Brazil’s Lula Exemplifies the Many Lefts of Latin America, says Amherst College Political Scientist Javier Corrales

November 3, 2006
Director of Media Relations
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AMHERST, Mass.—Expect the unexpected from the Latin American left, predicts Javier Corrales, associate professor of political science at Amherst College and author of an article on “The Many Lefts of Latin America” in the most recent issue of Foreign Policy.

After his recent landslide re-election, Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called for national unity to push a common agenda that would accelerate economic growth and help slash glaring inequalities in his country, but “Lula will probably shift away from his emphasis on fiscal responsibility, which led him to try to keep spending under control and interest rates relatively high during his first term,” says Corrales, an expert on presidential power in Latin America.

“In his second term, Lula is more likely to emphasize the stimulation of demand and social spending,” Corrales predicts. “The international economic situation has been extremely favorable for the past few years; he has earned the respect of both international financial institutions and bond traders, and he has kept inflation in check. He no longer needs to prove his credentials abroad as a fiscally responsible statesman, as he had to do during his first term. Now, he can take advantage of these economic and political credentials to shift emphasis toward feeding state spending on social programs.”

“If the goal of [Lula’s] first administration was to keep the macroeconomy in check to sustain growth,” according to Corrales, “the theme for his second administration might be: spend more on human capital development to stimulate growth.”

Corrales says that Lula’s shift to an emphasis on economic growth demonstrates that “the left” is no longer monolithic in Brazil. “The left wing of [Lula’s] party, and many of his voters in this election, are eager to see this shift take place, and this time Lula is in a better economic and political position to comply.”

In “The Many Lefts of Latin America” in Foreign Policy magazine (Nov./Dec. 2006), Corrales writes, “For half a decade now, the headlines from Latin America have touted the rise of the Latin left. As leftists have moved off the streets and into government in Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and elsewhere, however, the story line has changed. The vision of a united leftist coalition of Latin nations opposing the United States and free market reforms is an illusion. Instead, intense fights have broken out within the left as protest movements struggle to govern. The Latin American “left,” it is now clear, actually comprises a wide range of movements with often conflicting goals.”

An expert on presidential power in Latin American politics (Presidents Without Parties, 2002), Corrales has taught at Amherst since 1997, has been a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and worked at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. He has taught in Argentina, Paraguay and Venezuela. Corrales earned a B.S. in foreign service from Georgetown University, and a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University.

Contact Corrales at 413/542-2164 or jcorrales@amherst.edu.

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