Latin America 21

Latin America is today, probably, the main reference of the left in the world. But the duration of this new wave of governments identified with this ideological perspective, which has been happening in recent years in the region, is uncertain, especially in a world that is advancing towards authoritarianism. Therefore, the question that should be asked is: are we facing a progressive wave or are they laying the foundations for a resounding return of the right?

In 2018, Andrés Manuel López Obrador won the presidency of Mexico with more than 30 million votes, a number that represented 53.2% of the total in a country that does not require a second round to take office. In this case, it was not a simple wave, it was a real tsunami in electoral terms.

Since then, a number of countries have been opting for leftist governments. In 2019, although with its own twists, in Panama with Laurentino Cortizo Cohen and in Argentina with Alberto Fernández, the left came to power.

A year later, he did it in Bolivia, with Luis Arce, and in 2021 in Peru, with Pedro Castillo, and in Honduras, with Xiomara Castro. Recently, Gabriel Boric triumphed in Chile and Colombia, Gustavo Petro marked a real feat, as the left had never before triumphed at the national level.

The changes in Latin America, of course, are not homogeneous. In Ecuador (Guillermo Lasso), El Salvador (Nayib Bukele) and Uruguay (Luis Lacalle Pou) the right-wing governments remain, as well as in Brazil, although here everything points to Jair Bolsonaro being replaced by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who would return as a leftist president, riding this new wave.

Remnants of the first wave?

Initially, leftist governments were gradually established in Latin America from 1998 onwards, when Hugo Chávez became president in Venezuela. From then on, the left expanded rapidly across the region with charismatic leaders. But in the second half of the previous decade, successive right-wing governments were regaining power. In 2020 it was possible to count 11 right-wing Latin American presidents.

However, after López Obrador’s victory in Mexico, the epicenter of the turn that meant the beginning of a series of defeats for conservatism, it can be said that the current wave was only preceded by an ephemeral turn to the right.

In this context, what political cycle is Latin America currently in? Are we facing a strong wave of leftist governments? How long will this new stage last? These are relevant questions, especially when the left in Europe seems to be increasingly weakened – for example, with the recent fall of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, which paved the way for the far right in the country.

the european mirror

While Latin America is experiencing a new shift to the left, in Europe the triumphs of the extreme right are increasingly common. Mélenchon himself fell victim to the force of the far right when Marine Le Pen wrested second place from him in the first round and went to second to compete against Emmanuel Macron. France Unsubmissive and its proposal of “another world is possible” dropped to third place.

In the world, authoritarian governments such as China, the Philippines, Russia or Turkey are increasingly seen as normal. Meanwhile, the far right is gaining ground in Europe, where not just Le Pen but also the Freedom Party in Austria, the Conservative People’s Party in Estonia or Vox in Spain are gaining ground. He arrives! became the third political force in Portugal in 2022 and the call for new elections in Italy represents an opportunity for Giorgia Meloni.

Expectations about the Latin American left and its performance in government are high. However, is this really the beginning of a stage of progressivism and continuity of the left in Latin America? Or are they laying the groundwork for a comeback from the right that today seems a little dejected? We will have to wait, only time will tell.


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