Latin America is experiencing a second progressive wave

Petro's victory in Colombia is the result of mobilizations that showed the weariness of a society that has suffered authoritarianism and violence by the State. It opens a space to resume regional integration and cooperation initiatives.

Latin America is experiencing a second progressive wave
Colombia joins a Latin America of the left. Image: UNAM

Latin Americans want to build models of society different from those that traditionally existed in the region, more inclusive, less unequal, and more autonomous in their international projection. The triumph of Gustavo Petro, in Colombia, means the consolidation of an evident trend towards progressive and left-wing sectors in national governments, pointed out UNAM academics.

We are talking about a second progressive wave in the region, in which this year Gabriel Boric won in Chile; now Colombia and, possibly, Brazil are joining in since polls indicate the high possibility that Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva will win the election in a first-round, explained Nayar López Castellanos, professor at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences (FCPyS).

On an international scale, said José Ramón Briceño Ruiz, member of the Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CIALC), what is foreseen for the region is a period of greater autonomy, where confrontations with the United States will not necessarily be sought. "The problem is whether in the American Union there will be the minimum capacity to understand that the nations of the south have the right to autonomous decisions, and that subordination is part of the past."

In the press conference "Colombia joins a Latin America of the left", López Castellanos explained that this is the first time in the history of Colombia that a progressive candidacy, of the left, reaches the national government "by a close vote, but with sufficient distance, which gives the necessary legitimacy to this project to have a dynamic of governance and seek to solve historical problems that have characterized that country, such as inequality, violence, poverty, and authoritarianism".

The president-elect obtained the highest vote ever recorded in presidential elections, reaching 11 million 291 thousand votes, on an election day with a turnout of 58 percent of the electoral roll.

The historic nature of the election and the arrival of Petro and the vice-president, Francia Márquez, to the government, is the result of broad popular mobilizations last year and the beginning of this one, which showed the weariness of a society that has suffered authoritarianism and violence by the State; "it is the defeat of Uribism as an ultraconservative political current, characterized by human rights violations; so far this year alone, 89 social leaders and rights defenders have been murdered".

What happened in Colombia should be translated into a regional logic, where mechanisms such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) may have more relevance, based on a coincidence around elements such as the promotion of social and economic cooperation dynamics in the region, a sovereign vision of this part of the world, and a respectful relationship with the United States and other powers in the global arena.

Another aspect will be the relationship between that nation and Venezuela, which has been tense and even of military confrontation in the worst moments. The result of last Sunday's election is very important and removes a piece from the geopolitical and hegemonic chessboard of the United States because Colombia has always been fundamental in attacking its South American "neighbor", and this will have repercussions.

Since Colombia has historically been a country governed by an elite, which when it has had to resort to violence has done so, Petro's triumph represents a substantive change, said José Ramón Briceño. In Latin America, a new left-wing cycle is taking shape more clearly, but it presents important and substantive differences from the previous cycle of 2003-2016: now we have the presence of Mexico and Colombia, which are added to Chile and Peru.

This will have implications at the regional level and in Latin America's relations with important external actors, especially with the United States, China, and Europe. Today space is opening up to resume regional integration and cooperation initiatives, which had been weakened; "we Latin Americans, united as a block, are stronger".

The policy of the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which includes the Latin American grouping in the official agenda, is a first step forward. In addition, Petro, last Sunday, pointed out the need for his country to promote this action. "Interesting spaces are opening up and with certain ideological affinity in a good part of the Latin American governments, although it will not be so easy either, especially with nations such as Nicaragua".

In this part of the world, there are clear demands announced, such as the real transformation of the Organization of American States or the Summit of the Americas. "If they are not heard, it will be an incentive for the Latin American dimension to be further strengthened through instances such as CELAC".

Briceño Ruiz summarized that the main challenges Petro will face are: governance (forming a great national alliance, given that he will not have legislative control that will allow him to unilaterally advance his transforming agenda), in addition to the relationship with the United States and Venezuela.