Last week, Venezuela’s government threatened that if the U.S. did not withdraw its economic sanctions, it might call off the 2018 presidential election. Although such a grossly unconstitutional act would prolong the suffering of the Venezuelan people, it could ironically help limit a turn to the left in Latin America as the region faces one the largest and most significant series of electoral events in recent years.
During the next 12 months, elections will occur, in which the sitting president will not be one of the options, in Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, Colombia, Paraguay, and Chile. Brazil, Barbados and Grenada will elect new leaders as well.
As each of these nations chooses their future, the painful daily stories about Venezuelan autocracy, corruption, and mismanagement will be a rallying cry for the right, and a liability for leftist candidates across the region. Ironically, in 2018, the greatest blow to the dreams of Venezuela’s late leader Hugo Chavez, to spread socialism across the region, will come from his own legacy of corruption and mismanagement, and the struggle of his successors to cling to power as the resource-rich state that he ran into the ground unravels.
Yet before conservatives in the U.S. become too smug, the U.S. withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), its possible renegotiation of NAFTA, U.S. rhetoric about building a border wall, expanded deportations, and impugning of the character of Mexican immigrants, have more than offset Venezuela’s contribution to giving the Latin American left a bad name.
While it is too early to predict whether negative perceptions of the rhetoric coming out of Washington will outweigh negative perceptions of Venezuelan populist socialism in Latin America’s upcoming “mega-election cycle” the number of elections in the region during the coming year, and their potential to change the region, merits U.S. attention.
In December of 2017, Chile will conduct the second round of its presidential race, deciding between the center-right policies of former President Sebastian Piñera, and Alejandro Guillier, whose election is expected to continue President Michelle Bachelet’s partially stalled movement of the country toward the left.
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