Pink Tide

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Recent electoral victories of Progressive candidacies in the region give hope for greater social justice and a more participatory democracy, but they still do not mean a shift to the left. They are first and foremost the result of an ostensible loss of prestige from the right-wing parties that have traditionally ruled.
—Albrecht Koschützke and Hajo Lanz, directors of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation for Central America[1]

The Pink Tide is a nickname given to the wave of progressive governments in Latin America after the consecutive elections of Hugo Chávez in 1998 in Venezuela and Lula da Silva in Brazil. The term is a reference to the nature of these political movements as they are not communists (normally identified by red) but some more moderate version of the left (thus pink). However the term has been criticized for being vague and simplistic, as it connects several quite different political movements with the only thing in common to be more left-wing than the traditional parties or regimes that precede them.[2] The ideologies of these governments go from democratic socialism, social democratic to libertarian socialism to even far-left, populist and authoritarian governments. It has also been argued that there was a second Pink Tide starting in 2019, in response to the far-right governments that replaced many of the governments of the former Pink Tide.[3]

The reasons behind the sudden turn to the left of many Latin American countries include such things as the infamous Operation Condor,Wikipedia a series of US-backed operations in South America that included economic warfare, political murders, coups and sponsorship of brutal far-right regimes in order to fight communism and everything that looks like it. These activities provoked the overthrow of several democratically-elected progressive governments during the 1960s and 1970s, including among other Salvador Allende in Chile, Jacobo Albernz in Guatemala, Juan Domingo Perón in Argentina and even João Goulart of Brazil followed by far-right dictatorship that committed all sorts of human rights violations including internment camps, torture, rape, political kidnappings, child trafficking and other nasty stuff under the supervision of the CIA.[4][5][6][7] These caused a strong anti-American sentiment in the region.

To be fair, once the crimes of these dictatorships and the US government support became common knowledge, public outcry did happen among the American public and some sectors of the Democratic Party (Democrats were the opposition for most of this time).[citation needed] They pushed for American withdrawal of South and Central America and a cessation of support for these regimes. In fact international pressure from the US (particularly during Jimmy Carter's government), Europe and the Latin American countries not under far-right dictatorships, was part of the reason why most of these regimes fell.[citation needed] The end of the dictatorships was followed by neoliberal policies promoted by democratically-elected conservative governments that failed miserably, and the region soon faced problems such as income inequality, increased poverty, corruption and high unemployment.[8] Naturally the anti-American sentiment and the skepticism over neoliberal policies led to the success of parties that were critical of both, with the eventual victories of Chavez in Venezuela, Lula in Brazil, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Nestor Kirchner and then his wife Cristina Fernández in Argentina, Tabaré Vazquez in Uruguay, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Mauricio Funes in El Salvador among others.[citation needed]

But, although these governments tend to be grouped together, apart from mutual international diplomatic support for geo-strategic reasons, each one have very little in common internally.[9] While some are clearly authoritarian with questionable ethics and blatant antidemocratic behaviors like Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, others tend more towards socio-liberal or libertarian socialist tendencies with socially liberal policies (support of LGBTI rights including gay marriage, abortion, marihuana legalization, etc.), others are moderate and economically progressive such as Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica.[citation needed] Others are somewhere in between like El Salvador, Ecuador and Peru.[citation needed] Even so, English-speaking media often tend to accentuate the negative and often overlook important gains of these governments in such aspects as poverty reduction, indigenous peoples' rights and economic growth.[10]

The Pink Tide in maps[edit]

Red indicates left-wing governments, and blue indicates right-wing governments.

Where are they now?[edit]

The countries in the region have experienced the Pink Tide differently. In some countries the leftist parties still remain democratically in power while in others there has been a peaceful transition away to the conservatives (and sometimes back again to the leftists). A few other countries, however, have slid down the path of dictatorship (Bolivia, Chile, Brazil).

  • ArgentinaNéstor Kirchner died in 2010, after leaving office in 2007 to the winner of the elections of that year, his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. After ruining most of the Argentinian economy, she was replaced in 2015 by the incompetent right wing president Mauricio Macri who couldn't resolve the problems. The left wing Peronism came back to power in 2019 after Cristina's protégé, Alberto Fernández won the election. With Fernández, however, the already bleak situation is deteriorating faster than ever: the GDP has fallen by 2,2% in 2019, with a double-digit drop in 2020. The inflation is over 50% a year, despite the strenuous efforts by the government to forcefully freeze the prices[11] Meanwhile, the country defaulted for the ninieth time[12] and more than 40% of the population is living in poverty.[13] Since there is nothing so bad that it couldn't be worse, Argentina was also among the worst affected countries by the Covid-19 pandemic, being the 15th with more cases per capita and the 11th with more deaths by July 2021.[14]
  • BoliviaThe resilient president Evo Morales finally met his political downfall in November 2019. He lost a referendum on whether or not he should be allowed to run for a fourth term in October 2019 but the Bolivian supreme court reversed the decision and allowed him to run.[15] Disputes over that issue as well as allegations of election fraud led to massive protests and, just a few hours after Morales announced a new election, the military called for his resignation and he accepted. He was replaced by the right-wing Senator Jeanine Áñez Chávez, who proclaimed herself president and walked into the presidential palace brandishing an oversized Bible.[16]. A new election occured in October 2020, and Arce, the candidate put up by Morales's party won. [17]
  • BrazilLula da Silva left office to his protégé Dilma Rousseff. The all consuming Lava JatoWikipedia scandal resulted in Rousseff's impeachment, Lula's show trial and conviction, and seems to be touching politicians in Brazil regardless of their ideological backgrounds (here's looking at you, Temer). Hypothetically, Lula might have won the 2018 elections; however, he was disqualified due to his controversial conviction. Instead the far right candidate Jair Bolsonaro managed to prevail, and things have gotten worse during his term.
  • ChileThe political pendulum seems to swing back and forth in Chile. Socialist Michelle Bachelet ended her second term peacefully in 2018 and the conservative businessman and Pinochet-wannabe Sebastián Piñera was president from 2018-2022. His authoritarian regime struggled with widespread protests against neoliberalism and economic inequality, and he would be ousted by the left-wing Gabriel BoricWikipedia.[18]
  • Costa RicaCarlos Alvarado Quesada is the current president from the center-left Citizens' Action Party.
  • CubaMiguel Díaz-Canel is the first non-Castro family member to be elected president of Cuba since 1976. He's also relatively young (well, compared to his immediate predecessors).
  • Dominican RepublicDanilo Medina of the left wing Dominican Liberation Party won his election in a landslide in 2016.
  • EcuadorLenín Moreno of Rafael Correa's party won a narrow victory in 2017. However, Moreno is way more conservative than his predecessor and began distancing himself from left-wing populism after he took office. He secured a referendum to impose term limits on the office of president thereby locking Correa out of office.[19]
  • El SalvadorThe FMLN party (formerly a communist guerrilla) won two straight elections before coming in last in a three way race to a third party ex-FMLN candidate, Nayib Bukele.
  • GuatemalaÁlvaro Colom peacefully transitioned power to his right wing successor in 2012.
  • HondurasLiberal-turned-left-wing-populist Manuel Zelaya was removed in a bloody US-backed military coup in 2009. Right-wing leaders have since tightened their grip on the country, including "winning" the Honduran general election, 2017Wikipedia. However, by 2022 leftists regained control with Xiomara CastroWikipedia.
  • MexicoLeftist Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador won the 2018 election in a landslide, after having lost both the 2006 election (which result was... rather questionable to say the least) and the 2012 election, securing over 50% of the vote and his party and allies securing the first majority in both chambers of the country in decades, probably in response to the "Orange Tide" that happened in the United States. To be honest, everyone expected him to win after the disastrous government of Enrique Peña Nieto, but he still managed to disrupt pollsters who did not think he would win by that much. Obrador's government has, however, been mostly mediocre and polarizing.
  • NicaraguaDaniel Ortega returned to power in 2007. In 2018 he responded violently to a demonstrationsWikipedia and experienced demands for his resignation. Following Hugo Chávez path, Ortega has eroded more and more the democratic institutions in Nicaragua,[20] arresting opposition leaders as well as journalists and activists.[21][22] In June 2021, the top US diplomat for Latin America, Julie Chung tweeted that the arrests "should resolve any remaining doubts about Ortega's credentials as a dictator." [23]
  • ParaguayThe former Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo was impeachedWikipedia and removed from his presidency in 2012 over a controversial handling of a land dispute that turned violent and alleged sexual abuse during his time as a Catholic bishop. The next election was a peaceful transition of power to the conservative Colorado Party, which supported the Alfredo Stroessner dictatorship.
  • PeruPeru's center-left president Ollanta Humala was forced to withdraw from his reelection campaign due to Lava Jato. The next election was won by right-of-center Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, in a very close call against the daughter of former right-wing dictator Alberto Fujimori, Keiko Fujimori. He was later impeached, and even though the impeachment process was blocked in Congress, he had to resign over further corruption scandals, also from Lava Jato. He was replaced by the increasingly authoritarian center-right Martín Vizcarra, who was impeached and removed from office after Congress declared him "morally incompetent," and he got replaced by Manuel Merino, the President of the Peruvian Congress, who ran a "far-right government." This sparked mass protests from Peruvians who felt the impeachment was unfounded, an overreach of Congressional power, and even many analysts, experts, and media outlets across the country called it a coup. [24] Five days after taking office, Merino resigned due to two deaths in the protests, and he was succeeded by Fransisco Sagasti, who took over as an "emergency" and "transitional" president. Come 2021, elections were finally held, with former teacher and longtime activist Pedro Castillo winning over Keiko Fujimori, who has disputed the results of the election, in a very Trumpian way, which has delayed the transition period for Castillo and grounded the country to a halt. Castillo, a left winger who wants to replace the constitution inherited from Fujimori's regime, was finally declared president on July 19th and took office on July 28, 2021.
  • UruguayUruguay's center-left Broad Front party managed to win three straight elections, until their candidate lost to the conservative Luis Lacalle Pou (by a narrow margin) in 2019.
  • VenezuelaHugo Chávez died in 2013 and was succeeded by Nicolás Maduro. Venezuela has been slowly spiraling into disaster after the opposition parties re-took the congress in 2015. In 2019, there was presidential crisis on whether the self-proclaimed "interim president" Juan Guaidó or Maduro should be recognized. Countries such as the United States recognize Guaidó while countries such as Russia and China recognize Maduro. According to the Venezuelan constitution, if the president is illegitimate, then the leader of the National Assembly (Guaidó) shall be recognized as interim president to ensure free and democratic elections. Although Maduro was democratically re-elected in 2018, the voter turnout was very low and the main opposition parties were banned from participating.[25]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. "Tres tenues luces de esperanza Las fuerzas de izquierda cobran impulso en tres países centroamericanos". Nueva Sociedad. 2014. 
  2. Abbott, Jared. Will the Pink Tide Lift All Boats? Latin American Socialisms and Their Discontents. Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  3. Latin America’s second ‘Pink Tide’ is a result of right-wing government failures, Diana Flores, Commonwealth Times 18 March 2022
  4. "Los secretos de la guerra sucia continental de la dictadura" (The secrets of the continental dirty war of the dictators), Clarin, 24 March 2006
  5. McSherry, J. Patrice (2011). "Chapter 5: "Industrial repression" and Operation Condor in Latin America". State Violence and Genocide in Latin America: The Cold War Years (Critical Terrorism Studies). Routledge. p. 107. ISBN 0415664578. 
  6. Greg Grandin (2011). The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War. University of Chicago Press. p. 75. ISBN 9780226306902.
  7. Walter L. Hixson (2009). The Myth of American Diplomacy: National Identity and U.S. Foreign Policy. Yale University Press. p. 223. ISBN 0300151314.
  8. Klein, Naomi (2007). The Shock Doctrine. New York: Picador. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-312-42799-3. 
  9. Isbester, Katherine (2011). The Paradox of Democracy in Latin America: Ten Country Studies of Division and Resilience. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-1442601802. 
  10. Oikonomakis, Leonidas. Europe’s pink tide? Heeding the Latin American experience. Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  11. Preliminary Overview of the Economies of Latin America and the Caribbean -2020
  12. Argentina defaults yet again, but hopes to get off lightly
  13. Argentina’s Economy Buckles After Leader Puts Politics First
  14. https://ourworldindata.org/covid-cases
  15. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/03/evo-morales-bolivia-president-election-limits
  16. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-11/bolivia-faces-power-vacuum-and-more-chaos-after-morales-quits
  17. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/19/bolivia-election-exit-polls-suggest-thumping-win-evo-morales-party-luis-arce
  18. See the Wikipedia article on 2019 Chilean protests.
  19. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/02/05/a-referendum-in-ecuador-is-another-defeat-for-south-americas-left-wing-populists/?utm_term=.d60f8386dc45
  20. Daniel Ortega tears up all pretence of democracy in Nicaragua
  21. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/06/nicaragua-police-arrest-opposition-leaders-ortega-treason-laws
  22. https://www.npr.org/2021/06/23/1009339843/has-nicaraguas-president-become-a-dictator-hes-jailing-political-opponents
  23. https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210622-timeline-nicaragua-s-authoritarian-slide
  24. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/peru-president-merino-resigns-vizcarra/2020/11/15/47cb0a54-275c-11eb-92b7-6ef17b3fe3b4_story.html
  25. https://qz.com/1283108/venezuela-election-amid-boycotts-and-irregularities-voter-turnout-was-the-lowest-in-60-years