2019 was a year of mixed fortunes in the pursuit of freedom and democracy in Latin America, defined largely by socialist mobs using force to pressure the region to bow to their will. Despite this, the Latin American right secured a major victory in the resignation of far-left Bolivian leader Evo Morales.
After a devastating 2018 for Latin American socialism that saw candidates lose important presidential elections in Colombia and Brazil, 2019 looked likely to be a year when conservative governments consolidated power. However, the election of a socialist administration in Argentina, the ongoing crisis in Venezuela, and the left-wing mass riot movements across the continent have made it a challenging year for many of the continent’s leaders.
The biggest story of the year occurred in Bolivia, where far-left strongman Evo Morales chose to resign from office after an independent audit by the Organization of American States (OAS) found significant evidence that his government committed fraud to win the October presidential race.
Following his resignation, Deputy Speaker of the Senate Jeanine Áñez took office as interim president, promising to hold fresh elections early next year.
Amid violent clashes, Bolivia's self-declared interim president Jeanine Añez was sworn in and pledged to "revoke the conditions that turned us into a totalitarian country" pic.twitter.com/LKBPKHPibe
— QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) November 14, 2019
A religious conservative, Áñez has already taken swift action to start undoing Morales’s left-wing legacy, re-establishing relations with the United States and Israel and cutting them off with former socialist allies such as Cuba and Venezuela.
Añez’s government has also issued an arrest warrant for Morales on charges of terrorism and sedition after audio recordings released by the Interior Ministry showed Morales urging coca farmers from Chapare to coordinate attacks and civil disobedience across cities in Bolivia following his resignation.
He also called on his supporters to block the passage of food and other essential amenities to starve out civilians and create chaos. Morales is currently seeking asylum in Argentina, from where he intends to oversee the process of selecting an allied leftist candidate for next year’s presidential elections.
Desde Argentina nos encontramos coordinando con movimientos sociales para recuperar la democracia en nuestra querida Bolivia. La Navidad es una fiesta de confraternidad, encontrar vías de reconciliación es el mejor homenaje a Jesús que luchó por los más pobres. #JallallaBolivia pic.twitter.com/TavP1a8un0
— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) December 24, 2019
November’s presidential election in Argentina saw center-right incumbent Mauricio Macri defeated by socialist candidate Alberto Fernández, who ran with former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as his running mate.
Fernández’s victory was mainly a result of Macri’s collapse in popularity after he failed to control the tailspin that the nation’s economy found itself in during his tenure. Poverty is currently at 35 percent, while the economy is shrinking and inflation is rampant.
— Casa Rosada (@CasaRosada) December 10, 2019
The 60-year-old former cabinet minister has promised to instigate an economic revival by increasing spending and renegotiating $100 billion in sovereign debt left by his predecessor that may eventually lead to a damaging default.
His assumption of office has so far only unsettled markets, with investors fearing the consequences of additional borrowing and spending when the country is already struggling to make its debt payments on time.
Former army captain and hardline conservative Jair Bolsonaro was inaugurated as president of Brazil at the beginning of this year and he has already gone about undoing the legacy of the country’s former left-wing leaders.
Having campaigned on an agenda similar to that of Donald Trump, Bolsonaro has struggled to maintain the wave of popularity that saw him rise to power. However, he has achieved some success on his promise of restoring law and order, with the Interior Ministry reporting a 20-percent drop in homicides in just six months.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 19, 2019
Bolsonaro has also reorientated Brazil’s foreign policy towards the democratic West, cutting ties with Cuba and Venezuela and promising to build a new special relationship with the United States.
Internationally he has faced criticism over his alleged lack of response to the fires in the Amazon rainforest, leading to public disputes with world leaders such as Emmanuel Macron and Hollywood A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio. However, Reuters reports that such anger is not felt domestically, with 60 percent of Brazilians considering Bolsonaro’s government to have done a “great, good, or normal job,” in their response to the fires.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro responds to criticism to his previous comments that NGOs could be to blame for starting the Amazon fires
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 22, 2019
Colombia’s right-wing President Ivan Duque has also endured a difficult second year in office, with Marxist terrorists carrying out multiple attacks against civilians. His opponents accuse him of dogged loyalty to former President Álvaro Uribe, whose tenure was marked by the near-total defeat of leftist terrorist groups, and failing to tackle widespread corruption.
In an attempt to weaken or bring down his government amid sagging approval ratings, left-wing activists launched riots that effectively paralyzed the country, causing millions of dollars worth of damage and leading to numerous deaths and injuries. Duque responded by pledging to begin a “national dialogue” on the issues raised, including corruption, the economy, and the effective collapse of the 2016 peace deal.
Day of mass left-wing protests in Colombia with scenes reminiscent of Venezuela. Only difference is that these people were fighting for socialism rather than against it. pic.twitter.com/pBtUYgEZYy
— Ben Kew (@ben_kew) November 22, 2019
Similar to Colombia, Sebastian Piñera’s conservative administration in Chile faced mass leftist riots in the heart of Santiago, the capital city, where leftists burned down dozens of mass transit stations, looted supermarkets, flipped cars, and otherwise attempted to disrupt social order.
The demonstrations allegedly began as a student revolt against a three percent increase in metro fares, but continued long after the Chilean government withdrew the fare hike, demanding Piñera step down without offering a reason other than his conservative policies. With the suspected backing of communist Cuban agents, protesters wreaked havoc across the country, causing millions worth in damage and the death of 11 people.
A look at what prompted the protests in Chile, in under 90 seconds.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) October 31, 2019
Piñera later caved to the demonstrations by agreeing to a referendum on a new constitution that would guarantee additional rights and privileges to its citizens. He nominally took a hardline stance against the demonstrators and Cuba’s involvement, declaring that the country was now fighting a “war with a powerful and uncompromising enemy that respects nothing and no one.”
Protests against social inequality in Chile continued for a 26th day with huge demonstrations and a national strike that brought much of the country to a standstill. https://t.co/pvg4232SDr pic.twitter.com/XetCZi0Jjo
— ABC News (@ABC) November 13, 2019
Following his election in 2017, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno shifted the country back from the leftist politics of his predecessor Rafael Correa, cutting ties with the Maduro regime and pulling funding from its socialist propaganda network TeleSur.
Moreno’s pragmatic approach has come as a nasty surprise for Correa, who supported his 2017 election bid with hopes of consolidating his own radical socialist legacy. Correa has since fled to Brussels after allegedly trying to instigate a coup against his former ally and is now hosting a television show for the Kremlin-backed propaganda network Russia Today (RT).
In October, similar left-wing demonstrations broke out as a response by transportation workers and trade unions to several economically conservative reforms imposed by his administration, including a repeal of a decades-old government gasoline subsidy.
Moreno eventually ended the crisis by striking a “peace deal” with the opposition that involved passing legislation to direct more resources to those living in poverty.
Ecuador moves government out of capital as violent protests rage pic.twitter.com/bqfqiZmRPe
— The Guardian (@guardian) October 8, 2019
In February, the former mayor of the capital of San Salvador, Nayyib Bukele, won a landslide victory in El Salvador’s presidential election after forming a populist coalition that transcended the traditional left-right divide.
A former member of the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, Bukele was kicked out of the party for “verbally abusing” a female colleague. He has since moved many of his positions away from traditional Latin American socialism and ran on a campaign that promised the rooting out rampant corruption, reducing gang violence, and improving the country’s decrepit infrastructure.
— Reuters (@Reuters) September 27, 2019
During an address at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, in March, Bukele announced his intention on forging closer ties with the United States and blamed the previous socialist administration of Salvador Sánchez Cerén for damaging ties between the two countries.
“The U.S. and El Salvador have had a relationship where, for over 100 years, it has been a great relationship. And El Salvador has been an ally of the United States forever,” he said at the time. “But the fact is, the last ten years, we had a government that has been eroding the relationship with the United States, siding with Venezuela, siding with Nicaragua, the international organizations.”
Bukele has faced criticism for cozying up to communist China, despite having pledged to re-evaluate Beijing’s predatory relationship with the Central American country. This month, he boasted of a windfall of supposed “donations” from the Chinese government during a visit to Beijing, including over a dozen agreements and investment pledges industries such as agriculture, commerce, culture, and sports.
Despite the continued economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro’s socialist dictatorship has successfully clung on to power. Despite facing a challenge to his authority from National Assembly leader and the country’s rightful President Juan Guaidó, Guaidó’s failure to convince the military to switch sides and recognize him as president has meant Maduro retains control of the territory.
“VENEZUELA ES MUCHO MÁS LINDA QUE LOS PAÍSES DONDE ESTÁN LAVANDO INODOROS”
— Infobae América (@InfobaeAmerica) December 27, 2019
As a result of Maduro’s continued control, life in Venezuela has continued to deteriorate with multiple power outages and skyrocketing rates of poverty. A recent study by the Brookings Institute found that the ongoing crisis has led to a humanitarian exodus that will soon surpass that of Syria in its severity.
We are now 4 years into the crisis in Venezuela, and the international community has spent just $580 million. By this time in Syria, they’d spent $7.4 billion. https://t.co/7hCxlAtu1a pic.twitter.com/FQNrh9Ah7y
— Brookings Global (@BrookingsGlobal) December 12, 2019