New Political Winds in Latin America
There is a growing consensus among Latin American diplomats that new political winds are blowing in the region -- after a decade of radical leftist populism, we are entering a new era of centrist pragmatism.
Are such forecasts right? Let's look at the evidence.
There is no question that
Chávez's checkbook diplomacy and radical populist rhetoric served him well when oil prices reached record highs and his message sounded like a break with the corruption of the past at the start of his presidency 11 years ago.
But today, with oil prices at nearly half their record highs in 2008,
In addition, recent elections in
In what may be a sign of the times, Chávez did not attend the
A high-ranking Latin American diplomat told me that Chávez's absence surprised many at the summit of 60 heads of state. Until recently, Chávez, who attended the previous five bi-regional summits, ``would have never missed such an important stage'' to try to steal the show, he said.
More recently, when Chávez visited
What's just as telling, even Chávez's closes allies seem to be trying to hedge their bets.
PRAGMATISM IS IN
Asked about this,
Chávez may have a financial cushion big enough to maintain his increasingly authoritarian democracy -- or elected dictatorship -- at home, but his days as the key player in
His regional clout has always been directly proportional to oil prices, and the price of oil has fallen from the
As I've written before, the pendulum of Latin American politics tends to change every 10 years: in the 1970s, the region's political map was sprinkled with military dictatorships; in the 1980s, with center-left democracies; in the 1990s, with center-right, pro-free market governments; and in the 2000s, with leftist populist leaders. The next decade may well belong to centrist pragmatists.
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