Following neoliberal reforms in the 1990s that enhanced inequality levels in South America, the region saw a wave of left-wing and center-left leaders winning elections in their respective nations. Benefiting from a once-in-a-lifetime commodities boom, these leaders beefed up social policies, oversaw a massive reduction of poverty and unemployment rates, and in some cases became larger-than-life figures with massive followings. Some of them, such as Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chávez and Bolivia’s former leader Evo Morales, used their power to change the rules and extend their time in office.
Others used a different approach: ushering allies into power to rule as presidents by proxy.
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