The Hardships of Populism in Latin America

Latin America’s current scenario is captured by the problems of three populist governments: Venezuela, Bolivia and Argentina. Are they winning or has their decline begun?

The best known hardships are the circumstances which Nicolas Maduro faces. The illegitimacy of his Government does not generate doubts: Additionally to the fraudulent nature of the elections which named him the winner, there are the actions of violence against the opposition members of the National Assembly, and the conditions of the economic situation. His recent tour of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina has demonstrated his need to buy support. He has undertaken the single argument to consolidate such support by guaranteeing the supply of fuel to these three countries. This would be the explanation of Dilma Rousseff’s and José Mugica’s behavior, unmoved before the clearly dictatorial and illegitimate figure of Maduro.

In Bolivia, the process of illegally dismantling the Constitution has also begun: while Evo Morales Justice has violated the Constitution to allow him a third Presidential term, prohibited by the same Constitution he imposed, the strikes and clashes of the largest Trade Union Central (COB) show the lack of support that his Government has from the population. Hundreds of detainees and dozens of wounded; the use of dynamite to destroy bridges and the use of police repression during popular demonstrations present nothing encouraging to the Bolivian Government.

The case of Argentina has different nuances.

In Argentina, the situation is more confused. The disorientation of the Government is notorious, and every week a new conflict or complaint seems to bring Cristina Kirchner to the point of no return. The majority in Congress still allows her  to dismiss claims about the subjugation of institutions, especially those relating to the freedom of the press and to an independent judicial system.

The "democratization" of the Judicial System directly impacts its independence; if the Government succeeds in imposing such reforms, the members of the Council of the Judiciary - responsible for appointing or dismissing qualified judges- will belong to the ruling party. At the same time, allegations of corruption of businessmen friends of the Government, affecting the President and his ministers given their connection, have reached an unusual level, and they show the impunity with which corruption evolves. The recent money laundering announced by the Government seems to point mainly to protect the corrupt and their proxies.

In spite of  getting sinking holes, every day the populist model in Argentina adopts irrational decisions, and its legislative majority seems to allow the President to go ahead with her decision of "going for everything".

Would it be possible to stop Kirchner? The opposition, beyond their claim, provides a sense of ineffectiveness and of lacking the ability to produce a valid alternative.

Paradoxically, the same Judicial Power, which is under “attack”, may stop her empowerment. If the laws that have just been sanctioned are declared unconstitutional, democracy in Argentina would have a chance to recover and begin a process which will confirm populism regression. 

Historically, no populist process has managed to consolidate itself long in time, and they are, perhaps by definition, very short-lived. Not only by the incompatibility of its own postulates and desired results, but because of the Government’s inability to administer. They can lead to a redistribution of wealth, but they are unable to create it, as are the cases of these three countries.

But this temporal limitation of populism shows two unresolved problems: on the one hand, the daily oppression imposed on the society, and on the other hand, the damage being caused to a system which sooner or later will need to recover.