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Latin Americans discredit of democracy

Survey shows every second Latin Americans has lost their confidence in democracy and national institutions. Reason: every third believes economical conditions are bad or very bad.

According to a Latinbarometro opinion poll covering 17 Latin American countries, 53 percent of surveyed people say have lost their confidence on democratic institutions. At the same time, only 16 percent support free market policies and 90 percent do not trust in politicians. As a whole: support on democracy fell from 61 percent to 53 percent during the last eight years. 

Latinbarometro conducted the research, supported by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. A total of 18,526 interviews, representating sample of a total population of 480 million, stretching from Rнo Grande on the U.S. -Mexican border, to Punta Arenas, Chile, the southernmost city in the world, answered the questionnaire. This is the seventh time that this opinion poll has been conducted out since 1995.

According to Latinbarometro, 53 percent of people in the region wish to defend the following democratic values: elected presidents and civil liberties. 52 percent also believes that political parties and Congress are indispensable, but an average of only 14 percent trusts political parties, 29 percent trusts governments, while 36 percent approves of them.

Latinbarometro concept of democracy includes three things: culture, structure and process. On the contrary, most of Latin Americans identify democracy with freedom and elections, while other factors are less important for them.

The report, available on the Internet, says support for democracy may shift for various reasons: "Support increases at the beginning of presidential administrations in which different political groups take power". As such, "the population often has an expectation that the new government will improve the quality of democracy, stimulating both political and economic well-being".

This was the case with Chбvez in Venezuela, where 61 percent supported democracy when he was elected in 2000, and of Toledo in Perъ, with approval levels of 62 percent at the outset (2001). "New presidents are aware of the expectations produced by an alternation in power, and democracy is strengthened with this change", explains Latinbarometro. On the other hand, in the case of countries in crisis such as Argentina, the citizenry has severely punished the government, while simultaneously increasing its support of democracy to 58 percent in 2001 and 65 pecent in 2002, establishing that people draw a clear distinction between government performance and the democratic system.

But Latin Americans not only lose confidence in politicians, but also in other institutions, like the Roman Catholic Church (hegemonic in the region), the Armed Forces and the media. Trust in the Church fell 14 percent since 1996, Armed Forces confidence dropped to 30 percent and half of the people said they do not trust TV as a source of information, only 16 percent do not believe radio, 12 do not trust friends and relatives and 8 percent have no trust in newspapers.

Latinbarometro says Latin American's lack of confidence is related to inequality and the exclusion of millions from the social system. Market satisfies only 16 percent of the population, while the public sector reaches 38 percent of approval as source of welfare.

Clearly, Latin Americans identify economics with politics, as say their main concerns are: low salaries, unemployment and poverty. Then comes: corruption and safety.