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The current political dynamics in Latin America is analyzed, and their meaning for the United States is evaluated. The author argues that references to a uniform “left turn” in the region are misleading, and that Latin America is actually witnessing a dynamic competition between two very different forms of governance. Represented by leaders like Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales, and others, radical populism emphasizes the politics of grievance and a penchant for extreme solutions. Moderate, centrist governance can be found in countries like Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Uruguay. It stresses diplomatic pragmatism, the protection of democratic practices, and the need to blend macroeconomic responsibility with a social conscience. To the extent that the United States can strengthen the centrists while limiting the damage caused by radical populism, the author argues it can promote integral growth, democratic stability, and effective security cooperation in Latin America. A clear understanding of the trends discussed is essential to devising appropriate U.S. policies toward that region.
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Hal Brands Dr.,
Dealing with Political Ferment in Latin America: The Populist Revival, the Emergence of the Center, and Implications for U.S. Policy ( US Army War College Press, 2009),