When Brazilians vote Sunday to choose their next President, the stakes will be high for South America’s largest democracy—and for the Western Hemisphere. There are multiple candidates on the ballot, but this is a two-man race: Two-term former president Lula da Silva, a leftwing populist, is challenging center-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who is seeking a second term. If neither one receives better than 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff on Oct. 30.
Leftwing populism has been on the move in Latin America since Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez took power in 1999. Socialists have sometimes used their electoral popularity to steamroll democratic institutions and hang onto power. From Argentina to Mexico, the red wave has delivered less liberty and more hardship.