Decades of political upheaval have hampered Latin American economic growth


Latin America has struggled to sustain economic growth since the rebuilding of democracy in the 1980s. Limited policy continuity has been partly to blame, as successive governments lurched from right to left and undid the economic progress of their predecessors.

Since the 1980s, the region has been pummeled by political upheaval and external shocks. After brief boom periods in the years before 2008 and in the early 2010s, the region is once again among the slowest growing in the world, with real GDP growth in Brazil, Mexico, and Chile expected to fall below 2 percent in 2022.

A raft of recent electoral successes from left-wing presidential candidates has set the political pendulums in motion again. Gustavo Petro and Gabriel Boric won presidential elections in Colombia and Chile, respectively, and Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro could lose his reelection bid in October to his left-wing rival. The newly elected leaders might enact constructive policies, including strengthening environmental protections and human rights. But, with poor economic performance aggravating political polarization, the backlash to these election victories could induce another swing to the far right in these countries in the next election cycle.

This PIIE Chart is based on Monica de Bolle's blog post, Latin America's unstable politics dim hopes for economic growth. Produced and designed by Nia Kitchin and Oliver Ward.

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