Foreign Policy Digital

Is Populism Making a Comeback in Latin America?

Having rejected its demogogues just a few years ago, the region is now poised to welcome them back.

Predicting the future of Latin American politics is never easy. To paraphrase the 19th-century revolutionary Simón Bolívar, it is akin to plowing the sea. But even a casual glance over the political horizon should set alarm bells ringing. There is a real danger that outsiders with a stake in the region — from diplomats to global investors — are sleepwalking into 2018. Next year could herald the most consequential regional political realignment in a generation.

Nearly two out of three Latin Americans will choose a new leader over the next 12 months. Beginning in November, Chile, Paraguay, Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil and will each hold presidential elections (Venezuelans are also scheduled to vote, although Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorship is highly unlikely to allow a free or fair election). There are another eight Latin American elections scheduled in 2019.

There’s just one problem: It’s impossible to know which way these elections are going to go. At the moment, all of these countries feature pragmatic, moderate candidates at or near

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