It’s too early to tell if a conservative victory in Ecuador is a defeat in Latin American populism


Guillermo Lasso’s upset victory in Ecuador’s April 11 presidential election may not mark the beginning of a shift to the right in ideology in Latin America, but it is certainly a populist in the region. Is a setback for the leftist government.

Few believed that conservative bankers would win. He was 20 percentage points behind in a poll six weeks before the victory. To make matters worse, he was running on a professional, anti-populist platform in a country devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, Lasso repackaged the campaign in the second round, abandoning its conservative image by appealing to young voters, gays and minorities, and won 52% of the votes. His rival and leftist economist Andres Arauz, a 36-year-old disciple of former populist president Rafael Correa, earned 47 percent.

After his victory, Lasso vowed to become a “big ally” of the United States. He respected Ecuador’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund and said he would not invite Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro to his inauguration.

Some analysts rush to conclude that Lasso’s victory could be the beginning of a series of victories by professional business candidates who could shift the political map of Latin America to the right. I will. In the last three years, leftist and populist candidates have won in Bolivia, Argentina and Mexico.

Predictors of a shift to the right in the region say that right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori is likely to be elected in Peru’s June 6 final vote following Lasso’s victory.

According to informal results, Fujimori came in second in Peru’s first vote (also April 11), against the radical leftist Pedro Castillo, who wants to nationalize mining companies and regulate the media. In the first vote, most Peruvians voted for pro-market candidates.

In addition, if the left-wing party is as split as it is now, a pro-business candidate could win the Chilean elections later this year, and Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro said he would manage the COVID. If possible, it could be reelected next year-19 pandemics, the theory of shifting to the right goes.

However, it is unclear if Lasso’s victory in Ecuador will be reproduced throughout the region.

He benefited from the split of the left and widespread abstentions among the indigenous peoples in Ecuador’s second election. Left-wing indigenous leader Yak Perez, who finished third in the first round of voting, did not support the candidates for the final vote and urged many of his followers to stay home.

Lasso also began voting in the last few weeks of the campaign. With the advice of his image maker, Haimedura Barba, he began to downplay conservative rhetoric.

In a post-election interview, Durand Barba told me that what happened in Ecuador was decided by a young man who didn’t care much about ideology and shouldn’t be seen through a left-to-right ideological lens. He told me that Lasso won primarily thanks to the successful “meme drop” of the campaign and the sound bite on social media.

Lasso’s statement to rivals in the debate, “Andre, there is no Mientas Otra Beth” “Andre, don’t lie again”, which lingers in Spanish, quickly became a hot topic on Ecuadorian social media and became the most repeated phrase in the country in the last few days of the campaign. Andres Arauz captured the perception among the Ecuadorians that he was a candidate who constantly changed positions and lied, Durand Barba said.

But when I asked if a professional business candidate would win in Peru, Durand Barba said he wasn’t sure. Like Ecuador, most young Peruvians don’t care about ideological labels, and even the ghosts of radical leftist sympathy for Venezuela and Cuba don’t contribute much, he said. ..

“Peru is chaotic and anything can happen,” said Duranbarba. “Anyone who gets a good advisory team to help him or her connect with people can win.”

In summary, Lasso’s victory in Ecuador is good news for those of us who have experienced the disastrous consequences of populism in Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and other countries and believe that long-term poverty reduction is not possible without investment. is.

But the Latin American election season has just begun. It is too early to predict regional trends. For now, let’s just say that Latin America’s 2021 political season began with an overwhelming defeat of populism, at least in Ecuador.

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