COHA Report: Rebirth of Latin American populism poses challenge for neoliberal order


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COHA Senior Research Fellow Dr. W. John Green is a historian of modern Latin America, who specializes in 20th century sociopolitical popular mobilizations, mechanisms and practices of local and national practices, labor and insurgent movements, and the obstacles and repression they face. Formerly a bi-weekly columnist for Colombia Week, he spent time in Colombia as a Fullbright Fellow. He has also lived and traveled throughout Latin America over a period of almost 25 years, from Mexico to the Southern Cone, as a researcher, and occasional journalist. For a full biography on Dr. Green please click here.

History may never repeat itself, but some patterns have a tenacious staying power. Latin America’s populist political movements, as today’s genera represented by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela would exemplify, display a recurring vigor which is not all that mysterious. On the one hand, powerful elites continue to dominate the region’s economic and political structures. In the context of more than two decades of recent neoliberal economic initiatives, the rich have become much richer, and everyone else has tended to fall steadily behind. Social justice throughout the region is at best spotty, and often tends to be little more than an elusive fantasy or the prospected gift of blowhards. On the other hand, Latin America’s less-favored inhabitants remain decidedly unsatisfied with the status quo, and indeed, see it as a noxious growth that must be cut at the root. The above are textbook conditions for the rise of populism.