Latin AmericaPopulismPopulism Issue

Populism and Democracy: Lessons from Latin America

by Carlos de la Torre

In Latin America, as in other areas of the world, populists have challenged exclusionary forms of democracy promising to give power to the people. Yet different from other regions, where populists have been marginalized from power until the last two decades, in Latin America populists of different ideological persuasions and who followed distinct economic policies have ruled since the 1930s and 40s. Latin Americanists have debated the relationships between populism, democratization, and authoritarianism since the late 1950s. This article analyzes how scholars interpreted the relationship between populism and democracy to draw lessons to other regions. No longer confined to Latin America or to the margins of European politics, populism spread to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and with Donald Trump, to the cradle of liberal democracy, the United States. Latin America might offer clues to what effects populism would have for democracy worldwide. Are we witnessing processes of democratic erosion, or on the contrary are populists invigorating exclusionary democracies?…

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