A glimmer of hope in Latin America

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In a world so devoid of hope, it’s important to recognize that working class people can still win. When you look at the state of global politics, it can be difficult seeing the far right come to power in places like Hungary, India and Brazil, while the alternative to fascism seems to be neoliberal politicians like Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron. But Latin America is beginning to resist the global lurch towards fascism and the status quo of neoliberalism. The period between 2000 and 2010 was known as the Pink Tide in Latin America, when socialist and center-left leaders like Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina and Evo Morales in Bolivia came to power. The first Pink Tide came to an end in the 2010s, with the rise of the right over the continent, but in recent years, the left has seen a resurgence in power.  

This second pink tide began in 2018, with the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as President of Mexico. Although Obrador is somewhat of a COVID denier and has angered the left many times during his presidency, it’s a huge departure from the right-wing Trump-like administration of Enrique Peña Nieto. Similarly, in Argentina, a country with a long history of neoliberal austerity and right-wing military regimes, the 2019 election saw conservative President Mauricio Macri losing his seat to center-leftist current President Alberto Fernández.  

It’s not just center-leftists that have won in Latin America. Several countries, among them very conservative ones, have elected socialists in the past two years. In Bolivia in 2019, there was a U.S.-backed coup against the Aymara indigenous and proudly socialist President Evo Morales in favor of the authoritarian Christian supremacist government of Jeanine Añez, which massacred protesters and sold off Bolivia’s resources to corporations. For a country with a history of indigenous genocide and fascist military dictatorships, her presidency was another shameful episode of western intervention in Bolivia. In October 2020, after a year of state violence and labor unrest, socialist Luis Arce, a former minister in the Morales administration, was elected President in a landslide, alongside his Aymara Vice President David Choquehuanca, who is also a leftist. On the same day, former Mayor of Vinto Patricia Arce Guzmán (no relation), an Aymara socialist woman who was tortured and humiliated by the coup-plotters, was elected to the Bolivian Chamber of Senators.  

Other countries with histories of Western imperialism have opted for socialists as well. In December, Chile, whose socialist government was overthrown by the CIA in 1973, overwhelmingly elected Democratic Socialist student leader Gabriel Boric and rejected José Antonio Kast, a far right leader who’s praised former military dictator General Augusto Pinochet. Chileans also voted to rewrite the Pinochet-era constitution and elected a Communist mayor for Santiago Centro, the downtown of their capital city, Irací Hassler. In Honduras, a country that has been subject to decades of military occupations and a coup in 2009 which brought 11 years of a violent, far-right “narco-dictatorship” to the country, in November elected Xiomara Castro as President. Castro, a leftist pro-choice woman, is the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, deposed in the previously mentioned 2009 coup, and serves as the first female president of Honduras. On Jan. 27, 2022, her first day as President, she took on the ruling class of her country by ordering electricity to be free for the country’s poor and promising justice for slain Lenca Indigenous activist Berta Cáceres. Even Perú, a country not known for being fertile ground for leftist electoral victories, elected Pedro Castillo, a socially conservative but economically leftist teacher and union leader from the impoverished rural Northern Peruvian department of Cajamarca, as president in the June 2021 election. Castillo defeated Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former fascist dictator Alberto Fujimori.  

In 2022, there will be more elections. In Colombia, leftist Senator Gustavo Petro is beating the neoliberal Trump-like incumbent President Ivan Duque in the polls for the May 2022 election. Other left and center-left political figures such as former Mayor of Medellin Sergio Fajardo have also expressed readiness to challenge Duque. In Brazil, the biggest country in Latin America, which is led by the far-right authoritarian president Jair Bolsonaro, elections are happening in October and poll after poll shows him losing to center-left former President Luis Ignacio “Lula” da Silva, whom Bolsonaro had wrongfully imprisoned so he could clear the way for his presidency.  

This does not paint the full picture. Not every Latin American country is currently taking part in this second Pink Tide: Ecuador elected a conservative billionaire in April, Guatemala has a conservative president who’s been accused of human rights abuses and El Salvador has a right-wing authoritarian president obsessed with Bitcoin. It’s also true that leaders such as Obrador, Morales, Arce, Lula, Castillo and the other center-left to left figures mentioned have their issues and many on the left in their countries criticize them relentlessly. 

 Even with all of these contradictions, it’s clear that the people of Latin America are rising up against imperialism, austerity and neoliberalism. The fact that the Pink Tide has happened twice, in country after country, shows us that this is not a fluke but a clear rejection of the neoliberal world order. The past twenty years have shown us that it’s impossible for the forces of empire and big business to subjugate Latin America without force imposed by countries like the United States. The United States now has a responsibility to respect the results of these elections and allow the poor and indigenous people of Latin America to finally control the land that was stolen from them.