Expats in Latin America, keep a wary eye on your surroundings. I’m not sounding an alarm, but I don’t want anyone to be unaware that political sentiment, and consequently economic policy, are moving leftward in Latin America.
US News & World Report (January 30/February 6) has an article on “The Hugo Factor”, examining why Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is popular with many Venezuelans. In that article, and in an inset article about Chile’s President-elect Michelle Bachelet, the magazine mentions that “leftists of various flavors” have recently won the presidencies of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Bolivia. With Chávez in power in Venezula and strong leftist candidates in Mexico and Peru, it looks like nearly all of Latin America is moving to the left. Author Eduardo Cue cites several other authors and thinkers who opine that the swing may be a reaction to the economic hard times that came with the Asian currency depression. The thought is also expressed that whatever benefits there were from economic good times before the downturn were gobbled up by greedy oligarchies.
Chávez’ popularity is attributed to his attention to the poor, who traditionally have seen little benefit to upturns in the economy. Like Perón in Argentina, Chávez has provided services and benefits to those most in need, and they appreciate the favors. Isn’t it a wonder that Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and others–rich as they are in natural resources–aren’t rich in services and in personal buying power? Somebody (or a few somebodies in each case) is hoarding the wealth. It will bite them in the end. And expats had better be careful to see the bite coming.