Corruption & the Dark Side of Left Wing Populism in Argentina under the Kirchners

You are invited to hear “Corruption and the Dark Side of Left Wing Populism in Argentina under the Kirchners,” by Luigi Manzetti, Professor of Political Science, Southern Methodist University, on Friday, February 22, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the Gould Library Athenaeum. Reception to follow. This Wynia Memorial Lecture is free and open to the public.

Prof. Luigi ManzettiMuch of the recent literature focusing on the "new" Latin American left has compared governments of the "pragmatic socialist" and “left wing populist” varieties in terms of their effects on economic and social policies. Very little attention has been paid to how corruption has accompanied a weakening of checks and balances in the case of left wing populist presidencies. Prof. Manzetti will argue that the more the executive branch concentrates political power and becomes less accountable to institutional checks and balances, the greater the chances that corruption and misuse of scarce government funds will take place. He illustrates this in the case of the consecutive husband and wife presidencies of Néstor and Cristina Fernández Kirchner in Argentina. From 2003 to the present, Argentina, under the stewardship of the Kirchners, adopted policies endorsing strong government regulation, re-nationalization of important companies, and generous welfare transfers. But these policies were implemented unilaterally by emasculating the institutions of horizontal accountability. Prof. Manzetti concludes that corruption and lack of rule of law are discouraging investments and creating a pernicious cycle of political alienation and distrust in Argentina. Economic history teaches us that all commodity booms come to an end. When the current one is over, Argentina will find itself even deeper in a hole as current government spending continues on an unsustainable trajectory.

Luigi Manzetti holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Iowa (1988) and has previously taught at Duke University, the University of Siena (Italy). He served as a research associate at the North South Center of the University of Miami between 1992 and 2002. Prof. Manzetti specializes in issues that include governance, corruption, and market reforms in Latin America. His latest book is entitled Neo-liberalism, Accountability, and Reform Failures in Emerging Markets (Penn State U. Press, 2010).  He has also worked as a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the United States State Department, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.