Tuesday, February 28, 2017

So when they contemplate Mr Trump’s first few weeks in the White House, many Latin American liberal democrats think they’ve seen this movie before. And they know it usually ends badly. Some of the continent’s own populists, by contrast, recognise Mr Trump as a kindred spirit. Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s dictatorial successor, criticised a “hate campaign” against Mr Trump—though that was before the United States this week blacklisted Venezuela’s vice-president as a drug kingpin (an allegation Mr Maduro called “baseless”). Guillermo Moreno, the former official entrusted by Ms Fernández with producing Argentina’s statistics, has identified “a Peronist” in Mr Trump, “who is trying to do what we did”.

It is not just Mr Trump’s assault on Mexico’s economy and national dignity, with his threats to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement and to build a border wall, that Latin Americans have to deal with. The bigger question for the region is what Mr Trump represents in the battle of political ideas. The risk is that he may re-legitimise populist nationalism just when it was waning south of the border. That is especially so in Mexico, where Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who heads opinion polls for the 2018 presidential election, now talks of “the fatherland first”. Even Chile may not be immune: Alejandro Guillier, a former television presenter who boasts of a special bond with “the people”, has a chance in an election in November.