Harvard International Review: A Resurgent Populism

Latin America:
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A Resurgent Populism
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By Larry Birns and Nicholas Birns
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Published in the Harvard International Review (hir.harvard.edu) June 20, 2007. This piece is available on its main page:hir.harvard.edu

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Council on Hemispheric Affairs director Larry Birns and Dr. Nicholas Birns, a senior research fellow at the institution as well as an assistant professor of literature at the New School for Social Research in New York City, have written an analysis of the rise of a new and often more substantive version of Latin American populism. An often indignant and self-centered United States has long considered itself to be the region’s defining protector of democracy, claiming an effective monopoly over the contemporary makeup of democratic constitutionalism in the hemisphere. At the same time, Washington has looked upon populism as a dirty word. The rise of legitimate democratic populist leaders throughout South America, like Venezuela’s Chavez, Ecuador’s Correa, and Bolivia’s Morales – all of whom have proclaimed a loyalty to some form of socialist arrangement – the region is in ferment. As a result, the U.S. has had to realize that its vision of democracy is neither the first nor necessarily the last word on the subject. It also can be argued that the evolving species of populism that is now being practiced in Latin America is also a vibrant carrier of a new, dynamic political credo which is freely promising to take on a series of obligations which it is prepared to redeem. At the same time, these elements do not necessarily comprise a formula for an ideological snake oil that is meant to be discarded as fast as it is swigged.
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