A New “Pink Tide” in Latin America?

Latin America tilted further left this week as Colombian voters elected to send Gustavo Petro to the country’s presidential palace. Come August, the former Bogotá mayor and member of the violent M-19 guerrilla organization will join the region’s growing list of leftist leaders in a political shift some are likening to the “pink tide” of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Although voters in several Latin American countries managed to flip their countries back toward neoliberalism and free-market capitalism following the pink tide, it appears a new wave of populism has caused political appetites to shift yet again.

Besides Petro, we’ve seen the recent elections of leftists such as Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), Peru’s Pedro Castillo and Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who rode the earlier pink tide to power, is leading significantly in the polls against incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. The Trumpian Brazilian president, whose popularity has taken a hit from high inflation and soaring fuel prices, is reportedly considering raising monthly stipends to millions of poor families in an effort to improve his chances of reelection in October.

Some parts of Central and South America have yet to recover from the economic damage caused by the pink tide 20 to 25 years ago.

Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, who “won” a fourth term in November of last year after jailing his political opponents, has transformed the small Central American country into the region’s third full-blown dictatorship after Cuba and Venezuela. In March, Nicaragua’s own ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) bravely condemned the Ortega government for rolling back human rights and quashing free speech and political dissent.

I’ve written many times about Venezuela—once Latin America’s wealthiest country, now home to hyperinflation and near-universal poverty due to the failed socialist policies of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro.

Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, Colombia’s Gustavo Petro