Chilean Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdés provides an analysis of the trajectory of Latin American democracies in his public talk reported on by graduate student Taylor Boas.
Latin America is going through a period of internal cultural change and regional fragmentation. The first process, a product of newfound democratic empowerment combined with continued economic marginalization, has led to increasing demands for the reduction of poverty and inequality. This outpouring of political participation has showcased the strength of democracy in Latin America but has also led to a crisis of representation, with many existing political parties and politicians finding it difficult to respond to popular aspirations. Simultaneously, the strong support for hemispheric integration that characterized much of the 1990s has given way to an ambivalent stance toward free trade, both in Latin America and the United States. Rifts between Latin American countries have also begun to expose new fault lines in the region.