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Populism in the Caribbean

In the publication edited by Allahar (2001) authors described the leadership in Caribbean: Barbados, Cuba, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad. Factors that are identified are: leadership, ethnicity, colonial past and socio-economic classes. Branche (2008) also refers to colonial legacies, and racial and social inequality.

The more specific Caribbean factors relating to populism are: The mother country as part of the discourse; Ethnicity; Socialism; Religion. 

Often populism in Latin America and the Caribbean are mentioned in the same sentence.The question is whether this is correct. The difference between Latin American populism and Caribbean populism is as big as the difference between Caribbean populism and European populism. When comparing populism in the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe, it is notable that in the Caribbean the populists refer to the mother country. Often the colonial past is blamed for the problems in the Caribbean nations. On the other hand, in European countries populists (and others) blame immigrants from the former colonies for the social problems in the big European cities.  In Latin America the former mother countries are a limited factor because these countries achieved their independence a long time ago. In the case of Venezuela, President Chavez blames American policy for the problems of the continent. But the fact is that often the members of the elites are descendants of the colonists.

The large inequity and the rich natural resources create a fertile ground for populism inLatin America. Demagogic leaders, fostering a direct tie with the mass, promise that they will bring rapid change. These leaders often have a military background and profess nationalism, pushing foreign interests out.  While they preach anti-capitalism they make deals with capitalism. Populists in Latin America advance redistribution of growth and income, while often ignoring inflation (Economist, 2006). But the inequity remains. Studies show that social democratic programmes score better compared to populist programmes. The reduction in inequity brought about by populist government is attributed to luck  (Economist, 2006; Birdsall, 2011). The distrust of institutions is also a very strong factor (Doyle, 2011).

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