LAGUNA BEACH – From changes in government in Argentina and Brazil to mid-course policy corrections in Chile, Latin American politics appears to be undergoing a rightward shift. But rather than being “pulled” by the attractiveness of the economic policies that the right is advocating, this complex phenomenon is predominantly a reflection of the “push” implied by anemic growth and the disappointing provision of public goods, especially social services.
Indeed, we can think of the shift as a Latin American variant of the West’s blossoming romance with anti-establishment movements. And that means that the region’s governments must be seen to deliver to their citizens. Otherwise, the shift will prove to be only a stop on an uncertain path – politically more complicated and economically harder to navigate – toward an even less stable destination.
The evidence of the ongoing political change comes in many forms. After years of fiscally irresponsible populist rule by the Kirchner family, Argentina has opted for Mauricio Macri, a former businessman running on a right-wing platform. In Brazil, and pending final consideration by the Senate, President Dilma Rousseff has been sidelined by a “temporary impeachment,” with her replacement signaling a shift away from the policies of the leftist Workers’ Party.
Even incumbent governments in the region are altering their course. In Chile, President Michelle Bachelet was reelected, but her government is signaling a move to the right on economic policy. Cuba, under President Raúl Castro, is enlarging the legal scope for private businesses.