f_0016626_14368 - Turning to the Left Understanding Some...

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The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations Turning to the Left? Understanding Some Unexpected Events in Latin America by Carlos M. Vilas A rgentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela are currently ruled by governments that are typically considered to be on the left of the political spectrum due to their progressive, reformist stances. Together, these states account for almost two thirds of Latin America’s population and roughly half of its combined GDP. In the 2006 presidential election in Mexico, the candidate who shared the political views of the aforementioned states was defeated by less than 1 percent in a contested turnout. There is stark contrast between the current political landscape in Latin America and that of the preceding decades, a time in which most of the region seemed politically committed to implementing drastic macroeconomic and institutional reforms inspired by the so-called “Washington Consensus.” “Market democracy” was the name of the game, highlighting the combination of representative democracy, enacting market-friendly reforms and an open exposure to the trends and forces of an increasingly globalized international arena. In the field of democratic theory market democracies were interpreted as the successful result of democratic consolidation that followed the transitional stages from military regimes to liberalized states such as Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil. After numerous economic crises and social unrest followed the electoral success of a number of reformist-platform parties, replacing the groups who had implemented the socioeconomic models of the 1990’s in place. The deterioration of many of Latin America’s market democracies seemed to have surprised many in the academic, media, and financial fields as well as the policy makers in the developed world. Nationalism, state-sponsored development, and government controlled market regulation replaced the earlier market reform agendas. To a large extent the typical remarks and hypotheses surrounding these government changes and future expectations appear to be based more on skepticism than an objective analysis of facts and trends. Carlos M. Vilas is an Argentine political scientist and Graduate Studies Professor at Universidad Nacionnal de Lanús. He was formerly the Under-Secretary for Domestic Security in Argentina. 115
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VILAS The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations The central purpose of this article is to briefly discuss some of the features of these political phenomena, paying particular attention to both the reciprocal differences and common traits, as well putting forward the elements for a basic understanding of the current situation in a number of Latin American—primarily South American—societies. The main conclusion of this exercise is that the new Left-wing reformism in Latin America has risen in response to several decades of neo-liberal economic and social reforms under the aegis of the Washington
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f_0016626_14368 - Turning to the Left Understanding Some...

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