Latin America’s Rightward Turn

A decade ago Latin America was the Left’s great hope. How did the dreams of the Pink Tide give way to the horrors of Bolsonaro?

Illustration by Baldur Helgason

Jair Bolsonaro’s ascent to the Brazilian presidency produced much hand-wringing across the Western press. If only the conspiracy that brought him to power had been similarly condemned. The backdrop to Bolsonaro’s victory was the long persecution of the left-wing Workers’ Party, which had governed Brazil since 2003. Once Brazil’s elite had impeached president Dilma Rousseff, imprisoned former president ‘Lula’ da Silva, and banned him from running for the presidency despite his commanding lead in the polls, there was no turning back. As in Europe of the 1930s, it was the ancien régime that normalised the new monster.

If Brazil offers bleak prospects for the Left, elsewhere in Latin America the picture is only a little better. The return of conservative governments has seen wave upon wave of aggressive neoliberal structural reforms. The Right has hardened its discourse, and its support base has shed the politically-correct liberal garb, in favour of a more radical — racist, classist, sexist, homophobic — language. The unregulated space of social media provides an ideal platform for this new lynch mob culture.

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