Latin America is a continent with diverse political systems. Generally, there exist two forms of spectrums in politics: right and left. The rightists are more conservative advocating for rules to be followed to the letter and are also individually oriented. This means that they believe that individuals should make their own efforts and that these efforts should pay off handsomely. On the other hand, leftists are social, who are interested in pleasures and human needs as opposed to just rule of law. They want to create a world of equal opportunities, where individuals work for society.
Most of the states in the continent are leftists. Nevertheless, they still differ in terms of their policies. It is, therefore, clear that there exist ‘right’ left and ‘wrong’ left due to these differences in the left politically leaning side. The ‘right’ left is a more modern one, allowing open-mindedness among citizens and is an advocate of reforms. Representatives of ‘right’ left are neo-liberals driven by internationalist motives, who promote democracy and are focused on solving the problems of the poor. Conversely, representatives of the ‘wrong’ left are traditional conservatives, harsh on the society, but are also nationalists with radical social and economical views (Baker 2011). They also use poverty as a way of consolidating the power that can easily result in an authoritarian rule. The term ‘neo-liberalism’ will be often used in this essay, and, therefore, needs to be defined to give it a meaning in the context of the paper. Neo-liberalism is a political-economic theory that advocates free market, privatization as well as reduced government expenditure on social activities.
‘Right’ Left versus ‘Wrong’ Left
To make a clear distinction between the ‘right’ left and the ‘wrong’ left as well as to have a clear understanding of the two, a choice of two political parties each representing one side of the divide has to be made. On the ‘right’ left, Worker’s Party in Brazil will be used as a reference point, while on the ‘wrong’ left, focus will be on Fifth Republic Movement, popularly recognized in its abbreviated name as MVR in Venezuela (Murillo 2010). In essence, the two parties are leftist, but a closer look at how they are managed will help see a clear difference in policies and how well these parties manage social affairs. In the current world, trade has been diversified, and every day more markets are adopting neo-liberalism as a way of attracting investors. However, neoliberalism cannot be said to have come without challenges. To overcome these challenges, it is more appropriate for a state to adopt a ‘right’ left approach, like the one adopted by the Workers’ Party in Brazil.
Workers’ Party has created unique policies playing the center between the Right-wing and the old leftism. As a party that had won the election against a right-wing party and one which is highly associated with the poor, Worker’s Party has made a lot of effort to improve the lives of the poor. They did this by avoiding patronage politics by the elite over the poor. They have participated in the creation of a free market, but certainly under a considerable amount of control from the government. However, the party is totally against old policies of leftists, where nationalization was promoted, populism became the way of politics, work was done communally, and excessive government control existed in markets (Ferreira 2007). They have set their objectives to achieve accountability, citizen participation as well as transparency in governance. Despite the fact that leftism is thought to be oppressive, the majority of people in Latin America seem to be attracted to the system as more countries are voting in leftist governments. Nevertheless, they still believe that democracy is a better form of government than any other form currently in existence and adopt a more democratic leftist approach, where basic human rights are observed.
The ideologies and policies of the Workers’ Party have been more fruitful than they were expected to be. Most nations and international financial organizations believe that with leftists in power, Brazil would have little respect for the trade paradigm of a free market, and institutions such as IMF feared that Brazil may fail to honor their obligation. However, the party was to create a balance with no extremist approaches that would decrease investments. This has raised confidence among the investors, which has resulted in a vibrant growth of the Brazilian economy (Ferreira 2007).
At the same time, Brazil has seen an increase in the number of international investors as well as in international trade. The party has also been able to tighten Brazilian monetary policy, but a considerable reduction of the public sector size was even more successful. This is contrary to what was expected by many that leftists will always increase the number of government workers. Moreover, more success is notable as the government was able to stabilize inflation while still settling off their loans. Nonetheless, there have also been emerging economic challenges, such as higher tax and interest rates, and the poverty rate remains high as well.
On the social front, the party has policies that are people-oriented and seeks to bring equality to Brazilian society as a whole. Among these policies are programs aimed at decreasing illiteracy, hunger, and poverty that existed in society. Illiteracy rate has fallen from 13.6 % in the year 2001 to 10 % in the year 2010. During this period, the Workers’ Party was in power. A 3.6 % decline in illiteracy level challenges the argument that most Left-wing parties seek to maintain illiteracy so as to cling to power (Hunter 2003).
To reduce poverty the government has developed various policies that aimed at decreasing the number of people living below the poverty line. These policies include resource redistribution policy, which calls for equal distribution of wealth in all sectors. The policy is based on the fact that Brazil is economically rich, but people still languish in poverty. Secondly, the government has a policy on price controls. The policy is aimed to ensure that customers are not overcharged by unscrupulous businessmen. Finally, there is the income redistribution, where more emphasis is put on paying a reasonable salary to all employees according to their work and level to allow proper circulation of money and thus alleviate poverty.
In the international arena, the party has adopted a more neutral approach with neo-liberal policies that are generally acceptable globally and, more precisely, are set by the World Trade Organization. While its system is still protective of its home industry, it allows competition with international trading partners. The party has also allowed their homegrown companies to expand to other nations thus making Brazil an upcoming economic giant in the world (Castaneda 2010). This is unlike what happened during the prevalence of the old leftist approach, where governments did not develop relationships with the world and other countries. By doing this, Brazil has been able to escape the threat of collapse of local companies due to unfair competition from international corporations, while at the same time attracting international investors to invest in their home economy.
MVR is the leading party of the government in Venezuela since 1999. Though the party is acting on the promises they made to Venezuelans, there have been challenges emanating from the approach they are taking to the political, social, and economic needs of people. This approach can be classified as a ‘wrong’ left and one that is not good for the country in times of a neo-liberal world like the current one. MRV has acted in an extreme manner where it targeted some companies for nationalization. In situations like this, investors will feel threatened and thus the country will lose foreign investment. Again, it should be noted that trade is a mutual co-operation, where the rule of giving and take applies. When authorities in Venezuela nationalize companies and regulate international trade in an extreme manner, other nations may seek to sanction Venezuelan companies in a similar way, and thus the country loses even more on foreign exchange.
Secondly, neo-liberal trade does not warrant excessive government control. The kind of control exercised by the MVR is just as much. People rarely appreciate government control in their day-to-day lives. Although this is the case, they may wait for a long time before expressing their dissatisfaction. This may trick leaders into believing that the population likes it. For instance, over half of the population of Venezuela believes that democracy is a better form of government. However, with the recent removal of presidential term limits, people feel that the party started to show the characteristics of an authoritarian rule, where elections are done but they are not necessarily free and fair (Murillo 2010). Nevertheless, the Venezuelan political system of two major strong parties has to lead to a stable democratic process with the proper competition. This is unlike the Brazilian case, where there are too many parties that end up weakening the democracy as no single party controls a third of the lower house.
Although the country seems to have improved in terms of poverty eradication, it is likely that should the government have emphasized the ‘right’ left approach more, as neighboring Brazil, the results would have been better. Venezuelan economy is also said to be growing at a very low rate, and the rate of unemployment continues to increase as a result of the policies that are unfriendly to investors.
On the international front, Venezuela cannot be said to be doing well. The extreme left side taken by MRV has contributed to sour relations with some countries. Taking sides in the world political affairs could be dangerous for developing nations as they are more likely to be sanctioned, thus experiencing a decrease in their trade volumes. Again, non-interference in politics has been viewed by most nations as a better way of protecting their own interest.
Though Venezuela has previously had little economic growth, it is currently facing numerous issues and the most worrying are crumbling infrastructure, underperformance in the industrial sector as well as an inflated currency. Moreover, the government in Venezuela has been marred by massive corruption and lack of accountability on how funds are spent. However, the government is still highly admired by the people, with most of them seeing it as one that equally shares oil revenues.
In comparison with the Brazilian economy, Venezuelan economy has performed poorly in recent years. A good example is 2011 when the GINI coefficient dropped by 0.39 and 0.52 for Venezuela and Brazil respectively. Again, Venezuela is ranked the fifth biggest economy in South America but, unfortunately, the GDP per capita has been extremely low. To avoid worsening of the situation, the government needs to adopt a different approach that will bring substantial revenue from other sources rather than only having it from petroleum and petroleum products (Ferreira 2007). To do this, it is advisable for the government to reduce its control over the market and allow it to run freely to attract potential investors. For instance, most industries and mines are nationalized and, therefore, are poorly managed. This has caused inefficiencies and lowered production, a situation that has seen Venezuela become an importer of goods it could have actually produced.