January 23, 2014 | by Daniela E. Rodriguez Print

As popular dissatisfaction in Argentina and Brazil grows over unprecedented political corruption, violations of basic rights, and government ineptitude, we may ask: Are there lessons that Latin Americans can learn from the failure of the Arab Spring in Egypt?

The first lesson is more than clear: Democracy is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the stability of a country. The proof rests in the great speed with which a large group of alleged democracies in the region have become tyrannies of the majority.

The second lesson will be a bit more difficult to grasp for people in South America, but it is certainly very helpful: What is needed for progress today is a healthy market economy and a strong rule of law.

In the 21st century the deepening global crisis of the welfare state is becoming increasingly clear. While the ruling socialists preach the virtues of equality, if we are to judge by the results, they must mean equal poverty for all.

Many Argentines and Brazilians are angry and impatient because they cannot enjoy even the most basic services they are due as taxpayers. Public transportation, health, education, and police services are terrible, yet they see the ruling classes magically multiply their assets. Undoubtedly, the stagnation of the middle class, abuse of public funds, and deep inefficiency of the few public services that still “work” have been the main triggers of the massive demonstrations in South America. It really should not surprise us, since socialism always makes poor citizens poorer while making powerful political leaders richer, restricting fundamental freedoms and preserving corruption such as drug trafficking -- a main source of money.

Street demonstrations are planned for Argentina, and in Brazil violent protests took place after the Workers Party (PT) held power for over a decade. PT created the Forum of Sao Paulo in 1990, a joint effort of political parties and leftist terrorist movements encouraged from Cuba whose main goal was to win presidential elections in Latin America and remain in power at any cost. Meanwhile, although the Rousseff administration brags about fighting corruption, former president Luiz Inacio “Lula” Da Silva is still free. He was the kingpin of a scandal – the mensalao – related to buying the political support of many opposition lawmakers. Until recently the socialist “model of Lula” seemed to be the political and economic standard for many young politicians in Latin America. Even Henrique Capriles Radonski – the opposition presidential candidate in Venezuela – said he would adopt the “Lula model” once elections are no longer stolen from him. With Brazil on fire and its civil society in outrage, what model will Capriles endorse in the future?

One thing is clear: These socialist governments can be expected to take political measures typical of communist and fascist dictatorship. President Rafael Correa in Ecuador has chosen perpetual rule, having been elected president for the third time in violation of the constitution. (He called it his “first reelection” since the constitution was amended during his second term). President Evo Morales in Bolivia will be the next one to try the same strategy, despite the prohibition in the constitution against being reelected more than once and his promise to not run again.

Egypt’s failure teaches us a clear lesson: The economic stability of capitalism and the institutional balance of the rule of law – in which minorities feel represented – are what our countries need. The welfare state may appear to work for a while, but it always ends up failing. The more our leaders try to remain in power, the more they risk starting a real Latin American Spring.

Daniela E. Rodriguez is a political scientist from the University of Villa Maria in Cordoba, Argentina, and the program director of the Hispanic American Center for Economic Research (HACER) in Argentina: www.hacer.org. Learn More about Daniela E. Rodriguez >