On Sunday, Venezuela’s elections provided the latest sign that a two-decade-old political revolution known as “the pink tide” is receding.
The country’s ruling Socialist party, now helmed by late President Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor, President Nicolas Maduro, suffered a disastrous defeat in legislative elections.
According to the BBC, opposition candidates won 99 of 167 seats, while the Socialist party won only 46. At this point, 22 seats remain too close to call.
The pink tide unofficially began when late-President Hugo Chavez took office in 1999, calling himself a socialist.
With that he became the most colourful and bombastic representative of an anti-US, quasi-socialist ideology that swept across Latin American nations. In the years following his election, left-leaning politicians have risen to power all over the region.
This revolution’s name, “the pink tide,” was an allusion to the movement’s political philosophy.
Over the last few months, however, some of the pink tide’s most powerful leaders — leaders who once enjoyed overwhelming support — are being replaced, or facing ferocious political opposition from their constituents and peers.
In Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s party last month lost the presidency to a right-of-center businessman named Mauricio Macri.
In Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff’s approval rating sits at a putrid 10%, and opposition politicians have started impeachment proceedings against her.
And in Ecuador, protestors took to the streets last week when the country’s National Assembly passed a law making it possible for President Rafael Correa to run for office indefinitely beginning in 2021.
All of those leaders were supporters of Chavez and his ideology, in varying degrees.
In Venezuela, this shift to the right was at once expected — and a total surprise. Economists have called Venezuela “the most miserable country in the world” for two years in a row. The country’s inflation rate has hit 200%, and it can take citizens hours of waiting in line to get basic goods like toilet paper and milk.
The country has seen massive protests and violence in the streets for years, and opposition leaders have been imprisoned. One opposition politician was shot dead at a rally about a week before the election.
That said, Chavez’s party still has a stronghold on the country. It controls the media, the military, the executive office, and the judiciary. And, while Maduro himself may not be the most popular politician, Chavez is still beloved by many, even in death.
That reverence, however, isn’t changing the economic reality on the ground in countries suffering due to low commodities prices. Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela have all been hit as hard by low oil prices as they have by political scandal and graft.
That is why the tide may now be ebbing.
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