Recent developments in Latin America, such as the transport protests in Chile, which have transcended beyond discontent for high fares, and Alberto Fernández’s presidential victory in Argentina, have signaled a spike in leftist activity in these countries not seen since the decline of the “Pink Tide.” Among other related examples, these events indicate an odd regression for a region which, until recently, had consistently ousted leftist leaders due to corruption, economic instability, and abuse of power.
Though this reversal is interesting, what intrigues me more is the reactions from outside the region to this emerging new Pink Tide, particularly from those on the American left. Liberal citizens and politicians have expressed support toward often-extremist leftist groups from Latin America solely for the sake of leftist solidarity. This, I believe, is a dangerous move to make because it legitimizes their oppressive practices and associates the Democratic Party with the horrors lived by many expatriates and their descendants who now reside in the United States. This alienates a significant portion of the Latino population that these Democrats claim to represent. Furthermore, it prevents the formation of political consensus around American diplomatic pressure in the region, which could be key to toppling South American demagogues.
Historically, the Democratic Party has shown a reluctance to associate itself with leftist movements in Latin America. However, a new influx of political figures, like representatives Ilhan Omar (MN) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), as well as presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have started to shift the party further left. While the policies they support, such as universal healthcare and the end of income inequality, are absolutely necessary reforms for America, their defense and support of extremist, often dictatorial movements outside their home country marks a crucial mistake on their parts.
For example, Omar recently showed support for “peaceful” protestors in Chile, who in reality have almost completely disabled the underground transport system in the city of Santiago and vandalized stations and streets with dangerous, extremist symbols, such as the face of Che Guevara and the hammer and sickle. Omar, along with Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, have also refused to acknowledge Nicolás Maduro, the tyrannical, embattled, and disputed president of Venezuela, as a dictator.
As a Venezuelan citizen, who little more than a year ago was still experiencing firsthand the horrors of government oppression, corruption, scarcity, and violence, I find this particularly disturbing. Despite the wealth of independent evidence that places responsibility on the ruin of Venezuela on Maduro and his party, Omar blames the United States. According to Omar, American “bullying” has caused Venezuela to suffer this terrible political, social, and economic collapse. While the United States has certainly partaken in this activity before, this is simply not the case in Venezuela.
I like to believe that the positions these politicians have adopted are not a product of malice, but of ignorance and the scramble for power of the extremely polarized political system in America. It seems that the new leaders of the Democratic Party feel pressured to defend the left as a universal entity. Facing constant attacks from ruthless and regressive Republicans, they believe the extremist wing of the Latin American left is a useful ally that must be justified. They have isolated themselves so deeply in an environment where their just causes are constantly attacked that they have turned to these wolves in sheep’s clothing, governments that fundamentally go against everything promised by new progressive Democrats.
Many American citizens have followed suit — even people on our campus. They are drawn to rally around these incorrect views for the sake of opposing the other party. They wear the same symbols, such as the infamous Che Guevara shirt, that have terrorized Latin America for the last century — adopting them as their own — while failing to understand their true meaning and how many people died and suffered under their bearers.
It is possible to hold progressive views and still oppose these extremist movements — not only that, it is the only moral thing to do. I am not arguing that leftist movements are inherently violent and corrupt, but the legacy of oppressive Iberian colonialism and authoritarian regional caudillos have made leftist ideals a Trojan horse for belligerent and dictatorial regimes in a region accustomed to switching from one authoritarian government to another. There are occurrences of genuinely progressive and beneficial left-leaning governments, such as Michelle Bachelet’s administration in Chile. However, in a region still struggling with weak political infrastructure, it is more often the case that these leftist governments turn into dictatorships. The truth is simple: these two variants of the left are not the same.
Juan José López Haddad is a sophomore from Caracas, Venezuela. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.