Latin America’s ‘Insult Diplomacy’ Is Taking a Toll

Latin America’s ‘Insult Diplomacy’ Is Taking a Toll
Then-candidate Javier Milei brandishes a chainsaw during a presidential campaign rally in La Plata, Argentina, Sept. 12, 2023 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

Anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to Latin American politics in recent weeks has missed an astounding number of insults flying back and forth among the region’s presidents. The name-calling has been at the level of schoolyard smears and taunts, but with far more significant implications. It has resulted in recalled ambassadors and crumbling diplomatic relations. And it has made the longstanding dream of Latin American regional integration seem more distant than it has been in decades.

At the center of some of the invective stands Argentina’s iconoclastic new president, Javier Milei. But he is hardly the only one lobbing verbal missiles at his counterparts. Nor is he the cause of the gravest diplomatic disturbances. Rather, he is the epitome of what is a much more wide-ranging phenomenon.

Latin America has long been a battleground of competing ideologies, but something has changed in recent years. The political polarization that has been advancing around the globe, turbocharged by the ubiquity of social media, has produced a new generation of political leaders who have little use for restraint and who spend a lot of time on social media themselves. Most importantly, these leaders have risen to power by leveraging the direct-to-voters communication channel offered by social media to exploit frustrations and define themselves in contrast to the alternatives, which are often on the other extreme of the political spectrum.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.