Latin America and Caribbean Regional: Dismantling Authoritarian Regime Policies

Discussion date: June 8 and 9, 2021

Partners: Cultura Democrática, Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo, Fundación Pachamama, and Transparencia Electoral

As the Latin America and the Caribbean region have simultaneously experienced the Covid pandemic, economic downturns, and democratic backsliding, many democracy activists are seeking new ways to promote democratic reforms and norms. In June 2021, the World Movement for Democracy, along with Cultura Democrática, Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo, Fundación Pachamama, and Transparencia Electoral, held a two-day meeting examining strategies to support open government, transparent elections, and government reforms.

Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of the American States, opened the meeting by noting the challenges authoritarian regimes pose to the region while declaring his confidence that communities can still push for democratic reform. Among the discussions on the conference’s first day was one about transparent elections. Leandro Querido of Transparencia Electoral (Argentina) observed that some Latin American countries have seen the professionalization of electoral authorities, better political systems, and the inclusion of marginalized groups, all of which have helped improve electoral transparency. When pursuing reform on any issue, Mauricio Alarcón (Ecuador) asserted that civil society organizations must carefully consider how they can best approach what level of government they should target. For example, it is sometimes more effective to approach an issue at the local level instead of the national level. “What’s important,” he said, “is to stimulate alternative strategies when the initial doors close on you because civil society should not only talk but should also demonstrate results.”

Those discussions were followed by an examination of different strategies for legislative and judicial reform in the region. “A key strategy [for legislative reform] is to put pressure on parliaments, to have space in the legislature for organizations to lay out their positions,” explained Marcelo Espinel of Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo (Ecuador). Mario Melo of Fundación Pachamama (Ecuador) emphasized the importance of civil society organizations to use various remedies at the national and international levels to file complaints and challenge their governments legally. In addition, widely disseminating news about troubling actions by legislative bodies is important. Jonathan Menkos, representing Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales (ICEFI) (Guatemala), added that it is crucial for any strategy to have clear outreach communications and raise citizen awareness of the issues at hand.

Watch the first day’s discussion here: