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The setbacks of the Latin American left: what do they mean? – COHA

Interview with educational Steve Ellner, por Alan Freeman

Originally revealed in English in Canadian Dimension, volume 52, number four of April 2019
Originally revealed in Spanish by the Council of Hemispheric Affairs, COHA on June 19, 2019
Translation of Patricio Zamorano, Co-Director and Senior Spanish Editor of COHA


The prestigious educational, Steve Ellner (Photograph credit score: Wikimedia Commons)

Freeman: The progressive Latin American governments of the 21st century, the so-called governments of the “Pink Tide”, have acquired robust blows in the current past and have been replaced by conservative and right-wing governments in Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador. What do right-wing individuals say about the setbacks of the left?

Ellner: The detractors of the phenomenon of the Pink Tide insinuate or declare explicitly that quickly it should turn out to be a thing of the previous with none lasting impact. The imaginative and prescient is supported by the narrative of the “dinosaur” and the thesis of the “end of history” of Francis Fukuyama, along with the normal argument of the rightists that socialism and the insurance policies related to it is going to find yourself in the dustbin of history . These writers and political activists, nevertheless, ignore that socialism has not likely been put to the check because none of the nations of the Pink Tide has been socialist. Eighty % of the Venezuelan financial system, for example, is owned by the personal sector.

Some of the similar analysts use the metaphor of the pendulum. The implication is that politics in the region is characterised by a cyclical sample during which nothing actually modifications over time, even when governments alternate between leaders of the left and proper (1). The metaphor of the pendulum, nevertheless, goes towards the concept of “post-hegemonic regionalism” in Latin America, which considers that the Pink Tide initiated a new part that displaced the US hegemony based mostly on neoliberalism. These writers add, nevertheless, that the Pink Tide has not given rise to a single well-defined mannequin (2). Although the principle was formulated at the peak of improvement of the Marea Rosa, its defenders continue to spotlight its relevance in the area.

Freeman: So, not all analysts have stated “goodbye” to the phenomenon of the Pink Tide. What are the possibilities that it’ll have an enduring influence?

Ellner: There are several indications based mostly on past occasions, that the phenomenon of the Pink Tide will persist in time. It is very important keep in mind that the nations of the Marea Rosa have had more staying power and that there was a higher degree of unity and solidarity amongst them than in the case of the progressive and democratic waves in Latin America in the past. An example is the emergence of progressive governments in the direction of the finish of World Conflict II in Guatemala, Argentina and elsewhere. The listing of nations of the Pink Tide is for much longer: Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Paraguay. And with the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico could be added to the listing. As well as, the leaders of the Pink Tide have usually held energy for relatively lengthy durations of time.

The governments of the Marea Rosa played a decisive position in the formation and consolidation of a number of regional organizations. These embrace UNASUR, CELAC, ALBA and MERCOSUR, all of which promoted Latin American unity and integration. The leaders of the Marea Rosa played a key position in the help of the nations that confronted situations of political crisis, especially Venezuela in 2002-2003 and 2017-2018; Bolivia in 2006 and 2009, and Ecuador in 2010. This sense of unity is particularly putting because the Marea Rosa included the average left represented by the Lula government in Brazil and the harder left represented by Chávez, who traditionally haven’t all the time had Friendly relationships.

The future prospects of the Marea Rosa movement additionally should be thought-about in the context of the historic weakening of the system of conventional political parties in much of Latin America and the failure of the rising “pro-establishment” political elites to fill the void resulting. Throughout the period of the Pink Tide, events in favor of the traditional model (which had been necessary parts in the political system of their nation over a period of many many years), turned shadows of what they have been before. That is the case of the Radical Social gathering in Argentina, the Colorado Social gathering in Uruguay, the COPEI in Venezuela, the MNR in Bolivia, the Christian Democratic Social gathering of Chile and the Conservative and Liberal Events in Colombia.

At the similar time, the approval score of presidents who opposed the Marea Rosa has been extraordinarily low, falling under the 20 % mark in the case of Juan Manuel Santos in Colombia, Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in Peru. We should always not even mention the case of Michel Temer in Brazil, which fluctuated between 3 and four % approval. The discrediting of the essential adversaries of the movements of the Pink Tide increases the risk of their eventual restoration.

Freeman: What about the rise of right-wing governments all through the area and round the world? Do not threaten the prospects of the Pink Tide, at the very least in the brief time period?

Ellner: Sure. However in other elements worldwide elements favor the survival prospects of the actions of the Pink Tide. The governments of the Pink Tide strengthened ties with two world powers, China and Russia, whereas the affect of the United States, which put resistance to progressive Latin American governments, vanished. The financial ties of the United States with Latin America diminished, as did its prestige, which collapsed underneath President Trump. The governments of the Tide Rosa have maintained nearer relations with Russia and China and extra tense with the US, which has been the case of conservative and right-wing governments. Examples embrace Argentina and Brazil. Lula's avid help for BRICS (a corporation made up of Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa) contrasts with Temer's lukewarm angle in the direction of the similar bloc and hostile feedback throughout Jair Bolsonaro's presidential marketing campaign on China.

Freeman: What are you able to say about the critics of the governments of the Pink Tide which are on the left? It seems that there is a rising quantity of them, or they have turn out to be extra vocal in recent times, or perhaps both elements …

Ellner: the educational researchers of the phenomenon of the Pink Tide who criticize it from a leftist perspective are likely to focus their discussion on the continued or even higher dependence of the nation on the export of main products, resembling oil in the case of Venezuela and soy in the case of Argentina. The mannequin they criticize is known as “neo-extractivism.” Its primary argument is that the governments of the Marea Rosa have not been capable of alter the place of their nation in the international financial system and its dependent state (three). In fact, his criticism of the Marea Rosa governments for not implementing efficient methods to interrupt the dependence on primary merchandise via the stimulation of local manufacturing and diversification is truthful. Sadly. International capitalism based mostly on multinationals (that’s, international monopolies) has proved to be more tenacious and comprehensive than in the period earlier than the period of globalization, which began in the 1980s. The governments of the Pink Tide haven’t been capable of loosen this dominant energy.

Nevertheless, by basing their analysis on the financial buildings linked to the international financial system, the neo-extractivist analysts downplay other key elements. For many of them, the extractive model is the start line for their analysis of all social, political and financial phenomena.

The emphasis on financial construction inside the framework of a comprehensive critique of the Marea Rosa has two essential shortcomings. In the event you read what most of these intellectuals say, they fail to create the connection between the aggressive actions of highly effective adversaries that generate financial and political destabilization, and the policies and fashions they criticize. The decontextualization leads to deceptive conclusions. The determination, for instance, to develop extractive methods and go for a excessive quantity of low cost imports, as an alternative of implementing a policy of import substitution to favor home corporations, have to be understood in the context of personal sector help to destabilization efforts. The destabilization turned notably violent at the starting of the authorities of the Marea Rosa in Venezuela and Bolivia. Actually, Chávez would have been unintelligent to have offered subsidies and credit to encourage manufacturing to the dominant enterprise elite that tried to overthrow him on a number of events (4).

The similar set of circumstances explains Chávez's determination to prioritize social packages on financial diversification, which is a long-term proposal. Social packages produced instant dividends by making certain the lively help of the well-liked sectors that took to the streets in response to the coup of April 11, 2002. If Chávez had given precedence to financial diversification over social aims, the end result after the 2002 coup, it might have been totally different (5).

Second, many of these critics of the Marea Rosa base their analysis on an anti-systemic perspective, however fail to offer a big weight to the progressive dimensions of the policies which were carried out. The key elements are the social packages that generate a way of empowerment amongst the fashionable sectors, a nationalist overseas coverage, the seizure of control by the State of the industries of strategic sectors of the financial system, and participatory democracy.

Freeman: You do not need to be a Marxist to recognize the importance of the financial system. Shouldn’t be the emphasis on financial elements a robust level in the analysis of these analysts?

Ellner: No, if the concentrate on the incapability of the nations of the Pink Tide to go away the clutches of the international financial system means to downplay social and cultural modifications. Some of the main historic Marxists have foreseen change in a broader sense. Antonio Gramsci and Gorgy Lukács, for example, defended the concepts of hegemony and totality via which the systemic transformation is a holistic course of that occurs over a interval of time, manifesting itself notably on the cultural front. The historian E. P. Thompson wrote in comparable phrases about transformation as an accumulation of experiences spanning durations of a century, typically crammed with political setbacks. These points of view lend themselves to a more constructive analysis of the governments of the Marea Rosa based mostly on a long-term perspective.

Freeman: You then acknowledge that the governments of the Pink Tide have had critical defects, however at the similar time you level out constructive points. What are these constructive parts?

Ellner: There are undoubtedly execs and cons. For my part, the critics of the left have had some cause of their dialogue of the cons, however have minimized or utterly ignored the execs. The logical start line for evaluating the progress of the governments of the Marea Rosa and its long-term implications are social packages. The neo-extractivist analysts usually ignore the significance of the transformation of the social packages of the Pink Tide, although they recognize that their prioritization and the technique centered on statism basically, represented a rupture with the neoliberal past.

These analysts level out that revenue from the export of main merchandise funds social packages. In this approach, successful social packages strengthen the legitimacy of the extractivist financial system, or a minimum of that's what the argument says. That’s, social packages divert consideration from the dangerous economic and environmental effects of extractivism. (6)

These similar critics of the Pink Tide from the left fail to stability the criticisms of social packages with the recognition of their long-range merits. Particularly, social packages foster a way of effectiveness, empowerment and participation amongst the underprivileged, notably marginalized sectors of the inhabitants. At the similar time, nevertheless, in the case of Venezuela, there was an extra of free or extremely sponsored goods and providers, in addition to bonuses that are not granted on the basis of productiveness, schooling or different justifiable causes. So the social dimension of authorities has constructive and unfavorable elements.

One other space with benefits that Maduro's critics largely ignore is the model of democratic participation, which was enshrined in the constitutions of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. Referendums and recall elections at the nationwide degree (a mechanism that we do not have in the United States), have been held in all three nations. Moreover, mobilization as a technique was especially vital in situations during which the government responded to threats coming from an “unfair” opposition by asking its followers to take to the streets, as an alternative of making an attempt to succeed in agreements with the domes from above. of the political elites. Sadly, the government of Dilma Rousseff did not use this technique at the time of her dismissal.

Analysts on each side of the political spectrum have criticized the focus of energy in the palms of the nationwide government, a phenomenon referred to as “hyper-presidentialism.” As well as, in nations like Venezuela, the ruling political social gathering, the PSUV, is headed by ministers, congressmen, governors and the like. Subsequently, they lack a semi-autonomous standing vis-à-vis the State, which would permit the celebration to watch and examine the state equipment so as to combat the misuse of energy and especially corruption.

Freeman: Are there different features with constructive and damaging elements?

Ellner: Neo-extractivist analysts underestimate the means through which the nations of the Marea Rosa modified past economic fashions rooted in the system of personal enterprise. The governments of the Marea Rosa in various levels went past regulatory measures of the Keynesian sort by strengthening the direct participation of the State in strategic sectors of the financial system. The state management of these sectors has been a left-wing flag in Latin America that goes again to the past. The personal sector and the political opposition strongly opposed these measures (Exxon and ConocoPhillips withdrew from Venezuela and sued the country in a world courtroom). Examples embrace measures that offered the State with a majority stake in the Argentine oil firm YPF and the Venezuelan oil business, together with the expropriation of the cement, electrical energy and metal industries and numerous different corporations in that nation; also the expropriation by the Ecuadorian authorities of 195 corporations of the ISAIAS group as a result of their corrupt remedy; and measures taken in Bolivia that offered the State with an necessary position in decision-making in the hydrocarbons and other extractive industries sector.

Subsequently, some state-owned corporations akin to PDVSA have been affected by corruption. Nevertheless, like the undeniable fact that the mismanagement and corruption of the Mexican oil firm PEMEX didn’t detract from the historic importance of the nationalization of the business in 1938, these measures have worth in themselves, regardless of the low effectivity ranges of some of the state corporations in the nations of the Marea Rosa.

Freeman: Is there any policy that has been carried out with out inconvenience?

Ellner: The nationalist impulse of the overseas coverage of the nations of the Pink Tide. Regardless of their sympathies to the left, neo-extractivist analysts are likely to overlook these achievements. The governments of the Marea Rosa insisted on the incorporation of Cuba into the hemispheric group of nations, strengthened the positions of their respective nations in favor of the claim for the Malvinas Islands of Argentina and supported initiatives that promoted the unity and integration of Latin America. As part of a reformulation of Center East coverage, the Tide Rosa governments established closer relations with Iran and assumed a more assertive pro-Palestinian position.

The activist position of the leaders of the Marea Rosa, especially Chávez, Lula and the Kirchners in favor of Latin American unity and integration, doesn’t have unfavourable features either, a minimum of from a leftist perspective. The goal was to determine a kind of European Union for Latin America. Chávez was the first to level out at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in April 2001 (the place he was the solely Latin American chief to oppose the Free Commerce Area of ​​the Americas, the FTAA), that Latin America wanted first to realize unit, after which he might negotiate with the United States from a place of equality somewhat than weak spot. With the formation of organizations corresponding to UNASUR and CELAC, the leaders of the Marea Rosa rejected “Pan-Americanism,” which suggests “unity with the United States and Canada,” which historically has been a euphemism for US hegemony in the hemisphere.

Freeman: Given the seriousness of the financial state of affairs, is it not understandable that many people have taken an anti-Maduro place?

Ellner: Perhaps. However it’s worthwhile to put what is occurring in Venezuela in context. A logical start line is a take a look at the aggressiveness and hostility that originate in the Venezuelan opposition. Definitely, the opposition to the leaders of the Pink Tide was more intense than in regular occasions. In many instances, the opposition leaders represented a “disloyal opposition”, since by questioning the democratic credentials of the left, they ignored the legitimacy of the government, typically with the intention of attaining a “regime change” at any value. In addition, the cessation of investments by the personal sector generated shortages and unemployment. In the case of Ecuador, the radicalization of the opposition was supported by the financial faction of the bourgeoisie, whose interests have been notably affected by Correa's policies.

The most excessive case was Venezuela, where opposition to Chavez governments virtually from the starting was inflexible and took numerous varieties: common strikes supported by corporations (in reality, “lockout” can be a more precise time period), which led to to a coup d'état in April 2002 and road violence in 2003, 2007, 2013, 2014 and 2017; no recognition of electoral leads to 2004, 2005, 2013, 2017 and 2018; an “economic war” that consisted of a basic strike in 2002-2003, cessation of investments and the determination of several multinational firms of the United States to shut operations in the nation; the diplomatic marketing campaign towards the Venezuelan authorities by Washington, the OAS and Mercosur; the harsh economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and the menace of army intervention; and the systematic condemnation by giant business media of nationwide and overseas communication, as well as the hierarchy of the Church.

Challenges of this nature pressured progressive governments to make concessions and carry out certain policies that finally undermined economic and political stability, as well as the achievement of the said aims. Particularly, governments reacted by implementing pragmatic methods to persuade or neutralize members of the personal sector and populist initiatives, to satisfy the short-term needs of members of the in style sectors and curb dissidents. These units of insurance policies in many nations of the Marea Rosa, though politically profitable in the brief term, have been typically counterproductive, in the type of corruption, waste of assets and financial slowness.

Freeman: Is there no area for many who defend totally different, even contradictory, positions inside the solidarity movement?

Ellner: The debate on the left about the constructive and unfavourable features of the Pink Tide affects the solidarity motion that opposes financial sanctions and overseas intervention, particularly in the case of Venezuela. That is, for example, the place of “a plague on both houses”, which virtually denies that the authorities is best than the right-wing opposition, and that undermines the effectiveness of solidarity work in favor of Venezuela. In the absence of a army invasion of a overseas nation, it’s troublesome to summon individuals round a authorities whose performance is considered deplorable. On this sense, the Venezuelan state of affairs is totally different from that of the Center East, the place the army participation of the US. UU in the type of troops on the ground is in itself a strong purpose for US citizens or those of any nation to protest, regardless of their opinion on the Taliban, Saddam Hussein or Bashar al-Assad. However even in those instances, the absence of an iconic determine like Ho Chi Minh, whose constructive image strengthened the willpower of many protesters towards the Vietnam Conflict, partly explains the weak spot of the present anti-war movement compared to the years sixty. So, the examination of the particular characteristics of the governments of the Pink Tide has repercussions that transcend the lecture rooms.



(1) Andres Oppenheimer, “Surprisingly, support for capitalism in Latin America on the rise despite leftist leaders” Miami Herald, October 27, 2017. andres-oppenheimer / article181097946.html

(2) Pia Riggirozzi and Diana Tussie, “The Rise of post-hegemonic regionalism in Latin America,” in Riggirozzi and Tussie (eds.), The Rise of Submit-Hegemonic Regionalism: The Case of Latin America. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Spring, 2012, p. 10

(3) Maristella Svampa, “Resource extractivism and alternatives: Latin American perspectives and development.” Journal Für Entwicklungspolitic 28, 2012, p. 43-73.

(4) Steve Ellner, “Implications of Marxist State Theory and How They Play Out in Venezuela.” Historic Materialism 25, quantity 2, 2017.

(5) Steve Ellner, “Venezuela's social-based democratic model: innovations and limitations.” Journal of Latin American Studies 43, quantity three, 2011, p. 421-422.

(6) Eduardo Gudynas, “Beyond varieties of development: disputes and alternatives.” Third World Quarterly 37, number 4, 2016, pp.722-724.

(7) Mike Gonzalez, “Being Honest About Venezuela” Jacobin Magazine, July eight, 2017.

Steve Ellner is Affiliate Editor of the educational journal “Latin American Perspectives” and retired professor of the chair of financial history of the Universidad de Oriente in Venezuela, from 1977 to 2003. Among his quite a few books on politics and history of Latin America is “Latin America's Pink Tide: Breakthroughs and Shortcomings “, by Rowman and Littlefield (” The Pink Tide of Latin America: Progress and Deficiencies “). He’s a frequent contributor to NACLA: Report on the Americas.