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Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, attends a military ceremony marking Independence Day, Quito, Aug. 10, 2017 (AP photo by Dolores Ochoa).

Latin America's 'Pink Tide' Recedes

Monday, Sept. 3, 2018

The so-called Pink Tide ushered in leftist governments in Latin America, but something went wrong. Find out more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR).

It wasn’t very long ago that Latin American voters, in country after country, began electing leftist presidents. The new crop of leaders that rose to power over the past few decades occupied a wide range of positions along the ideological spectrum, advocating leftist policies that varied mightily—from mild income redistribution projects to aggressive nationalization programs. But the trend toward leftist governments in Latin America was unmistakable. Some dubbed it the “pink tide.” That tide is now receding with as much force as it came ashore.

The movement’s high-water mark came during the presidency of the late Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan firebrand who tried to build, rally and finance a coalition of leftist leaders across the hemisphere. Roughly a decade after Chavez came to power in 1999, leftist politicians had scored impressive victories, capturing the presidency in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru. Now that long list is dwindling.

Despite maneuvers that have allowed several—though not all—of these leftist presidents to erode democratic norms, often by dismantling term limits and taking control of electoral boards, the number of leftist governments in Latin America is growing shorter. And just as significantly, some of the presidents who remain in office after moving to secure multiple terms are facing the wrath of a public fed up with the reversal of their country’s democratic progress.

To find out more about Latin America’s Pink Tide, and why once-popular leftist leaders are facing an increasingly antagonistic public, read Latin America’s ‘Pink Tide’ Is Receding With as Much Force as It Came Ashore for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

Can Ecuador’s New President Maintain Popularity By Fighting Corruption?

South America’s biggest political surprise recently has come from one of its smallest countries, Ecuador, where President Lenin Moreno has maneuvered to break with his predecessor and a legacy tinged with authoritarianism and corruption.

Narrowly elected in April, Moreno had been vice president and the anointed successor of Rafael Correa, the populist, left-leaning, U.S.-trained economist who governed for a decade and centralized control over government, the economy and the media. Analysts speculated Moreno could be a timid caretaker put in place to allow Correa to skirt term limits and then sweep back into office in 2021. Instead, Moreno departed from the script. He quickly turned on Correa, seeking to distance himself from perceived rampant corruption and an economic crisis. He has built new bridges with the opposition, the private sector and the press—all without alienating his base of working-class voters who benefited from Correa’s self-proclaimed “Citizens’ Revolution.

The corruption of some leftist governments in Latin America is leading to major shifts in policy. To learn more, read He Outmaneuvered Correa, but How Long Can Ecuador’s Moreno Keep His High-Wire Act Up? for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

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Argentina Shows How the Political Tide Could Turn Again

For those who are tempted to see an unstoppable trend in the declining sway of leftist politics in Latin America, Argentina provides a cautionary example. One of the first signs of the receding Pink Tide was the 2015 presidential election of Mauricio Macri in Argentina. Macri promised that his plan for liberal economic reforms, though painful at first, would reignite economic growth after years of stagnation and contain inflation, a chronic problem for Argentina. Yet after more than three years, the second part of the deal has not come true for many Argentines, who seem to be losing their patience. Macri’s gradualism—including trade liberalization, the promotion of market competition and the reduction of Argentina’s fiscal deficit by cutting massive state subsidies—simply hasn’t delivered results yet. Macri has faced a string of bad economic news, which has increased popular discontent and fired up a resurgent opposition.

Macri’s rise provided the promise of an alternative to the left- and right-wing populism that has ruled Argentina for decades. But his political fortunes could turn if his reforms don’t start showing results soon. To find out more, read Argentina Is Getting Impatient With Macri’s Painful Economic Reforms for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

The Rise and Fall of Socialism In Latin America Leaves Venezuela in Shambles

The birthplace of the Pink Tide was Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, who electrified Latin America’s left with his “21st-century socialism.” In the early days of socialist rule in Venezuela, Chavez inspired leftist leaders across the region who started taking power in democratic elections. But Venezuela’s socialist experiment has turned into a spectacular disaster, propelling the retreat of Latin America’s so-called pink tide. The aftermath of the country’s recent presidential election has unleashed a torrent of diplomatic activity in the region as a bloc of Latin American countries ponder the daunting question of how to help the beleaguered Venezuelan people dislodge a government that has brought a multiplicity of maladies—from scarcity of every conceivable consumer product, including food and medicines, to rampant crime, economic depression and epic levels of inflation.

Venezuela’s collapse has spawned a series of humanitarian emergencies across the region, and left regional governments scrambling to find a way to reverse the country’s decline. To learn more, read How Secure Is Maduro After Venezuela’s Sham Election? for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

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