jair bolsonaro MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP/Getty Images

Is Latin America Facing a Wave of Right-Wing Populism?

Many observers now argue that the wave of right-wing populism that has engulfed the US and much of Europe is headed for Latin America. But, while their concern does have some merit, there are key differences between the Latin American – and even Brazilian – context and that of Europe and the US.

SANTIAGO – On October 7, roughly 46% of the Brazilian electorate voted for Jair Bolsonaro for president. This means that almost 50 million Brazilians endorsed a politician espousing radical right-wing populist rhetoric, marked by authoritarianism, xenophobia, and misogyny. Does Bolsonaro’s success portend a new era of radical right-wing politics in Latin America?

The Brazilian election result is certainly cause for concern. Though Bolsonaro, who has a military background, was the frontrunner, few thought he would win more than 40% of the vote in the first round. Instead of a tight runoff between Bolsonaro and Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party (PT) that ends with Haddad winning, it seems likely that Bolsonaro will be Brazil’s next president.

Many observers now argue that the wave of right-wing populism that has engulfed the United States and much of Europe is headed for Latin America, where conditions are ripe for populist politicians to thrive. But, while their concern does have some merit, there are key differences between the Latin American – and even Brazilian – context and that of Europe and the US.

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