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Posted on March 23rd, 2013, by

In Bolivia, populism is first of all associated with rooting of authoritarianism and a wide layer of bureaucracy depending on government gratifications. The policy carried out in the populist stream is aimed at restoring public enterprises, associated with rampant inflation and strong anti-American rhetoric. Thus, President Evo Morales started an active nationalization of natural resources of Bolivia which has the second largest reserves of hydrocarbons in Latin America, and intends to make the industry serve the people (Kohl and Bresnahan, 2010: 5-20).
The combination of anti-imperialism and etatism engendered economic nationalism both in Bolivia and Venezuela. Its adherents, Chavez and Morales, believed unfair the conditions of barter, in which developed countries supplied finished products, while undeveloped countries exported only raw materials. They argued that the availability of capital and advanced technology in rich countries coupled with the absence of both in the poor ones created a structural problem in the world economy.

Another feature of these populists, hardly amenable to statistical recording, but no less devastating is authoritarianism. This means the weakening of political institutions and violation of the principle of separation of powers in the interests of the president. However, this side of populism in Latin American political leadership is most vividly expressed in the case of Juan Peron. Starting from Argentine at the times of the legendary populist dictator Juan Peron, populism has consistently led the prosperous countries to the economic and social catastrophe.

For the first time, Peron won a convincing victory in the presidential election on February 24, 1946. Further, his nine-year rule (he was elected three times in a row) divides the history of this South American country in the twentieth century into two parts: pre-Peron and Peron era, as it has not ended yet (Rogers, 2004: 129-137). His name and his ideas, and perhaps even more so, the name and image of his wife, Evita Peron, became the fate of Argentina.

Initially, Peron’s aim was to build a society of social justice in conditions of class collaboration under the control of a strong, independent from external influences supraclass state (e.g., he introduced fixed prices for agricultural products). Peron’s popularity was also the achievement of Evita, who was actively promoting his policy on the radio, and later became the vice president of the country by the request of the citizens (Rogers, 2004: 129-137).

Thus, Argentina had two rulers: Evita was not just a president’s wife; she was the queen of descamisados. She controlled the Ministry of Labour, as well as Eva Peron Foundation, which accumulated enormous resources devoted to aid the poor (Rogers, 2004: 129-137). The workers and poor people adored her. Even her manner to dress – and she never appeared in the same dress, wore shoes of crocodile skin, and lots of jewelry – was perceived by them as their common answer to the rich bood-suckers who hated Evita.

However, the flip side of the Peronian regime was its authoritarian nature. The freedom of speech was restricted; the educational system was subjected to the tasks of Peronian propaganda. Civil servants were encouraged to join Peron’s party created in 1947 (Rogers, 2004: 129-137). Peron made the cleaning of trade unions and army, replaced almost all the leaders who had contributed to his rise to power. At the same time, a large-scale nationalization of property owned by foreign capital was carried out; and the public sector was established, including oil and gas industry, marine and river trade fleet, railroads, telephone network, water supply, and power plants.

On the whole, in this paper we’ve managed to cover some political-psychological specificity of leadership in Latin America, to give a retrospective analysis of leadership in the region and identify the main features of the Latin American model of leadership, including the following:

High level of radicalization of the political process, a succession of coups, the absence of the middle class and socio-economic instability;
– The leadership in the region is carried out in the traditional personification of political life. Due to a specific type of cultural integration characteristic of a number of Latin American countries, political relations are based on the cult of historical heroes – S. Bolivar, A. Sucre, J. Marti, and others;
– In the countries of South America continent, role of the militaries is extremely high. Army and the armed forces represent a cohesive elite group, belonging to which can be used by a political leader in his activities to capture and retain power;
– The activities of political leaders in the region are populist in their nature, combined with parallel clientelism, which in a special way impacts the effectiveness of policy and governance.
Works Cited
Kohl, Benjamin and Rosalind Bresnahan. 2010. Introduction Bolivia under Morales: National Agenda, Regional Challenges, and the Struggle for Hegemony. Latin American Perspectives. 37 (4): 5-20.
Merolla, Jennifer L. and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister. 2011. The Nature, Determinants, and Consequences of Chávez’s Charisma: Evidence From a Study of Venezuelan Public Opinion. Comparative Political Studies. 44 (1): 28-54.
Rogers, Juan. 2004. Institutional Failure, Blind Leadership and the Blame-Game National Pastime: A case of Argentina. Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies. 21 (2): 129-137.

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