Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Don't Just Blame Latin American Voters

Ricardo Hausmann wrote a pretty condescending op-ed on Latin American voters. He blames them for following false political narratives. What he actually describes, however, are rational voters looking for solutions to problems that governments of a particular party created. Now, as 20 years ago, voters get fed up when pressing issues--inflation, stagnation, whatever--aren't adequately addressed and they look for other parties.

Until voters learn what to ask for from their governments, they are bound to dislike what they end up getting. Unfortunately, Latin America’s dominant political narratives are not helping that process along.

Given popular concerns about crime, corruption, and sluggish economic growth now, it seems to me that Latin American voters know exactly what to ask of their governments. The question is whether those governments enact policies that fulfill those demands. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.

And when the traditional parties clearly have no answers, voters look elsewhere, which helps the slide toward populism. This isn't necessarily just about narrative, but rather it's pragmatic. If the puntofijista parties in Venezuela created the mess we're in, why in the world should I vote for one of their candidates? A Venezuelan in 1998 may not have liked everything he/she heard from candidate Hugo Chávez, but he seemed better than the others.


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