They are trying, but failing, to win elections. Conservatives are trying: the economic powers are attempting it; the old right – with a new discourse - is agonizing over it; they are plotting in the North to try to continue to control the South. But they are failing. They don’t know how to win elections, due to one key error: they think they are talking to a different people, an imaginary people who don’t live in the countries in which social transformations have taken place in record time. They seek new ways of creating a fresh image, a young candidate, with a post-political discourse, seemingly devoid of ideology. And never wanting to engage in confrontation, as if politics were possible without it. Given the post-neoliberal age which Latin America is experiencing, the opposition faction knows that the goalposts have moved.
The shift in the focus of the new political axis is so strong that the right is desperately trying to reinvent itself to be able to compete in each election. The new regional leaders of the right have decided to clean up their discourse, ceasing to insist on foreign investment, legal security, free trade agreement, and austerity policies. They don’t even dare address in public the role of the state in some areas of the economy, nor question the redistributive public policies which have been implemented in various countries. For a few years now, they have been opting for another line: not to question the past, but to dispute the future, promising that “with them everything can be better,” preferring to focus all their criticism on security, lack of press freedom, populism (although they don’t really know what they mean by this).
However, they leave it to the large media corporations to devise and promote the “everything is bad” discourse, despite running the risk that these groups are out of touch with the new common sense of the moment. This changing of roles, sometimes, seems to achieve the opposite result. In fact, it is completely ineffective given that the opposition press still thinks it is living in a neoliberal past. This gap shows the contradictions within the conservative bloc. Leaders of the opposition right-wing parties prove to be a lot more skillful and flexible in changing their discourse than the right-wing press.
So far, conservatives have continued to lose despite attempts by Capriles in Venezuela; Rodas in Ecuador (he won the mayoralty but lost disastrously in the last presidential elections); Doria Medina in Bolivia; Marina Silva and Aecio Neves in Brazil; and Lacalle in Uruguay (in the first round).
Many of these new faces would be just right for Hollywood, but they continue to lose elections. The last victories in defeating progressive governments were achieved through anti-democratic coups, such as in Honduras and Paraguay. Still in use, however, are other nefarious methods, such as the so called market coup in Venezuela, with the constant threat of the black market and money laundering practices of importers which subject the people to profit-driven inflation; in Argentina with predatory hedge funds and harsh currency devaluations due to changing speculative practices or soy prices. They will continue to pursue victory using all manner of anti-democratic approaches, but they have failed to find a wining formula at elections.
Following Evo Morales’ overwhelming victory in Bolivia, reelected with 61% of the vote, Dilma Rousseff triumphed in Brazil with 51.63%. The Brazilian president defeated the old neoliberal candidate, Aecio Neves, by more than 3 million votes. Neither Marina Silva’s performance in the first round, nor the entire powerful establishment which supported Neves in the second round, have been able to stop the process of change being carried out in Brazil - initiated in 2002 with the election of Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. Fourteen years later and this is the Workers Party’s fourth consecutive victory, something the opposition can not take away. The simplistic excuse that “It is all owed to the global economic boom” or a “tail wind” is no longer relevant. We are living in times of economic recession and the process continues to receive majority popular support.
Not everything is rosy in Brazil, but the good outweighs the bad; poverty and inequality have been markedly reduced over the years, the economic and living conditions of the majority of the population have improved. This hasn’t been achieved by magic but rather though the political will to change the country’s economic model, democratizing and reinserting it with greater sovereignty on the global stage.
Uruguay must also be added to this scenario given - according to official statistics - the popularity of the progressive Broad Front Party, which won the first round of voting in the country’s recent elections with 46.48%, and is favored to win the second round against neoliberal candidate, Lacalle Pou, on November 30. In this country, neither the son of a dictatorial president: Bordaberry (the Red Party), nor that of a 1990’s neoliberal president: Lacalle Pou (the National Party), were successful against the proposal of continued change begun with Pepe Mujica. Therefore, the Pacific Alliance, a new form of neoliberal integration in Latin America, supported by the United States and the European Union, will have to continue to wait for new associates.
For now, the bloc of progressive countries continues to win presidential elections. Chavismo with Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, Cristina Kirchner in Argentina (in anticipation of what might happen next year), Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Sánchez Cerén in El Salvador, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and recently, Evo Morales in Bolivia; with the latest revalidation being Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and possibly Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay. In short, yes, it is true that there are attempts at conservative restoration, but there is as yet no genuine conservative restoration in Latin America. (AIN)