The pink tide
MUCH has been made, and rightly so, of the Latin American left’s resurrection since the turn of the century. Which is why the resounding electoral defeat suffered last week in Venezuela by arguably the most well-known leftist current in the continent — what is known as Chavism — demands serious interrogation.
An opposition united only by its desire to overturn the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ originally spearheaded by late president Hugo Chavez won two-thirds of the seats in parliament in the polls held on Dec 6, the first defeat for the ruling United Socialist Party since Chavez came to power in 1999. The setback is significant, but it is important to bear in mind that Venezuela’s is a presidential form of government so executive authority continues to lie with the ‘Chavistas’, and specifically the man who took power after Chavez died in 2013, Nicolas Maduro.
It might not be the best analogy but Venezuela’s politics will now be characterised by a dichotomy similar to that which exists in the US where a Democratic president regularly squares off against a Republican-controlled Congress. That having been said, political conflict in Washington pales in comparison to what has persisted in Venezuela in recent times — the electoral reverse will intensify what is already a heavily polarised political climate.
The first explanation for the setback is the most obvious one – Maduro is not Chavez. While I think it is misleading to exaggerate the roles that individuals play in fomenting political transformation, the successes of the Latin American left, both of the current variety and in previous eras, have always featured charismatic leadership. Think Arbenz, Castro, Guevara and Allende. Chavez was of the same mould. After his death, some of the lustre of the Bolivarian Revolution was inevitably bound to wear off.
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