The Security Challenge for Democracies in Latin America


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This post is also available in: Spanish

Organized crime, drug trafficking, gang violence, and other types of violence are a serious concern throughout Latin America. The population demands urgent responses, creating the opportunity for leaders across the political spectrum to justify authoritarian policies under the guise of effectiveness, and eroding democratic guarantees. The prevalent approach – exemplified by El Salvador’s mano dura strategy and militarization in Mexico, which many politicians across the region support and say they intend to replicate – has resulted in numerous abuses and failed to address the root causes of the problem. The risks for human rights and the rule of law are very high in this context.

In Uruguay, where insecurity and organized crime are on the rise, and an election is approaching in October 2024, security policy has taken center stage. The Uruguay Country Security Report from the Overseas Security Advisory Council shows a 27 percent increase in homicides in the last year, of which a significant portion are linked to gang and drug-related turf wars. This places Uruguay among the countries with one of the highest homicide rates in South America. Uruguay’s stable democratic institutions make it an ideal case study to challenge the false dichotomy between individual rights and security.

To discuss the security challenges in the region and their implications on democracy, the Dialogue’s Rule of Law Program, International IDEA, and Ágora will host a hybrid event on Friday May 24, 2024, from 8:15 AM to 9:45 AM EDT (9:15 AM to 10:45 AM GMT, Montevideo) at the Catholic University of Uruguay. How is security policy part of the electoral map in the region this year, and to what extent? Is the Bukele security model replicable in the region? What makes it unique? What are the main challenges to advancing a democratic public security policy that is implemented within the boundaries of the rule of law? Where could such a policy be found and how can it be replicated?

This event is part of the Inter-American Dialogue’s series on upcoming elections in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Follow this event on X (formerly Twitter) @The_Dialogue and #IADElectionsSeries.

This event will be hosted in Spanish.



Professor, School of Government, Catholic University of Chile, and Member, Ágora



Director, Rule of Law Program, Inter-American Dialogue (@TamaraTaraciuk)


Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, International IDEA (@mriost)


General Secretary, International IDEA, and Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Rule of Law Program, Inter-American Dialogue (@KevinCasasZ)



Director of the Law and Notary Programs, Catholic University of Uruguay (@juliolens)



Watch the event recording (in Spanish) here

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