Press release March 9, 2023
NEW REPORT: Freedom in the Americas Declined in 2022, Nicaragua Receives Largest Score Decrease in Region
More countries in the Americas experienced setbacks than improvements, but the region’s citizens also benefited from the loosening of pandemic restrictions.
WASHINGTON—Freedom in the Americas fell slightly in 2022 with nine countries experiencing declines in their political rights and civil liberties and four countries making improvements, according to a new report released today by Freedom House.
The report—Freedom in the World 2023: Marking 50 Years in the Struggle for Democracy—finds that countries of the region continue to grapple with serious threats to political stability and fundamental rights. People in the Americas enjoyed more freedom of movement after harsh or abusively enforced COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed. However, dire political, economic, and humanitarian crises in repressive settings such as Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela have also prompted people to flee those situations in search of freedom and safety. Independent media are also under pressure as powerful figures resist public scrutiny: Authorities in Guatemala arrested the founder and president of one of the country’s most prominent newspapers and journalists in Uruguay faced threats and lawsuits for their reporting.
Report findings in the Americas include:
- The largest one-year score decline in the region took place in Nicaragua, which is rated Not Free and lost 4 points as the regime of Daniel Ortega continued a pervasive crackdown on civil liberties.
- Peru’s overall status declined from Free to Partly Free. Peru’s score declined 2 points driven by attacks on its democratic institutions as the president was impeached and arrested after attempting to dissolve the legislature and rule by decree, and protests by his supporters led to deadly clashes with police.
- The largest one-year score improvement in the region was recorded in Colombia, which gained 6 points and advanced from Partly Free status to Free after holding elections that offered voters more choices at the ballot box than in the past.
- Canada (receiving a total score of 98 on Freedom in the World’s 100-point scale) and Uruguay (96) have the highest aggregate scores in the region. Both are rated Free.
- The United States received 83 points, the same as in the previous year’s annual report. It gained a point in political rights because last November’s midterm elections were peaceful but lost a point in civil liberties due to increased restrictions on access to abortion in some states.
- Cuba (12) has the worst aggregate score in the region, followed by Venezuela (15) and Nicaragua (19). All are designated as Not Free.
- Some 72 percent of people in the region live in countries rated Free, while 6 percent live in Not Free countries.
Beyond the Americas, the report finds that global freedom declined for a 17th consecutive year in 2022 as 35 countries suffered deterioration in their political rights and civil liberties. A total of 34 countries made improvements during the year, however, meaning the gap between the numbers of countries that improved and declined was the narrowest it has ever been since the negative pattern began. The report suggests that the struggle for democracy may be approaching a turning point, and offers recommendations on how democratic governments and societies should work together to roll back authoritarian gains.
The new report includes scores and narrative assessments on political rights and civil liberties for 195 countries and 15 territories around the globe. This report, the 50th annual edition, covers developments in 2022 and provides a brief analysis of long-term trends. The report’s methodology is derived in large measure from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.
The report identifies a number of steps that democratic governments can take to protect and expand political rights and civil liberties. The recommendations include:
- Help Ukraine win. Democratic governments must maintain unwavering support for Ukraine and its people, whose cause is crucial to the future of freedom. This should include providing the weapons and technical and security assistance necessary to help ensure Ukrainian success on the battlefield.
- Stop enabling authoritarians. Democracies must address corruption and kleptocracy head on by closing the many financial loopholes that allow authoritarian rulers to hide or launder stolen assets in democratic settings.
- Be clear and unapologetic about the virtues of democracy and tireless in efforts to uphold and defend it. Democratic states should make the protection of freedom and democracy a fundamental component of all international policy efforts—including in foreign, security, and economic affairs—and every diplomatic engagement. Human rights concerns should be raised in meetings with foreign counterparts at all levels.
- Dramatically ramp up support for human rights defenders and for countries and regions at critical junctures. Democratic governments should help human rights defenders and civil society groups remain active in their home countries whenever possible, and provide technical assistance and training. When democracy advocates come under threat, their foreign partners should provide medical, legal, and psychosocial support as needed.
Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.
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