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Latin American voters are not leftist; they are angry

John Price | Managing director - Americas Market Intelligence

Recent leftist victories in Peru and Chile elections have prompted the narrative that Latin America is suffering a socialist tidal wave. Such analysis is too simplistic in its construct, often originating from US media and Washington based Latin Americanists whose thinking is clouded by binary American politics.

Latin America’s elite, cut off from their own populations by their security-obsessed lifestyle, are guilty of the same left vs. right myopia. Campaigns that dare to address the obscene wealth, justice, and opportunity gaps in a given country are likened to a new brand Chavismo and discounted as a slippery slope towards Marxism.

If there is a pattern forming in Latin American elections, it is the rejection of political incumbents. What the elites fail to grasp is the extent to which COVID lockdown policies impoverished the middle & lower classes. Even now, in 2022, more than two-thirds of households are worse off than they were versus 2019.

Roughly a fourth have regained lost ground and a small elite (<10%) are better off 1

COVID has taken a brutal human toll on Latin America with over one million deaths. COVID lockdowns, some of the strictest worldwide, drove c. 40 million people into poverty and lowered the incomes of 500 million Latin Americans. The region’s admirable 30-year history of poverty reduction lost 15 years of progress in 2020.

When initiated, lockdowns were deemed the only viable response in Latin America where hospital infrastructure was (and still is) woefully inadequate and where 3-4 generations of families often cohabitate. But lengthy lockdowns destroyed the livelihoods of the informally employed, 60% of the workforce, who were ordered to stop working by a political class who continued to safely earn 100% of their pay from home and, worse yet, often enriched themselves during a period of record government spending. That is why citizens protested in over 15 countries and why frustrated voters will continue to ‘throw the bums (incumbents) out’ in 2022.



1 Americas Market Intelligence survey analysis – December 2021


John Pirice is managing director of Americas Market Intelligence.

ead this article and more in Latin Trade’s March 2022 magazine issue, by clicking here.


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