Lula’s stunning comeback sees a new pink tide in Latin America

Political analysts said Lula’s victory was the most symbolic shift in a political movement that saw the region’s right-wing governments replaced by left-wing leaders.

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Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s remarkable return to the presidency heralds a new so-called “pink tide” in Latin America, but political analysts say the latest resurgence of the left is very different from the one that came to power in the 1990s.

At the end of last month, Lula won a third term as president with 50.9% of the vote in the second election, narrowly defeating far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

It was a remarkable political comeback for the 77-year-old former metal worker, who in 2017 was jailed as part of a wide-ranging graft investigation after serving two terms from 2003 to 2010. Lula was released in 2019 and his conviction was later overturned, allowing him to return to office.

Speaking at his campaign headquarters after securing victory, Lula described his return to office as a “resurrection”.

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro this week broke a nearly two-day silence on his election defeat, but stopped short of congratulating or acknowledging his rival’s victory. Bolsonaro is expected not to challenge the election result.

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Political analysts said Lula’s victory was the most symbolic shift in a political movement that saw the region’s right-wing governments replaced by left-wing leaders.

The dominant trend bringing this “pink wave 2.0” to office is not ideology, but anti-incumbency, a natural result of a decade of economic stagnation brought on by the pandemic.

Mariano Machado

Principal Latin America Analyst at Verisk Maplecroft

Center-left candidates have won elections in Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Honduras in recent years, while left-wing leader Gabriel Boricus secured a historic victory in Chile last year and Gustavo Petro became Colombia’s first left-wing leader in June. The growing leftist bloc echoes a similar regional political shift seen two decades ago.

“The new pink tide is different from the previous one in many ways,” said Pedro Abramovay, executive director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the pro-democracy group Open Society Foundations.

Social inclusion and the fight against inequality remain at the center of the movement, Abramovay said, noting that leaders like Colombia’s Petro and Chile’s Boric have made climate, gender and racial justice issues central to their campaigns.

“Lula is a bridge between both periods,” said Abramovay. “He was a prominent leader from the previous wave, but he put his speech on hold because of these new responses, and now he has to amplify them around the world.”

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Abramovay said Lula’s victory also “establishes Latin America as the only democratic and progressive region in the global south, which means that Brazil will play an important global role as a mediator on issues such as climate and other international negotiations.”

“Awkward, New Situation”

The wavering of left-wing political parties in Latin America comes as soaring inflation and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic have pushed voters to reject entrenched parties in favor of promises of more social spending.

Political analysts say that while the new pink wave leaders have enough support to govern, they do not appear to have the majority needed to enact sweeping reforms.

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in 2022 November 2 participate in a protest demanding federal intervention outside army headquarters in Brazil.

Sergio Lima | Afp | Getty Images

“The dominant trend bringing this ‘pink wave 2.0’ into office is not ideology, but anti-government, a natural result of a decade of economic stagnation caused by the pandemic,” said Mariano Machado, head of Latin America at political risk firm Verisk Maplecroft. American analyst. CNBC reported via email.

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“Sitting between a rock and a hard place, they have the votes to fend off immediate institutional challenges but not the majority to enact sweeping reform — an uncomfortable, new position for most of these political actors,” Machado said.

“It will affect the ‘new generation’ first-timers – like Chile’s Gabriel Boric – as much as the ‘early bloomers’ – like Lula.” As a result – and despite political unification – regional coordination efforts. will be subject to powerful, continuing trends’.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2022. September 20 in New York.

Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Machado said that at the domestic level, “priority must be given to a noisy stage, because most leaders have come to power by promising social policies for which they lack funding.”

He added that while regional policy agreements are likely, especially on environmental issues, “huge projects like we saw two decades ago are likely to be forced to stand down in this new run.”


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