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Latin American populism

Weak political systems

Latin America’s new generation of populists have inherited weakened political institutions and a dissatisfied electorate, critically one that has become receptive to broad anti-establishment messages. The background to this is the somewhat mixed outcomes of what has been called the ‘third wave’ of democratisation in Latin America, beginning with the collapse of authoritarian military regimes in the 1970s and 1980s. Many Latin American countries have now had three to four decades of continuous civilian democratic rule. This period has been marked by some major achievements (including middle class growth, poverty reduction, institutional resilience, comparatively high electoral participation rates, and higher representation of women in elected legislatures). But after a decade-long commodities boom (ending in 2012) economic difficulties have intensified, as have the problems of crime and corruption. There is a deep sense of malaise in the political system. As in a number of preceding years, 2019 saw angry protests in various Latin American countries (there were particularly powerful street protests and riots in the last quarter of 2019, sweeping across Ecuador, Chile, and Colombia).

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