The third, fourth and fifth conditions also help to account for a rise in anti-Americanism in the region. The third condition is a prominent reason for anti-Americanism in Mexico and Central America, which have higher emigration rates to the U.S. in comparison to countries in South America. The increasing salience of immigration policy in the U.S. – as well as the perception that immigrants from Latin America are illegal and treated as second class citizens (or non-citizens altogether) in the U.S. – has led many citizens in countries with high emigration rates to be concerned (and critical) about U.S. immigration policies.

The fourth condition has led to decreasing support for U.S. foreign policy, especially in South American countries. As Table 1 demonstrates, recent survey research suggests that perceptions of the United States have declined since the start of the Iraq War. These attitudes can be attributed to increasing concern about the U.S. policy to "go it alone" in Iraq and its unwillingness to consult allies during times of turmoil. Latin Americans also perceive (and, often rightly so) that their region has declined in importance to U.S. foreign policy in the post-9/11 world. Traditionally the most important region for the United States abroad, Latin America has seen a steady decline in importance in a world in which terrorism takes center-stage.

Opinions of the United States
TABLE: Data from Latinobarometer

It should be noted, however, that anti-American hostility is directed largely at the U.S. government – not toward U.S. citizens more generally. As Tables 2 and 3 show, many hold an unfavorable opinion of President Bush at both the elite and mass level. But many Latin Americans across the region also hold a similarly unfavorable opinion of Hugo Chávez, the most anti-American populist in region.

Chart - Opinions of Executive Leaders.
TABLE: Data from Latinobarometer 2003

Importantly, survey research on the final condition disaggregates opinions on anti-Americanism between elites and the masses. In fact, many citizens draw a distinction between the U.S. government and American culture. As Table 4 shows, many in the region admire aspects of American culture but are still concerned about their spread. Interestingly, the country most supportive of U.S. culture is also the country with the most anti-American populist in power (Venezuela). Other countries, such as Argentina, are considerably more skeptical of U.S. cultural influence.

Chart - American Culture/Spread of American Ideals and Culture
TABLE: Data from Pew Global Values Survey

Conclusion: The Anti-American Populist Today

The conditions that have led to anti-Americanism and populism today are best seen in the career of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Chávez regularly condones U.S. actions abroad and is very critical, even derogatory at times, toward the Bush administration. Chávez' support tends to be drawn from the lower classes, academics, and leftists, and he has promised to radically redistribute Venezuela's vast oil wealth to the poorer segments of society.

Chávez often follows the path of the populist politician, holding a regularly scheduled, three-hour presidential news broadcast (called Aló Presidente) during which he "speaks directly with the people." Recent wins by his party of all the seats in Congress (due to the opposition parties pulling out) and Congressional approval for Chávez to pass legislation by decree without congressional approval has led to increasing criticism that he is a dictator and not a democrat. Only time will tell whether Chávez will become more of a democrat or more of a dictator.

The nationalist foundation of populism and anti-Americanism directed toward market reforms has also led to new ways of organizing the economy. In Venezuela and Bolivia (under populist politician Evo Morales), a new round of nationalization (or the purchase of private companies by the state) has occurred. While both countries have paid for their acquisitions, many – particularly those in the U.S. business community, U.S. government, and IMF – have been concerned about these recent trends.

There have also been political changes associated this new type of politician. Most, including Chávez, Morales, and Ecuador's populist president Rafael Correa, have sought to reorganize the constitutions of their respective countries to grant the poor or indigenous inhabitants (in the cases of Ecuador and Bolivia) more political powers. These groups, traditionally slighted by the ruling elite, certainly have cause for optimism in the region.

There have also been setbacks. Populist politicians recently lost elections in Peru and Mexico, and there have been signs that some populists in office are following a more "regular" path than initially anticipated. The historical dimension is clear, however: it is often only with violence that the populist politician can be thrown out. What this holds for the future of democracy in Latin America is unclear; as Latin America enters what is often a difficult period for new democracies, only time will tell about the impact of populism on Latin American political systems.

President Bush's most recent trip to the region sought to increase ties between the U.S. and regimes that the U.S. feels it can work with. The most important visit by President Bush was to Brazil. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva is a former trade union leader from a reformed Marxist party. Now a moderate leftist, Lula (as he is known) is an example of the type of politician the U.S. feels it can work with. Although the Brazilian and U.S. governments' disagree on a number issues (most importantly free trade and agriculture subsidies), the two nations have found issues to cooperate on despite their political differences (such as ethanol, since Brazil is the world leader in both technology and production).

Such an approach may be the best way forward; the U.S. must learn to live and work with the new Latin American left and the only way to develop a fruitful relationship with the region may be to engage leaders and issues where common ground can be found.