Author:Ken Mitchell (Monmouth University)
Paper short abstract:
Do international providers of development aid treat progressive and conservative populist governments the same? Argentina is a constructive case due to its controversial track record with development actors and its experience with progressive (2003-2015) and conservative (2015-2018) populists.
Paper long abstract:
Political populism in South America goes way back. Iconic figures both past (Getúlio Vargas, Juan Perón, Jorge Gaitán) and recent (Carlos Menem, Fernando Collor de Mello, Hugo Chavez, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Álvaro Uribe, Néstor and Cristina Kirchner, Mauricio Macri, Alberto Fujimori) fall into the nebulous populist classification. Populism depicts a leadership style rather than a firm policy orientation; indeed, progressive and conservative populism co-exist in countries. Populists appeal to the street in binary us versus them code (we are honest, they are corrupt; we are patriotic, they are terrorists) around highly unrealistic campaign promises (zero poverty, zero debt, end corruption, end crime) while bypassing or devaluing traditional institutions (parties, congress, judiciaries). Election victories in 2018 by Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Iván Duque in Colombia, plus Alfredo Olmedo's potential 2019 run in Argentina, for some, point to a conservative populist wave reversing South America's recent progressive or "pink" populist wave - Evo Morales and Nicolas Maduro still represent the latter. Decaying party systems, unstable economies, rising USA protectionism and slower Chinese economic growth all but assure that South America's drift into rival populisms will continue. Do sources of international development aid distinguish between conservative and progressive populists? Or, does the "populist era" continue the "neoliberal/statist" fault-line of the 1980s and 1990s? Argentina's recent experience with progressive (2003-2015) and conservative (2015-present) populist presidents make it a useful case study, and the paper will examine (1) Inter-American Development Bank aid, (2) Chinese government aid, and (3) global microcredit actors.
The rise of populism and development cooperation