One of the major references of liberalism and political science in the contemporary Western world is the Frenchman Alexander de Tocqueville (1805-1859), author of Democracy in America, published in 1835 and 1840. He travelled to the United States for nine months in 1831-32, immersing himself in the political and social reality of a country that had consolidated its independence in 1776 and established institutions to support representative democracy as a political system. He left behind an important work, with a colonialist and Europeanist outlook, describing the democratic ideals of the northern nation. However, he largely justified slavery on the grounds of "racial inferiority" and despised the American Indians, calling them "barbarians" who needed to be civilised by Europeans.

He points out in his book that "the great dangers of democracies arise from the natural tendency of the human heart to abuse power when it is exercised by all", one of many quotes from Tocqueville in support of democratic institutions. This phrase responds well to what had been the practice of Europeans, especially in their colonies, and which became the way in which the United States related to Latin American countries under the doctrine of "America for the Americans" of President James Monroe, which in its beginnings was a message to Europeans not to intervene in the continent, but which soon became "America for the United States", which became evident in the twentieth century.

Diversity is one of the main characteristics of Central America and the Caribbean, home to some 82 million people. The region is made up of 20 countries, the largest in this part of the continent being Guatemala, with 17 million inhabitants, followed by the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean, now made up of two countries: the Dominican Republic, with almost 12 million inhabitants, and Haiti, with 11 million. The history of colonialism, slavery, exploitation and extermination of the indigenous peoples is part of the reality of these territories, which were invaded and occupied by the Spanish, English, French, Dutch and even Swedes, who transported hundreds of thousands of slaves from Africa to their colonial possessions for three centuries in order to exploit cotton, sugar, coffee and cocoa.

Independence and the birth of republics came in the 19th century, with Haiti being the first Latin American country to achieve it, throwing off the French colonial yoke in 1804, while the neighboring Dominican Republic did the same 40 years later. But the differences between the two countries are vast. The Dominicans, despite the terrible dictatorships they have suffered, have managed to consolidate a path of progress and uninterrupted democratic stability for more than three decades. On the other hand, Haiti, the first republic founded by emancipated Black slaves, consolidated its recognition by the French government in 1825 after a struggle lasting more than 12 years. The first Black republic had to undertake to pay 150 million gold francs, or 300% of Haiti's national income that year, in order not to be invaded and enslaved again by the French. There were no countries, no multilateral organisations, no NGOs to show solidarity with the Haitian people or to condemn imperialist France.

Thomas Piketty explains this very well in his book A Brief History of Equality, where he points out that this condition was imposed on the Haitians who, until 1915, paid 5% of their annual production to the French state. Later, the rest of the debt was transferred to the United States until it was paid off in 1950, condemning the country from its very beginnings as a republic to the poverty and underdevelopment in which it remains today. That same year, the United States occupied Haiti militarily in order to impose order and protect its financial and economic interests. Picketty has calculated that France should pay around 30 billion dollars to the Haitians as compensation for the expropriation of their country.

France finally abolished slavery in its other Antillean colonies in 1848, but Haiti was the only case where slaves had to pay those who enslaved them for their freedom. In 2003, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide demanded that France repay the debt it had imposed on his country. The government demanded payment of $22 billion, and Paris's response was simple and swift: in 2004, Aristide was overthrown in a French-organised coup and executed by a commando of U.S. Marines who had kidnapped him and taken him out of the country. Former French President François Hollande, before travelling to Haiti for a few hours in 2015, remarked, "When I go to Haiti, I will honor the debt we owe," but the statement was quickly "explained" by his aides, who pointed out that he was referring to the payment of a "moral debt." For France to open up to negotiations on reparations would be the beginning of a chain of demands against all the other European colonial powers that ravaged the region and claim their own.

Democracy in America has many faces and facets. Direct military interventions to protect U.S. interests were numerous and overt in the 20th century, most recently in Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989. Covert operations to overthrow democratic governments in the Americas have also been numerous, such as those in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Chile, to name but a few. However, after 200 years of independence, democracy as a political system has succeeded in establishing itself in most of Latin America and the Caribbean. This year we have seen presidential elections in El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Mexico without any major challenges to the electoral processes, despite the fact that polls generally show a growing distrust of politicians among citizens.

The region is heterogeneous in terms of political systems, with some countries maintaining closed or dictatorial societies, as in the case of Cuba, which does not allow multi-party politics or freedom of the press and, after 60 years of revolution, has spread poverty evenly. Other countries maintain limited freedoms and a growing personalist authoritarianism that defines itself as "leftist", as in the case of Nicaragua and Venezuela. On the other hand, the shadow of right-wing authoritarian populism has gained ground in the region, as seen in the United States, a country that has lived in democracy since its independence, so it was shocking to see how former President Donald Trump tried to ignore the election results and his supporters stormed the seat of Congress.

The same thing happened in Brazil with former President Jair Bolsonaro. The winds of authoritarianism and the desire to curtail individual freedoms in exchange for security have been growing in Latin America due to the inability of governments to provide answers to long-awaited social demands in terms of employment, housing, health, education, and a long list of issues that are common to the region with varying degrees of intensity. Social outbursts, such as those in Chile in 2019, could be repeated in several countries.

New issues have been added, such as emigration, violence, and transnational crime as a result of drug gangs that have extended their networks to virtually all countries. The clearest examples of this trend are the democratically elected governments in El Salvador and Argentina, the latter a real surprise given the discourse on which President Javier Milei was elected. It reflects the exhaustion of the population with forms of government that are still anchored to 20th century models, without resolving the fundamental problems of the majorities, and that have not assimilated the changes and challenges facing today's societies, such as climate change, which predicts dramatic situations in the medium term, the increase in inequality, corruption, and poverty.

The maintenance and improvement of "democracy in America" will depend on the vision of the current and next generation of politicians who are able to see the new realities that are coming our way. To insist on doing politics with formulas from the last century is to open the doors for extremist populism to conquer, through the ballot box, the hopes of millions of people who are only waiting for their demands for better living conditions to be heard and resolved.