New study sounds alarm on Latin American countries turning their back on political tolerance

Honduras Coup

LatinaLista — There’s more to a democracy than a nation holding elections. One of the key elements of a democratic nation is political tolerance.

No matter the protests, fistfights, shouts, insulting rally signs, name-calling or public slander, as long as people believe in the freedom to express a different political opinion and the opportunity to vote those beliefs, democracy is safe in that country.

That’s according to a new study released by Vanderbilt University’s Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP).

Analyzing the political environment of Latin American countries, the study’s authors were disturbed by two key findings: The percentage of the politically tolerant fell almost 5 percentage points — “from 2006 to 2012 the percentage of citizens who were strongly politically tolerant fell from 38.1 to 33 percent;” and three countries have reversed their political tolerance course enough to raise red flags for the researchers.

According to the study, most of Latin America is in good shape.

Countries with the strongest support for this basic right to vote for all eligible citizens were Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Brazil. In countries such as Brazil and Nicaragua, tolerance held at around 40 percent through the entire 2006-2012 term measured.

However, three countries are emerging as heading in the opposite direction as the rest of Latin America — Peru, Honduras and Bolivia.

The report’s authors consider these countries to be “danger areas.”

The three countries have “strongly tolerant” scores under 20 percent and “strongly intolerant” scores of over 20 percent, suggesting a political culture that has failed to fully embrace a fundamental principle of democracy.

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