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Latins lose faith in democracy

Economic woes have Latin Americans preferring autocrats,says a new UN survey.

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Here in Peru, the president is polling in single digits, and some want to bring back a former strongman.

Just across the border in Bolivia, the government had to fend off rumors last week that the military was planning a coup.

Next door, indigenous politicians in Ecuador called for a general uprising to force the president out of office.

In Venezuela, the electoral board set a tentative date for a recall vote on its left-wing leader.

And to the north, in Colombia, the president is pushing a plan to change the country's Constitution so he can run for a second term.

It was a wild week in the Andean region, which has been riding a political seesaw of late. And voters don't like what they see.

According to a new United Nations study, people here are losing faith in democracy - even as the region's economy grows. Political freedoms have not brought financial gain to the masses, half of whom say they would support an authoritarian regime if it resolved economic problems.

"Electoral democracy is fine, and free and fair elections are held, but that is not enough. People do not feel that democracy has improved their economic situation or made them safer," says Dante Caputo, a former Argentine foreign minister and lead author of the UN report.

In the Andean nations, which account for one-third of South America's population, only 37.3 percent of the people polled for the report said they were democrats; the rest were either ambivalent to democracy or openly opposed to it.

The Andes represent a general trend in Latin America, where 54.7 people say they would support an authoritarian government if it helped them financially. More than 60 percent cited unemployment, low wages, and poverty as the region's main problems. "There is less support for democracy here than in any other region in the world," says Mr. Caputo. "Democracy in Latin America is at risk. Intuition indicates that there are dangers, and our data confirms it."


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