Latin American liberal tide wanes after subdued Castro funeral, Trump win

by WorldTribune Staff, December 15, 2016

Latin America’s “pink tide” of liberalism has receded with the death of Fidel Castro and the rise of Donald Trump, analysts say.

“The band of union leaders, ex-guerrillas and other left-wing rabble-rousers that dominated Latin American politics for more than a decade has fallen from favor as the region’s economic boom of yesteryear has gone bust,” AFP reported on Dec. 14.

Big-name world leaders took a pass on Fidel Castro's funeral. /AFP
Big-name world leaders took a pass on Fidel Castro’s funeral. /AFP

Michael Shifter, head of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based research institute, cited two key reasons for the demise of the Latin American liberals: a plunge in prices for the natural resources whose sales funded leftist governments’ social spending, and a “natural desire for change.”

Cuba, after years of playing an outsize role on the world stage, seems to have lost some of its red-hued aura, analysts say.

That was clear from the absence of big-name world leaders at Castro’s funeral, says Paul Webster Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba.

“This suggests that Cuba’s stature is declining,” said Hare, now a professor of international relations at Boston University. “One can expect the likes of Russia and China to urge Raul to stop sentimentalizing about the old Revolution and get real with reforms of the economy.”

Analysts say Latin America’s left faces an even more uncertain future when Trump takes his “America first” revolution to the White House on Jan. 20.

Many Latin American leaders are said to be in a state of panic over Trump’s vows to build a wall on the southern U.S. border and tear up trade deals he deems unfavorable to the U.S.

Meanwhile, of the 15 countries that made up the so-called “pink tide” that rose to prominence in the late 1990s, eight still have leftist leaders today – but several of those are wobbling.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have given way to a new generation whose members fought to cling to power (Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela) or lost it (impeached president Dilma Rousseff in Brazil) in 2016.

The center-right has taken control in former leftist bastions Argentina, Peru and Brazil. Venezuela’s right-leaning opposition won a landslide in legislative elections, while Bolivia’s Evo Morales lost a referendum to allow himself a fourth term.

The end of the road is coming for more leftist leaders in 2017.

Radical economist Rafael Correa is set to step down in Ecuador. Chile will elect a successor to the unpopular President Michele Bachelet after a term marred by corruption.

“In some countries, like Bolivia and Ecuador, the leftist leaders will have to leave and learn to organize themselves as opposition parties,” said Columbia University’s Christopher Sabatini.