The US media tend to ignore the fact that so many of the poor today are better off than under previous regimes. From 1980-2000 when neo-liberal policies reigned, growth was dismal, the gap between rich and poor grew far larger. Yet, until the Wall Street-induced recession, growth has been high across the region under this new breed of leftist leaders. From 2003-2008, for example, Venezuela’s economy nearly doubled in size. After [former Argentine President] Nestor Kirchner got rid of the IMF loans [after he came to power], unemployment dropped from 20 to 8 percent, and the economy grew 63 percent over 6 years.
Gardels: Yet, key figures of Latin America’s left are also critical of Chávez, Morales and the rest. Jorge Castaneda, Mexico’s former foreign minister, divides Latin America into the “irresponsible” left of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Argentina and the “sensible” left of Brazil and Chile.
His worry is that the “irresponsible” left’s anti-globalization, populist spending policies, in the mold of [mid-20th century Argentine President] Juan Perón, will lead Latin American back to the old cycle of inflation, stagnation, personalist authoritarian rule, corruption and disillusion. Former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso has the same worry: “A country has to make a living in a globally competitive environment,” he says. “Building prosperity requires caution and patience. It requires time. Populism is a short cut that doesn’t work.”