Thursday, November 19, 2009

Populist president faces dwindling support

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa is finding that a weak economy, electricity shortages and a confrontational governing style have undermined support for his government, not three years after taking office in a landslide that highlighted the rise of populist leaders in Latin America.

His governing style might be disliked by the press, and the Journal, but what proof is there that his governing style has undermined popular support?

Polls taken last month show that approval ratings for the 46-year-old socialist have fallen into the mid-40s, well down from the 73% he had soon after taking office in early 2007, pollster Cedatos-Gallup International said Wednesday.

That slide matches the drop in support for leftist allies such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez. Lower commodities prices have undermined their ability to sustain spending programs, while rising crime and electricity shortages in resource-rich nations underscore the rampant inefficiency of parts of the public sector.

As the patronage ebbs along with the government coffers, the failure of some statist policies is becoming more evident. Meanwhile, a dearth of private-sector investment has meant some of these sputtering economies have little to fall back on. The nationalist rhetoric and attacks on the opposition no longer resonate as strongly as they did when leftist leaders came to power riding a wave of antipathy toward market-oriented economies.

All three leaders enjoy considerable influence over the legislative and judicial branches, making it harder to blame the opposition when entitlement programs dry up just as unemployment and inflation are on the rise.

Quite true.

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