The new “Pink Wave” through the “Historical Pact”?

After Petr’s victory in the elections in Colombia: What connects the left-wing election winners in Latin America.

About three weeks ago, left-wing politician Gustavo Francisco Petro was elected President of Colombia in a historic election. Petr’s triumph marks the end of a long electoral drought for the country’s progressivism, rooted in the legacy of the FARC, the oldest guerrilla group on the Latin American continent.

Francia Marquez. Image: GUE / NGL / CC-BY-SA-2.0

For the first time, African-Colombian environmental activist Francia Márquez, a single mother and former home counselor (hogar), who represents the most neglected sectors of society, which she called “nobody and nobody”, was elected vice president. Columbia”.

Gustaw Petro. Photo: Arturo de La Barrera / CC-BY-2.0

With Marquez as the key to victory, Petro defeated flamboyant entrepreneur Rodolfo Hernández in the second round with the highest attendance since 1974.

All this in an extremely peaceful environment, which is no small feat in a country used to the murders of its political leaders – just think about the murder of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948 and the attack on Petro himself in 2018.

Continental influence

But the results of the now-formed Pacto Histórico coalition that laid the foundations for Petr’s electoral victory are also significant at the Latin American continent level, where the left has won most of the presidential elections held in recent years.

Pedro Castillo. Photo: Presidium of the Republic of Peru / CC-BY-3.0

In addition to the return of MAS in Bolivia and Peronism in Argentina, the winners included López Obrador in Mexico, Castillo in Peru, Castro in Honduras and Boric in Chile. In any case, Petr’s victory in Colombia seems to paint a picture that could be completed in October when the Brazilians will go to the polls to decide between Bolsonaro’s second term and Lula’s return.

A Vicious Cycle or a New Cycle?

These recent developments in Latin America have already been dubbed the new “pink wave” or “left turn,” a nod to an earlier leftist wave in the early 2000s that opposed the Washington Consensus.

While economist Warning of the dangers of a vicious cycle of economic stagnation, social unrest and political polarization that will push the region away from the US, other Dusky Tide actors reiterate that what has already happened should repeat itself.

It’s worth pausing for a moment: are we really witnessing a new pink wave in Latin America? Others point out important differences that make it impossible to compare – “everything that lights up is not a new cycle.”

First Wave: Raw Materials for Social Services

In 1998-2006, the “Three Musketeers” of the then pink wave of Latin America were elected: Chávez in Venezuela, Lula in Brazil and Evo Morales in Bolivia. Despite all the differences in form and content, this political cycle was characterized, inter alia, by that the commodity boom was used to expand welfare and redistribute wealth.

At that time, China was an important resource partner for its growing economy. Of course, the concrete results of the narrative were very different. Thanks to the highest economic growth in its history, Bolivia has managed to significantly reduce social inequalities.

At the same time, Brazil, Argentina and Chile have pushed poverty to an unprecedented level. But the social advances made in Venezuela in Chavismo’s early years made no difference in the face of the severe economic crisis that, according to the United Nations, caused more than six million people to leave their homes.

Despite the debate about the role of the US in creating and worsening the crisis, analysts agree on the authoritarian nature of the “Bolivarian” project and its relationship with other dictatorships such as Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

Can the Left Capture the Momentum?

In contrast, for now it can be argued that the new left-progressive governments on the continent today share common elements. The wave of protests in 2019 shocked most of the right-wing governments that had firmly established themselves in the region after the extraction of raw materials.

So there was a general dynamic where all governments lost the elections (except Paraguay). And some didn’t even make it to the second round, as was the case with Chile and Peru. People were able to side with the left, mainly in the face of disenchantment with the Latin American right.

But the question is whether the left can use this momentum. Are we witnessing a revival of the former “pink wave”? And is there really a joint project between the winners?

Gabriela Borycia. Photo: Gobierno de Chile / CC-BY-SA-3.0

First, the political context seems different today. The anti-democratic governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua no longer have the support of other new leaders – Boric has already condemned both regimes, and Colombia’s new president seems to be following the same line.

In the medium term, the new faces of the new left will mean well-known figures (such as Maduro, Lula and Cristina Fernández) lose their importance. Nor can we ignore the institutional consolidation of the far-right in the region, which has in many cases replaced the traditional right.

Although Bolsonaro is the only elected representative of this radical right so far, its key figures have achieved high-profile election results and were on the verge of elections.

Second, the economic and social context is completely different. In addition to the fall in commodity prices, the coveted tax revenue has also disappeared. The health crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has turned into a protracted social crisis.

According to a report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Cepal, between 2021 and 2022, Latin America will be 27 years behind in extreme poverty, instead of 81.86 million people living in such conditions.

In this sense, it is difficult for new governments to implement reforms without taking into account the macroeconomic balances. Deteriorating inflation data may further worsen living standards in the region.

purple tide? Or green? Or maybe turquoise?

In part, this has led to a significant shift in the programming priorities of the progressive forces. On the one hand, in Chile, Boric won the elections with the votes of young working-class women.

His government agenda includes an ambitious feminist agenda that includes the creation of a national welfare system that values ​​domestic work and the promotion of female employment in response to the economic crisis.

Petro is the first Latin American president in history to propose to replace the use of fossil fuels, which is the beginning of a kind of “green progress”. Given Europe’s recent backwardness on this issue, this is unquestionably an avant-garde proposal at the global level.

So maybe, instead of talking about a new “pink wave”, we should talk about a purple or green wave. Even the turquoise tide, Boric said at the Summit of the Americas earlier this month when he announced a continental ocean conservation policy.

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