Latin America: The irregular path of progressive governments

Source: Latin America Press

Several years have passed since many Latin American countries, especially South American countries, gradually began voting for center-left presidents at the ballot boxes. More than a decade later, we can adjust the periscope and see if those governments changed not only the political variables, but also the social situation and if they gave more weight to democracy. Apparently, what happened was like painting a chiaroscuro.

It is difficult to determine when the ‘wave’ of progressive governments in Latin America began. While it may be considered that the coming to power of Hugo Chávez in 1999 is a milestone, even before that there were signs that the ‘left’ had not disappeared completely from the scene. Chile’s Socialist Party, for example, was part of the government since 1990. Sure, it operated within the Concert of Parties for Democracy, a front group (which included the Christian Democrats and a few more parties) which did not promote changes that would make many political scientists or financial experts blink.

Left-wing leaders

But in the decade from 2000 to 2010, there was a sort of unusual twist in this region. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the Workers’ Party (PT), came to power in Brazil in 2003; in 2005, the Broad Front (FA), also came to power in Uruguay with Tabaré Vázquez as president; in 2006, it was the turn of Evo Morales Ayma and the Movement Towards Socialism in Bolivia (MAS); the following year, in Ecuador, Rafael Correa also managed to become president.

In 2008, former bishop Fernando Lugo became president of Paraguay after winning the elections of that year with the Patriotic Coalition for Change. Overall, it seems to be the peak moment for the left in the continent.

Three of these leaders —Chávez, Correa and Morales— are committed to amending the Constitution and getting reelected (although he is not from the left, Alvaro Uribe did the same in Colombia), a position that caused controversy in their own countries and in much of Latin America. Chávez, the one who took the most authoritarian route, had four presidential terms (1999-2001, 2001-2007, 2007-2013, and a few months in 2013), and he would have continued if he had not died on March 5, 2013.

Continue reading