Latin America's Crisis of Expectations

Economic inequality and the erosion of the middle class played a major role in the rise of anti-establishment politics in US and Europe. But in Latin America, the economic picture looks different. For a decade, inequality has been fallingas tens of millions joined the middle class. So why is it that, according to a new study, only 15% of people in the region approve of their political parties, and barely a third think their governments are doing a good job?


If the European and American middle class is suffering a crisis of security, Latin America’s growing middle class is facing a crisis of expectations. With basic needs increasingly met, families now expect better roads, schools, hospitals and law enforcement. But governments haven’t delivered well enough.

Pervasive graft is one key problem: it depletes the resources needed to build infrastructure, and it makes it harder to contain spiraling crime and violence. It’s no coincidence that corruption scandals have erupted across the region, rocking the public’s faith in current leaders and opening the way for candidates from outside the political mainstream.

Another problem is that the recent economic boom years are over — meaning governments have to make do with less, precisely as their people have come to expect more. That’s not an easy circle to square even in the best of times, but plummeting faith in government institutions makes it that much harder.

Why it matters: Four of the region’s largest economies — Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico — will pick new leaders in the next year, and anti-establishment candidates are increasingly competitive in all of those races. This is the most unpredictable electoral cycle since the region’s transition to democracy three decades ago.

Curtain-raiser: Middle class expectations aren’t just a Latin American issue. Hundreds of millions of people joined the middle class in Asia over the past decade. How will their expectations shape the region’s democracies? More to the point, how will they shape the region’s autocracies? (Looking at the dragon in the room here, yes.)

In the end it wasn't even close. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party won a stunning victory in the UK's snap elections yesterday, taking at least 364 seats out of 650, delivering the Tories their largest majority since 1987.

Johnson read the public mood correctly. After three years of anguish and political uncertainty over the terms of the UK's exit from the European Union, he ran on a simple platform: "Get Brexit Done." In a typically raffish late-campaign move, he even drove a bulldozer through a fake wall of "deadlock." Despite lingering questions about his honesty and his character, Johnson's party gained at least 49 seats (one seat still hasn't been declared yet).

More Show less

This holiday season, how concerned should I be about smart toys and their vulnerability to hacking?

You should be concerned both, that Internet connected toys can be hacked and also that they have shoddy privacy practices. And then the voice files of your kid talking to their teddy bear will end up in the cloud, accessible to all kinds of creepy people. On the other hand, Internet connected toys are great. Kids need to learn about technology. So, tradeoffs.

More Show less

David Miliband: Now that Boris Johnson has won a majority in the House of Commons, what's going to happen to Brexit?

If only Brexit could get done in 60 seconds? Because the result of the general election obviously means that Britain will leave the European Union, but it does nothing to clarify our future relations with the European Union. The Johnson victory is undoubtedly a very strong one, and he will try and interpret it as a victory for himself and for the Conservative Party and the attraction that they offer to Labour voters.

More Show less

Once a widely heralded human rights champion who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for advancing democracy in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi has now taken up a different cause: defending her country from accusations of genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Yesterday was the court's final day of hearings over that country's military-led crackdown against the Rohingya Muslim minority in 2017, which left thousands dead and forced more than 740,000 people to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. Here's what you need to know about the proceedings.

More Show less