Blog | Q&A With Jennifer McCoy, Ph.D. Director, Americas Program

Dr. Jennifer McCoy is director of the Americas Program.

Fourteen presidents resigned or were removed from office prematurely in the last two decades. What does this mean for Latin American democracy?

Governments have had a difficult time addressing the needs of the people, particularly low-income and marginalized peoples. As a result, satisfaction with democratic performance is eroding, even while support for the principles of democracy remains strong. High crime rates, poor public services, corruption, and chronic unemployment have made the promises of strongmen and populist candidates attractive to many voters.

With these developments, how has the Carter Center’s work changed in the last decade in Latin America and the Caribbean?

Our early election-monitoring work was in countries in transition from authoritarian to civilian governments. Now requests come to us from countries with long experience in democratic elections, but where growing distrust between governments and opposition or control of election authorities by one or two parties erodes confidence in the electoral processes. We are therefore asked to monitor and mediate these elections to ensure that the election campaigns are fair, the count honest, and the results accepted. We also work with countries on second-generation democracy programs such as access to information and party and campaign finance.

Has the gradual decline of the role of the military in Latin American politics changed the climate of the Carter Center’s work there?

We are now focusing on the quality of democracy, including not only elections, but also the ability of governments to meet the needs of the people. Corruption is a major problem that hurts investment and hurts the poor in particular as they are disadvantaged in getting access to justice and public services. Human rights issues have also changed from torture and disappearances to protection of journalists, kidnappings for ransom, and basic quality of life.

What is the level of civil society development in Latin America and the Caribbean? What is The Carter Center doing to aid civil society development?

Civil society, including nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, labor organizations, neighborhood movements, and universities, is flourishing in Latin America and the Caribbean. In our projects on election monitoring and access to information, we work with civil society organizations to strengthen their own capacity, to build coalitions, and to increase communication with the governments.

Related Resources

Refer to our country pages to learn more about the Center’s projects in other countries »

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