Argentina as a Latin American bellwether

After Argentina’s election yesterday, opposition parties in Latin America have now won 19 of the past 21 presidential ballots. That trend provides a reference point for thinking about the region and the turn that its fourth-most populous country just signaled.

Given the choice between the sitting economic minister of a far-left government and a provocative libertarian backbencher to become Argentina’s next leader, voters opted for the unknown. That fits a pattern. The country has now tacked to the right after years of corruption and economic dysfunction (the inflation rate was 143% on Election Day). Yet a desire from voters for honest, effective governance echoes popular aspirations that have also swept a handful of leftists into power elsewhere from Honduras to Brazil in recent years.

“The single most exciting thing in Latin America right now is the strength of democracies,” Susan Segal, head of the Americas Society Council of the Americas, told Americas Quarterly recently. “Indeed, as we have seen time and again, when governments do not meet expectations, they are replaced in free and fair elections.”

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