Thea Riofrancos

All articles by this author

Ecuador After Correa

Ecuador After Correa

Contradictions and dilemmas of left populism in Latin America

Rafael Correa’s tenure has seen an expansion in the political participation of the poor, and the proliferation of new collective rights and democratic institutions. These gains stand alongside crackdowns on social movements, the weakening of left opposition parties, and the centralization of power in the executive. After a decade of left rule, Ecuador is at once more equal and more unequal, more democratic and more centralized, radically transformed and mired in historic patterns of domination that date to the colonial era. These antinomies have their origins in a left populism that made a pact with oil and mining—a story that has echoes across the continent.

Democracy Without the People

Democracy Without the People

Left populism vs. insipid pluralism

Among the confounded political analysts, what followed Trump’s victory was an epidemic of self-castigation. “We” had failed to “listen” to “white working-class” voters. Since the inauguration, however, elitism in the guise of centrism is once again on the move. Democracy, they say, is under threat from populism, and only a defense of norms and institutions can exorcise the specter of a reckless citizenry. But what if the truth is the opposite, and populism is not the problem but the solution? 

Ecuador After Correa

Ecuador After Correa

Contradictions and dilemmas of left populism in Latin America

Rafael Correa’s tenure has seen an expansion in the political participation of the poor, and the proliferation of new collective rights and democratic institutions. These gains stand alongside crackdowns on social movements, the weakening of left opposition parties, and the centralization of power in the executive. After a decade of left rule, Ecuador is at once more equal and more unequal, more democratic and more centralized, radically transformed and mired in historic patterns of domination that date to the colonial era. These antinomies have their origins in a left populism that made a pact with oil and mining—a story that has echoes across the continent.

Democracy Without the People

Democracy Without the People

Left populism vs. insipid pluralism

Among the confounded political analysts, what followed Trump’s victory was an epidemic of self-castigation. “We” had failed to “listen” to “white working-class” voters. Since the inauguration, however, elitism in the guise of centrism is once again on the move. Democracy, they say, is under threat from populism, and only a defense of norms and institutions can exorcise the specter of a reckless citizenry. But what if the truth is the opposite, and populism is not the problem but the solution?