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"Pink tide" (Spanish: marea rosa, Portuguese: onda rosa) and "turn to the Left" (Sp.: vuelta hacia la izquierda, Pt.: Guinada à Esquerda) are phrases used in contemporary 21st century political analysis in the media and elsewhere to describe the perception of a turn towards left wing governments in Latin American democracies straying away from the neo-liberal economic model. The shift represented a move toward more progressive economic policies and coincides with a parallel trend of democratization of Latin America following decades of inequality.[1][2][3]

The Latin American countries viewed as part of this ideological trend have been referred to as "Pink Tide nations",[4] with the term post-neoliberalism being used to describe the movement as well.[5] Some pink tide governments have been varyingly characterized as being anti-American,[6][7] populist,[8][9][10][11][12] and authoritarian-leaning.[9][13]



José Mujica and his wife Lucía Topolansky. Mujica was nicknamed "poorest president of the world"[14] due to his humble living.

During the Cold War, a series of left-leaning governments attained power via electoral polls in Latin America. These governments faced what was described as “economic warfare[15][16] and coups sponsored[17][18] by the United States government as part of its geostrategic interest in the region. These included the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état, 1964 Brazilian coup d'état, 1973 Chilean coup d'état and 1976 Argentine coup d'état, among others. All of these coups were followed by US-backed and sponsored right-wing military dictatorships as part of the US government's Operation Condor.[16][17][18]

These authoritarian regimes committed several human rights violations including illegal detentions of political opponents, suspects of be one and/or their families, tortures, disappearances and child trafficking.[19][20] As these regimes started to decline due to international pressure, internal outcry in the US from the population due to the US involvement in the atrocities forced Washington to relinquish its support for them. New democratic processes begun during the late 1970s and up to the early 1990s as a result of the economic hardships due to many faulty economic decisions taken by these regimes and their advisors like the Chicago Boys.[21]

With the exception of Costa Rica, essentially all Latin American countries had at least one experience with a US-supported dictator[22] including Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, Rafael Trujillo in Dominican Republic, the Somoza family in Nicaragua, Carlos Castillo Armas in Guatemala, Juan María Bordaberry in Uruguay, Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay, François Duvalier in Haiti, Emílio Garrastazu Médici in Brazil, Marcos Pérez Jiménez in Venezuela, etc., which caused a strong anti-American sentiment in wide sectors of the population.[23][24][25][26]

Rise of the leftEdit

Hugo Chávez, who was one of the largest proponents of the pink tide

In the 1990s, following the end of the Cold War, Latin American countries turned towards neo-liberal economic policies and underwent a process of privatization of public companies, cuts in public spending, foreign investment, and espousing of free market policies.[27] These neo-liberal economic policies promoted by the IMF and the World Bank were dubbed as the "Washington consensus".[27] According to the BBC, a "common element of the 'pink tide' is a clean break with what was known at the outset of the 1990s as the 'Washington consensus', the mixture of open markets and privatisation pushed by the United States".[11] The neo-liberal experiment collapsed in several countries by the end of the decade, leaving the different economies with features such as high level of unemployment, corruption, inflation and increasing inequality.[27] These initial unsuccessful attempts with neo-liberalism combined with the end of the Cold War allowed the left in Latin America to reevaluate their movements and participate further in electoral processes.[28]

President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the leader of the more moderate wing of the pink tide

The pink tide was led by Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who was elected into the presidency in 1998.[29] According to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a pink tide president herself, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela (inaugurated 1999), Lula da Silva of Brazil (inaugurated 2003) and Evo Morales of Bolivia (inaugurated 2006) were "the three musketeers" of the left in South America.[30]


Hugo Chávez, who had "dreams of continental domination",[need quotation to verify] was seen as a threat to his own people according to Michael Reid in Foreign Affairs, with his influence reaching a peak in 2007.[31] The interest in Chávez waned after his dependence on oil revenue led Venezuela into an economic crisis[citation needed] and as he grew increasingly authoritarian.[31][better source needed] The death of Hugo Chávez in 2013 left the most radical wing without a clear leader, as Nicolás Maduro did not have the international influence of his predecessor. National policies among the left are divided between the styles of Chávez and Lula da Silva, as Lula focused on the poor people but also in private enterprises and global capital.[32] In 2015, the shift away from the left became more pronounced in Latin America, with The Economist saying the Pink Tide had ebbed[33] and Vice News stating that 2015 was "The Year the 'Pink Tide' Turned".[30] By 2016, the decline of the pink tide saw an emergence of a "new right" in Latin America,[34] with The New York Times stating "Latin America’s leftist ramparts appear to be crumbling because of widespread corruption, a slowdown in China’s economy and poor economic choices", with the newspaper elaborating that leftist leaders did not diversify economies, had unsustainable welfare policies and disregarded democratic behaviors.[35]


On 12 July 2017, the former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was convicted of money laundering and passive corruption, defined in Brazilian criminal law as the receipt of a bribe by a civil servant or government official. He was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison by judge Sérgio Moro[36][37] but remains free pending an appeal of the sentence. Investigations later revealed that Brazilian president Lula da Silva pressured Odebrecht to pay millions of dollars toward the presidential campaign of the leftist Peruvian president, Ollanta Humala.[38]

In December 2017, Ecuadorian vice president Jorge Glas was removed from office and sentenced to six years in prison following after being involved with receiving over $13.5 million in bribes during the Odebrecht scandal.[39]


Morales with Brazilian President Lula. Evo Morales became Bolivia’s first President of indigenous origin, albeit the majority of Bolivians are indigenous. To that date, no non-White had ever been Bolivia’s president. Morales was also the second indigenous president of the Americas after Mexico's Benito Juarez.[40]

Some of the results after the first Progressive governments in Latin America included among other things a reduction in the income gap,[5] unemployment, extreme poverty,[5] malnutrition and hunger,[2][41] and rapid increase in literacy.[2] The decrease in this indicators during the same period of time happened faster than in non-Pink Tide governments.[42]

Countries like Brazil and Ecuador,[43][44] El Salvador, Nicaragua,[45] and Costa Rica[46] experienced notable economic growth during this period, whilst Bolivia and El Salvador both saw a notable reduction in poverty according to the World Bank.[47][48][improper synthesis?]

Economic hardships occurred in countries such as Venezuela as oil and commodity prices declined.[49]

According to President of Inter-American Dialogue, Michael Shifter regarding the economic situation:

The United States–Cuban Thaw occurred with Cuba reapproaching the United States when Cuba's main international partner, Venezuela, began experiencing economic hardships.[50][51]

Political outcomeEdit

Following the initiation of the pink tide's policies, the relationship between both left-leaning and right-leaning governments and the public changed.[52] Up until the 1990s, only two classes – the "political elite" and the people – existed in Latin America.[52] As leftist governments took power in the region, rising commodity prices funded their welfare policies, which lowered inequality and assisted indigenous rights.[52] The overspending of leftist governments in the 2000s resulted in the election of more liberal governments in the 2010s by citizens in the region seeking a sustainable economy, which required potential progressive politicians to reevaluate their policies.[52] However, such advancements changed the location of Latin America's center of the political spectrum,[53] forcing right-wing candidates and succeeding governments to adopt more socially-conscious administrations.[52]

Use of the termEdit

Countries in red indicate left-wing-led governments when the pink tide movement peaked in 2011

The term "pink tide" had become prominent in contemporary discussion of Latin American politics in the early 21st century. Origins of the term may be linked to a statement by Larry Rohter, a New York Times reporter in Montevideo who characterized the 2004 election of Tabaré Vázquez as leader of Uruguay as "not so much a red tide…as a pink one".[12] The term seems to be a play on words based on "red tide" (a biological phenomenon rather than a political one) with "red" – a color long associated with communism – being replaced with the lighter tone of "pink" to indicate the more moderate socialist ideas that gained strength.[54]

Despite the presence of a number of Latin American governments which professed to embracing a leftist ideology, it is difficult to categorize Latin American states "according to dominant political tendencies, like a red-blue post-electoral map of the United States."[54] According to the Institute for Policy Studies, a leftist think-tank based in Washington, D.C.:

While this political shift was difficult to quantify, its effects were widely noticed. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, 2006 meetings of the South American Summit of Nations and the Social Forum for the Integration of Peoples demonstrated that certain discussions that "used to take place on the margins of the dominant discourse of neoliberalism, now moved to the center of public debate."[54]

In the 2011 book The Paradox of Democracy in Latin America: Ten Country Studies of Division and Resilience, Isbester states:


President Fernando Lugo with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010. Lugo broke 60 consecutive years of ruling of the Colorado Party.

In 2006, The Arizona Republic recognized the growing pink tide, stating " A couple of decades ago, the region, long considered part of the United States' backyard, was basking in a resurgence of democracy, sending military despots back to their barracks", further recognizing the "disfavor" with the United States and the concerns of "a wave of nationalist, leftist leaders washing across Latin America in a 'pink tide'" among United States officials.[55]

A 2007 report from the Inter Press Service news agency said how "elections results in Latin America appear to have confirmed a left-wing populist and anti-U.S. trend – the so-called “pink tide” – which ... poses serious threats to Washington's multibillion-dollar anti-drug effort in the Andes".[56]

In 2014, Albrecht Koschützke and Hajo Lanz, directors of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation for Central America discussed the "hope for greater social justice and a more participatory democracy" following the election of leftist leaders, though the foundation recognized that such elections "still do not mean a shift to the left" but are "the result of an ostensible loss of prestige from the right-wing parties that have traditionally ruled".[57]


Below are left-wing and centre-left presidents elected in Latin America since 1995
Note: Centre-left presidents are marked with *


The timeline shows periods where a leftist leader governed over a particular country, beginning with Hugo Chávez in 1999


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lopes, Dawisson Belém; de Faria, Carlos Aurélio Pimenta (Jan–Apr 2016). "When Foreign Policy Meets Social Demands in Latin America". Contexto Internacional (Literature review). Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. 38 (1): 11–53. No matter the shades of pink in the Latin American 'pink tide', and recalling that political change was not the norm for the whole region during that period, there seems to be greater agreement when it comes to explaining its emergence. In terms of this canonical interpretation, the left turn should be understood as a feature of general redemocratisation in the region, which is widely regarded as an inevitable result of the high levels of inequality in the region. 
  2. ^ a b c Abbott, Jared. "Will the Pink Tide Lift All Boats? Latin American Socialisms and Their Discontents". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  3. ^ Oikonomakis, Leonidas. "Europe's pink tide? Heeding the Latin American experience". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  4. ^ [1] SustainabiliTank: Guatemala
  5. ^ a b c Fernandes Pimenta, Gabriel; Casas V M Arantes, Pedro (2014). "Rethinking Integration in Latin America: The "Pink Tide" and the Post-Neoliberal Regionalism" (PDF). FLACSO. Retrieved 28 December 2017. In general, one must say that these governments have as defining common feature ample and generous social inclusion policies that link effectively for social investments that certainly had an impact on regional social indicators (LIMA apud SILVA, 2010a). In this sense, so far, all of these countries had positive improvements. As a result, it was observed the reduction in social inequality, as well as the reduction of poverty and other social problems (SILVA, 2010a) 
  6. ^ da Cruz, Jose de Arimateia (2015). "Strategic Insights: From Ideology to Geopolitics: Russian Interests in Latin America". Current Politics and Economics of Russia, Eastern and Central Europe. Nova Science Publishers. 30 (1/2): 175–185. 
  7. ^ Lopes, Dawisson Belém; de Faria, Carlos Aurélio Pimenta (Jan–Apr 2016). "When Foreign Policy Meets Social Demands in Latin America". Contexto Internacional (Literature review). Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. 38 (1): 11–53. ... one finds as many local left-leaning governments as there are countries making up the so-called left turn, because they emerged from distinct institutional settings ... espoused distinct degrees of anti-Americanism ... 
  8. ^ Lopes, Dawisson Belém; de Faria, Carlos Aurélio Pimenta (Jan–Apr 2016). "When Foreign Policy Meets Social Demands in Latin America". Contexto Internacional (Literature review). Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. 38 (1): 11–53. The wrong left, by contrast, was said to be populist, old-fashioned, and irresponsible ... 
  9. ^ a b Isbester, Katherine (2011). The Paradox of Democracy in Latin America: Ten Country Studies of Division and Resilience. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. xiii. ISBN 978-1442601802. ... the populous of Latin America are voting in the Pink Tide governments that struggle with reform while being prone to populism and authoritarianism. 
  10. ^ [2] Boston Globe: The many stripes of anti-Americanism
  11. ^ a b [3] BBC News: South America's leftward sweep
  12. ^ a b [4] Pittsburg Tribune-Herald: Latin America's 'pragmatic' pink tide
  13. ^ Lopes, Dawisson Belém; de Faria, Carlos Aurélio Pimenta (Jan–Apr 2016). "When Foreign Policy Meets Social Demands in Latin America". Contexto Internacional (Literature review). Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. 38 (1): 11–53. However, these analytical and taxonomic efforts often led to new dichotomies ... democrats and authoritarians ... 
  14. ^ Hernandez, Vladimir (15 November 2012). "Jose Mujica: The world's 'poorest' president". BBC. Retrieved 22 December 2017. 
  15. ^ "Los secretos de la guerra sucia continental de la dictadura" (The secrets of the continental dirty war of the dictators), Clarin, 24 March 2006 (in Spanish)
  16. ^ a b McSherry, J. Patrice (2011). "Chapter 5: "Industrial repression" and Operation Condor in Latin America". In Esparza, Marcia; Henry R. Huttenbach; Daniel Feierstein. State Violence and Genocide in Latin America: The Cold War Years (Critical Terrorism Studies). Routledge. p. 107. ISBN 0415664578. 
  17. ^ a b Greg Grandin (2011). The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War. University of Chicago Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0226306902
  18. ^ a b Walter L. Hixson (2009). The Myth of American Diplomacy: National Identity and U.S. Foreign Policy. Yale University Press. p. 223. ISBN 0300151314
  19. ^ Ben Norton (May 28, 2015). "Victims of Operation Condor, by Country". 
  20. ^ [5]
  21. ^ Klein, Naomi (2007). The Shock Doctrine. New York: Picador. p. 126. ISBN 978-0312427993. 
  22. ^ Stanley, Ruth (2006). "Predatory States. Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America/When States Kill. Latin America, the U.S., and Technologies of Terror". Journal of Third World Studies. Retrieved 24 October 2007. 
  23. ^ "CIA acknowledges involvement in Allende's overthrow, Pinochet's rise". BBC News. 19 September 2000. Archived from the original (– search) on 8 November 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  24. ^ "World Publics Reject US Role as the World Leader" (PDF). The Chicago Council on Public Affairs. April 2007. 
  25. ^ "Argentina: Opinion of the United States". Pew Research Center. 2012. 
  26. ^ "Argentina: Opinion of Americans (Unfavorable) – Indicators Database | Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project". Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  27. ^ a b c Rodriguez, Robert G. (2014). "Re-Assessing the Rise of the Latin American Left" (PDF). The Midsouth Political Science Review. Arkansas Political Science Association. 15 (1): 59. ISSN 2330-6882. 
  28. ^ Lopes, Dawisson Belém; de Faria, Carlos Aurélio Pimenta (Jan–Apr 2016). "When Foreign Policy Meets Social Demands in Latin America". Contexto Internacional (Literature review). Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. 38 (1): 11–53. Other factors that played a role were the end of the Cold War, which released the left from the straitjacket of bipolarity, and forced it to revamp its agenda and electoral platform; general disillusionment with empty promises under neoliberal policies ... 
  29. ^ McMaken, Ryan (2016). Latin America's Pink Tide Crashes On The Rocks. Mises Institute. 
  30. ^ a b Noel, Andrea (29 December 2015). "The Year the 'Pink Tide' Turned: Latin America in 2015 | VICE News". VICE News. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  31. ^ a b Reid, Michael (Sep–Oct 2015). "Obama and Latin America: A Promising Day in the Neighborhood". Foreign Affairs. 94 (5): 45–53. ... half a dozen countries, led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, formed a hard-left anti-American bloc with authoritarian tendencies... 
  32. ^ Latin America's political right in decline as leftist governments move to middle
  33. ^ "The ebbing of the pink tide". The Economist. 
  34. ^ de Oliveira Neto, Claire; Howat Berger, Joshua (1 September 2016). "Latin America's 'pink tide' ebbs to new low in Brazil". Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 3 September 2016. 
  35. ^ "The Left on the Run in Latin America". The New York Times. 23 May 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  36. ^ "Lula é condenado a nove anos de prisão". Veja (in Portuguese). Grupo Abril. 12 July 2017. Retrieved 12 July 2017. 
  37. ^ Brooks, Brad (12 July 2017). "Brazil's Former President Found Guilty Of Corruption". Huffington Post. Retrieved 12 July 2017. 
  38. ^ EC, Redacción (2017-12-14). "Las claves de la prisión preventiva contra Ollanta Humala y Nadine Heredia". El Comercio (in Spanish). Retrieved 2017-12-18. 
  39. ^ "Ecuador's VP Jorge Glas jailed for six years over Odebrecht kickbacks". Deutsche Welle. 14 December 2017. Retrieved 2017-12-15. 
  40. ^ "Profile: Bolivia's President Evo Morales". BBC. 22 February 2016. Retrieved 5 November 2017. 
  41. ^ "Tres tenues luces de esperanza Las fuerzas de izquierda cobran impulso en tres países centroamericanos" (PDF). Nueva Sociedad. 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-08-10. 
  42. ^ Ystanes, Margit; Åsedotter Strønen, Iselin (2017-10-25). The Social Life of Economic Inequalities in Contemporary Latin America. ISBN 978-3319615363. [reduction of inequality gap] On average, the decrease was much slower for countries not under the Pink Tide governments (Cornia 2012). In light of this, it is clear that the Pink Tide governments positively impacted the living standards of the working classes. 
  43. ^ "Boom económico en Ecuador". El Telégrafo. Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  44. ^ World Bank (2014). "Ecuador". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  45. ^ World Bank. "Nicaragua". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  46. ^ OECD. "Costa Rica – Economic forecast summary (November 2016)". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  47. ^ World Bank (2015). "Reducing poverty in Bolivia comes down to two words: rural development". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  48. ^ World Bank. "El Salvador". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  49. ^ Partlow, Joshua; Caselli, Irene (23 November 2015). "Does Argentina's pro-business vote mean the Latin American left is dead?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  50. ^ "Why the United States and Cuba are cosying up". The Economist. 29 May 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  51. ^ Usborne, David (4 December 2015). "Venezuela's ruling socialists face defeat at polls". The Independent. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  52. ^ a b c d e Eulich, Whitney (4 April 2017). "Even as South America tilts right, a leftist legacy stands strong". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 7 April 2017. 
  53. ^ a b Isbester, Katherine (2011). The Paradox of Democracy in Latin America: Ten Country Studies of Division and Resilience. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-1442601802. 
  54. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 10, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2016.  Institute for Policy Studies: Latin America's Pink Tide?
  55. ^ "The Issue: A Changing Latin America: Fears of 'Pink Tide'". The Arizona Republic. 12 June 2006. 
  56. ^ [1] Inter Press Service: Challenges 2006–2007: A Bad Year for Empire
  57. ^ "Tres tenues luces de esperanza Las fuerzas de izquierda cobran impulso en tres países centroamericanos" (PDF). Nueva Sociedad. 2014. 
  58. ^ The Dominican Liberation Party in which both Dominican presidents belong to has a centrist position.
  59. ^ During his presidency Zelaya was a member of the Liberal Party of Honduras.