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Session “Latin America: Reconfiguration of the Crisis of the System and the Regional Political Landscape”

On April 5, 2022, a session entitled “Latin America: Reconfiguration of the Crisis of the System and the Regional Political Landscape” was held as part of the XXIII Yasin (April) International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development. Reports were presented by representatives of the Institute of Latin America of the Russian Academy of Sciences – Z. Iwanowski, T. Vorotnikova, L. Dyakova, N. Kudeyarova; MGIMO University – L. Okuneva; SPbU – V. Heifets. 

Associate Professor, Senior Research Fellow of the International Laboratory on World Order Studies and the New Regionalism of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, E. Kosevich chaired the session.

Key Ideas: 

  • The second decade of this century fell on a period of stagnation, with the region experiencing the lowest growth rates in the past 40 years. Governments' drive to improve their economies by reducing budget deficits has led to social polarization and increased poverty. As a result, in most cases, voters refused to trust incumbent heads of state and pro-government parties and voted for opposition candidates. Electoral processes have led to a reformatting of the political landscape, the previously outlined evolution of the left and right towards the center has slowed down, and the polarization of political forces has sharply increased.

  • Electoral successes of the left and conditionally left forces in a number of Latin American countries in the presidential, municipal elections and during other campaigns in 2018-2020 (the triumphs of the left forces in Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia are considered especially indicative in this regard) allowed a number of experts to assert the approach of the next left turn. The report discussed the possibilities of a turn to the left in several dimensions: the electoral successes/failures of the left, and to what extent the winning candidates and parties can actually be categorized as left parties on the political spectrum. An assessment was made of the prospects for a left turn not as a mechanical sum of the victories of the left forces in individual countries, but as a continental phenomenon comparable to what happened in Latin America in the first decade of the 21st century.

  • The report analyzed the main directions of the development of the political process in Brazil. Its characteristic feature is the deployment in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the fact that the presidential elections will take place only in October 2022, the election campaign in the country is in full swing and is taking place in an environment of an acute political crisis closely related to the pandemic, the continuing situation of uncertainty, the absence of a national project that can unite society in the face of economic and social calls. With the growth of the campaign, its radicalization and polarization of political forces are becoming more and more clear. The main battle will unfold between two political heavyweights in the person of the incumbent right-wing radical president Jair Bolsonaro and the former president, center-left Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, rightly called the most popular president in Brazilian history.

  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, the States of the region have provided targeted assistance to support the most vulnerable groups of the population most affected by quarantine measures: workers in the tourism sector, small businesses, informal individual entrepreneurs, owners and employees of small cafes, drivers of public transport that has stopped working, families with children, the officially unemployed, etc. categories. Despite the fact that this assistance mainly had signs of temporary, limited social compensation, its targeted orientation and scale were significantly diversified in each country, were due to a number of internal circumstances. At present, the growing social contradictions and disillusionment with the state's ability to counteract the crisis is the most negative trend in the formation of both the social and political landscape of the region.

  • Considering the Latin American region and the integration organizations in this space, it can be noted that there is no similar right there. There were many people hoped that the MERCOSUR, the USMCA (formerly the NAFTA) and others would also create a mechanism for free labor mobility. However, that did not happen. It can be predicted that due to the demographic characteristics change in the medium term, we will see a gradual expansion of the labor mobility space. In addition to the marked condition this forecast depends on the economic factor and the dynamic development of the Latin American states.

  • The report reviewed the current state of Bolivia-Brazilian relations as an illustration of the transformation of the regional scene related to the processes of political polarization. In both Bolivia and Brazil, a serious restructuring of the political course has taken place, which is reflected on the external contour. At the same time, the governments of these countries stick to the opposite positions in the political spectrum. Today, strategic and ideological differences in the policy of the leaders do not allow to expect favorable development of relations. Nevertheless, gas contracts remain at the center of agenda, that are of mutual interest.

Longread session of the XXIII Yasin (April) International Academic Conference of the National Research University Higher School of Economics on the topic “Latin America: Reconfiguration of the Crisis of the System and the Regional Political Landscape”