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Appealing to “the People” at Home and Abroad: Populist Discourses of Chavez, Correa and Morales Toward Domestic and Emigrant Voters

Comparative Politics
Democracy
Latin America
Migration
Political Leadership
Populism
Qualitative
Ingrid Ríos Rivera
Universidad de Chile
Mari-Liis Jakobson
Tallinn University
Ingrid Ríos Rivera
Universidad de Chile
Sebastián Umpierrez de Reguero
European University Institute

Abstract

Have radical left-wing populists in Latin America constructed their political discourses differently within the country and across borders? Searching for an answer, we explore the discourses of three Latin American leaders: Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Evo Morales (Bolivia), in two different levels of analysis: domestic (inland) and transnational (abroad). In order to conduct a discourse analysis of the three leaders’ speeches to the two audiences, we employ Benjamin Moffitt’s theory of populism as political style. The framework allows us to understand how the three leaders construct the Manichean opposition between “the people” and their antagonists, and how they perform crisis and leadership for the different auditoria. By employing a comparative historical analysis, our results seek to pinpoint the patterns in the rhetorical construction of these signifiers, the similarities and differences between geographical spaces and leaders, in order to reflect upon the idea of transnational populism. The analysis attests to differences in how the people and antagonisms are constructed in the domestic and transnational context, and also, how different crises are performed to the domestic and transnational publics. These three former presidents have opened the dilemma of exclusionary versus inclusionary populism. Separating this debate into the domestic and transnational realms, we generate new insights to follow-up the research agenda on expansive versus restrictive policies associated with populist leadership and democracy.