Latin American politics has taken a left-hand turn in the last decade, with an increasing number of chief executives hailing from left-of-center parties. We investigate the political and socio-economic factors explaining political ideology of the chief executive in a sample of 100 elections taking place between 1975 and 2007 in eighteen Latin American countries. We find that the commodity booms in agricultural, mining and oil are positively and significantly related to the probability that a country will have a chief executive from a left-of-center political party. However, for oil exports, we observe that this effect only holds for Venezuela. We also show that past political discrimination and government crises are positively and significantly associated with a move to more left-wing chief executives. Openness to trade and having a president from the right in the previous presidential term negatively affects the probability of having a more liberal president, although the effect of trade openness disappears when the incumbent president was a conservative. We also find that when a government crisis occurs during a term with a president from the right, the probability of having a president from the left in the next term increases significantly.
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