Ecuador's Election Shows Why Left Continues Winning in Hard Times
A few months ago I ran into an economist who was formerly head of the Bolivian Central Bank in the
I didn't agree about
In all of these countries the vast majority of the mass media, to varying degrees, shares the opposition's agenda and in many cases appears willing to present an overly pessimistic or even catastrophic scenario in order to help advance the cause.
But despite the worsening of the world and regional economy, the left keeps winning in
There are a number of reasons that most Ecuadorians might stick with their president, despite what they hear on the TV news. Some 1.3 million of
Correa has delivered on other promises that were important to his constituents, not least of which was a referendum allowing for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution, which voters approved by a nearly two-thirds majority. It is seen as one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, with advances in the rights of indigenous people, civil unions for gay couples, and a novel provision of rights for nature. The latter would apparently allow for lawsuits on the basis of damage to an ecosystem.
Many thought Correa was joking when he said during his presidential campaign that he would be willing to keep the
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In fact, most of Latin America is going through a democratic transition that is likely to prove every bit as important as the one that brought an end to the dictatorships that plagued many countries through the first four decades of the post-World War II era. Ironically, the region's economic performance was vastly better in the era of the dictatorships, because the governments of that era generally had more effective economic policies than the formally democratic but neoliberal governments that replaced them.
A few years ago there were fears, backed by polling data, that people would become nostalgic for the days of real (not imagined) authoritarian governments because of the much greater improvements in living standards during that era. Instead, they chose to vote for left governments who extended democracy from politics to economic and social policy.
The left governments have mostly succeeded where their neoliberal predecessors failed. Partly they have benefited from an acceleration in world economic growth during most of the last five years. But they have also changed their economic policies in ways that increased economic growth. Argentina's economy grew more than 60 percent in six years and Venezuela's by 95 percent. These are enormous growth rates even taking into account these countries' prior recessions, and allowed for large reductions in poverty. Left governments have also taken greater control over their natural resources (Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela) and delivered on their promises to share the income from these resources with the poor.
This is the way democracy is supposed to work: people voted for change and got quite a bit of what they voted for, with reasonable expectations of more to come. We should not be surprised if most Latin American voters stick with the left through hard times. Who else is going to defend their interests?