MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY – Amongst the different leftist governments in Latin America, there are new and rather strident populist regimes (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador), which seem to grab all the attention. But there is also a social-democratic strain to Latin American politics – a historical novelty in the region – that is gaining strength. In Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, social democracy is proving that it can work.
What distinguishes these social democratic governments from their populist counterparts is that they are composed of a left that is integrated into competitive, multi-party democracies. These social democrats were once part of a socialist, revolutionary, or reformist left, tightly allied with labor unions. But they ultimately accepted the market economy, and came to lean toward ideological moderation and to compete for votes in the political center. At the same time, motivated by their political competition and their own leftist ideology, these social democratic governments emphasize both economic growth and social inclusion.