Since President Trump came to White House, there were a lot of talks that basically revolved around “Latin Americanization” of the U.S. politics, as well as referring President Trump as a “the U.S.’s first Latin American president.” The reason for this comes thanks to Trump’s nationalist demagoguery and his “usage” of the prototype from the Latin American strongman – Caudillo. But, if you really think about this, far less has been said about the reverse phenomenon which is basically an increase of “Trumpism” in political practice in Latin America.
Latin America just recently left the political wilderness and thanks to that we see (at least, these two past years) right-wing candidates who became presidents in countries like Brazil, Argentina, and recently Chile. After years we now have conservative governments in Latin America’s leading economies. To set one thing straight here, these politicians have a thing or two that sets them apart from Trump – they are not impulsive, protectionist, or anti-establishment. But they also have something in common, Trump influence is seen through something like this recent nativism that borders on xenophobia and the sudden turn to evangelicals instead of Christians.
The similarities of these politicians with Trump extends to one more thing – both Argentina and Chile presidents Mauricio Macri and Sebastián Piñera are basically rich business people turned politicians who are applying their knowledge learned while dealing with their own business to the job of governing. Macri is the son of business tycoon Francisco Macri who earned his wealth in finance, construction, and sports, while Piñera (previously ruled Chile from 2010 to 2014) is one of the world’s wealthiest politicians, and he is worth $2.8 billion, according to Forbes.
The nativism that we mentioned earlier is pretty much similar to the Trump’s “America First,” and so far thanks to it we see a lot of loud anti-immigrant sentiments in Latin America’s ascendant right. To prove this, we point out to Rio de Janeiro Congressman Jair Bolsonaro (called the Brazilian Trump) who, very strongly, advocates that Haitian refugees in Brazil are “bringing diseases to the country.” If you recall, this is a lot similar to Trump’s reported claims that Haitians immigrating to the United States “all have AIDS.”
Continuance of this are Trumps claims that Mexico is sending “rapists” and “criminals” into the US, and this has traveled to Latin America where we now have presidents of Argentina and Chile advocating for curbing immigration. At a press conference where Macri announced a 2017 immigration order intended to stop immigrants coming into Argentina from Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay he stated: “We cannot continue to allow criminals to keep choosing Argentina as a place to commit offenses.” His colleague Piñera also stood out with something similar. During Chile’s 2017 presidential campaign, after a big wave of immigrants from Haiti and Venezuela, Piñera basically criticized Chilean immigration laws and accused them of “importing problems like delinquency, drug trafficking, and organized crime.”
Argentine legislator Alfredo Olmedo, in February, basically copied Trump and made all the headlines when he delivered a proposal for a wall to be built to keep people from poorer Latin American nations from entering Argentina. Thanks to an article from Guardian we have Olmedo’s statement here – “I am 100 percent with Trump. I know that border very well and a wall is the solution. We have to build a wall.” Just like in the US this proposal was received with divided opinions. Some received it with opened hands, while others criticised it. One of the critics was Bolivian President Evo Morales who took his opinion to Twitter where he wrote: “We can’t be following the example of the north and its policies, building walls to divide us.”
Besides all of this, we also mentioned the fact that Latin American right is embracing social conservatism now more than ever and it is best seen in Brazil where we have a very rapid growing evangelical population despite the fact that Brazil is the world’s largest Catholic nation. Around 30% Brazilians now claim an evangelical identity which is a huge spike from around 10% who were there last three decades. If you are asking yourself just how mighty evangelical leaders can be, just remember that they were behind the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, on corruption charges in 2016, just after they grew tired of her party’s social liberalism, support for abortion, LGBT rights, and s*x education. The same evangelicals stand behind the administration of Michel Temer, Rousseff’s right-wing successor. If you recall the scandal in 2016, then you know that Temer was accused of being a Satanist. Evangelical leaders rushed to his aid and released a video message over social media to the world that he is not a Satanist. To repay for their support, Temer named several evangelical leaders to his Cabinet.
The right-wing populism turn that hit Latin America is basically everywhere, and its wave is making its way through the United States and Western Europe. It has its roots buried deep, and it is everywhere where we have discontent with globalization, open borders, the “establishment,” and multilateral organizations like European Union. What is a bit “strange” is that we have this movement appear Latin America, where the right all but disappeared from many Latin American countries mainly to their association with military dictatorships during the 1970s and 1980s. Thanks to that fact all of this is a bit of a homegrown phenomenon, and it will be interesting to see where it will lead to?
Since Brazil, Chile, and Argentina were ruled by the left-wing for years until now, it is not a surprise that this movement got hit with a bit of fatigue and pretty much got swept by the right-wing populism. The fatigue that the left-wing experienced got intensified by the economic slowdown created by the end of a China-fuelled commodities boom and all of those corruption scandals that boomed during their reign. One thing we are certain about is that Latin America’s newly elected right-wing governments do not have to pull hard to the right when it comes to economics at least. The reason is that the left already implemented a lot of the traditional economic playbook of the right – mainly privatizations and austerity measures. Plus, there are pressures that both Macri and Piñera face from the opposition in Congress by left-wing parties that will not give them a lot of liberty.
All in all, the left is surely down, but they are not out for good. They still reign in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela and in the next presidential cycle they may appear in Mexico as well. This could be seen as a temporary rest until the time for the left-wingers comes again. We will have to wait and see.