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The US cannot ignore the new Latin American “pink tide”

The re-emergence of leftist regimes in the region is a blatant sign that US policies are opposed on a regional level specially by Latin American.

Press conference by a Latin American leftist party
Press conference by a Latin American leftist party

South America is evolving. Let’s know the fact about it. In the past four years, socialist and social democratic governments have taken the place of right-wing ones that had been in existence for nearly two decades.

In June of this year, Gustavo Petro, a former soldier with the 19th of April Movement, won the presidential election in Colombia. In December 2021, Marxist politician Gabriel Boric was elected president of Chile, becoming the country’s most left-wing leader in nearly 50 years. A month earlier, Xiomara Castro, who had lost her husband, Manuel Zelaya, to a military coup, had been elected president of Honduras.

In Bolivia, Luis Arce of the Movement to Socialism party was elected president in 2020. In Peru, a teacher and union leader named Pedro Castillo won the presidency in June 2021. In Argentina’s 2019 presidential election, incumbent right-wing President Mauricio Macri was defeated by Alberto Fernández, who was backed by a coalition of left-leaning parties. In the general elections held in Mexico one year prior, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) won with a resounding win.

On October 30, when left-wing Workers’ Party (PT) leader Lula da Silva is hoping to win the Brazilian run-off election, there could be the biggest change. In the first round, incumbent right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro came in second with 43% of the vote against Lula’s 48%.

According to some observers, the “pink tide” of leftist administrations that rose to power in the 1990s is continuing with this new wave. Left-wing politicians at the time denounced neoliberal policies as well as the inequality and social exclusion they caused, political corruption, and foreign control over domestic businesses. They lost their election in the 2010s because they were unable to address systemic injustices due to a decline in the price of export goods.

Because the right-wing governments that replaced them, which were mostly backed by the US, failed to see the tides of popular resentment, leftist governments have now made a comeback. The new generation of regional political leaders disagrees with the US’s long-standing presence in the area, but they also have other priorities.

It has a stronger emphasis on environmental and gender concerns, is less concerned with maintaining a distinct continental identity, fervently pursues issues of social justice, and in post-Covid times, has grown more concerned with issues of public health. It doesn’t care whether its supporters are perceived as harbouring leftist values; in fact, it aims to use the anger of its supporters to create innovative new forms of government. It is also gaining experience coping with foreign investment, but more and more of it is coming from China rather than the US.

Consider the Boric drug from Chile. Although he has made an effort to retain cordial ties with both Cuba and Venezuela, he has also denounced violations of human rights in both nations. In his own country, he has emphasised the necessity of constitutional change to address socioeconomic and political injustices and to bolster protections for the rights of the Indigenous community. In addition, he has embraced feminism, appointing women to 14 of the 24 ministry positions.

AMLO, the country’s first left-wing president in three decades, has also adopted unconventional policies in Mexico. Although he has called for the lifting of the trade embargo on Cuba and Venezuela, he has had tight relationships with the US as well. He has implemented significant reforms in Mexico, combating corruption, denouncing violations of human rights, lowering inequality, and defending the rights of workers.

There is little doubt that Latin America is changing, but Washington doesn’t seem to realise how much. National Security Advisor to US President Donald Trump John Bolton announced the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, which claimed Latin America as its own backyard and ordered all other foreign countries to stay away, was returning in 2019. He had, however, obviously misinterpreted the rejection of his ideas over the entire continent.

Washington’s strategy toward the region remained incorrect when Joe Biden assumed office. The “troika of tyranny,” as Bolton referred to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, were purposefully left out of the Summit of the Americas, which was held in Los Angeles in June 2022. This received a lot of criticism. Some Latin American leaders, like the president of Mexico, opted not to go, while others took the occasion to criticise US foreign policy.

The recent trip to South America by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was an attempt to contain the damage, and it partially succeeded in demonstrating that Washington was aware of the region’s obvious leftward shift. He travelled to countries like Colombia, Chile, and Peru, where Chinese rivalry is undermining US business interests.

He also attended the Organization of American States (OAS) 52nd General Assembly in Lima, where discussions about US foreign policy were controversial. During the meeting, 19 of the 35 member countries voted in favour of removing the OAS representative for the Venezuelan opposition that is supported by the US; they needed just five more votes to do so.

Despite promising to give $240 million in humanitarian aid to refugees in the area, the US’s influence in the OAS is unquestionably waning. Washington contributes more than half of the Organization’s annual funding, but it still has much to learn about the emerging trends in the area.

Washington has for far too long supported corrupt military leaders and opulent businessmen, many of whom received their education or training in the US. For far too long, US governments have failed to see that Latin American civil society is calling for change, which has resulted in the ouster of US favourites.

They have denounced corruption and violations of human rights in some nations while ignoring same problems in those governed by US allies. They have failed to notice the increase in poverty, the wealth of the wealthy, or the violent suppression of anti-injustice demonstrations.

This must be altered. In sum, Washington needs to cease picking favourites and displaying partial outrage in order to recognise the true aspirations of Latin Americans.

Latin America is open to discussion with the US, but it must be a respectful exchange of ideas rather than a directive from above. It is time to reevaluate widely held notions about the area and adopt a pragmatist and constructive engagement stance.

Set specific objectives if you want to succeed. For instance, it should be made abundantly apparent that support is being given to the Petro government’s peace negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN) armed organisation in Colombia. Washington should follow Obama’s lead and normalise relations with Cuba, a little nation with a significant political impact in the neighbourhood. To assist in locating a peaceful resolution to the Venezuelan situation, the US government can also make contact with recently elected leftist leaders in the area.

Washington ought to concentrate on the two regional leaders, Mexico and Brazil. With the upcoming Brazilian election run-off serving as the litmus test for US interest, Washington should be clear that it will not accept military intervention if Bolsonaro, the self-described “Trump of the Tropics,” loses.

In fact, it is past time for the US to acknowledge how Latin America is changing and how the socialist activity of the 2020s is a blatant defiance of the policies of the previous decades. It is the only way for it to maintain an important role in the area and a meaningful engagement with it.

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