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Where have all Latin America's dictators gone?

Latin America's transition to democracy seems well established, with credible elections this year throughout the region. The recent Ecuador uprising underscores how dangers remain.

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On the afternoon of Sept. 30, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa found himself in a most undemocratic situation: holed up in a hospital, locked in by angry police officers revolting against proposed cuts to their bonuses.

"Kill me!" the fiery president dared his foes.

Mr. Correa was rescued 12 hours later by the military, but he claimed that a coup attempt had been averted. Latin American leaders, on alert after Manuel Zelaya was ousted from the presidency of Honduras in his pajamas last summer, rushed to the Andean leader's defense.

Others doubt his claim of a coup but say the events of Sept. 30 equally underline threats to democracy in Ecuador. Correa, they say, is a president with too much consolidated power, so much that citizens feel street protests are the only viable way to try to resolve their disputes.

As Ecuador sorts out what really happened last month, Latin America is taking stock of where its democracy stands today. In some countries, it is robust. Although still vulnerable to strongman presidents, democracy has widely taken root across Latin America, the United Nations said in report this month.


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