Monday, June 18, 2018

Duque and Latin American Politics

Iván Duque defeated Gustavo Petro in the Colombian runoff election yesterday, 54%-42%. Boz has some good points about the outcome, including the importance of centrists. Adam Isacson also has a post worth your time on how this affects the peace agreement.

I'd like to chime in on the broader view. It will be tempting to view this as part of an overall conservative wave in Latin America, and I fully expect that kind of assertion to spread, especially since this was a clear cut contest between candidates who self-identified as left and right. It has already started, really.

But that is misleading and does not pay sufficient attention to the specific Colombian context. The FARC effectively prevented any real political left from developing in Colombia. It was too hard for the left to convince people it wasn't going to be soft on the FARC, or even tied to it. Look back at 2010, when Antanas Mockus ran and won only 27.5% in a runoff after being clobbered in the first round. It was just too easy to tie the left to the FARC, to Hugo Chávez, to Fidel Castro. Etc.

Petro was openly struggling against this. And the fact that he got 42% of the vote means he succeeded far more than anyone else in the past. Not enough to win, obviously, but enough to breath life into the aspirations of the left. It's fair to say that it won't be long before a leftist can win the presidency, and that's something that just has not been true before.


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