Peter D. Bell Rule of Law

Over the last three decades, Latin America and the Caribbean have made much progress towards democracy, freedom, and legal protections for human rights. In 1982, just ten countries in the region enjoyed democratic rule. Today, all but Cuba have popularly elected governments. In addition, human rights have been written into laws and constitutions in almost every country. Yet rights, freedoms, violence, and citizen security are still among the region’s greatest challenges. This failure is largely not for lack of legal mechanisms, but rather weaknesses of rule of law and state capacity across the region.

The Inter-American Dialogue’s Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program aims to elevate policy discussions around human rights, democratic institutions, government accountability, civil society engagement, and hemispheric cooperation. 

The program was established in 2015 to honor Peter D. Bell, a founding co-chair of the Dialogue’s Board of Directors, with support of the Ford Foundation. The broad scope and ambitions of the program are a fitting tribute to Peter’s expansive career as a tireless champion of human rights. 

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AMLO is inaugurated as president of Mexico

AMLO Falters on his Commitment to Combat Impunity

While AMLO deserves credit for pledging to combat Mexico’s impunity crisis, he has failed to set a clear strategy to address the faults and lack of independence within the justice system, calling into question his commitment to confront the root causes of impunity.

˙Catharine Christie

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In his September 2019 State of the Union Address, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) declared, “If you ask me to express in one sentence what the new government's plan is all about: end corruption and impunity.” But well into the second year of his term, AMLO and his administration have done little to address the impunity crisis in Mexico, a country where about 98 percent of crimes committed remained unsolved. While AMLO deserves credit for pledging to combat Mexico’s impunity crisis, he has failed to set a clear strategy to address the faults and lack of independence within the justice system, calling into question his commitment to confront the root causes of impunity.

AMLO’s first full year in office, 2019, proved to be the most violent year on record in Mexico, with 34,582 murders. The same year saw an 89 percent impunity rate for intentional homicide in Mexico. In addition, in the last year femicides have taken center-stage as a pervasive issue in Mexico, prompting mass protests. About 74 percent of Mexicans believe that violence against women has increased in the past year, and more than half say it’s due to the impunity issue. Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad (MCCI) and CONNECTAS reported that from 2012 to 2018, there were 3,056 reported femicides, with only 24 percent resulting in persecution. Women’s rights groups claim the reported numbers are much lower than the real figure for femicides, meaning impunity and violence against women is likely worse than the data shows.

Despite AMLO’s bold promise to end impunity, his approach to the justice system has proven poorly conceived and often counterproductive. A judicial reform plan, initially supported by AMLO, was proposed to the Senate by Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero in January. However, the Attorney General declined to consult Mexican civil society and proposed a plan that, if implemented, would have caused major setbacks to human rights protections. Human Rights Watch and other civil society organizations said the plan would increase the likelihood of police and prosecutorial abuses and impede judicial independence. If approved, the reform would have allowed detention of suspects for up to 40 days without charges, permitted the use in some cases of illegally obtained evidence, and decreased the number of judges who monitor defendants’ rights.

Protest Against Femicide in Zócalo November 2019 / Wikimedia Commons / Thayne Tuason / CC by SA 4.0

In February, AMLO withdrew his support for Gertz Manero’s regressive justice reform plan, and backed a new proposal by the president of the Supreme Court, Arturo Zaldívar. This plan seeks to fight corruption and nepotism, strengthen public defenders, and encourage gender parity. Zaldívar’s proposal would increase the number of women judges to promote gender equality in the judiciary and build up the Federal Judicial Council that oversees judges and magistrates. Strengthening the powers of the Judicial Council to combat corruption and nepotism is a step forward, especially compared to Gertz Manero’s proposal. However, promoting women judges to answer for the lack of gender perspective in rulings on femicide cases, while important, does not effectively tackle the root issue for prosecuting femicides in the justice system. Rather, the absence of special protocols to investigate crimes as femicides leads to its under-reporting and low level of prosecution. Additionally, AMLO recently dismissed 26,000 calls in March to emergency hotlines reporting violence against women as no more than prank calls. His denial of gender-based violence will make it harder for claims to be taken seriously and continue to exacerbate the systemic issues obstructing the prosecution of femicides.

Zaldívar’s plan attempts to reinforce the professionalism of the Judiciary, yet it largely fails to address the justice system’s lack of independence that hampers Mexico’s ability to combat impunity. Officials within the justice system have also proven vulnerable to influence by organized crime, undermining their ability to make autonomous decisions and follow through with independent investigations. AMLO’s support for Zaldívar’s plan improves upon oversights in Gertz Manero’s plan, but does not make significant or sustained improvements to judicial independence.

Even outside of the proposed judicial reform plans, the President has shown a lack of concern for implementing measures to increase the independence and accountability of the criminal justice system. In December 2018, Mexico passed a Ley Orgánica de la Fiscalía General de la República (LOFGR) that included a number of important reforms to the office of the chief prosecutor, such as the establishment of the Citizen Council (Consejo Ciudadano), the issuance of specialized prosecutors for human rights, electoral crimes, internal affairs, and anti-corruption, and the requirement for the Attorney General to present a Criminal Prosecution Policy (Plan de Persecución Penal). LOFGR’s reforms were created to specifically address the issue of judicial independence, and AMLO’s failure to push the Attorney General and the Senate to implement the accountability mechanisms established in the LOFGR undercuts any attempt to form an autonomous federal prosecutor’s office to combat impunity.

AMLO so far seems to prioritize his messaging for institutional change more than actually doing the challenging and crucial work of strengthening the justice system to tackle the impunity crisis.

Moreover, AMLO allowed the selection and appointment process for the Attorney General and specialized prosecutors to move forward with extreme expediency, further compromising the Fiscalía’s independence. The process to appoint the Attorney General lacked transparency and did not include citizen participation­, disregarding the requirements for the procedure established in the LOFGR. The LOFGR’s requirements are strategically designed to attract and select strong candidates. Since each candidate was not thoroughly considered in accordance to the requirements, the integrity and capability of the Fiscalía to function independently is undermined.

Gertz Manero’s process to appoint specialized prosecutors was also questionable. He did not openly call for applications for the Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Special Prosecutor positions as required by the LOFGR and failed to include citizen participation. Instead, Gertz Manero quickly nominated AMLO’s top choice for the Anti-Corruption Special Prosecutor position and even failed to submit the candidate for the Human Rights Special Prosecutor position for Senate approval. The pattern of politically-motivated appointments and the lack of procedural transparency brings into question the impartiality and effectiveness of the Fiscalía and specialized prosecutors to conduct independent investigations and prosecutions, and hurts efforts to fight impunity. AMLO’s decision to allow the Senate and the Attorney General to directly contradict the LOFGR and Article 102 of the Constitution, renders him negligent in holding the Fiscalía accountable and strengthening the independence of the system, fundamental in the fight against impunity.

Gertz Manero has remained silent about whether he will put forward a new package to reform the judicial system. Furthermore, there has been some opposition to Zaldívar’s proposal from Senators, such as Ricardo Monreal, who believe the plan is not ambitious enough in reestablishing national confidence in the judicial system. In any case, further consideration of the proposals will have to wait until Congress is back in session on September 1, unless they call for an extraordinary session specifically pertaining to the judicial reform. In the meantime, the judiciary has been partially suspended in 27 of the 32 states as a measure to control the spread of Covid-19, a potential further blow to efforts to strengthen the rule of law.

[AMLO] has consistently contradicted his message by supporting regressive and weak reform plans, failing to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, and allowing the Fiscalía to continue its work without accountability or transparency.

AMLO so far seems to prioritize his messaging for institutional change more than actually doing the challenging and crucial work of strengthening the justice system to tackle the impunity crisis. He has consistently contradicted his message by supporting regressive and weak reform plans, failing to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, and allowing the Fiscalía to continue its work without accountability or transparency. Nonetheless, the President still has the opportunity to move forward and make good on his campaign pledges. A meaningful plan to tackle impunity should include the following steps to strengthen the professionalism and independence of Mexico’s investigators, prosecutors, and judges. These recommendations are reflective of the active efforts made by Mexican civil society and international organizations to push for the enforcement of LOFGR and ultimately strengthen the fight against impunity.

1. Enforce provisions of the LOFGR that have not been implemented. In order for the Fiscalía to be considered legitimate and impartial, it must implement a meaningful Criminal Prosecution Policy (Plan de Persecución Penal), and include citizen and civil society participation. The Plan de Persecución Penal outlines the Fiscalía’s priorities and strategies to combat crime in Mexico and gives citizens the ability to oversee the Fiscalía’s actions in accordance to the plan. As of May 29, Gertz Manero is yet to construct and present a legitimate plan to the Senate in accordance to the LOFGR. Implementing the Consejo Ciudadano required by the LOFGR is equally as critical to ensure the Fiscalía’s independence. The Consejo Ciudadano ensures citizen participation, advises the Prosecutor General on the creation of policies such as the Plan de Persecución Penal, and serves as an oversight mechanism to hold the office of the Prosecutor General accountable. As of May 29, a Consejo Ciudadano has still not been appointed by the Senate.

2. Proactively address the judicial system’s lack of judges that poses a challenge to due process and increases the chances of impunity. Reducing the number of judges that monitor for police and prosecutor abuse and who review pre-trial evidence for permissibility would exacerbate the crisis. According to the 2017 Global Impunity Index (GII-2017), Mexico has 4.2 judges per 100,000 people, which is below the global average of 16.23 per 100,000. To put it in perspective, Croatia, which has the lowest levels of impunity according to the GII-2017, has 45 judges per 100,000 people. Increasing their numbers may reduce sentencing times, which could help decrease the chances of violations against detainees’ civil rights to occur.

3. Develop a strategy to address inadequate police investigations and flawed and insufficient work done by prosecutors, both of which contribute to the dysfunctionality of the justice system. To improve the capacity of law enforcement personnel and prosecutors at the local, state, and federal level, the administration should implement specialized training on using victims’ history to correctly classify and analyze crimes. Gaining expertise in properly classifying femicides and crimes against journalists as such will help in obtaining convincing evidence against the perpetrator and getting a conviction.

Carole Botello is a recent graduate from the University of Maryland with a degree in communications-public relations and a minor in international development and conflict management. She was an intern with the Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program

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Editor's note: This post is written by Feliciano Reyna and Verónica Zubillaga, members of the Inter-American Dialogue´s Venezuela Working Group, together with Temir Porras. The Dialogue is publishing it as an important contribution to discussions regarding the response to Covid-19 in Venezuela.

In polarized Venezuela, it is rare these days to find a consensus about much of anything. The Department of Justice’s decision to indict Nicolás Maduro and several members of his inner circle was no different. Maduro responded by promising “Bolivarian fury” in response to any US aggression, while his political opposition lauded the indictments as vindication of their accusations against Maduro.

But Venezuelans of all political stripes agree on one thing: as the Covid-19 pandemic has overwhelmed even the most advanced public health systems in the world, our country’s collapsed health system is gravely exposed and cannot confront the threat alone. Whatever the current level of contagion, our country will be ill-equipped to respond as the disease expands. Like those in Italy, Spain, and New York, Venezuelan hospitals lack adequate testing kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment for staff. Unlike those hospitals, they also frequently lack electricity, soap, and clean water. Thousands of doctors and nurses are among the millions who have fled the country in recent years, and many citizens who remain cannot afford to isolate at home.

Perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives—inside Venezuela and across its borders—now depend on whether our leaders can put aside their battle for control, engage politically in good faith, and momentarily put the wellbeing of citizens first by taking the urgent steps needed to combat the virus crisis and its consequences. For a nation suffering a pre-existing complex humanitarian emergency, the coronavirus is not only a public health threat but also a new reality that brutally exposes an already vulnerable majority affected by food insecurity and often unable to attend to its most basic needs.

Trump and Guaidó on Feb. 5, 2020 / CC Public Domain

While Venezuela’s political opposition led by Guaidó maintains that corruption and neglect of the public health system, as well as Maduro’s reluctance to accept some international aid, are largely responsible for the current “emergency within an emergency,” Maduro and his allies point out that US sanctions, including on oil, have denied the country much-needed revenue. This debate matters to the future of Venezuela, but it cannot be an obstacle to the immediate need for a political agreement to save lives amid the current pandemic.

Maduro may have pointed a way forward when he requested a $5 billion loan from the IMF for coronavirus response. As Maduro surely anticipated, the request was quickly rejected. Nonetheless, it was a remarkable admission of Venezuela’s desperate financial straits and need for international support to confront the virus. It also underscored that mobilizing such support will require at least a partial political truce between Guaidó and Maduro.

Is such an agreement possible? Past experience suggests tempering expectations; efforts to broker negotiations between Maduro and the opposition have broken down repeatedly, most recently in 2019. But the stakes have never been as urgent, and for many Venezuelans the fever of political combat is tempered by the existential urgency of the moment. Already, diverse sectors of civil society are raising their voices clamoring for a truce, a call that was echoed by the European Union.

And while Guaidó’s interim government did succeed in unfreezing $20 million in foreign-held state assets to support Covid-19 response in Venezuela, he must know there are limits to what can be done for Venezuelans without Maduro’s green light. Maduro, of course, is loath to do anything that empowers Guaidó, but he cannot tap international resources in a significant way without the approval of the Guaidó-led National Assembly. In other words, the two men need each other, and Venezuelans need them both.

Maduro has expressed openness to dialogue on Covid response and Guaidó has called for a government of national emergency. The urgency of the situation demands overcoming skepticism and exhausting all efforts to forge an agreement that could save countless lives. The coronavirus cooperation between Maduro and the government of Colombia, which does not recognize him, is perhaps a sign that political orthodoxies can be temporarily set aside in the face of the current pandemic, as is the recent coordination between the governor of Miranda state (a close Maduro ally) and three opposition mayors in that state.  

The contours of a political agreement on Covid-19 response are not hard to envision. An urgent request for international assistance made jointly by Maduro and Guaidó would include a plan for Covid-19 response and the appointment of a locally-driven, specialized commission of health experts to coordinate it, as well as mechanisms to ensure aid is administered in a transparent, accountable, and apolitical manner with the support of multilateral agencies such as the United Nations that are considered legitimate by both parties. Maduro would recognize some key prerogatives of the Guaidó-led National Assembly, a tactical retreat from his efforts to undermine Guaidó’s legitimacy, but not one that requires resolution of Venezuela’s broader political impasse. Maduro would also facilitate full access for multilateral and humanitarian organizations across Venezuela’s territory. Under such an agreement, aid could be released in tranches subject to agreement by both parties, to ensure continued adherence to the deal. Most assistance would be delivered directly to implementing organizations, and none of it would be controlled exclusively by Maduro or Guaidó.

Were these conditions met, Guaidó would be justified in employing his one significant form of leverage —recognition by the United States and most Western donors— to unlock the international purse strings. Funding could come from multilateral donors such as the IMF, the Inter-American Development Bank, or the World Bank which recently created a $14 billion fast track facility to help countries respond to the coronavirus, or by tapping into potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of frozen funds of the Venezuelan state itself.

The complex mechanics of all these options, as well as the substantial political will needed to forge an agreement of any kind, are in stark contrast with the pivotal role the United States could play just by not standing in the way of a political agreement on Covid-19 response in Venezuela. The recent indictments against Maduro and his aides on “narco-terrorism” and other charges are a worrying sign that threatens to undermine any emerging momentum toward a humanitarian truce. The subsequent announcement of its “Framework for a Peaceful and Democratic Transition in Venezuela” in the midst of a pandemic outbreak was an awkward choice by Washington. A roadmap to entirely reset Venezuela’s political and institutional architecture is hardly an adequate tool to handle the looming public health emergency.

Amidst the current pandemic, both UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and members of the US Senate have called for easing sectoral sanctions against Venezuela, a plea that would be far more consequential if Guaidó were to endorse it. Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a key ally of President Trump, has acknowledged the need to ease sanctions during the pandemic. Facilitating a swap of oil for humanitarian aid is one way to channel resources directly to the Venezuelan people.

At the very least, the US government should complement existing sanctions exemptions for medicines and medical equipment with a general license exempting specific medical goods in order to facilitate the donation or sale of testing kits, respiratory devices, and treatments. More broadly, it should use its domestic authorities and voting power in international organizations to back any agreement Guaidó can reach with Maduro that facilitates essential support for Venezuela’s Covid-19 response while ensuring funds are administered by vetted humanitarian organizations in a transparent and politically neutral manner.

The nature of this threat leaves us with no option but to stubbornly insist that Venezuela’s leaders forge a common front against Covid-19. The international community, including the United States, should join us.


Feliciano Reyna is founder and executive president of Acción Solidaria and founder of CIVILIS Human Rights in Venezuela. He is a member of the Dialogue´s Venezuela Working Group.

Temir Porras is visiting professor at Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs. He served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela and chief of staff to Nicolás Maduro.

Verónica Zubillaga, Dr. in Sociology (Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium), is an associate professor of sociology at the Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas and founder of Red de Activismo e Investigación por la Convivencia (REACIN). She is a member of the Dialogue´s Venezuela Working Group.



Covid-19 in the Americas: The Dialogue's Coronavirus Updates

[post_title] => Venezuela Can’t Confront Covid-19 Without a Political Truce. Will Washington Help? [post_excerpt] => Perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives—inside Venezuela and across its borders—now depend on whether our leaders can put aside their battle for control, engage politically in good faith, and momentarily put the wellbeing of citizens first by taking the urgent steps needed to combat the virus crisis and its consequences. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => venezuela-cant-confront-covid-19-without-a-political-truce-will-washington-help [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-04-09 12:51:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-04-09 12:51:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 94503 [post_author] => 70 [post_date] => 2020-04-01 19:21:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-04-01 19:21:51 [post_content] =>

As the world wrestles with the public-health threat of Covid-19, the response of Latin American countries has varied widely, from lockdowns to laissez-faire. The actions, or lack thereof, of the presidents of the region’s two biggest countries, Mexico and Brazil, have drawn particular scrutiny, casting a fresh spotlight on populism in Latin America and its particular vulnerabilities in the face of a global pandemic. Populism’s failure to adequately address the pandemic could provide a sorely needed opportunity for political parties and politicians to bolster democratic institutions and regain citizen trust.

The presidents of Mexico and Brazil have been widely criticized for ignoring health professionals, attending rallies, and refusing to shut down public events. While both countries have health systems that are among the most prepared in the region to combat the crisis, their populist leaders are hampering this readiness. The two heads of state are opposed ideologically, but their shared anti-science, anti-expert rhetoric, and a belief that they know best have exposed the factors that can make populist countries weaker in the face of an epidemic.

In Mexico, leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has transformed the program that provides state-subsidized coverage for health care into the Instituto de Salud para el Bienestar. The new system has had a number of operational and programmatic issues in the short time it has been in function. AMLO’s appointee to head the program, Juan Antonio Ferrer, has no background in medicine or epidemiology. The government also cut funding to the program to use in other areas, leaving the system weaker than before. OECD guidelines say Mexico should be spending 9 percent of GDP on health services when they currently spend only 5.5 percent.

To make matters worse, in incidents that have become widely circulated by the press and social media, AMLO ignored health experts and went ahead with public rallies and events. He was slow to implement procedures in line with the rest of the hemisphere, and continued to go out into crowds, hugging and kissing citizens. He attacked the opposition who were critical of how he was handling the epidemic saying, “[t]hey want us to get infected.” In one eyebrow-raising episode, the president held up two amulets at a rally, presumably to show he was defended from Covid-19 by these “protective shields.” His deputy secretary of health further added to the myth of AMLO’s invincibility arguing “that AMLO’s over 60 years old doesn’t mean he faces specific risks.” While the president finally introduced social distancing measures, suspended nonessential activities, and announced a state of emergency, his delay to act and instead dismiss the danger of the pandemic is a major setback for Mexico.

Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro
Bolsonaro meets with Trump at Mar-a-Lago on March 7, 2020
Flickr / CC Public Domain Mark 1.0

In Brazil, the right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro was also sluggish to take the spread of Covid-19 seriously. While members of his delegation tested positive for the virus after a Mar-a-Lago trip in the United States and were thus put into quarantine, Bolsonaro defied doctors' advice to stay home, and instead turned out to a pro-government and anti-Congress protest. At one point, Bolsonaro claimed the spread of the disease was a “fantasy” created by the media to hurt his government. Last week in an address to the country, Bolsonaro compared the disease to the flu and claimed that if infected, his history as an athlete would save him from its effects. And unlike AMLO, Bolsonaro has refused to back down and continues to criticize quarantine measures against the advice of his Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta. According to
some reports, the president is unhappy with Mandetta, a doctor who has spoken out against the government’s response to the pandemic, and whom some members of the government say is “too technical.” Mandetta recently announced that the health system would collapse by the end of April on account of the crisis.

The reactions of AMLO and Bolsonaro to Covid-19 exemplify some of the riskier characteristics of populist leaders, including the tendency to value loyalty over institutional knowledge in government, and to paint scientists and other experts as elites. Cas Mudde’s definition of populism, that of an ideology that categorizes society in two groups of “the pure people” and “the corrupt elite” gets to the core of this issue. In the middle of a pandemic, reactions from scientists and professionals that conflict with the leader’s narrative are unwelcome. Look no further than the United States, where President Trump has similarly clashed with public health officials and downplayed risks of the disease, initially calling it the Democrats' “new hoax” and later arguing that the country should reopen after just 15 days of social distancing and with Covid-19 cases and deaths on a steep upward curve. Trump, like AMLO, has reversed course on some of his earlier comments and is now calling for extended mitigation efforts.

For both AMLO and Bolsonaro, the human impact and political consequences of taking a cavalier approach to the Covid-19 emergency remain to be seen. Recently, protests erupted against Bolsonaro at night as thousands banged pots and pans and chanted “Bolsonaro out.” AMLO’s approval rating declined from 55.6 percent in February to 51 percent on March 23, largely due to poor economic performance and a failure to reduce violence. His early missteps in handling the crisis could jeopardize his public support if Mexico’s unorthodox approach fails.

However, both leaders thrive on cultivating a narrative that puts them at the center, and bolsters their image of standing up for the people against a hostile elite. This time may be no different. Moreover, as Kevin Casas has observed, the conditions created by the Covid-19 crisis, including sharp economic downturns, calls for restricting civil liberties, and a likely backlash against globalization, would seem to favor authoritarian populists. Due to the impact of Covid-19 and the drop in the price of oil, Credit Suisse predicted that the Mexican economy will contract four percent this year. In Brazil, the Economy Ministry revised its economic outlook to zero percent growth, which some economists call optimistic.

In contrast to past economic and social crises that brought populists to power in Latin America—Venezuela in the late 1990s, Argentina in the early 2000s, and Bolivia in the mid-2000s, to take a few examples—it is now the populists themselves who will preside over the turmoil of the coming months and own at least some responsibility for how Brazil and Mexico respond to it. Could this actually lead citizens to turn away from populist politics, in defiance of historic trends?

A recently published white paper by Stanford University provides recommendations to traditional center-left and center-right parties to “reclaim their role as the mainstays of democratic competition” and guard against populism. Mexico and Brazil comprise two very different party systems, where AMLO’s movement MORENA holds a majority in both houses and Bolsonaro’s party holds roughly 10 percent in the lower house and in a highly fragmented system. Brazil’s political parties therefore have greater leverage against their president and capacity to act without him than those in Mexico. Still, a number of these suggestions could prove relevant in both countries as political parties and leaders seek to respond to populist appeals amidst the coronavirus pandemic. These include:  

1) Changing political rhetoric to defend democratic institutions and the rule of law. Parties need to voice their unwavering support for regulatory agencies, independent courts, the free press, and elections that are free and fair, especially if populist leaders are demonizing these institutions. During the current crisis, this starts with parties that support health professionals in the government. The Brazilian speaker of the lower house of Congress, Democrat Rodrigo Maia, criticized Bolsonaro and asked the federal government to recognize the important work of governors and public health experts.

2) Parties on all sides need to come together to call out the insufficient responses and nonchalant behavior of AMLO and Bolsonaro during the pandemic. In Brazil, governors have implemented emergency orders due to the spread of the disease in direct defiance of Bolsonaro. Following Covid-19, parties should continue to condemn populist attacks on the press and on civil society.

3) Provide meaningful alternatives for economic and social policy between parties. Policy convergence in the past, especially when left-wing parties adopt neoliberal economic policies, has caused many voters to pursue populist politics where they do not see their views represented. In Mexico and Brazil, which both face economic recessions, the challenge is for parties to come together in the short-term to push for widespread social and economic policies to fight Covid-19, but redefine their platforms post-pandemic to provide distinct proposals for ideologically diverse voters.

Covid-19 has exposed the propensities of populist forms of leadership that are averse to expertise, evidence, and good governance. Whether populism’s resurgence endures in a post-pandemic world lies, at least in part, in how political leaders and parties in Latin America’s biggest countries respond to the challenge of this moment and whether they can effectively articulate an alternative vision.



Covid-19 in the Americas: The Dialogue's Coronavirus Updates

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