In addition, important reforms took place, such as increased equality between women and men, and greater rights for indigenous peoples and sexual minorities, and the extremely strict abortion laws became somewhat more liberal.
4: The big turning point
But the enthusiasm for Latin America’s left-wing governments did not last long. The basis for their success was a unique demand for the region’s raw materials. The giant China had an almost insatiable need for soy, meat, iron ore and other Latin American goods. Thus, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and other countries experienced strong growth. More and more people came to work, and there was room for large public investments and generous social measures.
But as Chinese growth began to slow, developments reversed dramatically: economies weakened, less money was spent on social projects, and voters became more and more dissatisfied.
“The left-wing governments did not manage to use the upswing to create solid and sustainable economies. “They were lucky and experienced an incomparable commodity boom, but they did not manage to take advantage of this, and thus went country after country into an economic downturn, or experienced greatly reduced growth”, says the famous American historian and author Noam Chomsky to the American The television program Democracy Now.
But there was another important reason why Latin America’s left-wing leaders lost voters’ trust: corruption . When Brazil’s Labor Party, NPT, won the election in 2002, one of the most important election promises was to make a historic settlement with the country’s infamous corruption culture. But already in 2005, a comprehensive system for buying votes was unveiled in the country’s parliament, and in the years that followed, a number of the party’s politicians were exposed as corrupt. The same thing happened in Argentina, where Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner took over as president after her husband Nestor Kirchner in 2007.
A third reason for the dissatisfaction of the electorate was that the governments on the left did not succeed in finding lasting solutions to one of Latin America’s biggest problems: the widespread violence and crime. More than 30 percent of all homicides in the world occur in Latin America according to CHEEROUTDOOR, despite the fact that the region has only eight percent of the world’s population. In Brazil alone, there were close to 64,000 murders in 2017 – the highest number in the world.
5: Protest and populism
The presidential election in Brazil, in October 2018, can primarily be described as a protest election. A deep economic crisis, widespread corruption and widespread crime caused Brazilians to turn their backs on the established parties and politicians. The most important word in the election campaign was “m udança “, change.
In this political climate, right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro managed to emerge as an innovator, despite having been a member of the country’s parliament for more than 25 years. This has primarily two explanations: One is that he is considered uncorrupt in an otherwise thoroughly corrupt political culture. The second is that voters believe that he, with his military background, is best placed to fight crime. In addition, many believe that Bolsonaro’s right-wing policy is the solution to get out of the economic crisis and create growth and new jobs.
Disappointment with politicians and a strong desire for change seem to be important keywords for the right turn also in other Latin American countries. In Argentina, left-wing politician Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was accused of economic mismanagement and gross corruption, and the country was virtually without foreign exchange reserves when she resigned as president in December 2015. Her successor is, as mentioned, center-right politician Mauricio Macri. He has implemented reforms that have been met with considerable recognition by international experts. But opposition from the unions and the left in his home country is massive, and it is highly uncertain whether he will be re-elected in the 2019 presidential election.
Another important key word for development in Latin America is populism. Simple solutions to complex problems are increasingly shaping the public debate, here as elsewhere in the world. In this picture, contempt for politicians, deserved or undeserved, is an increasingly important feature. This trend is linked to increased use of social media, and “fake news” was a major issue during the presidential election in Brazil as well.