Latin America

How Leftist 'Saviors' Ruined Latin America

The Atlas Network's Antonella Marty on the bad ideas that have undermined wealth and stability in the region


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COVID-19 was disastrous for Latin America, not only because of a death rate eight times higher than in the world at large but also because the pandemic created the preconditions for a resurgence of left-wing populism that poses a threat to personal freedom and economic well-being throughout the region. 

In Colombia, Gustavo Petro became the leading presidential candidate, with proposals to raise taxes, seize private land, expand entitlements, and kneecap the oil and gas industries. In Peru, the new socialist President Pedro Castillo was elected with the promise of weakening property rights and rewriting the constitution to allow for a dramatic expansion of state power. In Argentina, President Alberto Fernández has responded to rapid inflation and a shrinking economy by imposing price controls, raising taxes, and growing the regulatory state. And in Chile—although the upcoming presidential runoff will help to set the nation's political course in the coming years—after the pandemic, voters opted to redraft the nation's constitution, which could enshrine into law more government intervention in the economy while weakening private property rights.

"It's very worrisome because Chile is a country that had opted for the rule of law, a secure legal system, and economic freedoms," says Antonella Marty, a 29-year-old Argentine libertarian, the Atlas Network's Associate Director at the Center for Latin America, and the author of four books about the region. "And it has fallen victim, once again, like every country in Latin America, to these terrible ideas related to big government."

In an interview with Reason, Marty discussed the bad ideas that have caused so much poverty and instability in the region, including a tendency to view political leaders as messianic figures; the belief that the rich are rich because the poor are poor; and that the key to prosperity is protectionism.

Produced by Jim Epstein; motion graphics by Isaac Reese; graphic design by Nathalie Walker; translation assistance by María Jose Inojosa Salina.

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