Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Centrist Latin America

Newly-elected President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias:

The election of Evo Morales as president of Bolivia in December prompted a rash of headlines declaring that Latin America has tilted to the left. Latin Americans are fed up, some say, with the "Washington Consensus" of free markets and fiscal discipline, which has failed to erase all their poverty and inequality, and as a result their governments are reverting to protectionism, state ownership of industries and unlimited social spending.

But judging from the victory of my social-democratic National Liberation Party in Costa Rica's Feb. 5 elections, our country didn't get the message that all of Latin America is veering to the old-line left. And the truth is, neither did most countries in the region.

The governments of most South American and all Central American nations are strikingly moderate, a radical change from the ideological polarization I encountered when I was first elected president 20 years ago. We may believe in the state's responsibility to alleviate the crushing poverty that afflicts 40 percent of Latin America's population, but most of us also affirm that there is no better cure for that poverty than a stronger, more globally integrated economy.


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