When the matter is democracy, Brazil is not on the top of the class in Latin America, it's barely a C student. And it's well below countries like Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay, according to the just-released annual report Latin America Democratic Development Index IDD-Lat 2009.
Guatemala and Bolivia stand at the opposite end of the ranking. The index measures among other things respect for political rights, civil liberties, institutional quality and the capacity of the different governments to deliver.
This is the seventh year that Polilat.com and the Konrad Adenauer FoundationÂ analyze and evaluate the behavior of societies, leaders, and institutions of democracy in 18 different countries of Latin America.
The study concludes that in average, the region performance has experienced a slight improvement (around 1%); however, the contrast between steps backwards and forward comparative with the prior year has significant variations among the countries.
A scarce number of countries remain at the high democratic development level. Only Chile, Costa Rica, and Uruguay (17% of the total number of countries evaluated) reach such level, repeating a constant performance for the last seven years.
Only seven countries exceed the regional average of IDD-Lat (5.113) – those mentioned for their high development levels (Chile, Costa Rica, and Uruguay), and Panama,Â Mexico, Argentina, and Peru.
The countries analyzed in the IDD-Lat can also be divided in countries with "high" development, i.e. from 7.51 to 10.0 points; with "middle" development (from 4.51 to 7.50); and with "low" development (from 1.0 to 4.5)
In the first group we find only Chile, Costa Rica, and Uruguay. In the second group are Panama, Mexico, Argentina, Peru and BrazilÂ – five countries, which represent 28% of the region.
Colombia, Paraguay, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala andÂ Bolivia belong to the third group and total 56% of the region.
Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Paraguay have remained stagnant or fallen back while Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela have advanced.
Top of the list are Chile with 10 points followed by Costa Rica with 9.66 and Uruguay, 9.22. This group is followed by Panama, 7.19; Mexico, 6.49; Argentina, 5.85 and Peru, 5.58, which are above the region's average of 5.23. The immediately below ranked are Brazil, 4.51 and Colombia, 4.07.
Well below average figure, El Salvador, 3.49; Ecuador, 3.48; Guatemala, 3.28 and Bolivia, 2.59 points.
In spite of being ranked among the lowest, Ecuador was the country which most advanced this year and El Salvador the one which most fell back.
The report also points out that the quest for democratic development in the region these last twelve months has taken place in a context of global crisis, which not only "set doubts about the ethics and morals of democratic progress, but has created serious difficulties for the development of the region and has deepened existing inequalities".
"The end of a cycle of bonanza is evidence of the fall in some indicators and worrisome its impact on unemployment and poverty which could lead to a crisis in most of the Latin American economy," adds the document.
Furthermore the emergence of trade barriers and market restrictions has begun "to generate tensions" inside countries and among neighbors, which accumulate new serious challenges for the democratic development of the region.
"The international crisis has again questioned the Latin American leadership about the urgency of solving persistent institutional problems that are still pending solutions".
Finally the IDD report points to democratic governance threats in the forms of pockets of authoritarianism, populism and cronyism which destroy the pillars on which democracy is built.