Wednesday, February 22, 2017

‘Results, not ideology’: The latest placard in Latin American politics


We’ve noticed a couple of things about Latin America:
1) The left is losing steam.  The old lefties are dead, such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez.  Some lefties are getting impeached (Brazil) or thrown out (Argentina).  Maduro in Venezuela can’t inspire anybody.  Evo Morales in Bolivia is not the charmer he used to be.
2) Voters are more focused on results than ideology.
Let’s look at a couple of countries, a very small one and the largest GDP south of the border.
Down in Ecuador, we see how socialism is out of money, as in this report from The New York Times:
 
As in Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil, the social programs in Ecuador that lifted millions out of poverty were underwritten by a commodities boom that sputtered out years ago. 
Government revenue, around $25 billion a year when oil prices spiked, has now shrunk to less than half that, $11 billion, mainly because of the declining price of oil.
That has left the country heavily indebted to China. 
Ecuador’s economy ground to a halt last year after growing, on average, 4 percent or more from 2006 to 2014.
“The model has reached its end because the money has run out,” said César Robalino, a conservative banker at the Pichincha College of Economists in Quito.
Mr. Robalino said Ecuador’s next president, regardless of political affiliation, would need to take a tougher line on spending, reduce the number of government workers and cut subsidies like the ones used to reduce gas prices for all Ecuadoreans.
Ecuador is a very small country, but it is the canary in the coal mine.  The left no longer has the revenues to pay for all of these social programs, whether we are talking about Brazil or Argentina or even Mexico, where oil prices have had a much bigger impact than Mr. Trump on the peso.
Over in Brazil, there’s even talk of a “Trump,” or new 70-something President Temer.  They say he is riding a right-wing backlash after an era of leftist rule.  His 33-year-old former model and tall wife draws a lot of comparisons to Mrs. Trump.
Time will tell whether President Temer, a man associated with a lot of the corruption, can pull off a “Trump” in Brazil.  My guess is that he won’t, but the movement is there, waiting for a leader.
Nevertheless, there is something happening in Brazil as expressed by Lucas de Aragão of the Brasilia-based consulting firm Arko:
“It’s an anti-status-quo sentiment, just like Brexit and Trump,” Aragão said, “but I don’t think it’s about ideology as much as a lack of results.” 
It’s all about results rather than ideology!  Where have we heard that before?  It could be the start of something good and long overdue in Latin America.   
P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

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