Courts, a Last Line of Defense for Latin American Democracies

Photo of Supreme Electoral Tribunal Justices in Brazil Mateus Bonomi / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

In Latin America today, traditional coups are no longer the biggest threat to liberal democracy. More perilous are democratically elected leaders who, once in power, deliberately and gradually undermine basic guarantees, such as judicial autonomy, electoral integrity, independent press work and free expression. 

These quasi-authoritarian leaders may undermine judicial independence to perpetuate themselves in power, to avoid accountability or to push through their agenda. Their chances of succeeding are higher without an independent judiciary acting as a check on executive power, as we can clearly see with the recent attempts to undermine Guatemalans’ election of Bernardo Arévalo as president.

However, some budding authoritarian leaders have had a hard time getting their way, as the judiciary in several Latin American countries has proved itself to be the best line of defense against democratic backsliding. The role of an independent judiciary in protecting people’s right to vote in free and fair elections is essential. [...]


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