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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Beatrice Rangel: Across Latin America, The Populist Beat Goes On!!

By Beatrice E. Rangel

Sunday, October 26th, was election day for more than one emblematical country in the world: Tunisia, the Arab Spring trigger held parliamentary elections. Ukraine, the Western party popper and halter of the European dream to extend the shores of the Old Continent into Eurasia also held parliamentary elections.

In the Maghreb, political impact of results upon democratization remains to be seen as coalitions are still being formed. In Ukraine, pro-western forces while reaching a clear and uncontestable majority need to face a faction of citizens that are willing to give their lives and scrap that of others to be part of the Russian Motherland. In short, in the eastern hemisphere elections merely confirmed the status quo.

South America’s presidential elections were staged in Brazil and Uruguay.

Elections in the land of Pele were wrapped in desperate dreams of change. The increasing ineptitude of civil servants which render public services useless and wasteful; the simmering cost of living, particularly in the big cities; pervasive corruption and a the spectacle of rushing constructors to finish a ruinous plan of public works for the disappointing Soccer World Cup had worn the national patience thin.

This explains the elevation of Marina Silva in the days prior to the first round. Silva is known as wonder woman in light of her incredible capacity to make things happen. The brutal character assassination campaign unleashed by President Rousseauf and her followers against Silva however made many weary of the capacity for self redemption in any PT born politician. And this, of course, gave reason to those that claim women to be more cruel with their peers than with men.

When Silva was left out of the presidential run and Neves became the runoff contender, Rousseauf gave her campaign a more sophisticated twist. “New times New ideas” became the self proclaimed goal for Rousseauf’s second chance in government. And a strong effort to disqualify Neves' managerial track record was made with dubious results as many voters who had little knowledge about his achievements ended supporting the former governor.

And while Brazilians -- like 19th century Americans -- care little for the rest of the world, the foreign policy debate was less than beneficial for PT. In a country where interest in Latin America does not surpass 12% of the population while interest in the US and Europe is stuck at a healthy 80%, Marco Aurelio Garcia boasted about the great inroads made in bringing Latin America closer to Brazil, particularly Cuba. Next, Garcia claimed as a success the weakening of Itamaraty, the legendary Brazilian Foreign Minister ranked before PT times as second only to UK’s Foreign Office and an object of national pride since the times of the Rio Branco Baron. His contender Ambassador Rubens Barbosa must have been seen by the extensive TV audience following the debate as Percival the Rescuer of the Holy Grail facing Kilgharrah the deadly dragon.

Meanwhile, President Lula, the Michael Jagger of Brazilian politics, is beginning to show signs of intemperance. His depiction of adversaries as Nazis or Herods was at the very least inelegant.

So while the country will continue to dance to the PT tunes for four more years, the orchestra seems to be losing members.

At least that is what one can see in the numbers. The PT won the presidency by 22.6% in 2002, 21.6% in 2006, 12.2% in 2010, but only 3.3% in 2014.

In addition, the PT and its allies in the PMDB have experienced a drop in their congressional representation going from 91 seats in 2002 to 70 now - from 18% of the Chamber of Deputies to just 13.6% now. The PMDB-PT alliance on its part had one third of the Chamber in 2010 while today it holds 26%. Opposition parties have increased over the past 8 years. But the true question for 2018 is who will take over in light of the erosion of Lula and Rousseauf? So far the answer is rhetorical.

In Uruguay, the first round already gives us indications as to who will be the next head of state there. Undoubtedly and short of a severe political gaffe, Tabare Vasquez will return to the presidency. And while this spells endurance to the so-called populist leaning regimes in South America, the truth is that Tabare Vasquez is no leftie - at least not concerning domestic economic policies.

To his mind, fiscal virtue is the best recipe to nurture middle classes while leveled playing fields are the best attraction to foreign direct investment. And as their southernmost neighbor continues to slip into bankruptcy, Uruguay’s healthy financial system has new opportunities to attract capital inflows.

So while the populist beat goes on in Brazil and Uruguay, it is now being tempered by an invigorating dash of blues!!!

Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet series

Beatrice Rangel: Oh My, The Patron of the Eternal Feminine Has Left Us!!!

Beatrice Rangel: Communism from China to Cuba Finds Corruption!!!

Beatrice Rangel: From Rio to Hong Kong Discontent Taps the East to Find a New Way

Beatrice Rangel: Will Latin America Miss the Broadband Development Target?

Beatrice Rangel: Kissinger’s World Order and Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: The Third Attempt -- Will Modernity Prevail in Latin America?

Rangel: While US is Away, Latin America Rethinks Development Paths

Rangel: In the Midst of Riots, a Star is Born in Brazil

Rangel: In Mexico Cinderella Gets to the Ball while Colombia Gets a Chance at Peace

Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.

For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.

You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.

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