust in major parties and leaders, and an increasingly polarized political landscape in America and Europe.

Results deteriorated in 2023 in all regions of the world, except in Western Europe, with the worst outcomes being in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

“It was the eighth consecutive year of democratic regression for Latin America and the Caribbean,” but the region “remains the third most democratic in the world, behind North America and Western Europe,” it specifies.

Uruguay, in 14th position out of 167, and Costa Rica (17) are considered “full democracies.” Chile (25) moved in 2023 from this group to “flawed democracies,” where Panama (48), Brazil (51), Argentina (54), Colombia (55), the Dominican Republic (61), and Paraguay (74) also are.

According to the report, “the greatest setback occurred in the Central American sub-region, dragged down by declines in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras.”

Nicaragua (143) is the worst-positioned Latin American country and is in the category of “authoritarian regimes” along with Venezuela (142), Cuba (135), and Haiti (129).

Around half of the Central American nations are considered “hybrid regimes”: Guatemala (100), El Salvador (96), and Honduras (95), as well as North American Mexico (90) and the Andean countries of Bolivia (106), Ecuador (85), and Peru (77).

In Central America, “high levels of crime (largely related to drug trafficking) and the use of state repression as a response (…) have led to a steady decline in the quality of democracy,” adds the group.

“The increasingly authoritarian government of [Nayib] Bukele in El Salvador is an example of this,” it emphasizes. Globally, Norway, New Zealand, and Iceland lead the 2023 democracy index ranking, which is closed by North Korea, Myanmar, and Afghanistan.

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