The Latin American left is on its last breath as a string of heavy electoral blows from the election of Pedro Kuczynski in Peru to the impeachment of Dilma Rouseff in Brazil
The infamous “pink tide” described the sweeping takeover of Latin American countries by leftist parties. The tide rose between 1998-2009 until things slowly began to crumble. So how did it begin and what does this mean for the future?
The first domino to fall was Manuel Zelaya in the Central American counry of Honduras. Zelaya was a populist leader who was close friends with Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. Under his term, Honduras became a member of ALBA, a league of anti-American, socialist countries in Latin America.
In 2009 Zelaya attempted to put a referenda on the ballot that would allow him to run for re-election. Under the Honduran constitution, presidents are barred from running another four year term.
Subsequently, the national assembly ordered the military to remove Zelaya from office. Many countries denounced the act as a coup d’etat. Some have also theorized that the US may have played a role in the coup as they would not stand seeing their most strategic ally in the region stray away from them. And some of the leaked Clinton emails show this could be the case.
Nevertheless, the Honduran people sided with the conservative party, El Partido Nacional, who lead the coup as their presidential nominee, Porifirio Lobo won the next election. The party won the next election with Juan Orlando leading the ticket.
The political instability caused by the coup caused violence to sky rocket as drug cartels took advantage of Honduras as a main logistic center to transport drugs bound to the United States. At one point their largest city, San Pedro Sula, had the highest murder rate in the world and 90% of cocaine in America had been transported through Honduras.
However under Orlando the administration was able to significantly reduce crime to pre-coup levels. Honduras has also moved away from being a primary drug route in the region. Much of this progress has been achieved thanks to anti-corruption efforts that have effectively purged corrupt police officers as well vastly increase the size of law enforcement.
In a ironic twist, Juan Orlando has swayed the Supreme Court to overrule the one term presidential behavior. He will be the first Honduran president to serve two terms if he wins in this November election. Polls show that he leads in approval ratings with 55%. Following him is another centre-right candidate, Salvador Nasralla of the Anti-Corruption Party with 47%.
Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro comes in third with 44%
Juan Orlando’s success is also good news for many libertarians as he has enacted a law that would allow for special economic zones that would allow legal and economic autonomy. The statute is known as a ZEDE and many in the startup city movement are cheering this as a big step forward to promote economic freedom and reduce poverty in underdeveloped countries.
Paraguay elected their second leftist president in history in 2008 where Fernando Lugo won by a margin of 10%. The administration focused on redistributing land, cash transfers to the poor, expanding public housing, and free healthcare.
But after an altercation with landless farmers and police forces turned deadly, the Senate used the incident (as well some other bogus claims) to vote to impeach Lugo. Similar to the situation in Honduras, many in the international community denounced the impeachment but the government and the supreme court affirmed the procedure as being entirely legal
Soon after, the right wing party returned to power in the 2013 elections where Horacio Cortes won 45.80% of the vote.
Nestor Kirchner began his term as President of Argentina in 2003 with a populist and economic nationalist rhetoric. His platform was Kirchnerismo (an offshoot of Chavismo from Venezuela), the tenants were nothing but a mixture 70’s Keynesianism and protectionism.
The pillars to Kirchernismo were:
- Maintain a weak peso to boost exports
- Raise tariffs to achieve a trade surplus
- Inflate the currency to bolster wages
- Expanding entitlements and welfare programs
Nestor was lucky that international economic conditions were great because his plan would of been a disaster. The administration purposely under reported the high levels of inflation and unemployment.
Nestor’s wife, Cristina Kirchner, then won the following 2007 and 2011 elections. But then as economic conditions began to fall due to the Great Recession, kirchnerismo began to take a bigger toll on Argentina. Under her watch, the private pension fund was nationalized and inflation hovered at 25%. The government then put price controls on foreign exchanges in an attempt to slow down Argentina’s capital flight. In 2014, Argentina defaulted on their debts.
These problems along with rising crime rates and the 2012 Buenos Aires rail disaster lead to the defeat of Kirchner’s party in 2015 at the hands of Mauricio Macri, founder of the centre right party Propuesta Republicana. Since his election, Macri has undone economic policies put in place by the Kirchners and open up Argentina’s economy.
Lula da Silva was the founder of the socialist Workers Party and in 2003 he won the presidential election. Throughout both his terms, he took an almost indifferent stance towards the economy; he neither proposed any significant left wing policies or furthered neoliberal ones.
In 2011, Dilma Rousseff, a former marxist rebel, won the election as a social democrat. The economy began to slow down and her adminstration responded by raising taxes, increased spending, and inflating the money supply. Inflation became rampant and, she and her party were criticized heavily for spending hundreds of millions of dollars to host the FIFA World Cup and Olympics while many were living in poverty. The abuse of eminent domain and demolition of flavelas (Brazilian slums) further decreased her popularity.
In 2014, an investigation dubbed “Operation Car Wash” by the Brazilian Federal Police uncovered one of the largest corruption scandals in Brazilian history. The scandal dealt with Petrobras, the state owned energy company where Rousseff served on the board of directors. 50 members of the Workers Party were arrested.
On March 2016, Lula da Silva’s home was raided by the police for charges of corruption. A subsequent indictment accused Lula of money laundering and misrepresentation. He currently faces 10 years if convicted. Rousseff tried to save her predecessor by appointing him as her Chief of Staff in order to prevent him from being tried in a criminal court but it came at the expense of her deteriorating public image. After a scandalous phone call between the two was leaked, she was finally impeached by the senate by a vote of a vote of 61–20.
The next presidential elections will take place in 2018
Ollanta Humala first stint at the Peruvian presidency was just another socialist populist. But surprisingly the message did not land him the job and in 2011 he ran as a more moderate, business friendly social democrat. But terrible economic growth had his popularity ratings fall as low as 17%
Peruvians decided last year to elect Pedro Kuczynski, a former chief economist for the World Bank and Peru’s central bank. He is a vocal advocate of the free market and campaigned on the promise to lower corporate taxes and slash regulations.
Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Venezuela; 2017-2020?
And last not but not least we have the three infamous socialist countries of South America. For Venezuela, things have been getting worse and worse everyday as the legacy of Hugo Chavez has become filled with poverty, hyperinflation, and corruption under his hand pick successor, Nicolas Maduro. The nation is on the verge of collapse. A coalition of opposition of parties gain control of the congress but Maduro has shrunk all the power out of the legislature in order to avoid more barriers to his rule. But how long will things last until things finally collapse?
Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, has been criticized for leading the country down the same path as Venezuela. Following the same mistakes as Chavez, the country shut itself off from the world market and over-relied on oil; this lead to overspending and Ecuador’s economy having to enter a recession. The government was forced into austerity measure such as slashing public spending and laying off thousands of public workers. As Correa is barred from running a third term, Lenín Moreno will represent his PAIS Alliance party in this years election.
Bolivian president Evo Morales did not get the constitutional referendum that would of allowed him to run a fourth term in 2020. Recent polling show that 51% percent have “little trust” in Morales and another 26% percent said they have “no trust.”
Lastly, since the end of Pinochet’s rule, every president had been left wing until Sebastian Pinera won in 2010. And while the economy performed well under his adminstration, a string of unfortunate events like the trapped Chilean miners, an earthquake at his inauguration, a volcano eruption, and wildfires made him associated with bad luck.
But with the rapidly falling popularity in Michele Bachelet, Pinera is set to rebound in this years election.