How Three Latin American Authoritarian Leaders Continue to Remain in Power

Autocrat, dictator, and socialist — these are some of the terms used to describe three of Latin America’s most controversial leaders: Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and Cuba’s Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Democracy throughout Latin America has begun to erode, leaving the door open for authoritarian leaders to install their regimes.

A panel of experts on the politics and policies of Latin America discuss the latest state of affairs. Moderator Richard Feinberg, professor emeritus of international political economy at the UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, is joined by Javier Corrales, William LeoGrande and Victor Shih. The panel covers authoritarian rule in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba and what next steps can be done to preserve democracy throughout Latin America.

Nicaragua is experiencing serious democratic backsliding, mostly through rigged elections that continue to leave Daniel Ortega in power. Despite numerous allegations of human rights violations and widespread corruption, he won a controversial 2021 presidential election.

Venezuela is suffering a total democratic breakdown. A socio-economic crisis that began under the presidency of Hugo Chavez, has worsened under Nicolas Maduro’s tenure. The country has experienced continued political corruption, human rights violations and gross economic mismanagement under Maduro’s reign.

Cuba has experienced authoritarian rule since the Communist Party of Cuba took control of the island nation under the leadership of Fidel Castro in 1959. Miguel Diaz-Canel has served as president of Cuba since 2021. Elections are not democratic and political opposition is repressed. Under his regime, censorship and human rights violations continue.

Despite several countries, including the United States, imposing economic sanctions in an attempt to thwart the oppressive rule under Ortega, Maduro and Diaz-Canel, they continue to remain in power. But what else can be done?

Watch Ortega, Maduro & Díaz-Canel: Why Are They Still in Power?