Argentines, Peruvians, Guatemalans and Colombians, the polls show, have grown weary of free-market economics and democracy. Indeed, across Latin America, the consensus seems to be that our neighbors think they're chasing an impossible dream -- societies with American freedom and prosperity and European social consciousness, with egalitarianism and concern for the poor.
What disheartens so many after decades of progress? After tossing away dictators, juntas and single-party rule starting in the 1970s, Latin Americans in the '80s embraced democracy. Then they learned they also had to swallow bitter economic reform. In the '90s, they imposed fiscal discipline on their governments, tried to fix their tax systems, privatized state enterprises and adopted free trade practices. Despite this progressive and unevenly applied zeal, the reformers from Mexico south couldn't instantly reverse history or quell rising expectations. And now, many Latins blame "neo-liberalism" for failing to bring them justice, equity and more economic and social development.
Corruption, crime and poverty also take their toll. In 2001, 90% of those polled in Latin America said they considered corruption widespread and growing. A year later, 80% of those asked called it rampant and said neither democratic rule nor free market economies could get rid of it.