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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 then more frequent neo-liberal economic model. The shift represented a move toward more progressive economic policies and coincides with a parallel trend towards direct democracy in some communities.[1][2]

The Latin American countries viewed as part of this ideological trend have been referred to as "Pink Tide nations",[3] with the term post-neoliberalism being used to describe the movement as well. Pink tide governments have been characterized as being anti-American,[4] populist,[5][6][7][8] and authoritarian-leaning.[5]



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.[9] These neo-liberal economic policies promoted by the IMF and the World Bank were dubbed as the "Washington consensus".[9] 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".[7] 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.[9] With the difficulties facing emerging markets across the world at the time, Latin Americans turned away from the liberal economics and used the promoted democracy to elect leftist leaders, with nearly half of a dozen elected governments turning to authoritarianism.[10] With China becoming a more industrialized nation at the same time and requiring resources for its growing economy, it took advantage of the strained relations with the United States and partnered with the leftist governments.[10]

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.[11] By 2005, the BBC reported that out of 350 million people in South America, three out of four of them lived in countries ruled by "left-leaning presidents" elected during the preceding six years.[7]

Use of the termEdit

Countries in red indicate countries that had a left wing governments 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 election of Tabaré Vázquez as leader of Uruguay as "not so much a red tide…as a pink one."[8] 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 communist and socialist ideas that gained strength.[12]

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."[12] 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."[12]


In 2006, The Arizona Republic stated:[13]

According to a 2007 report from the Inter Press Service news agency:[14]


To a certain extent, I think the left has exhausted itself in many parts of Latin America ... The citizenry has begun to see the excesses we saw in Argentina, the stagnation we are seeing in Brazil, or, in the case of Venezuela, the absolute failure of an incumbent party.
David Shirk, University of San Diego [11]

Hugo Chávez, who had "dreams of continental domination", was seen as a threat to his own people according to Michael Reid in Foreign Affairs, with his influence reaching a peak in 2007.[10] The interest in Chávez waned after his dependence on oil revenue led Venezuela into an economic crisis and as he grew increasingly authoritarian.[10] The death of Hugo Chávez in 2013 left the most radical wing without a clear leader, as Nicolás Maduro did not have the same 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.[15] In 2015, the shift away from the left became more pronounced in Latin America, with The Economist saying the Pink Tide had ebbed[16] and Vice News stating that 2015 was "The Year the 'Pink Tide' Turned".[11] By 2016, the decline of the pink tide saw an emergence of a "new right" in Latin America.[17]

According to The New York Times, "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.[18]


Some of the results after the first Progressive governments in Latin America included among other things a reduction in the income gap, unemployment, extreme poverty, malnutrition and hunger,[1][19] and rapid increase in literacy.[1]

Countries like Brazil and Ecuador,[20][21] El Salvador, Nicaragua,[22] and Costa Rica[23] experienced notable economic growth during this period, whilst Bolivia and El Salvador both saw a notable reduction in poverty according to the World Bank.[24][25]

Economic hardships occurred in countries such as Venezuela as oil and commodity prices declined.[26] With leftist governments spending largely on their populist policies, they failed to save money for a potential drop in commodity prices and saw their economies falter as a result.[27]

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.[28][29]


In Chile, support for President Michelle Bachelet dropped sharply in 2016 following revelations of corruption scandals such as the Caval scandal, which involved her son and daughter-in-law accepting millions of dollars in the form of a loan from Vice-Chairman of the Banco de Chile Andrónico Luksic Craig, using the money to make $5 million in profit after selling land.[30][31]

Public support and electionsEdit

If the start of the 21st century represented a new beginning for the Latin left ... the region may now be seeing the birth of a new right.
AFP, Sept. 2016 [17]

Leftist leaders saw a sharp decline of support with Brazil's Dilma Rousseff approval dropping to 9% as of July 2015,[32] Peru's Ollanta Humala at 14% as of October 2015,[33] Chile's Michelle Bachelet near 24% as of September 2015[34] and Nicolás Maduro at 24.3% in July 2015.[35]

Elections also signified the decline of the Pink Tide. Due to lack of public support, Ecuador's Rafael Correa decided not to pursue reelection,[17] though his vice-president Lenín Moreno won the following election by thin margins.[36] The election of the center-right Mauricio Macri in November 2015 as President of Argentina brought a right-wing government to power, although the populist movements of Peronism and Kirchnerismo (tied to its leader Fernández de Kirchner's popularity)[37] remain strong generally.[11] In Venezuela, the opposition electoral coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable won a 2/3 supermajority of the Venezuelan National Assembly the 2015 Venezuelan parliamentary election a month after the election of Macri in December 2015.[11] In a referendum held on 21 February 2016 voters rejected, by a narrow margin, a constitutional amendment to allow Bolivian President Evo Morales to run for a fourth term as president.[38] Pedro Pablo Kuczynski won the 2016 Peruvian elections, and becomes yet another country that departs from a centre-left government.[39]


Leftist governments in Latin America became ensnarled in corruption.[27] From 2014 into 2016, multiple protests occurred against leftist governments. In Venezuela, the 2014–17 Venezuelan protests occurred due to socioeconomic problems and corruption. The 2014–16 Nicaraguan protests occurred due to actions performed by President Ortega and the construction of the Nicaragua Canal. Millions of Brazilians participated in the 2015–16 protests over corruption surrounding President Rousseff and Lula da Silva, while demanding Rousseff's impeachment. The 2015 Ecuadorian protests occurred when Ecuadorians began to disapprove of actions made by President Correa.

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.[40] Up until the 1990s, only two classes - the "political elite" and the people - existed in Latin America.[40] As leftist governments took power in the region, rising commodity prices funded their populist policies, which lowered inequality and assisted indigenous rights.[40] Such advancements changed the right-wing in Latin America, forcing them to adopt a more social-conscious practice.[40] However, due to the overspending of previous leftist governments in the 2000s, conservative governments were sought in the 2010s by citizens in the region seeking a sustainable economy, which required potential progressive politicians to reevaluate their policies.[40]

Presidents electedEdit

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



See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Abbott, Jared. "Will the Pink Tide Lift All Boats? Latin American Socialisms and Their Discontents". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  2. ^ Oikonomakis, Leonidas. "Europe’s pink tide? Heeding the Latin American experience". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  3. ^ [1] SustainabiliTank: Guatemala
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ [2] Boston Globe: The many stripes of anti-Americanism
  7. ^ a b c [3] BBC News: South America's leftward sweep
  8. ^ a b [4] Pittsburg Tribune-Herald: Latin America's 'pragmatic' pink tide
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ a b c d Reid, Michael (Sep–Oct 2015). "Obama and Latin America: A Promising Day in the Neighborhood". Foreign Affairs. 94 (5): 45–53. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Noel, Andrea (29 December 2015). "The Year the 'Pink Tide' Turned: Latin America in 2015 | VICE News". VICE News. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 10, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2016.  Institute for Policy Studies: Latin America's Pink Tide?
  13. ^ "The Issue: A Changing Latin America: Fears of 'Pink Tide'". The Arizona Republic. 12 June 2006. 
  14. ^ [5] Inter Press Service: Challenges 2006–2007: A Bad Year for Empire
  15. ^ Latin America's political right in decline as leftist governments move to middle
  16. ^ "The ebbing of the pink tide". The Economist. 
  17. ^ a b c 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. 
  18. ^ "The Left on the Run in Latin America". The New York Times. 23 May 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  19. ^ "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. 
  20. ^ "Boom económico en Ecuador". El Telégrafo. Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  21. ^ World Bank (2014). "Ecuador". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  22. ^ World Bank. "Nicaragua". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  23. ^ OECD. "Costa Rica - Economic forecast summary (November 2016)". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  24. ^ World Bank (2015). "Reducing poverty in Bolivia comes down to two words: rural development". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  25. ^ World Bank. "El Salvador". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  26. ^ a b 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. 
  27. ^ a b G. Castañeda, Jorge (22 March 2016). "The Death of the Latin American Left". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 March 2016. 
  28. ^ "Why the United States and Cuba are cosying up". The Economist. 29 May 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  29. ^ Usborne, David (4 December 2015). "Venezuela’s ruling socialists face defeat at polls". The Independent. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  30. ^ "Aprobación de Michelle Bachelet cae ocho puntos y llega a un mínimo histórico de 31%". 1 April 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2016. 
  31. ^ Nicole Rojas. "Chilean President Michelle Bachelet's son Sebastián Dávalos testifies in Caval corruption scandal". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 11 March 2016. 
  32. ^ "Avaliação positiva do governo Dilma cai para 9%". Carta Capital. 1 July 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  33. ^ Diario La República. "Aprobación de Ollanta Humala en octubre de 2015". 
  34. ^ Rosario Álvarez, Adimark: Bachelet obtiene 24% de aprobación registrando la peor cifra en la historia de la encuesta Politica, 02 de septiembre del 2015
  35. ^ Ulmer, Alexandra (13 August 2015). "Popularity of Venezuela's Maduro inches down to 24.3 percent". Reuters. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  36. ^ "Ecuador's ruling-party candidate Moreno declared presidential winner". ABC News. 
  37. ^ Argentina's Ex-President Wants Everyone to Know She's Not Scared of Corruption ProbesVICE News, April 14, 2016
  38. ^ "Bolivian voters reject fourth term for Morales – BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-02-25. 
  39. ^ Oliver Stuenkel (June 8, 2016). "Peru: Kuczynski victory is part of a broader political shift in the region". Post Western World. Retrieved June 12, 2016. 
  40. ^ 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. 
  41. ^ The Dominican Liberation Party in which both Dominican presidents belong to has a centrist position.
  42. ^ During his presidency Zelaya was a member of the Liberal Party of Honduras.