1684072123 Rise of the Far Right and Populism and Decline of

Rise of the Far Right and Populism and Decline of the Traditional Right: Chile and the Contagion in Latin America

Rise of the Far Right and Populism and Decline of

Current political photography in Latin America seems paradoxical. A process of change driven by a left-wing president who has been in power for a little over a year and which, once put to the polls, will lead to an outcome fundamentally incompatible with this transformation. What happened in Chile last Sunday became a reflection of the worst ghosts in the main governments in the region, from Colombia to Argentina, through Brazil and Mexico, all led by left-wing politicians. The Republican Party, a far-right formation, has won elections to the Constitutional Council, which will draft a new proposal for a basic charter. Led by José Antonio Kast and only founded in 2019, it garnered nearly 3.5 million votes nationwide, the highest number of votes achieved by any political party since the return to democracy in 1990.

The vote, which far exceeds the traditional rights of the three parties UDI, RN and Evópoli, gave this force 23 out of 51 seats in the Constituent Body, although Republicans have always opposed replacing the law with bills in 1980 under the Pinochet dictatorship founded and reformed 64 times to democracy. However, the result also raises some relevant questions in Chile and the rest of Latin America. What happened? Why does opposition to a progressive government emerge from extreme right positions or, as in the case of Argentina, from a cocktail of Trumpism and populism? In 2021, Kast lost to Gabriel Boric in the second round. However, last September the Chileans for the first time expressed their support for a political project that, according to polls, has managed to interpret the demands of a society that wants more order and security. Eight months ago, 62% of the citizens rejected the proposal for a new constitution by a convention shaped by left-wing and independent groups in a referendum with compulsory voting and a high turnout. It was a crucial upsurge for the Republican Party and its leader, who, unlike the traditional right, put up a relentless fight against the Boric government, whose popularity rating is low at times and never rises above 30%.

Kast has expressed citizen discontent, which was the left’s main cause in the 2019 social outburst. Today, the uneasiness can be traced back to at least three crises: public security – due to the increase in organized crime and violence -, the economic one and the crisis that has particularly unleashed in the north of the country with irregular immigration plaguing the cities . It is unclear whether the results of Sunday’s elections in Chile pave the way for Kast in future elections. It is still premature, with local and gubernatorial elections in 2024 and presidential and general elections in 2025. But the Republican Party is in an advantageous position given the political changes ahead.

This far-right force shows its difference from the traditional right particularly on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, and its voters are drawn to a discourse that indulges ideas of home and family. His biggest political challenge, however, will be his appearance on the Constitutional Council itself, which debuts June 7, the very body Republicans have rejected and where they must now negotiate with the rest of the powers.

Bolsonarianism crushed the classic PSDB right

Kast’s victory can be read as a symptom of the reconfiguration of opposition to left-wing governments that began in Brazil and includes countries like Colombia, Argentina and, to a much lesser extent, Mexico. In fact, the annihilation of the classic right is a phenomenon in which Brazil played a pioneering role. Far-right Jair Bolsonaro lost only minimally in the last presidential election, and he came out of the doldrums of a pandemic that killed 700,000 of his compatriots and was compared to the undisputed leader of the Brazilian left in the elections. Bolsonaro, with his coup threats, isolationist diplomacy and misogyny, lost in the 2022 election, despite receiving more votes than in 2018 when he was still a hope for change, a promising unknown for much of the electorate. . This reflects the power of the political movement he leads and the ingrained hatred of the Labor Party.

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The spectacular resurrection of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his victory in the elections overshadow some facts that should not be lost sight of: that conservative moral force working in great harmony with the leaders of the evangelical churches and in business what we call Bolsonarismo It has crushed the traditional right which has alternated with the left since the end of the dictatorship. Between Lula and Bolsonaro, the majority of the moderate-right electorate prefers the ex-military.

Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s PSDB (Brazilian Social Democratic Party) is in shambles, insignificant in Congress and removed from power for the first time in São Paulo state. The defeat was inflicted on him by a former military officer and respected official who had never contested an election: Tarcísio de Freitas, Bolsonaro’s former minister. Bolsonaro’s future, and who will succeed him as opposition leader if expelled, will depend on whether that half of Brazil’s voters continue to support a Bolsonaro-style ultra program or prefer to return to the calmer waters of lifelong conservatives.

Orphans’ rights in Colombia

In Colombia, the right was slow to respond to the 2022 elections, in which it was defeated for the first time by a former left-wing guerrilla fighter, President Gustavo Petro. He also lost his seat in Congress and lost his head after former President Álvaro Uribe, for years the country’s most popular politician, fell out of favor and became embroiled in a never-ending judicial scandal. A photo of him meeting Petro privately after the election marked a kind of truce between two political rivals that hasn’t been broken.

The Colombian right, orphaned by its leader for 20 years, appears to be leaning towards more extreme positions, such as those of Uribista Senator María Fernanda Cabal, who is close to retired soldiers and who has said of the Petro government: “We are communism .” live,” a statement not heard from other right-wing leaders. After a retired colonel said of the president this Thursday: “We will do our best to oust a man who was a guerrilla,” the senator defended the statement, while former right-wing presidential candidate Federico Gutiérrez expressed his disagreement : “I categorically reject any allusion to an alleged coup.”

In the latest well-known poll of opposition leadership, polling firm Gad3 asks about seven leaders, including a former president and a former presidential candidate. Cabal was the favorite with 16.5% of respondents’ preferences, while no one else reached 7%.

Without a political compass in Argentina

Ultra Javier Milei’s election disruption threatens to throw everything off balance in Argentina with just a little over five months left until the general election. An ultra-liberal economist, Milei presents himself to voters as an “anarcho-capitalist” who promises to end the “political caste,” reduce the state to a minimum, hand over the management of education and health to private capital, and moreover, solve chronic inflation . Argentina with a dollarization of the economy. Milei jumped out of the television studios into politics, where she teased audiences with shouts, insults and suggestions for the free sale of organs or children. By the time he won a seat in Congress in the 2019 general election, he was no longer a show but a problem.

Milei has threatened the traditional right like no other politician since the return to democracy in 1983. He likes to follow in the footsteps of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, with the peculiarity that he has no political structure in Argentina. Their power lies in the increase in protest voices from young people who no longer trust politicians and are fed up with the economic crisis. The traditional right, represented by former President Mauricio Macri and his Together for Change coalition, is unclear as to whether the best strategy is to co-opt or confront Milei. For now, the economist’s inflammatory speech has forced lifelong liberals to radicalize their right-wing discourse for fear of the vote losses they lose every day in the polls.

The ultra-politician currently has 20% of the vote averaging primary polls and has managed to slice the election pie in three in a country that has been divided between Peronists and anti-Peronists for decades. The possibility of a second round on October 22 because of Peronism is a threat today, changing the spirit of the Casa Rosada and upsetting the alliances. Today, no one really knows what to do with Milei anymore.

From the Mexican tea party to flirting with Vox

The far right in Mexico has less momentum than in other countries in the region and has settled in the loopholes of the conservative National Action Party. Some of those hiding in those corners came to light in September 2021 when Santiago Abascal arrived in the country with an agenda poised to unleash a political storm. Back then, dozens of Mexican politicians took photos with the Vox boss and signed the Madrid Charter, a sort of crusade against communism that accuses Latin America’s left-wing governments of being “totalitarian regimes” and ignoring the catastrophic differences that exist between progressive ones Governments and authoritarian regimes like Nicaragua. Amidst the furor generated in the press, the far right withdrew their support for Abascal and went into hiding. Only a handful of them praised the meeting and took the opportunity to speak out publicly.

Another example of the cowering right resisting was the occupation of the capital’s Zócalo by the National Anti-AMLO Front (FRENA). A hundred tents occupied the largest square in Latin America between September and November 2020 to protest against “the dictator López”, the insult that this group of ultras directed against President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The movement, which arose in the north of the country, claims to represent “millions of disempowered Mexicans” and is inspired by the American Tea Party. Since the camp was lifted, they have marched monthly to preach in the streets, speeches endorsed by figures such as Jair Bolsonario in Brazil or José Antonio Kast in Chile.

All of these episodes served as a prelude to the last, and perhaps greatest, show of force by the far right in Mexico. The world’s biggest leaders of this trend gathered in the capital last November for the Conservative Action Political Conference, a sort of ultraconservative event that Abascal attended; Steve Bannon, former adviser to Donald Trump; Brazilian Eduardo Bolsonaro; or the Argentinian Javier Milei. For two days, the extreme right in Mexico flexed its muscles for the first time in a long while, and was welcomed by a not-so-remaining audience, leaving open the possibility of building a political party in the future.

With information from Rocío Montes, Naiara Galarraga Gortázar, Juan Esteban Lewin, and Federico Rivas Molina. And Georgina Tserega.

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