Monday’s Mtg: Why Is the Left Ascendant in Latin America?

I’m way short on time this week, but we have not discussed anything south of the border for a long time, except immigration, which, as with everything in the world, Americans view as all about us.  I’ll bet few Americans even knew that left-wing political parties have been winning a lot of elections all over Latin America in recent years until some of them flirted with offering asylum to Edward Snowden a few months ago.

On Monday, I’ll open by giving a few bare-bones details of where Leftish political parties have done well in recent years in Latin America.  I don’t know many details.  Latin America is a real blind spot of mine.  Fortunately, Bruce follows world events much more closely than me and John M. used to work on Central American issues, so we can lean on them for expertise.

In discussion, I hope we can focus on something related to all of this that all lf us can have an opinion about, even if we know next to nothing about, you know, Bolivian politics and Hugo Chaves’ political legacy.  Why do the poorest of the global poor sometimes still support leftist political parties?  What is their appeal?  Do they deliver on their concrete promises to improve the lives of marginalized Latin Americans, or is the attraction symbolic?  Do any of these reasons apply to the United States?  Here are a few discussion questions to get at this notion, plus a few links if you want to learn about the rise of the Left in the region in the last decade.

Discussions Questions –

  1. Which Latin American countries have elected leftist governments lately?
  2. Why?  What failures of governance by other political parties/ideologies – real or imagined – led to this shift?
  3. What have those governments done while in power?  Have they delivered on their promises?
  4. It’s been said that historically there have been two Lefts in Latin America: A social democratic Left, and an authoritarian “hard” left.  Which are these?  Did they start as the former and turn into the latter (think Hugo Chavez)?  Why?  Was this inevitable or preventable?
  5. Why do left-wing politics appeal to so many Latin Americans?  Poverty?  Social injustice?  Racism (I’ll explain – the region has a very sharp “color line” that’s a major factor in its politics).
  6. How does having Latin America run by leftist governments affect the United States?  What’s it to us?  What’s really different for our interests?
  7. Are there any lessons for U.S. politics, or are we just too different from, say, a place like Bolivia for any parallels?

Links –

NEXT WEEK:  Our new schedule starts off with a bang –  “Do Big Corporations Deserve All the Criticisms They Get?”


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