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Word Count: 870
Whether authoritarian or democratic rightist or leftist populism has been the most pervasive political ideology in Latin American politics for nearly a century Yet populist leaders while extremely effective at attracting mass support have also contributed decisively to the regions failure to develop economically and politically Populism especially when practiced by undemocratic leaders has been one of the biggest impediments to the adoption of policies that these countries need to meet their peoples aspirations for well-being and social justice Populist leaders exhibit an eloquent charismatic and unlimited capacity to promise a better life for their people simply by wishing for it--never as the result of discipline thrift and hard work In practice the populists expansionary policies have usually delivered short-lived prosperity immediately followed by painful financial collapse This reality coupled with the socially divisive rhetoric loved and employed by populists has sometimes led to violence and opened the door to even worse authoritarian regimes Interesting Evolution Before this year Luiz Incio Lula da Silva had campaigned unsuccessfully for Brazils presidency three times each on a populist platform Consequently when polls showed him to be practically undefeatable in this years election it should have come as no surprise that foreign and Brazilian investors became anxious with the real depreciating 33 in just four months and interest rates increasing over levels already devastatingly high The markets overreaction to Mr da Silvas electoral popularity was also a spillover effect from Argentinas irresponsible default on its foreign debt last December In one respect at least polls and markets were both right Mr da Silva was elected by a huge margin The question now is whether the usual tale of populist failure will repeat itself this time around The short answer is no I sincerely believe that paradoxically the president-elect will prove both the skeptical markets and his now-enthusiastic grassroot supporters wrong And he will disillusion his abundant populist fellows throughout Latin America who feel redeemed by his
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