Roots of Competitive Authoritarian Regimes in Latin America: An Analysis on the Causes of Competitive Authoritarianism in The Twenty-First Century




Contreras Urrutia, Maria B.

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The Latin America region has a long history of dictators, caudillos, military leaders, and other authoritarian forms of government that had an instrumental regard for democracy. Even after several waves of democratization, with consistent efforts to consolidate competitive systems of government and democratic ideals, regimes still found a way to eliminate checks and balances and erode democracy. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the victory of Western democracy, new authoritarian regimes have adapted to the growing international environment by changing tactics from direct coups and abuses of power to slow and incremental expansion of executive power vis-a-vis the other branches of government. By doing so, the regimes inhibit the separation of powers while hiding behind a facade of electoral democracy, thus creating an uneven playing field that compromises the opposition’s ability to challenge the power of the incumbent. Despite multiple instances of this type of regime in the Latin American region, most of the research done on the topic focuses on nations in the European and Asian continents. For the research that does exist, scholars have studied specific countries and their democratic deterioration, but do little to put forth why this region is prone to authoritarian regimes. This paper puts forward four causes that, when combined, increase the likelihood of competitive regimes in Latin America: populism, weak political institutions, social structures that facilitate inequality, and a favorable international environment for hybrid regimes. From these, one can extrapolate on the nature of contemporary political climates, and take steps to prevent further democratic backsliding.



Latin America, competitive authoritarianism, hybrid regimes, electoral authoritarianism, Honors College


Contreras Urrutia, M. B. (2021). Roots of competitive authoritarian regimes in Latin America: An analysis on the causes of competitive authoritarianism in the twenty-first century (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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