Explaining the Rise of the Left in Latin America
Abstract

Latin American politics has taken a left turn in the past decade, with an increasing number of chief executives hailing from left-of-center parties. We investigate the political and socioeconomic factors explaining political ideology of the chief executive in a sample of one hundred elections taking place between 1975 and 2007 in eighteen Latin American countries. We find that the commodity booms in agricultural, mining, and oil are positively and significantly related to the probability that a country will have a chief executive from a left-of-center political party. However, for oil exports, we observe that this effect holds only for Venezuela. We also show that past political discrimination and government crises are positively and significantly associated with a move to more left-wing chief executives. Openness to trade and having a president from the right in the previous presidential term negatively affects the probability of having a more liberal president, although the effect of trade openness disappears when the incumbent president is a conservative. We also find that when a government crisis occurs during a term with a president from the right, the probability of having a president from the left in the following term increases significantly.


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