“Will Uruguay Election Be One More ‘Win’ for Latin America’s Pink Tide?”
The Christian Science Monitor, November 29, 2014
“Sixteen years have passed since socialist Hugo Chávez was voted into power in Venezuela, marking the start of a political turn to the left across South America. In recent years, some analysts predicted that the subsequent ‘Pink Tide’ of leftist governments in the region would soon recede. But current voting trends tell a different story. In Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party fended off a strong challenge to secure reelection last month. Just days before, in Bolivia, President Evo Morales, who was perhaps Mr. Chávez’s closest ally, easily won a third term in office. In neighboring Chile, voters discontented with four years of a center-right government elected leftist President Michelle Bachelet for her second, non-consecutive term. And in Uruguay this weekend, Tabaré Vázquez, the candidate of the Broad Front, a center-left coalition that has ruled for a decade, is expected to comfortably win a run-off vote. … The left’s formula for ongoing success has been a combination of economic growth, driven by exports of commodities like soy beans and oil, and a focus on improving the lives of the poor, through wealth redistribution and social programs. … When former President Chávez died last year, leftist governments across the Americas also lost their most charismatic and radical leader. But the staying power of leftist governments points to their huge progress in alleviating poverty while generally preferring moderation to upheaval, and resisting serious confrontation with the US. Leftist leaders have enjoyed so much success that even conservative candidates are finding they need to move the center to compete. … After Chávez’s 1998 election, the region transformed. The poverty rate in Latin America and the Caribbean dropped from 42 percent in 2000 to 25 percent in 2012, according to the World Bank. And today, for the first time, the middle class outnumbers the poor. Because of these successes, many opposition parties on the right are reluctant to dilute anti-poverty policies.”
Quickie Analysis: Venezuela’s government and economy are in serious trouble, but at least some leftist anti-poverty platforms really do work.