Delivering Change Won’t Be Easy for Latin America’s New Wave of Leaders

Delivering Change Won’t Be Easy for Latin America’s New Wave of Leaders
Confetti explode over a screen showing photos of Gustavo Petro and his running mate Francia Marquez after they won Colombia’s presidential election, Bogota, Colombia, June 19, 2022 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

In 2022, it’s easy to be an opposition politician, party or political movement in Latin American democracies, where the political environment is about as anti-incumbent as it can get. Including the victory by Gustavo Petro in Colombia earlier this month, the parties of incumbent presidents have lost the past 14 consecutive democratic presidential elections in the region going back to 2018. Latin America has gone from a region where incumbent advantage was a major factor in elections to one where incumbent parties almost never win.

Of course, there is an obvious catch to this phenomenon: Once the opposition wins, it is no longer the opposition. As these newly elected figures take office, they face the same geopolitical headwinds that battered their predecessors. In many cases, the same domestic political gridlock that once helped them stymie their predecessors now works against them as incumbents. Meanwhile, the high expectations for change they created among their supporters can’t be met, leading to further disillusionment and anger at the political system.

Adding to the challenges facing the wave of left-wing presidents elected in the past two years is that they will have to govern on “hard mode.” And that’s the single biggest difference between them and the wave of presidents that governed in the 2000s, dubbed “the Pink Tide.”

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review