In the late 1990s, many Latin American countries turned away from the democratization and free market economies promoted by the United States. Instead, leaders such as Hugo Chávez, Lula da Silva and Evo Morales inaugurated a new era of left-leaning social movements and policies. Within the media and academia, this became known as the Pink Tide. Over the past five years, most journalists and academics have surmised that Latin America is turning away from the values of the Pink Tide. This summer, a Levitt Summer Research Group supervised by Henry Platt Bristol Professor of International Affairs Alan Cafruny is researching the extent to which that’s true.
Ryan Franquiz ’18, Sebastian Lissarangue ’18 and Nicolas Yardas ’18 explained that anti-Americanism is at the core of the Pink Tide. “The U.S. has created huge transgressions of sovereignty, and anti-Americanism persists,” Lissarangue noted. Latin American countries wanted to become more independent and get distance from American intervention. These states began looking to Russia, China, and India as alternatives to investments from the U.S. They also created large regional bodies, such as ALBA, Unisur, Mercosur and Petrosur, that could counter U.S.-oriented trade groups.
Now, the Levitt group is wondering what will happen to these regional groups, as well as to the larger social movements and cultural values alongside them. Members said that most past analysis has used a comparative approach that focuses on domestic policies, often from an American perspective. Yardas explained that that kind of focus can be limiting. Instead, the group will be using an international relations framework, examining countries as states. “We’re looking at how these countries interact with each other and how the pink tide has influenced that,” Yardas said. The students are aiming for a holistic analysis that will take into consideration domestic policies, culture, and political and economic organizations.
This summer, the group is focusing primarily on the past three years. Although they will be looking at the whole region of Latin America, their analysis will focus largely on four key players: Chile, Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina. In order to complete a detailed analysis, they are using a wide range of sources. The group is reading academic articles and journalism spanning the past 20 years, focusing on Spanish and Portuguese sources. They’re also using data from 1980 through 2015 to analyze historic trends. With statistics from the World Bank and the IMF, such as unemployment rates, GDP, and foreign debt, they can see the effects of regime swings and the performance of political organizations.
They’re branching outside of hard data, too. Later this summer, they hope to visit Washington D.C. to interview members of Latin American think tanks and the U.S. State department. They are also reading iconic works of literature such as the works of Gabriel García Márquez. Lissarangue explained, “Our perspectives will always be imperfect, but we feel like it’s our duty to immerse ourselves as much as possible.”
So what do they think they’ll find about the fate of the Pink Tide? Political and social movements in Latin America are certainly changing, with a split between the new and old Left, and the increasing popularity of more central political views. However, the group posited, it is a tide, so we might expect it to ebb and flow.