More than ten Latin American countries this year will hold
general elections, in which, except for ambiguities in a few of
them, center-leftists will far outdo rightist parties in the
likelihood of victory. It then becomes predictable that a new
generation of center-left leaders will step onto the political
stage, probably furthering the "left turn" of Latin America.
Latin America has the soil for leftist movements.
Long left behind in economy and eager to grow rich and strong,
Latin America has become the "experimental field" for various
thoughts in the world. Whether European theories or US mode, they
have never failed to see believers, critics or opponents in Latin
America. Ever from the 1950s, many Latin American countries have
had experienced governance by left parties, some of whom, such as
Maria Eva Duarte de Peron in Argentina and Martin Torrijos in
Panama, succeeded, leaving pleasant memories to their people.
Economic globalization pushes Latin America to turn left.
Ever since the year 2001, the World Economic Forum in
Switzerland's Davos has been held in the company of the
anti-globalization World Social Forum in Brazil's Porto Alegre, a
gathering held to attack globalization and free trade. The reason
why Brazil plays host of the World Social Forum is that as many
Latin American politicians and scholars are concerned, the region
does not benefit much from the globalization process but has been
seriously affected. Middle and lower classes even generally blame
economic globalization and neo-liberalism for the rising
unemployment rate and deteriorating welfare.
From the perspective of international politics, Latin America's
left turn will have a biggest impact on the relation between the
United States and the region.
For as long as half a century, Cuba has remained America's sole
"enemy" in the region but since Hugo Chavez took presidency in
Venezuela, US rightist think tanks publicly labeled both countries
"axis of evil" in the western hemisphere. At the year-end of 2005,
Evo Morales of the Movement Toward Socialism claimed victory in
Bolivia's presidential election, soon after which such wording as
"axis of evil" cropped up again in the United States. For quite
some time in the future, the three countries mentioned above --
Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia -- will definitely pose greater
challenge to the United States in its influence in Latin
Unlike Venezuelan and Bolivian leaders who openly voiced anti-US
views, center-left leaders in a majority of Latin American
countries hold a moderate stance towards the United States, that
is, they on the one hand seek solidarity and self-improvement, and
on the other hand maintain good relations with the United
In economic terms, Latin America's left turn is providing a new
perspective for people to think about the mode of development.
Neo-liberalism is very popular in present-day world, but has
been said "No" from Latin America in polls and votes. As pushed in
the tough globalization tides, Latin America has developed a lot of
misgivings towards free trade as some countries are picking up
again the shield of trade protectionism. Whether or not they'll
make it in their new path, perhaps only time can tell.
With regard to people's livelihood, Latin America, turning left,
has remarkably increased its input into social welfare.
Quite a few countries in the region, typically Argentina, had
copied from Europe a set of social security system. In Argentina,
education and medical care are free of charge (except some private
institutions serving the small-numbered rich), unemployment
insurance and pension have both been widely available, which people
take for granted. Left-wing governments, after taking power,
increased investment in public programs and welfare schemes, and
this will help raise people's satisfaction and improve social
This year will see raging storms in the political circles of
Latin America, whose carrying on a left turn is drawing more and
(People's Daily January 18, 2006)