Latin America Erupts: When Does Competitive Authoritarianism Take Root?

Issue Date July 2021
Volume 32
Issue 3
Page Numbers 63-77
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Democratically elected as Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2005, Evo Morales eroded democracy and began a transition to competitive authoritarianism in the 2010s. By November 2020, however, both Morales and his successor, the right-wing president Jeanine Áñez, had fallen after failing to consolidate authoritarian rule. Why do some aspiring authoritarians succeed while many fail? A comparison of Bolivia to Brazil and Venezuela illuminates the challenges of both eroding democracy and institutionalizing new competitive authoritarian regimes. Aspiring autocrats must mobilize and control civil society in both stages of autocratization—a challenge that led to the fall of both Morales and Áñez.

About the Authors

V. Ximena Velasco Guachalla

V. Ximena Velasco Guachalla is assistant professor of political science at the University of Essex.

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Calla Hummel

Calla Hummel is assistant professor of political science at the University of Miami.

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Sam Handlin

Sam Handlin is associate professor of political science at Swarthmore College.

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Amy Erica Smith

Amy Erica Smith is Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Professor, as well as associate professor of political science, at Iowa State University. In 2020–22, she is a Carnegie Fellow. She is the author of Religion and Brazilian Democracy: Mobilizing the People of God (2019).

View all work by Amy Erica Smith