Latin America’s second ‘Pink Tide’ is a result of right-wing government failures

Illustration by Olivia McCabe

Diana Flores, Contributing Writer

When protestors broke into Guatemala’s Congressional building back in 2020, they took their anger to the streets in response to the budget cuts towards health care and education spending — part of the building was set on fire.

This demonstration soon became part of a series of protests that broke out in Latin America, all rightfully frustrated over the failures of their governments. 

Given my family’s roots in both Guatemala and El Salvador, I can personally testify to the continued harsh conditions many live in rural Latin America. On my trip to Guatemala this past winter, my grandma’s house became a crime scene just a week after I landed, something that has become common on her street and is a direct consequence of failed governance in the region.

The constant letdown by right-winged leadership has provoked massive anger by its citizens — as it should. It’s not hard to figure out why. Politicians enlarge their pockets while gangs run rampant and impoverished communities lack electricity and running water — things considered as luxuries.

From Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s promotion of vaccine misinformation to former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández’s history of drug trafficking, right-wing leadership in the Latin region has not only proven major incompetency and corruption but has also marked excessive lawlessness, the rise of street violence and continued negligence of Latino communities — all who have long bared the burden of a crumbling system.

Recently, a recurring scene has played throughout Latin America as angry protestors take to the streets of Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and Peru to demonstrate against the actions of the political elite. Issues including human rights abuse, corruption, economic collapse, high living costs, and shortage of food and fuel are major concerns for most. Protestors are often met with brutal responses from their governments.

Remobilizing in the wake of COVID-19 has presented a new outlook on contemporary social movements as protestors simultaneously confront the challenges of a mismanaged pandemic. This has driven voters in Latin America to support left-wing candidates who have shown to advocate for greater social spending.

 Researchers and journalists have questioned whether Latin America has begun to enter a second “pink tide,” given recent election cycle results. A “pink tide” was a political wave that turned toward left-wing governments in Latin American democracies primarily in the 1990s and 2000s. This was a reaction to the unpopular attempts of neoliberal policies including privatization and social spending, all which failed to fight poverty and investment within the region.

Although I do not believe the current shift towards the left in Latin America is nearly as revolutionary as the previous one, I have cautious hope that these leaders are able to learn from past mistakes and invest in a durable future for the region. The lives of many Latinos are in constant disruption and there is little opportunity for social mobility. These issues demand serious intervention.

In Honduras, Xiomara Castro became the first female president to promise a radical agenda targeted at countering the years of political corruption within the country’s past. In Chile, citizens have elected Gabriel Boric, a young radical leader who has promised to fight against inequality, the climate crisis and other progressive stances. Scholars have predicted Latin America will have at least seven new progressive governments by March 2022, according to ECPR’s Political Science review.

However, we should not be complacent about these wins in Honduras and Chile. The reality is democracies are still an evolving experiment in Latin America. While structural government issues remain prominent, this new leftist wave brings optimism and a new leadership approach to the region that would finally put the people first.

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