Monthly Archives: May 2016

Fact-checking the Heralded “End of the Latin American Left”

Recent political developments across the region have prompted celebratory proclamations in the mainstream Western press that Latin America’s decades-long dominance by left-leaning governments is reaching its terminal stages. The landslide victory of the Venezuelan opposition in last December’s legislative elections, the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, and the triumph of center-right candidate Mauricio Macri in Argentina’s presidential election do indeed seem to point to a region-wide decline in the fortunes of the parties of the Pink Tide. But as is so often the case in the mainstream media, commentators have been too quick to make current events fit neatly into overarching seismic shifts.  The cursory and often incomplete news reports on which they are based simply do not provide sufficient support for such catchall explanations. While scholars have naturally initiated a more nuanced and detailed debate to consider whether the region is indeed witnessing the end of a progressive cycle, press analyses have struck a premature and in many cases triumphalist tone by declaring the collapse of the Latin American left both imminent and beyond serious doubt.

In reality, it is the exact opposite that is beyond serious doubt: it is far too early to write off the future of the left in Latin America. Moreover, more research is needed to understand the dynamics of these movements and how things might play out in the coming months and years. But what is most disconcerting about these knee-jerk press responses is that the people making them seem to not even have a strong grasp of the basic facts surrounding the political developments on which they base their claims, let alone of the nuance needed to develop a sophisticated analysis. In a survey of the media declarations of the purportedly imminent collapse of the Latin American left, COHA has found a shocking collection of glaring and demonstrably false statements over basic matters of fact that reveal the profoundly slipshod nature of their research.

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Venezuelan Opposition Ratchets Up Pressure on Maduro Government

Venezuelan opposition protesters on Wednesday marched to the office of the country’s National Electoral Council (CNE) to deliver a petition demanding that the process for a recall referendum against beleaguered President Nicholás Maduro be expedited. In a tense face-off, supporters of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a coalition of parties opposed to the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), were prevented from entering the premises by state security personnel, prompting the recall effort’s chief proponent and former opposition presidential candidate, Henrique Caprilles, to declare that Maduro “is using force in the belief that it is going to stop us.”[1] The high-profile tactic, which as usual has attracted frenzied attention in the Western press, is so far the clearest example of what Reuters has described as the opposition’s new “multi-pronged approach” to removing Maduro from office.[2]

It’s not that the kinds of violent extra-democratic methods such as those utilized by the ultra-right elements of the opposition during the 2014 street protests have given way to entirely peaceful and legal means, however. On the very same day as the CNE march, a video emerged of opposition extremists attacking public property and police officers in Caracas, including dousing two with gasoline.[3] This follows a wave of violent anti-government mobilizations across the country on Monday. According to one report, in the Tachira state “hooded militants hijacked a truck belonging to the Venezuelan state telecommunications company CANTV, subdued the driver, and set the vehicle on fire.”[4] As Ryan Mallet-Outtrim pointed out in Venezuela Analysis last month: “Today’s right-wing has repeatedly shown it not only has no interest in disavowing violence, but is willing to turn on the Venezuelan people for their own political gain.”[5][6]

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Filed under Council on Hemispheric Affairs