sexta-feira, 25 de setembro de 2015

‘Pink tide’ on turn as Latin American revolutions fade

Fifty-three years ago, a Soviet ship, the Poltava, berthed in Cuba with a cargo of ballistic missiles. So began the Cuban missile crisis — a Caribbean stand-off that almost led to global conflagration.

At about the same time, 1,500 miles away in Colombia, a young communist guerrilla leader named Manuel Marulanda, better known as Tirofijo (or Sure-shot), set up base in a valley south of Bogotá. For decades, Tirofijo waged a guerrilla war on the Colombian state that eventually cost 220,000 lives. The conflict also contributed to a multibillion-dollar global cocaine trade

Back then, as in the Middle East today, it was hard to imagine a moment when these two related developments in Latin America might reach their natural end. Their revolutions — which inspired or helped finance other conflicts, from Africa to Northern Ireland — were just getting under way.

Half a century later, that historical arc is closing. Cuba is shedding its socialist model and has begun a process of rapprochement with the US. As for Colombia, the government this week made a breakthrough in peace talks with Tirofijo’s Marxist guerrillas that, in six months, could end the western hemisphere’s oldest conflict.

These are momentous events, with regional geopolitical implications that could help untie a horrendous Gordian knot of violence, migration, drug-trafficking and instability that has plagued the Americas for over half a century. At least, that is the hope.

Havana’s detente with Washington has already changed the political tone in Latin America — assisted by the Colombia peace talks — removing a rhetorical stick that revolutionary types such as President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela have brandished against the evil empire of the north.

The same is true for other Latin American groups that called on the legacy of Cuba’s revolution to justify their own bankrupt or outdated ideologies, such as Brazil’s ruling Workers’ Party, which is embroiled in the country’s biggest-ever corruption scandal. As it rumbles on, threatening President Dilma Rousseff, that scandal is emphasising another big recent regional development — a rise in the rule of law.

In Brazil, almost for the first time, the rich and powerful, from businessmen to politicians, are being held to account.

In a different way, the same is true in Colombia, where rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) agreed this week to submit to a legal process from a state whose laws they never recognised. Along with other human rights abusers, they will submit to “transitional justice” courts.

The Farc’s demobilisation could also help diminish the flows of cocaine that run east through South America into Africa and up to Europe, now on a par with the US as leading cocaine consumers.

These hopeful events are part of a slow but tangible process of political realignment that is not so much the end of history as its next chapter. The developments are also taking place as the relative economic standing of the US improves in the region, while that of China and its state-led model of capitalism (handmaiden to so much corruption) falls.

Furthermore, the China-inspired commodity price boom that financed much of the “pink tide” of leftist governments in Latin America over the past 15 years is ending. Painfully, this will sap economic growth. But it will also expose the faultlines of much populist rhetoric and policymaking.

One example is Argentina, where President Cristina Fernández will step down after the forthcoming presidential elections, ending another era.

One cannot become too glassy-eyed. There will be reversals along the way, especially in Colombia and Cuba. The exercise of forgiveness is always hard, however much Pope Francis called for a “Revolution of Tenderness” in Cuba this week. Still, they are watershed events. And, at a time when so much of the world is plagued by conflict and forced migration, they can be celebrated as such, too.

John Paul Rathbone

Fonte: FT