A new pink tide in Latin American politics – MIR


Over the past half-century, Latin America has experienced three cross-regional political changes. The region first suffered uprisings by far-right dictators and their military juntas in the 1970s. After Hugo Chavez’s victory in Venezuela in 1998, the end of the 20th century until 2021 was marked by historic elections of left-wing governments, triggering the “pink tide“: a political wave in favor of the left. After a decade of hegemony, widespread disenchantment with the left has benefited the right in Latin America. However, the recent economic and health crises seem to be reversing the position of the right in the region. The electoral victories of the left, defeat the far right in Chile and Honduras, the increase in polls of Lula on Bolsonaro in Brazil, and the election of Colombia’s first left-wing president, herald a new trend. Marked by disillusionment, is the right just drying up and giving way to yet another optimistic “new left” in Latin America, or are we witnessing a new robust and viable “pink tide”?

The rise of the first pink tide

Freed from geopolitical stigma at the end of the Cold War, Latin American channels opened up for a leftward turn in the 1990s. Left-wing parties could grow without fear of being associated with a “Soviet bridgehead.” The rise of the pink tide was a reactionary, transnational wave capitalizing on the long-term grievances of minority exclusion in Latin America and the damaging effects of the economic theory of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism was also associated to growing inequalities based on the belief that government interventions were damaging to markets. Thus, the pink tide has become a popular empowerment tool used to overcome neoliberal market discrimination and absorb marginalized indigenous communities and rural populations.

In the context of the Latin American left today, both the distinction populist, The radical left and the institutionalized and moderate left constitute the pink tide. Radical members of the pink tide capitalized on grievances based on the rural economic exclusion of neoliberal practices. They also denounced the political ineffectiveness of their country’s electoral democracy in the context of massive inequalities, violence and social exclusion. However, the two approaches of left-wing governments emerged to fight corrupt elites, which the former far-right dictatorships, the region’s fragile clientelist democracies and the military junta had favored.

As today, a central ideological root of the pink tide was the wave of progressivism he embraced and defended. Indeed, in addition to the normalization of indigenous parties leaders such as Bolivian President Evo Morales have advocated, lawmakers have put gender inclusion on the political agenda. Women previously deprived of a political voice became represented in governments. For example, Argentina was the first to adopt a candidate quota law increase the number of women in the Argentine Congress. Thus, the emergence of the pink tide has become widespread, propelled by grievances of long-term exclusion, with the legacy of greater recognition of minority groups and economic reforms to alleviate extreme poverty.

The return of the right

Political changes in the region have often reflected a tipping point between optimism and disenchantment with the government and an illusory hope for other alternatives in a vicious circle. During the first pink tide, governments benefited from a short-term commodity boom and were able to afford increase in social spending. Unfortunately, as a temporary resource, the exhaustion of the boom has caused widespread popular disillusionment. Since the 2010s, the right has been able to take advantage of the economic slowdown and perceptions of corruption on the left to revive itself. In Brazil, the narrative of untrustworthy left parties was powerful and at the heart of Bolsonaro’s 2018 campaign. and ushered in a shift to the right in Latin America.

The election of conservative Mauricio Macri in Argentina marked a shift in governance to the right, culminating in the election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil in 2018. One of the very causes of the emergence of right-wing governments has been the challenge to globalism, described as a plot to impose unjust economic policy, advance a “the cultural Marxist agenda” and control populations by uprooting them from the core values. Thus, it is by capitalizing on the discontent of the left that the hegemony of the right has held for a decade. By dint of shifting dissatisfaction, the right is now losing its hold.

The left as an alternative to a failing right

Just like 30 years ago, the return of the left is spreading across all regions through the same anger directed at inequality and corruption. The current political climate say again the first pink tide: growing poverty and inequality exacerbated by the pandemic led to mass protests and growing hostility towards conservative governments. This “new pink tide” resembles its predecessor as a reactive movement reflecting the successes of gender ideology, the mobilization of farmers and indigenous people, or the feminist movements that stimulated Colombia, Argentina and Mexico.

Photo of Lula supports Tierra Livrewhich organizes cooperatives of family farmers in PCdoBnaCamara licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

However, this time, no revolutionary ideological movement opposes the Latin American neoliberal doctrine. People no longer seek a new independent economic order or emancipate themselves from neoliberalism. Gustavo Petro is an example of the “new left”, declaring that “Colombia does not need socialism, it needs democracy and peace. The newly elected Colombian president tends to detach from the leftist political name as it is understood in the West, breaking with the traditional left/right divide, which was damaging his country. Supporters of this new left-wing governance are voters who ” wanted a better life for them and their children. »

To that end, COVID has rendered the right irrelevant in parts of Latin America as protesters confront their government’s mishandling of the pandemic. In a right-wing milieu without social safety nets, Latin American voters are pressured to support candidates who promise big government and more social spending.

Photo of “Gustavo Petro Urrego” by Omar Vera licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Bolsonaro represents the decline of an obsolete right unable to respond to a global social crisis. Indeed, his fight against globalization has reduced his country’s gigantic agro-industrial exports, and his skepticism towards COVID and masks have contributed to COVID-19 deaths in the country. Additionally, Brazil’s heavy reliance on Chinese-made vaccines has had a significant negative impact on immunization, worker health, and the economy. As a result, less than 20% of Brazilians approve of Bolsonaro, legitimizing the left as a viable alternative. The same goes for the victory of the left in Colombia, where Petro benefited from the strong unpopularity of the conservative Ivan Duque, who had a disapproval rating of 77 percent.

The wave of left-wing governments that is taking hold throughout Latin America is undeniable. Sharing the same cries for inclusion, progressivism and social justice as two decades ago, many see this political shift as a massive new pink tide. Evolving in an ideologically non-revolutionary context, devoid of a “populist” left in the style of Hugo Chavez in the 2000s, this wave propelled by the COVID crisis and the need for social safety nets departs somewhat from the original movement of the pink tide. However, political changes in the region have often reflected the vicious circle of incumbent governments failing to meet high expectations. Today, environmental and economic difficulties will be the challenges that these leftist governments will face. It may be too early to tell whether these newly elected left-wing governments will successfully retain power over the long term, or whether they will be ousted in the next cycle by the right.

The featured image: pink lake by Artem Zykine is licensed under Pexels

Edited by Joshua Poggianti


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