OPINION

Newly installed Colombian President Gustavo Petro. Photo: Google

By SILVIO CANTO, JR.

Am I happy that Latin American nations are electing leftists? Of course not, but it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Down in Chile, leftist President Gabriel Boric, who came to power in March of this year, is already struggling in the polls. He is learning that changing a country’s constitution is complicated, especially if your message is divisive and economically risky.

Over in Colombia, newly sworn in leftist President Gustavo Petro will soon have to face reality as well, inlcuding slow economic growth rates, high levels of corruption, entrenched inequality, inadequate health and education services, and poor infrastructure. Add to this a faltering peace process with former insurgents and a history of bad relations with Venezuela, and things are likely to get ugly fast.

Yes, political honeymoons are turning out to be shortlived for the Latin American left.

As the Financial Times (FT) pointed out in an editorial on Sunday, Aug. 7, “the experience of Petro’s ideological soulmates in Chile, Peru and Argentina offer useful lessons.”

The first of those lessons, the Finanical Times said, is: “to avoid interpreting their recent electoral success as a triumph of socialism or an invitation to repeat the failed state-centric economic policies of the early 2000s. Instead of voting for fresh ideas, Latin Americans have been voting against incumbent governments.”

“Most of the region’s sitting presidents were conservatives, so a change of guard inevitably means a shift left, a trend which began with Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s victory in Mexico in 2018,” it said.

“Reasons for discontent abound: living standards are falling, the state is failing to deliver and the best opportunities are too often reserved for a privileged few. The pandemic exacerbated social tensions. As a result, presidential honeymoons are short and expectations almost impossibly high. The perils for new leaders are obvious: The presidents of Chile and Peru have seen their approval ratings collapse in a matter of months because they disappointed impatient voters.”

The FT column went on to note that “in Argentina, the incumbents facing a drubbing at the polls next year are on the left,” because, in the end, voters care more about results than ideology.

Yes, governing is tough, especially when the elected leaders misread public sentiments.

It turns out that Latin American voters were angry at incumbents, particularly after the covid-19 pandemic.

The left exploited that anger and promised a lot — a lot that they cannot deliver.

And now the honeymoons are over and the voters are angry with the left for failing to deliver, as seen in Peru, Chile and Argentina.

How long will President Petro’s honeymoon last? Not long, especially if he listens to his “three amigos” in Lima, Santiago and Buenos Aires.

Silvio Canto, Jr. is a Cuban-born U.S. citizen who teaches English at a north Texas college. He is the author of the book “Cubanos in Wisconsin” and has a daily online radio program and blog dealing with U.S. and Latin American politics, as well as sports and historic events, and is a regular contributor to American Thinker.

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