The arrival of Mauricio Macri to the presidency of Argentina and Michel Temer’s controversial rise to power in Brazil have produced a shift to the political right in the two most important economies in South America. Though Brazil’s right-wing turn was not triggered by an election and Argentina’s 2015 presidential election was a race between two candidates competing for moderate voters, there is no denying that left-wing rhetoric is less electorally appealing today in Latin America than a few years ago.
For most of the past decade, Latin American countries experienced a shift to the left in their presidential elections. Left-wing leaders of different kinds and backgrounds were swept into office almost everywhere. As the region experienced a period of rapid growth induced by a commodities boom, candidates who promised redistribution and promoted higher government spending had an unquestionable electoral advantage. With governments running surpluses, the promise of redistribution was able be delivered. Since there was plenty of money to go around, the distributive mood even extended in some cases to right-wing governments. Many governments adopted conditional cash transfer programmes to help alleviate poverty. To receive the funds, low-income families had to comply with requirements, such as sending their kids to school on a regular basis or bringing them at certain intervals to local clinics for health checks.
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