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3 - Neoliberal and Right-Wing Populism in Latin America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 January 2024

Kurt Weyland
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
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Summary

This chapter documents the restrictive conditions under which rightwing, neoliberal populism managed to destroy democracy in Latin America. Only Alberto Fujimori in Peru (1990–2000) and Nayib Bukele in El Salvador (2019-present) have accomplished this feat because they benefited from institutional weaknesses of their countries’ presidential systems and, at the same time, managed to resolve two acute, severe crises, in the economy as well as in public security; this “miraculous” success earned them overwhelming political support, which they leveraged for dismantling the remaining checks and balances. Whereas Fujimori ended hyperinflation and defeated a countrywide guerrilla insurgency, presidents who resolved only one such crisis; who failed to overcome such a challenge; or who did not face a crisis at all, did not manage to still their power hunger and asphyxiate democracy. And whereas Bukele successfully contained the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and greatly lowered rampant gang violence, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro (2019–2022), who did not face such challenges, was unable to boost his mass support and therefore lost his reelection bid.

Type
Chapter
Information
Democracy's Resilience to Populism's Threat
Countering Global Alarmism
, pp. 74 - 116
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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