Monday, January 23, 2006


That's the word in Quechua (the language of the indigenous people of Andean mountains) for a change in the sun, a movement of the Earth which will bring a new era. An indigenous Indian has been elected president of Bolivia for the first time and the people of Chile have elected their first-ever woman president. Many people see a new cycle beginning.

Evo Morales and Michelle Bachelet join Lula, the ex-steel worker who leads Brazil, and Hugo Chavez, who runs Venezuela. They are all part of a new breed of leaders who, to say the least, look different. The era of the conservative middle-aged man in a grey suit, representing the white-skinned landed elite across Latin America appears to be coming to an end.

Latin America's political map could keep being redrawn as many of the region's countries prepare for presidential elections until the end of this year. One of the key issues is whether the recent left-wing trend in the region will continue; and, if it does, what will be the likely nature of any new left-leaning government: radical as Hugo Chavez or moderate as Lula da Silva?

The next round will be played in two weeks, in Costa Rica. Former President Oscar Arias, who served from 1986 to 1990, is hoping to return to power with his National Liberation Party (socialist) and end the rule of the centre-right Social Christian Unity Party. Recent opinion polls suggest that Mr Arias is ahead.


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