Populism has influenced Latin American in Argentina, Chile, and Mexico as a tool to dominate politics. In these different nations, we have seen different forms of populism specified to each country’s needs. In Argentina, populism centered around a charismatic individual. In Mexico, the needs of the poorest class was addressed by populism. Chile’s populist rule was favorable and furthered economic success but was thwarted by a military coup.
Argentinian populism is almost synonymous with Juan Perón and his wife Eva. Nationalism became an incredibly important component in his campaign of power, and made him one of the most personable populist presidents. Juan Perón maintained his party’s power through the labor movement completely, but did not favor a left or right. He would repress communists and other leftists and saw threats from those who wanted to squander the interests of the worker. In the end, they didn’t do much for rural workers, Perón’s allegiance with unions and the working class gave him the opportunity to legitimize his efforts, something he would not have been able to do otherwise. The most important thing to realize about Perón was that he had the option to rule democratically, but it became more authoritarian. He was extremely well-liked, however, and is the epitome of a populist leader.
Mexico’s populist era was implemented by what was to be the PRI, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, and was comparable to a socialist reform. Mexican populism used its influence to build up the labor, working, and middle class and make them more of a force in the state. The ruler associated with populism in Mexico is General Lázaro Cárdenas. Cárdenas was a well-liked leader who had civilian interests at heart and was more left leaning. His main issues were about labor and land reform, which has become a longstanding piece of Mexican politics. Most of his goals were very successful, and many of his practices remained in use for a long time due to the PRI. Cárdenas can be characterized as one of the populist leaders who was successful in his actions without implementing military rule.
In Chile, the populist government was lead by Salvador Allende, who is a different specimen of populist. As a Marxist and Socialist, Allende drew upon an ideology that defined the central conflict in society as one between social classes — between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and not the people and an elite (Hellinger, 142). He was supportive of middle and lower class, however, which is why he is deemed populist. The difference between Allende and the other populist leaders is that he did urged the public to trust capitalists because they would help the economy grow. Allende was considered a revolutionary more than a populist and after his death from a military coup, there were years of dominance for military regimes.
Religion is extremely important in Latin American culture, and in some ways, that importance has carried over to populist rule. In Mexico, we see that the Mexican Church was mostly consisted of elites, which were unfavorable to populist leaders. The leaders of revolutions mistrusted the Church hierarchy, and they were influenced by social philosophies that saw religion as a drag on progress (Hellinger, 259). However, politics and religion go hand in hand in this region. Religion is a binding factor that actually fuels the working class in Latin America, so it can be advantageous for populist rulers to use that to their advantage.
The trend of populism we see in Latin America has been good and bad. In theory, the idea of populism where power and social acceptance to the lower class is great, but in the long run, it is hard to implement. Due to a world were socialism and non-democratic societies aren’t accepted, it is difficult for populistic ideas to be used.