Latin American populism in decline, says Macri aide

Populism in Latin America is being edged out by a new brand of managerial leaders responding to fatigue over “illogical” platforms and quixotic promises, according to the political guru who masterminded the rise to power of Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri.

“There is almost no such thing as death in politics. But change is coming,” says Jaime Durán Barba, 69, the Ecuadorean political consultant who has advised Mr Macri since he turned to politics in 2003. 

Argentina was among the first countries in Latin America to roll back the so-called “pink tide” of leftwing populists that dominated the region in the 2000s. Many of those leaders have since fallen foul of corruption scandals, as in Brazil, or proved unable to manage the economic squeeze that has followed the collapse in commodity prices, as in socialist Venezuela.

The division between populism and pragmatism was illustrated this week when 12 countries from the region, including Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, refused to recognise the so-called constituent assembly installed in Venezuela by President Nicolás Maduro and slammed the country’s “rupture of the democratic order”. Venezuela continues to be supported by Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua.

In Argentina, Mr Macri’s centre-right coalition defeated the Peronist party of former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in 2015. Mr Durán Barba, who is the co-author of The Art of Winning and Politics in the 21st century: Art, Myth or Science, was central to Mr Macri’s political strategy. 

“Macrismo is a counter-cultural phenomenon. In 2005 [when Mr Macri’s PRO party was formed] everybody used to laugh at us, but we have won every single campaign since then, all 10,” says Mr Durán Barba. He compares Mr Macri to France’s Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau. 

Mr Durán Barba, who has run successful…

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