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Monday, 25 November, 2002, 17:29 GMT
Analysis: Latin America's left shift
Lucio Gutierrez at a recent press conference
The left is celebrating Gutierrez's victory

The victory of ex-colonel Lucio Gutierrez in Ecuador's presidential run-off appears to be part of a Latin American trend to shift to the left.

A former coup leader, Mr Gutierrez, seems to have a great deal in common with Venezuela's controversial left-wing president, Hugo Chavez, and his victory follows the election of the Workers Party candidate, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Brazil.

The consistent message from Latin America's voters is for change. They are fed up with corruption and an economic model which has not improved the lot of many ordinary people.

But while there is a common thread of discontentment, the governments the various countries end up with are likely to be very different.

Varied

Mr Chavez in Venezuela is a traditional Latin American populist, whose attempts to push through changes have led to ever more bitter conflict with the country's traditional powers.

It is a violent polarisation which is undermining Venezuela's democratic institutions. Brazil, by contrast, is enjoying an unprecedented smooth transition in the run-up to its first working-class president, known as Lula, taking office in January.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva celebrating victory in Brazil
Brazil's Lula leads a modern political party

Lula's Workers Party is one of Latin America's few modern political parties, with a proven track record in local government.

Lula is negotiating with his opponents to reach a consensus for change, a policy which, if it succeeds, may well strengthen Brazil's democratic institutions rather than undermine them.

On face value, Ecuador's new president-elect, Mr Gutierrez, seems much more in the Hugo Chavez mould.

He is an outsider and former coup leader who campaigned in military uniform.

The election in Ecuador was far more polarised than in Brazil. But at the same time, the president-elect has toned down his rhetoric in recent weeks, promising to govern within International Monetary Fund guidelines and to attract foreign investment.

He may still surprise his critics who predict disaster.

See also:

25 Nov 02 | Americas
13 Sep 02 | Business
21 Oct 02 | Country profiles
28 Oct 02 | Americas
14 Apr 02 | Americas
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