Latin America has seen a new revival of left and center-left governments, a second progressive wave, albeit less eventful than the first. In this cycle, governments, their political forces and their programmatic stakes are more heterogeneous. They differ in strategies and tactics from their predecessor wave. In any case, how are they similar and how are they different?
As the first progressive wave, we call the bloc of center-left and left-wing governments that were launched during the first three decades of this century.
It began with the emergence of Chavismo and the rise of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela in 1999, and included Brazil and Argentina in 2003, the Dominican Republic and Panama in 2004, Bolivia and Uruguay in 2005, Chile and the Honduras in 2006, Ecuador and Nicaragua in 2007, Paraguay and Guatemala in 2008, El Salvador in 2009 and Peru in 2011.
This wave gave rise to political leaders such as Chávez, Néstor and Cristina Kirchner, Lula da Silva, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa, who came to power for the first time, obtaining parliamentary majorities, which allowed them to introduce reforms and articulate their national projects. There was a lot of difference between governments and the wave ended in 2015.
The second wave opened with the rise of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico in 2018, joined by Argentina and Panama in 2019, Bolivia in 2020, Peru and Chile in 2021 and Honduras in 2022.
On the horizon is the possible return of Lula in Brazil and Gustavo Petro among the presidential favorites in Colombia for 2022. The main figures are AMLO himself, Alberto Fernández and the new president of Chile, Gabriel Boric. The reconfiguration of the political map makes it possible to establish some points to contrast the characteristics of both waves.
The historical trajectories
The first wave was characterized by a confluence of actors from the traditional left, ranging from grassroots parties and coalitions, with the participation of historic communist and socialist parties, to the leading role of new parties and social movements consolidated in the heat of the social struggles of the end of the 20th century and a strong mark of the Latin American populist tradition. In the new wave, although these elements are present, the heterogeneity of the support base is greater.
In the first cycle, the Latin American left coincided in the speech condemning the governments of the right and center-right of the late 1990s, the urgency of social policies and structural and, in some cases, refounding reforms.
This new cycle has a battery of more moderate demands that call for the improvement of state action in some areas, investment in social policies and economic recovery. Both waves have in common the consolidation of long-standing leadership alongside outsider figures.
The relationship with the United States
If the first wave stood out for anything, it was for its hostile rhetoric towards the American power. Initiatives have proliferated to condemn free trade agreements, humanitarian aid and the activity of multilateral organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank. In the same way, some countries maintained a cordial coexistence with the power, from the big ones, like Brazil, to the small ones, like Uruguay.
The first wave lived the new geopolitical reconfiguration in which China positioned itself as a counterweight to the United States. Russia also heavily permeated the region during this time. However, the progressive governments of the new wave seem less interested in betting on a geopolitical confrontation with the United States.
The symbol of this is the signing of the free trade agreement between AMLO and Donald Trump, and the actions to control the migratory flow. Gabriel Boric announced contacts with Joe Biden. The new president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, also said that she aspires to a pragmatic relationship with the power, and Lula spoke of having a friendly relationship with the United States.
The subject of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua
The first wave had at its epicenter the impulse of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, supported by an abundance of economic resources that allowed it to export its political project and Bolivarian integration.
This funding strengthened ties with Cuba, the mentor state of the Venezuelan regime, and, to a lesser extent, with Nicaragua. However, with the consolidation of hegemonic authoritarianisms in Venezuela and Nicaragua, nuances began to emerge in the validation of the model.
The new wave is more moderate and pragmatic in its relationship with Cuba and the other regimes. There is a position mediated by skepticism of what has been 21st century socialism for Venezuela, and their connection has been summed up in preaching the principle of non-intervention.
However, with the exception of some specific differences that were a priori distant from authoritarianism, such as Boric’s in Chile with his criticism of these regimes, or the summons of the ambassadors of Mexico and Argentina for consultation, at the moment there is no evidence. of a general condemnation directed at these governments for their violations of democracy and human rights.
The Latin American and anti-United States conviction of the governments of the previous wave generated alternative spaces for regional coordination. ALBA and UNASUR were created as clubs of presidents with ideological affinities, but they soon fell into disuse. In the new wave, so far there has been no interest in revitalizing these spaces or even creating new ones.
In the OAS, an arena historically criticized by the left for its US influence, curiously the first wave acted effectively as a majority voting bloc during the secretary general of José Miguel Insulza (2005-2015). With the arrival of Luis Almagro (2016), criticism gravitates more towards the secretary and not towards the organization, a trend that is being maintained in this new wave.
In conclusion, the new wave differs substantially from the previous one. The latter is projected as more moderate and seems to bet more on pragmatism than on purely ideological affinity. And there are signs that it bets more on dialogue with the great powers than on anti-imperialist narratives.
The new leftist governments are not in power for the first time, but they are also not times of fat cows and, in many cases, they do not have overwhelming majorities. In line with this, they did not announce plans for refounding, but reforms under the rules of the democratic game. The second wave drags the debris of the first: two hegemonic authoritarianisms that, together with Cuba, form the trio of dictatorships in the region.
Can this new wave formulate an explicit condemnation of dictatorships? Will it be able to promote a climate of dialogue with the rest of the political system? Will your goals include reducing polarization and avoiding falling into populist drift? Examples in Mexico and Argentina indicate that this is unlikely to happen. However, new leaderships have emerged, and in 2022 presidential elections in Brazil and Colombia could put more actors on the map.
LINK PRESENT: Did you like this text? Subscriber can release five free accesses of any link per day. Just click the blue F below.