Latin America has lived the last decades without questioning democracy as a system of government. This has translated to an enormous learning curve regarding the history of the region of great part of the 20th Century. Many of these democracies are still imperfect ones. Consecrated by the legitimacy of the electoral process but neglecting the republican aspects of the democratic content.
But democracy needs democrats, so, more than thirty years after the process of redemocratization in Latin America began, we can ask ourselves: does democracy produce democrats? Are we democratic citizens? It seems that unfortunately this has not been the case. The evidence gathered by a Latinobarómetro survey suggests that individuals don’t grow as democrats in these democracies, and that the values and customs of the past are passed down from one generation to another with much more weight than we would like to. This means that political authoritarianism is no longer present in our lives, but cultural authoritarianism persists.
Are Latin Americans essentially authoritarian? It seems to be an overly general question, but Latin American cultural authoritarianism -with its many expressions and manifestations- persists in the daily life of our social relations, and it also imposes itself as a political style, not as a form of government. But what happens in times of low or no economic growth? Are we connected to the success of the government but not to its problems and difficulties? Not necessarily, but Latinobarómetro also shows that we vote with our pockets. Thus, we hope that democracy produces certain results, and if that is not verified, social discontent and high levels of protest appear.
What we do not know is whether this combination will produce new forms of authoritarianism, surely different from those of the past, linked to messianic leaderships legitimized by popular origin but far from the democratic exercise of power. Several examples have covered the last years of the region and their consequences are still suffered by citizens. Democracy needs citizens, compromised citizens, demanding of their governments, their policies and their politicians. And patient citizens, who value democracy independently of the results.