The apparent narrow electoral win in Peru of Pedro Castillo, a rural union activist from a Marxist party, over conservative Keiko Fujimori signals what may be a far-reaching shift to the left in a region ravaged by Covid and filled with fury at ruling elites.
Candidates on the left appear poised for victory in Chile, Colombia, and Brazil over the next 16 months. With leftists already running Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, and Bolivia, it could resemble the “pink tide”—the spread of leftist governments kicked off by Venezuela’s election of Hugo Chávez—at the start of this century. “You may have to start thinking about a radically different-looking Latin America,” says Brian Winter, vice president of Americas Society/Council of the Americas. “There are deep implications for these countries’ relations with the U.S. and China and their policies toward things like the drug war.”
A dozen regional analysts consulted by Bloomberg Businessweek agree that the public mood is surly and that incumbents, mostly on the right, are in trouble. They’re divided on where things are headed and whether what happened two decades ago offers useful guidance. “Given the devastating economic and health impact of the pandemic and accompanying corruption, the public mood is ‘Throw the bums out,’ ” says Cynthia Arnson, who heads the Latin America program at the nonpartisan Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. “Expect outsiders to win elections. The word that comes to my mind is not so much ‘left’ as ‘volatile.’ ”
The pandemic hit Latin America harder than any other region and continues to take an unspeakable toll. Some 35 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported, and more than 1 million people are dead. But the pandemic didn’t create misery; it exacerbated it. Much of the region was aflame in late 2019, with hundreds of thousands in Chile protesting a public-transportation fare increase and in Colombia demonstrating against a range of policies. Those in the streets spoke of disenchantment over inequality and inherited privilege. The coronavirus pushed many of them indoors; now they are back outside, even more fired up.
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