Pink Tide

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Chavez, Rousseff, Mujica, and Kirchner at the 2012 Mercosur summit.
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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.

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.[3][4][5][6] 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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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. She was replaced in 2015 by the incompetent right wing president Mauricio Macri, but left wing Peronism came back to power in 2019 after Cristina's protégé, Alberto Fernández won the election.
  • 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.[10] 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.[11]. A new election occured in October 2020, and Arce, the candidate put up by Morales's party won. [12]
  • 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 is now president. His authoritarian regime is currently threatened by widespread protests against neoliberalism and economic inequality.[13]
  • 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.[14]
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.[15]

See also[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. "Los secretos de la guerra sucia continental de la dictadura" (The secrets of the continental dirty war of the dictators), Clarin, 24 March 2006
  4. 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. 
  5. Greg Grandin (2011). The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War. University of Chicago Press. p. 75. ISBN 9780226306902.
  6. Walter L. Hixson (2009). The Myth of American Diplomacy: National Identity and U.S. Foreign Policy. Yale University Press. p. 223. ISBN 0300151314.
  7. Klein, Naomi (2007). The Shock Doctrine. New York: Picador. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-312-42799-3. 
  8. 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. 
  9. Oikonomakis, Leonidas. Europe’s pink tide? Heeding the Latin American experience. Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  13. See the Wikipedia article on 2019 Chilean protests.