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The Impact of Populist Executive on the Inflow of Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America
Published April 5, 2023
Publication Source: KIEP
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Populist forces have been resilient in Latin America and continue to cause instability and uncertainty across the region. Populist figures in the region first rose to prominence during the period of import substitution industrialization in the 1930s, capitalizing on the growing demands for mass politics and better social benefits from the rapidly expanding urban working class.

Populism, which had been rampant in Latin America for more than 30 years since then, seemed to fade into obscurity with military regimes which have dominated regional politics in the 1960s and 1970s. However, after a series of democratic transitions, Latin American democracies witnessed yet another wave of populism. A notable number of candidates with a populist discourse have achieved victories in presidential elections in the 1980s and 1990s.

With the wave of democratization and the accumulation of public dissatisfaction due to a series of economic crises, some so-called neopopulists took power in a number of Latin American countries. They attracted voters by combining neoliberal economic policies with the typical “us-versus-them” discourse, demonstrating that any economic ideology can be linked to populist ideas. The new millennium witnessed another tide of populist presidents across the region. While a rapid transition to neoliberal policies led to various socioeconomic problems, traditional parties and politicians could not respond effectively to the emerging problems. This time around, left-wing populist figures dominated the region’s political landscapes, combining populist ideas with so-called 21st-century socialism.

While the era of radical left-wing populists came to an end, new breeds of populists appeared one after another and were elected to office in the 2010s. Not many expect that populist executives will cease to exist across the region in the near future. Social and economic inequality is worsening in the aftermath of COVID-19, and the public distrust of established party politics and existing democratic institutions is growing more than ever. All in all, there is fertile ground for populist forces to spread even more, who claim that they are the only ones who can eliminate the “incompetent and corrupt” establishment and truly represent the “virtuous” people.

Against this backdrop, there is a growing need to improve our understanding of the characteristics of populist governments that have repeatedly emerged in the region. Among many channels through which populist rule influences Latin American countries, Lee et al. (2022) dedicate one of their chapters to analyzing the impact of populist rule on the inflow of foreign direct investment, a variable of much importance in Latin American economies.

This paper was published by KIEP. KIEP retains the copyright to this paper and invites readers to share and cite the work with attribution to both the author(s) and KIEP.