LATIN AMERICA’S “LEFT TURN”. Gustavo A. Flores-Macías Dept. of Government, Cornell University. Nine Latin American Countries Have Elected a Leftist President Since 1998. Venezuela (Hugo Chavez 1998, 2000, 2006) Chile (Ricardo Lagos 2000, Michelet Bachelet 2006) Brazil (Lula, 2002 and 2006)
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LATIN AMERICA’S “LEFT TURN”
Gustavo A. Flores-Macías
Dept. of Government, Cornell University
-- Historically, leftist victories have been rare and usually short in duration in Latin America
-- Nine countries account for 2/3 of Latin America’s population
-- Near misses in Mexico 2006 (leftist candidate Lopez Obrador lost by less than one percent of the vote) and Peru (Ollanta Humala won the first round of the presidential election but lost in the second round Alan Garcia)
-- Only one of the new leftist governments has been turned out of office (Chile); seven have achieved re-election
-- Left thought to be politically vanquished in Latin America after the end of the Cold War, collapse of communism in the Soviet bloc
-- Leftist victories followed a decade of free market or “neoliberal” economic reform in the aftermath of the 1980s debt crisis– the so-called “Washington Consensus” for free trade, privatization, liberalization of capital and labor markets, etc.
-- But growing anti-U.S. sentiments
-- New political opportunities with the end of the Cold War; no longer an automatic U.S. veto
-- Continuing high levels of poverty (44% of the population)
-- Widespread underemployment (>50% of the regional workforce is in the informal sector, and 60% of new job creation)
-- Highest levels of inequality in the world
-- Established parties (Chile, Uruguay, Brazil) in institutionalized party systems vs. new political movements or independent personalities where party systems are in crisis (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay)
-- Govern within inherited constitution (Chile, Uruguay, Brazil) vs. rewrite the constitution and the rules of the game (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador)
-- victory of the left reflecting the consolidation of democracy, institutionalized pluralism (Chile, Uruguay, Brazil)– constrains what the left can do
-- victory of the left reflecting a crisis of democracy and party systems (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador– tension between democracy as popular sovereignty and democracy as institutionalized pluralism)
-- very strong economic ties to the U.S.
-- recent periods of civil war/leftist insurgency and/or violence related to drug trafficking, with military/police dependence on U.S. aid