Celebrate the Facts!
6/26/2022 0 Comments
There is a ‘pink tide’ in Latin America. The pink tide is a massive new wave of socialism with climate justice at its core, and it aims to transform the economies and lives. Colombia recently elected its first left-wing President, former Bogota Mayor and Senator Gustavo Petro. Petro gained power through the long-term development of grassroots connections with under-empowered demographic groups and added to the ‘pink wave’ movement in Latin America. This poses the possibility for significant changes in South and Central America
Colombia fast facts:
Colombia has long suffered some of the most dramatic income and wealth disparities. The Income share held by the lowest 10% of the country is less than 1%, while the top 10% has a 42% share. More than one-third of its population lives below the poverty line.
Despite immense resources, Colombia’s gross domestic product per capita has remained static and significantly dropped during the COVID pandemic. The combination of young people's high unemployment, the dramatic wealth disparities, and the pandemic's effects immensely helped the country's civil unrest.
Another critical piece in the movement left in Colombia came in 2019 when President Duque proposed dropping the minimum wage for workers under 25 years old. Protestors formed a national strike that stopped commerce. Strikes and protests continued through the COVID pandemic. In 2021 the federal government proposed higher taxes and ignited even more public outrage. People demanded better education, public transportation, and healthcare.
According to the United Nations, the Colombian government responded with violence, murdering at least 44 protesters and injuring hundreds more. Non-State armed groups killed 255 people in 66 massacres in Colombia in 2020 and killed 120 human rights defenders. While the federal government was not directly responsible for these attacks on indigenous and other under-empowered groups, the United Nations claimed they had not done enough to mitigate them.
Former Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro and his vice president, environmental activist Felicia Marquez recently became Colombia’s first left-wing, progressive leaders. The election had the highest turnout in Colombian history. However, their election was not an outlier. Years of grassroots organizing and coalition construction preceded. The campaign proposals by Petro were still relatively modest, featuring tax reform to provide the government with more money for its education and health systems, along with ending Colombia’s fossil fuel needs through a ‘just energy transition.’
Grassroots organizing and coalition building overcame the immense inertia of the right-wing establishment. Petro’s rivals highlighted his past involvement in the M19 rebel group, which demobilized in the 1990s, as a smear tactic. They attempted to characterize him as a buffoon unprepared for the office. Regardless, Petro and Marquez built strong ties with Indigenous communities, Afro-Colombians, peasants, women, gender-diverse people, and other repressed subgroups and won the office.
Petro and Marquez’ election win will be an immense change in Colombia and throughout Latin America for several reasons. One of Petro’s major platform items was his intention to make Colombia central in the global fight against climate change. He also focused on proposals to better the living standards of Colombians, and another environmental item, preserving the Amazon rainforest.
Petro encourages other progressive leaders in Latin America to make ending their countries’ dependence on fossil fuels a part of their agendas and interlace it with economic and social justice. Petro calls for banning unconventional oil fields, fracking, and offshore oil wells and ending all fossil fuel exploration.
All these actions are integral to the just energy concept. This just energy transition that Colombia will try to implement provides environmental movements across Latin America and the remainder of the world with a model to adapt to their efforts.
The inertia of a moribund economy and the other existing factors will undoubtedly be impossible for Petro’s government to overcome other than incrementally. Pundits might toss around overworn phrases such as facing significant headwinds. Regardless, the overall movement of Latin America is following a story arc like the development of liberal democracies in European history. Undoubtedly these movements will act to diminish the influence of the United States in the region, which is likely an excellent thing for Latin America. Conversely, it is not such a good thing for the United States.
Arguably, when the United States headed to the Middle East for its forever wars, its attention to Latin America waned. In the meantime, Latin America has diversified trade partners and invited China as its banker and natural resource development partner in many instances. Changing that, if possible at this point, would involve heightening attention and connections for a similar twenty-year period to pay off. But, with the United States currently in a revolution and turmoil at home, it’s doubtful in the twilight of its empire that it will make that effort.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.