Rise Of Leftist Government In Latin America

Since 1998 there has been a sharp rise of leftist parties in Latin America, which has bewildered many analysts. Latin America has always been a region where the right dominated for decades before the recent rise, so the suddenness of the leftist rise has taken many by surprise. In 2005, the BBC reported that 75% of the population in Latin America lived under a left-leaning leader.

Cold War

The fall of the Soviet Union is often cited as a reason for the recent flourishing of leftist government in Latin America. During the cold war the US worked against any left leaning Latin America government to stop the spread of communism.

Many times the US would take matters into its own hands by overthrowing democratically elected governments, and often times replacing them with dictatorships. Examples of such are Brazil in 1964, Chile from 1970-1973 and Guatemala in 1954. All of these governments that were overthrown were politically aligned to the left.

As a result of this, a negative perception of leftists was created in the minds of Latin Americans, whose support in leftist parties dropped dramatically. This also enabled right wing parties to crush any leftist ideologies under the guise of stopping the spread of communism.

Economic Woes

The economies of most Latin American countries were in despair during the mid-1990s; unemployment was rife with most jobs being in the service sector such as cleaning and were low paying. Many small and medium sized businesses collapsed due to competition from corporations which led to downwards mobility forcing middle class people to undertake low paying work.

These factors played a huge role in worsening economic conditions to such an extent that the real industrial wage and minimum wage both fell below 1980 levels. This increased the likelihood of people falling into poverty than it had been in any preceding decade.

Due to the economic turmoil, government expenditure was cut which meant that there was little social security for the population. This, compounded with the rising unemployment and the shrinking of the middle class, created social unrest amongst the populace.

As a result the population grew tired of the actions of their government and sought alternatives, which they did by voting in left-leaning governments. As a result of this poverty in Latin America has dropped from 43.4% in 2000 to 23.3% in 2011.

Latin America’s support for leftist government, one can argue, has always been there but due to world politics during the cold war, the support was damaged due to outside interferences. This, along with economic woes, has given a huge resurgence for left leaning parties to come back into power.