Democratic backsliding and autocratization: the political effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nicaragua and Venezuela

Maria Isabel Puerta Riera


The crisis provoked by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic causing the COVID-19, has added a further burden to weakened democracies around the world, especially in Latin America. The cases of democracy decline in Nicaragua and Venezuela exemplify the instability of their democratic institutions, and the accelerated autocratization process amidst the profound economic crises that both countries are going through. Nonetheless, the populist regimes of Daniel Ortega and Nicolás Maduro are doubling down on their power grip, weaponizing the lack of access to health care and utilities, as they coerce a vulnerable population, using repression and political persecution to prevent social mobilizations. Our work explores the intersections of populism and autocratization during states of emergency (Lührmann, Rooney, 2020) and how the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing a weakened democracy to advance in its path to autocratization (Lührmann, A.; Edgell, Amanda B.; Maerz, Seraphine F., 2020), through the analysis of Varieties of Democracy indicators: Liberal Democracy Index, Electoral Democracy Index, Participatory Democracy Index for Nicaragua and Venezuela. In our preliminary findings, the risks of backsliding increase as these regimes deepen their control to prevent social mobilization efforts, making the prospects for a democratic transition highly improbable in the near future.


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