The consolidation of the Latin American Left

[Translation of an article from Carta Maior of São Paulo, Brazil, for October 29, 2014. See original here and related articles here and here.]

by Emir Sader

There has been much talk recently of an eventual end to the cycle of progressive government in Latin America. Real difficulties in countries like Venezuela and Argentina, added to a slowing of the pace of expansion of the region’s economies, have fed these speculations.

This year’s electoral calendar could be a test of the vigor of these governments. The year began with the inauguration of Michele Bachelet in Chile, who defeated Sebastián Piñera. Soon afterward, the Frente Farabundo Martí elected the president of El Salvador. In October Evo Morales was re-elected in the first round of voting. Now Dilma is re-elected and Tabaré Vázquez’s performance in the first round has made him the favorite for continuation of Frente Amplio administrations in Uruguay.

In Uruguay as well there was speculation of the exhaustion of the Frente Amplio with the passage of time, with a vote tally for Tabaré that would be less than the sum of those for the two main opposition candidates, so that even if the Frente won it would no longer have a majority in Congress. The opposition candidate’s youth was contrasted with Tabaré’s age, suggesting a vote by the younger generation, who would be seduced by Luis Lacalle.

The ballot boxes gave the lie to these predictions. Tabaré won 48 percent of the votes in the first round, approaching an absolute majority, and goes into the runoff as the clear favorite. The Frente Amplio retains its majority in the Congress and the Senate. And, as a significant reflection of the ideological development of Uruguayan society under the administration of Pepe Mujica, despite the opposition’s having won approval of a referendum on lowering the legal age of adulthood from 18 to 16, taking advantage of a climate of disproportional concern over public safety, making it one of the central questions in the electoral campaign, the majority opposed the change.

Tabaré’s presidency may have shades of difference with Pepe Mujica’s administration. These differences surfaced during the campaign. Tabaré revealed that he will attempt to make an evaluation of the law legalizing the use of soft drugs after it has been in effect for a certain time, in order to decide whether or not to keep it.

During the campaign Tabaré also criticized what he considers the double leadership of economic policy in the Mujica administration. Mujica responded by denying the assertion, stressing that his is a plural government, in which different opinions can be expressed. Tabaré in turn has announced that his minister of the economy will once again by Danilo Astori, as during his first term, with his relatively conservative orientation on the central questions of the economy.

But the differences may be clearer in Tabaré’s foreign policy, with a search for alternative agreements that do not make Uruguay so dependent on Mercosur. During his first administration Uruguay proposed a bilateral free-trade agreement with the US, parallel with Mercosur, but the leadership of Mercosur reiterated that Mercosur is incompatible with free-trade agreements.

Meanwhile, Uruguay will likely reaffirm the continuation of post-neoliberal governments in the region on November 30, ending the 2014 electoral cycle victoriously for the Left. The great dispute of 2015 will be the general elections in Argentina in October of that year.

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One Response to “The consolidation of the Latin American Left”

  1. Fran Says:

    Thanks, as always, for helping to keep me current on Latin American politics.