Is there a new Latin American rightwing?

What used to be the rightwing is eroded, along with its neoliberal model, leaving an open space for new, more radical forces on the right.

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The Latin American right were renewed and grew stronger when they adopted the neoliberal model. They laid claim to the future, seeking to relegate the left to the past. They incorporated social democrat forces and even some of nationalist origins, widening their political block.


The left were somewhat late in reacting, a bit astonished in the face of so many blows – the end of the USSR, a global offensive of neoliberalism, loss of their social democrat allies, weakened trade unions, States and political parties. The oft repeated statement that when we had found the answers, the questions were changed, appeared very real.


This was until the left understood that capitalism had donned a neoliberal dress, and that the left had to be one that was above all anti-neoliberal. The resistance struggle against the new neoliberal governments was hard, since it was not only against the traditional right, but also against governments such as those of Menem, Cardoso, Carlos Andrés Pérez, the Chilean Concertation, among others.


Yet finally, the left managed to win elections and to reveal what was coming with the anti-neoliberal governments. The right were on the bench of the accused; they lost initiative, acted in response to the success of the social policies of the governments of the left, and came to claim that they would incorporate them, but in the neoliberal framework.


After successive defeats, the right have returned to government in Argentina and Brazil. The victory of Macri provoked hasty claims that Macrism had become the party of the Argentinian right and that it had come to stay. In Brazil the same thing is said now of Bolsonaro. But the question is, is there really is a new right in Latin America?


What is certain is that what used to be the rightwing is eroded, along with its neoliberal model, leaving an open space for new, more radical forces on the right. This happened with the Radical Party in Argentina, without leaders from the Peronist centre able to occupy this space, it was finally occupied by Macrism. The same thing happened with the burnout of the PSDB in Brazil, leaving the field open for the advance of Bolsonarism.


However, what is new in these forces and what inspiration do they have to remain in the long run?


It is true that they have become the political representatives of the rightwing in those countries.  It is also true that they have arrived in force and with programs of the ultra-right, especially in the case of Brazil. But the rapid weakening of Macri, due to the feet of clay that the right always have with their neoliberal model, indicate that they were a bit hasty with their forecasts of a long future. The same is true with Bolsonaro, who, like Macri, is condemned to seeing his support drain away, as everyone realizes that recession and unemployment will be maintained due to the continuity of the neoliberal model, beyond his discourse, in which he has already withdrawn several promises – such as terminating the labour ministry, among others.


Nonetheless, it is a more radical new right, much more radical in the case of Bolsonaro. They rely on the weaknesses of the leftwing forces, but this does not mean they have arrived to remain in government. They have in common their accusations of corruption against the left, attempting to appear as incorruptible and as fighters of corruption. How far those accusations are real is not important. What is important is that they have managed to sway public opinion with the image that the governments, leaders and parties on the left are mired in corruption. And to act as if this is not the case with those of the right. Also, their diagnosis that present economic problems are still the effect of leftist governments. In the first case, they have achieved generalized success, in the second there is much more in Argentina than in Brazil.


Is this a new right? Yes. Have they arrived in force to government? Yes. Have they arrived to stay? As new representatives of the right, probably. Will they govern for a long time? With difficulty. This depends on the capacity of the left to unite and to come to terms with the issues of debate raised by this new right.  The left needs to show they represent the renewal of politics, the defense of transparency in politics, as well as reviving, more forcefully, the pending issues to overcome neoliberalism, such as democratization of the media, to which must now be added the democratization of the Judicial Power. Always furthering the democratic approach, broadening existing spaces, creating others, in order for the force of mass resistance to neoliberalism to become once again a political force.




(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)


- Emir Sader, Brazilian sociologist and political scientist, is the coordinator of the Laboratorio de Políticas Públicas of the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ).




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