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ONE The states of Latin America: between rhetoric and pragmatism Introduction The most eye-catching state-level phenomenon following the dawn of the new millennium in Latin America has probably been the rise of governments generally identified as socialist and progres- sive, which prioritize a social agenda. The electoral earthquake which has rocked Latin America during the past decade, casting out stalwart proponents of 1990s neoliberalism in favour
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  ONE The states of Latin America: between rhetoric and pragmatism Introduction The most eye-catching state-level phenomenon following the dawn of the new millennium in Latin America has probably been the rise of governments generally identified as socialist and progres-sive, which prioritize a social agenda. The electoral earthquake which has rocked Latin America during the past decade, casting out stalwart proponents of 󰀱󰀹󰀹󰀰s neoliberalism in favour of those with a distinct social and populist rhetoric, began in 󰀱󰀹󰀹󰀸 with the election of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and continued until 󰀲󰀰󰀱󰀱 with Ollanta Humala’s victory in Peru. This phenomenon, bringing left-leaning parties and candidates into government, was dubbed the ‘pink tide’. This colour signals a stark difference from the traditional Latin American socialist parties of the 󰀱󰀹󰀶󰀰s and 󰀱󰀹󰀷󰀰s, deeply ideological movements linked in various ways and in varying degrees to Marxism-Leninism, which could thus be defined as ‘red’. In spite of their common progressive intentions and commitment to fighting social inequality in their respective countries, leaders such as Lula in Brazil, the Kirchners in Argentina or Bachelet in Chile share no clear common ideology, certainly not a Marxist one. Instead, their progressive and nationalist rhetoric is mixed with wide-ranging pragmatism in both internal and – usually – international affairs. Their imprint, perhaps most accurately described as broadly social-democratic, has brought the left in contemporary Latin America closer to a pink colouring.Nonetheless, this wave is much less unusual and, significantly, less homogeneous than at first sight. This wave of ideological conform-ism, if it can be called such – and there are serious doubts in this regard – is not unprecedented in nature or in breadth. The neoliberal  The states of Latin America | 󰀷 era of the 󰀱󰀹󰀸󰀰s and 󰀱󰀹󰀹󰀰s probably had a stronger and, it appears at present, longer-lasting practical impact than the pink tide. The diffusion of neoliberal ideology and economic policies in Latin America was much deeper, wider and more homogeneous than the pink tide. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the triumph of the Western democratic political model and market economy, all Latin American countries (and others besides) wholeheartedly and consistently embraced the neoliberal doctrine. In the second half of the 󰀱󰀹󰀹󰀰s all of the countries in Latin America with the exception of Cuba had neoliberal governments. The crisis of this same model and its inability to solve the long-standing problems of Latin American underdevelopment, including grave social inequality, sparked counter-reactions in the form of total rejection (Chávez) or adaptation and evolution (Lula and Bachelet).The pink tide is therefore neither homogeneous nor linear. 1  It is neither a hard-and-fast phenomenon nor a consistent turn to the left. Rather than the simplified version of facts portrayed by mass media, we are in fact dealing with several complex political phenomena, each shaped by different historical, political and economic factors specific to the respective countries. At times, the actors and parties grouped under the collective umbrella of the ‘pink tide’ are worlds apart. Furthermore, there remain a number of governments in Latin America which can be defined as centre-right (such as those in Mexico, Colombia and certain Central American countries), and in reality many of the so-called ‘pink’ governments employ economic policies which are not dissimilar from those of neoliberalism (Lula in Brazil, Kirchner in Argentina and Bachelet in Chile). In political practices, there are striking differences among these perceived ‘pink tide’ administrations. These differences span from the concept of the state and its role in the economy, to policies promoting democracy, good governance and transparency, to the breadth and nature of involvement in social affairs and foreign policy positions. Finally, there are the sometimes considerable differences between practice and rhetoric, between what leaders say they want to do and what they actually do, and between good intentions and the structural limitations of the domestic and international landscapes.This chapter specifically examines five case studies: Brazil,  󰀸  | One  Argentina, Chile, Venezuela and Bolivia. These cases are essential for an understanding of the dynamics of contemporary Latin America. This is followed by an overview of the rest of Latin America in order to provide a comprehensive portrayal of the problems and proposed solutions and to assess the impact of the pink tide upon the present and future of the continent. The analysis covers the past twenty to thirty years, a sufficiently extended period to contextualize situations historically without losing emphasis on the transition from the 󰀱󰀹󰀹󰀰s neoliberal model to the counter-reaction of the twenty-first century. Brazil Brazil has the largest territory and population of all Latin American countries. It has often been taken as a point of refer-ence politically and culturally by other nations in the area but has been reluctant to take a clear regional leadership role so far. Brazil has long had reason to expect a glorious future. The country has considerable assets, including mineral deposits, an abundant oil supply, fertile soil where practically anything can be cultivated, rich biodiversity and enviable woodland and fresh water resources. Recent offshore oil discoveries may soon convert Brazil into a major oil-exporting country. However, it also has considerable problems: widespread poverty, one of the worst inequality indexes in the world, high crime rates, malnutrition and poor levels of education, limitations on democracy and corruption. These weaknesses have all kept the ‘country of the future’ out of reach for almost two hundred years since its independence. Now, the future could be close at hand, and Brazil is preparing to become a world power, at least at the economic level.After around twenty years of dictatorship, Brazil returned to demo cracy in 󰀱󰀹󰀸󰀵 and can now claim to be a stable democratic regime. In comparison to the other military governments of South America, the Brazilian dictatorship was relatively mild, with a much cleaner record on violence and human rights abuse than those of nearby Chile or Argentina. In addition, the military regime attempted to uphold a semblance of legality and institutional le-gitimacy, and left behind an industrial structure and culture which were unparalleled in the rest of Latin America. Whether or not the  The states of Latin America | 󰀹 price to pay in terms of foreign debt and civil and social repression was just or accept able is another question. Yet despite these relative advantages in comparison to other countries, democracy was not established easily.The first democratic administration (󰀱󰀹󰀸󰀵–󰀹󰀰), led by President Sarney, was characterized by both political and economic instabil-ity. Its main priorities were consolidating democracy and fighting inflation, a deep-seated problem in Brazil which continued to stunt economic growth. A new democratic constitution was approved in 󰀱󰀹󰀸󰀸, but unfortunately contained elements which would hinder the control of public debt and the democratic governability of the country. In the economic domain, Sarney introduced a stabilization plan which brought in a new currency and froze prices, wages and exchange rates. The short-term results were superb, but the inflexibility of this plan and the government’s inability to adapt it over time led to economic overheating. After a couple of years the economy was in an even worse state than before. Towards the end of Sarney’s mandate inflation passed the 󰀱,󰀰󰀰󰀰 per cent threshold and poor economic growth combined with deep, enduring social divisions triggered a major crisis. 2  This had a negative impact on the economy and caused a worrying fragmentation of political parties. Although the democratic regime maintained a fair record in terms of legitimacy and popular support for its first attempt, the same cannot be said for the progress made in the economic and social sectors.In 󰀱󰀹󰀹󰀰 a young and relatively unknown governor from a back-water state in the poor north-east was sworn in as head of state. Fernando Collor de Mello was able to exploit influential friendships, media power, political fragmentation and the fears of international investors as well as the domestic entrepreneurial establishment in São Paulo, the economic heart of the country, regarding the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT) candidate. This was trade unionist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, at that time a left-wing radical. The Collor experiment was overall unsuccessful, not so much for its policies as for the scandals which dogged the president. Col-lor began the necessary task of opening up and cleaning out the economy by instigating a process of privatization, reducing trade barriers and trying to whittle down the exorbitant numbers of civil
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