By Kaufmann | January 14, 2012 2 Comments »
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Latin America has received wide coverage. Much is being written about the fact that the President of Iran, increasingly isolated around the world, can count on a warm welcome in one continent, Latin America, providing him with excellent photo-ops embracing the region’s leaders, thereby stinging the U.S.
It is however misleading to group Latin America as one.
The bottom line is that Iran’s Ahmadinejad is being welcomed in only four countries. And the four welcoming countries exhibit very poor levels of governance, very much like Iran…
Take for instance one of the six dimensions we measure periodically in the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI), namely Voice & democratic Accountability (VA), which captures the extent to which political rights and civil liberties are provided, as well as freedom of association, of expression and of the press.
The above chart first shows how low Iran ranks worldwide in Voice & Accountability, with only about a dozen countries rating below Iran among over 200 around the world. Furthermore, the chart also shows that governance in Iran has deteriorated markedly since 1998 (for each country, the left column depicts the country’s percentile in 1998, while the right hand-side column depicts the percentile rank in the most recent period, 2010).
Then, following the low scores of Iran, the chart depicts the Voice & Accountability levels in 1998 and 2010 for the 4 Latin American countries that have welcomed Iran’s leader, namely Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela. We see that the performance of these 4 countries tend to mirror that of Iran in terms of democratic governance: deteriorating over the past dozen years, and very low nowadays. The WGI also shows that the performance of these 4 countries is also subpar on other dimensions of governance, such as Rule of Law (not shown in the chart, but data is here for over 200 countries for all 6 governance indicators).
As we keep moving towards the right in this chart, we traverse to a very different set of Latin American countries: those that are not welcoming Ahmadinejad. Due to space limitations, we only show some prominent Latin American countries that are now welcoming Iran; in reality there are many more than those shown in the chart.
We clearly see that the many unwelcoming countries to Iran do exhibit much higher levels of democratic governance, and generally improving over the past dozen years (or at the very least not deteriorating). A stark contrast between the welcoming and unwelcoming countries in Latin America is clear from the data. There are a few bedfellows of Iran all governing similarly poorly (not surprisingly, since they are bankrolled by the leader of one country, Venezuela), on the one hand. And then there are many prominent Latin American countries governing better, on the other.
Ahmadinejad was not warmly welcomed and embraced by Latin America, but by Venezuela’s Chavez and a few of his clients. This, at least, is what emerges from the evidence-based perspective provided by the WGI.