this Gustavo Pietro’s election victory It breathes new life into the theory of a new left turn in Latin America, or a new pink tide in the region. The first twist refers to what happened in the first decade of the 21st century, especially after the victory of Hugo Chavez, who opened the door to the Bolivarian project, also known as the gateway to 21st century socialism. the way.
Perhaps to separate one turn from another, or one current from another, and to value the great democratic virtues of current progressivism (as distinct from the Bolivarianism of the past), some speak of the New Left. Even Jorge Castañeda distinguishes three different lefts. It is clear that within a given category, a more or less populist component plays a vital role. But, in any case, this new left is very different from the left that was pushing Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro’s dream of advancing the old projects of Cuba’s Zuela or Venezuela’s joint construction. It was then joined by Ortega’s Nicaragua, forming the bloc of three countries that today form the authoritarian and pro-Russian core of Latin America.
Opposite this trio is the so-called New Left Club. Some even describe it as a social democrat, although the Puebla group prefers to talk about progressivism. In this group we find Gabriel Boric from Chile and even Gustavo Petro from Colombia. But there are others including Mexico’s Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, who despite his willpower is more social than a democrat, and Peru’s Pedro Castillo, the notorious Marxist-Leninist-
Mariateguista, or the Argentinian Alberto Fernández, had a deep Peronist militant spirit.
One can also add the Bolivian Luis Arce, who is from the same party as Evo Morales (albeit very different from his predecessor due to the «revolutionary» process) and the Honduran Xiomara Castro, formerly wife of president manuel Mel Celaya. If Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wins in Brazil in October, he will be the last link in the current increase in the number of left-wing governments in Latin America.
For this reason, when Petro became president, speculation skyrocketed that he could form regional alliances or his potential partners in Latin American politics. Previously, the already president-elect admitted his harmony with Boric and Arce, but also with López Obrador and Fernández, although this is clearly insufficient to know his preferences in terms of regional policy. , as well as his condemnation of authoritarianism and human rights abuses, his relationship with Nicolás Maduro and Miguel Diaz-Canel remains to be seen.
Some have even speculated that Petro himself might become a great regional leader to fill the huge vacancy that existed after the death of Commander Chavez. It is not easy for this to happen, since beyond the virtues of the president-elect, the current situation, marked by the needs for post-pandemic recovery and the urgency of the war in Ukraine, is not the same as that existing at the Early 21st century. But there’s more. On the one hand, Venezuela or Chávez has enormous resources to invest in his plans for regional hegemony. And, on the other hand, he coexists with a group of leaders who are equally or more enthusiastic about his advice. Among them, along with Castro and Chavez, were Evo Morales, Rafael Correa and Daniel Ortega, and Nestor Kirchner’s tacit complacency.
The current reality is far more complex, with divisions and even contradictions among the presidents of the progressive government bloc all too apparent. If everything had to be done in the 2000s, that has changed now. Rising raw material prices help promote public policies that allow governments of any color to come to power. Today, that amount is barely enough to live on, so much so that the ruling party was defeated in 13 of the region’s last 14 presidential elections. The only exception is Nicaragua, but not because of excessive transparency and forms of democracy. Even the institutions created at the time to promote regional integration are largely gone or dormant.
For now, Petro tries to avoid conflict and maintain good manners. That’s why he both spoke to Joe Biden and sent a positive signal to Nicolás Maduro that he would normalize relations with the Caracas government. In any case, it is too early to know what regional direction his administration will take, with whom he will engage more frequently, or what he wants to do with the OAS and CELAC. We may have more indications of where things are headed when he names his foreign relations chancellor, especially from August 7 next year when he takes office at Casa Nariño.
Image: Gustavo Petro during his tenure as mayor of Bogota, Colombia (2015). Photo: Gustavo Petro Urrego (CC BY-NC 2.0).