Conversely, China and Russia seem to be trying to make new inroads into Latin America, perhaps seeking to surf this new tide.
Following insinuations from Putin’s government that Moscow may station troops or weapons in Cuba and Venezuela
a threat posed by the Ukraine crisis, many are wondering whether Latin America is moving away from the United States and the West and moving in a different geopolitical direction.
The region looks different from a few years ago, and at first glance there may be reason to believe that the invasion from Moscow and Beijing is not entirely remote. The “new pink tide” is the term used to describe the supposed wave of new left-wing governments in Latin America that started in 2018 with Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico and continued in 2019 with Fernández himself and in 2021 with Luis Arce in Bolivia , Pedro Castillo in Peru and Gabriel Boric in Chile. This coming May, Gustavo Petro can win Colombia’s presidency
. A victory for Lula in Brazil would be icing on the cake
These election victories repeat those that took place 20 years ago, starting with Hugo Chávez’s election in Venezuela in 1998, Ricardo Lagos’ victory in Chile in 2000, Lula’s in Brazil in 2002
and Evo Morales’ election in Bolivia in 2005, among other examples. It is easy to detect an ominous tendency in this electoral trend, especially seen in the context of the geopolitical movements described above.
In fact, cases regarding the new pink tide are more complicated. It is true that all of its leaders define themselves as left-of-center or progressive and have much in common, although Mexico’s López Obrador stands out from the rest by exhibiting some authoritarian tendencies.
All of these movements and leaders are largely in response to the relatively poor handling of the Covid-19 pandemic that the center-right or right-of-center established in Latin America incurred. They all have a strong social content and also a populist content. that they revive ancestral complaints against Latin American and foreign oligarchies; insist on putting the poor first; and adopt many anti-exploiting views on natural resources, the environment, indigenous peoples’ rights and cultural autonomy. And inevitably, if not in the minds of the new or soon-to-be-elected leaders, at least among their supporters, then one can see a clear anti-American stance.
Since many of the demands made by these new governments involves mining, energy, land and foreign investment
there may be frictions with US interests and policies in the coming months and years.
But there are also significant differences between many of these governments and movements, as well as with the first pink wave and with the traditional autocratic, dictatorial left in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Some of these new left-wing leaders and candidates share a clear democratic leaning because they stem from anti-dictatorial struggles in the past. Boric, as former Chilean economy minister and senator Carlos Ominami have called
the “new Chilean way,” is one of them, like Lula in Brazil and even Fernández in Argentina.
Several of them are sharply critical of the Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan dictatorships. Boric, Lula and Petro all go to the center, as their electoral systems include bypasses that cannot be won without alliances beyond their core electoral bases. It is noteworthy that anti-free trade rhetoric aside, countries such as Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico have all signed free trade agreements with the United States
and shows no sign of wanting to withdraw from them.
Despite their best intentions and the enthusiasm of their followers, their victories do not guarantee radical social change. Every Latin American economy has been hit by the recession of 2020; poverty and inequality have increased as a result; tax revenues have fallen as the economic recovery takes longer than expected. It will not be easy to satisfy the demands of the streets and polling stations.
Nevertheless, Latin America, with the exception of Cuba and Venezuela, will not be a fertile hunting ground for China and Russia. And despite occasional anti-American rhetoric, most of these new leaders have either been friendly to the United States in the past or have promised to be so in the future.
In fact, at least in terms of US President Joe Biden’s economic, social, and environmental agenda, if not his actual performance, there is a great kinship between the current administration in Washington and the perhaps incorrectly named new pink wave in Latin America.
They all face the challenge (re) build their welfare states
which was proven to be defective in light of the pandemic
and the consequent economic downturn. The coming The Summit in America
scheduled for early June in Los Angeles will provide an excellent opportunity to emphasize this affiliation and alleviate the temptation to see a new Cold War in Latin America, with the United States on the one hand, China and Russia on the other, and the nations of the region caught between.
If the Biden administration emphasizes this affinity and seeks common ground instead of fighting the war on drugs and declaring a new war on migration, this sea change in Latin America could become a great opportunity for the United States.
It would be a more constructive way of looking at trends in Latin America rather than overinterpreting state visits, speeches, and announcements that might never come true.