Colombia and Chile have largely maintained the trajectory of democratization in Latin America, despite the continent being increasingly beset by authoritarian tendencies. This article by Jacob Sugarman is published by The Nation. Here is an excerpt:
It was the culmination of a democratic movement that began with Colombia’s constitutional reform of 1991 and extended through the peace accords of 2016 ending a decades-long conflict between that country’s government and the Marxist-Leninist Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC)—a conflict in which, newly declassified documents reveal, the United States played an integral role. On June 19, Gustavo Petro defeated far-right demagogue Rodolfo Hernández to become Colombia’s first left-of-center president. Francia Márquez Mina, Petro’s running mate, will serve as the country’s first Black vice president; the pair earned more votes than any ticket in the nation’s history. As the Colombian people celebrated in the streets of Bogotá, the former guerrilla fighter vowed to represent “that silent majority of peasants, Indigenous people, women [and] youth” while speaking against a backdrop that read “EL CAMBIO ES IMPARABLE” (“change is unstoppable”).
Petro’s triumph, which follows similar left-wing victories in Chile, Honduras, and, to a lesser extent, Peru, signals a broader pendulum swing within Latin America reminiscent of the “pink tide” during the early aughts. For a Biden administration that often frames its foreign policy around the dangers of autocracy, this political shift would seem like a positive development. But given that the interests of these countries are frequently at odds with those of Washington in an increasingly multipolar world, the administration’s support for this democratic wave remains hazy, even as Biden himself asserts the importance of fortifying the rule of law at home and abroad. Now, as Brazil prepares for a presidential election this October amid the threat of an autogolpe (“self-coup”) by the increasingly dictatorial Jair Bolsonaro and a possible return to military rule, Biden must decide whether he’s committed to proving that democracies can provide for their citizens, as he asserted at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles earlier this month, or whether he sees the term “democracy” as little more than a slogan, fundamentally devoid of meaning.
“One could well imagine John F. Kennedy saying those kinds of things in 1962,” says historian of modern Latin America Robert Karl of Biden’s recent address. “Sixty years of antidemocratic behavior later, they’re a little harder to swallow, particularly in this moment when the state of US democracy is so fragile.”
Read the full article here.