A Cuban’s Take on the Latin American Hybrid Left

The president of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez (on the right), receives the president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, at the beginning of the Celac summit of 2023, in Buenos Aires (Argentina). (EFE/Matías Martín Campaya)

On the continent, this current still has a long way to go to become a democratically adult.

By Yunior García Aguilera (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – During the Cold War, Latin America was more like a hot zone. It is undeniable that almost all the countries in the area suffered extreme right-wing dictatorships, nor can the United States’ support for these regimes cannot be hidden. The fear of Soviet tentacles was real, and Cuba was proof enough, with a missile crisis that almost exterminated us all.

But Fidel Castro would also use fear as a permanent discourse, governing at gunpoint and deploying a fierce propaganda campaign to seduce fans of violent revolutions.

The left would come out of its first adolescence without being so Marxist or rebellious. The United States lowered the tone and became more tolerant, mainly after the collapse of the USSR. Leftist Latin Americans could then come to power with votes rather than bullets.

This is how the Pink Tide emerged, with its bouquet of enthusiastic figures. The group went along successfully for a while, increasing social spending and managing to reduce poverty. Although, in reality, the initial luck was possible thanks to the increase in the price of oil and other raw materials.

Then came the debacle: corruption scandals, inflation, a return to poverty and electoral defeats. Except some leaders would not be willing to give up power so easily. Today, Latin America suffers from three dictatorships, all of the extreme left.

Some analysts talk about a new Pink Tide after the victories of López Obrador in Mexico, Fernández in Argentina, Boric in Chile and Petro in Colombia, plus the rebirth of Lula in Brazil. And although it is true that the largest economies in the region are governed by progressive leaders, the context is very different. The world has still not recovered from the impact of the pandemic, and Putin’s invasion has disrupted everything.

Like the war, this tide is quite hybrid. Its protagonists have openly expressed their differences with respect to Russia and have demonstrated nuances concerning the “triangle of sadness” (Cuba-Venezuela-Nicaragua).

Boric, for example, has harshly criticized the three regimes. He has said that the situation of Cuban prisoners of conscience is unacceptable, has urged Venezuela’s President Maduro to hold truly democratic elections by 2024 and has called Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega a dictator. The Chilean has also described Putin as an autocrat who is waging a war of aggression and not, as Russian propaganda claims, a “special military operation.”

For his part, Gustavo Petro, the first leftist president of Colombia, has been much more ambiguous on the issue of Ukraine and refused to send that country the Russian weapons he possesses, a decision that was applauded by Moscow.

Although Petro tried to keep his distance from his authoritarian neighbors during his campaign, his inclination in favor of castrochavismo is no secret to anyone. With Nicaragua the matter is more delicate, partly because of a territorial dispute between the two nations and also because Ortega’s decision to banish more than 300 Nicaraguans is absolutely indefensible.

For the current president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, Cuba and the ’blockade’ [i.e. the US embargo] will always be part of the same phrase, since he “is not aware of the repression on the Island.” At the recent Celac summit, he said that all those present had been elected by their people and that Maduro was “more than invited.” However, Chávez’s heir canceled his trip at the last minute. He did not want to take risks, since there is a reward of 15 million dollars for those who facilitate his international capture. With regard to Ortega, the Argentine chameleon has also been forced to condemn him after his last tyrannical extravagance.

For the president of Mexico, castro-ortega-chavismo is as innocent as singing Las Mañanitas. López Obrador sabotaged the Summit of the Americas when Biden did not want to invite the triumvirate, which maintained relations with Maduro while 60 countries recognized Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela, and López Obrador recently handed over the order of the Aztec Eagle to the Cuban dictator. But as with Ortega, El Peje* also softened his radicalism. A few days ago he revealed a letter he sent in December to the former guerrilla-dictator, requesting the release of the opposition prisoner Dora María Téllez.

Lula has been a fervent defender of Castroism, going so far as to affirm that Cuba would have the same standards as Norway or Denmark if it were not for the embargo. He also refuses to hand over weapons to Zelenski and has proposed a third way for a dialogued solution, led by none other than China.

As we can see, the Latin American hybrid left is no longer a teenager, but there is still a long way to go before it becomes a democratic adult.


*Translator’s note: El Peje is Lopez-Obrador’s nickname because of his accent. The nickname comes from pejelagarto (literally, fish lizard), an alligator-like fish from his native Tabasco, meaning he’s hard to pin down.  

Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times