It’s the best of times and the worst of times for South America’s left. Leftist candidates have been sweeping to power, winning election after election with promises of tackling the region’s chronic—and recently aggravated—poverty and inequality. The bad news is that, once in office, the new presidents have struggled badly. The phenomenon confirms the well-known maxim that it’s much easier to criticize than to govern.
In this case, both the ease of criticism and the challenge of governance have been magnified by the global crises that have afflicted the world in recent years and buffeted the region with enough force to recast its political dynamics. It’s been an energizing time to be in the opposition—and a brutal one to run a government.
If there’s any consolation for the left, it’s that some recently elected right-wing leaders have also struggled.