Donald Trump is something new to the American political landscape. But to many in Latin America he is—stylistically, at least—a far more familiar figure: the caudillo, or authoritarian populist.
In recent weeks, growing numbers of newspapers across Latin America have tried to explain the rise of Mr. Trump to bewildered local audiences by pointing to the region’s own strongmen, a long list that includes Venezuela’s late Hugo Chávez and Ecuador’s current president, Rafael Correa. In a recent op-ed in El Universal, a leading Venezuelan daily, the journalist Roberto Giusti described Chávez and Mr. Trump as “consummate showmen with a shrewd ability to manage emotions of a large audience and, using a mixture of half-truths, pin the blame for people’s ills on enemies, real or imagined.”
Like Mr. Trump, Latin American caudillos recognize and exploit real grievances in their countries. They confront an ossified political establishment, develop a strong bond with their followers and attack their opponents and the media with no holds barred—sometimes even encouraging violence.
“A lot of people in Mexico and Latin America are worried about this. It’s not just the substance of what Trump says, but it’s the style. It’s a familiar and worrisome style to us,” says Jorge Castaneda, Mexico’s former foreign minister.
All populists—of the left and the right—tell narratives that place the blame for the people’s troubles on others and free the people from responsibility, says Moisés Naim, a former Venezuelan cabinetRead the rest of this WSJ essay HERE.
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