National shades of Latin America’s pink tide

Lula’s and Morales’ campaign documentaries

Seminar Paper, 2011
12 Pages, Grade: 8,5


Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 Conceptualizing the pink tide

3 Analysis of Entreatos and Cocaleros
3.1 Lula’s and Morales’ appearance
3.2 A glimpse into the candidates’ origins and private lives
3.3 A defiant look from the opposition
3.4 Figureheads for the masses

4 Conclusion

5 Bibliography

1 Introduction

In the last ten years, left parties won elections in the majority of Latin America countries - an unexpected success would have seemed impossible just a decade before when the end of the Cold War and the stagnation in Cuba suggested that the era of socialism was over (Castañeda 1993: 3). In many countries, the voters trusted liberal parties to bring about democratization and neoliberal reforms, but in fact even left parties had little choice but to follow the same agenda. This phenomenon of the success of “restricted quality” left parties (Weyland 2004: 150) as a result of limited space of action came to be known as Latin America’s pink tide.

The various parties of pink tide are often closely linked to its respective leader, which characterizes these movements as personalist and neopopulist (ib.: 149). The diversity of left governments has risen debate about whether or not the left can still be seen a one political camp and how to conceptualize these different parties and its leaders. The most common practice of dividing them into a ‘good’, social-democratic left and a ‘bad’, radical one is as often reproduced as it is criticized (French 2009: 351). To see whether this distinction is justified, this paper is going to focus two politicians that are usually positioned at the opposing ends of the left spectrum: Brazil’s former president Lula, a representative of the ‘good left’, and Bolivia’s president Evo Morales as part of the ‘bad left’. After an overview about the main approaches to conceptualize the left tide, the documentaries Entreatos and Cocaleros, which follow the electoral campaigns of Lula in 2002 and Morales in 2006, will be analyzed. These unique sources offer a possibility to look into their behaviour at the culminating point of their political career – because both managed to win the elections. This insight into their attitudes and behaviour in public and private situations is more helpful to characterize these politicians than any official written agenda could ever be. Finally, the comparison of Lula and Morales will be a crucial example to address the question whether there is a real gap between the left in Latin America, or if there is, as Chávez would like to see it, a common denominator of many lefts on the same path (ib.: 350).

2 Conceptualizing the pink tide

As suggested in the introduction, most intentions to characterize the left in Latin America result in dividing the continent into two, or less frequent, three or simply multiple lefts (Castañeda 1993; Walker 2008; Corrales 2006). The dichotomy usually attributed to Castañeda distinguishes a “good left”, represented by “open-minded, reformist and internationalist” politicians, like Kirchner or Lula from a “bad” or even “crazy“ left which includes Castro, Chávez and Morales (French 2009: 351). The formula is often reduced to social democracy vs. populism (ib.: 351) which reflects the origin of this division as a neoliberalist and Western/US- capitalist point of view. It differentiates left-ruled countries willing to follow a neoliberal course from those who (apparently) question the model (ib.: 354). Venezuela, the most open adversary to the US, has meanwhile replaced Cuba as a threatening anti-model. Therefore, the better left presidents manage to distance themselves from Chávez, the bigger is their chance to be accepted by the US.

The rise of left governments can definitely be seen as a consequence of the failure of neoliberalism to fight inequality in the region (Beasley-Murray 2009: 329). As Weyland extensively discusses, the set framework of neoliberal reforms and globalization that promised an end to the economical crises of the 80s were also accepted by left parties to avoid further authoritarian regimes (2004: 150). Not surprisingly, this led to a rise of neopopulist leaders (ib.: 141) who comply well with Knight’s characteristics of populists. According to Knight, populism is mainly a particular style of charismatic leadership. In spite of the leader’s ability to mobilize the non-elite masses, he does not only focus on his base but rather seeks a multiclass coalition (Knight 1998: 223f.). These characteristics are also part of Cameron’s definition of the Latin America’s left wing parties. Rejecting the dichotomy of good/ social democrat vis-à-vis bad/populist parties, he defines the continent’s left as

the leaders, parties and movements that seek to ameliorate inequality in its diverse manifestations, and promote social inclusion, either through bottom-up mobilisation by grassroots organisations, top-down policy initiatives by personalist leaders, or legislation by parliamentary parties; they advocate the use of state power to attenuate the effects of markets, either on behalf of broad multi-class coalitions or in response to demands from specific social classes, sectors and groups […] (Cameron 2009: 333).

According to Cameron, all left parties have a common aim and tool: Improving equality through a social market economy. This definition avoids the traps of ignoring changes and of lumping together too many politicians under one criterion. In 2002, Castañeda still (dis)qualified Lula as an example of ‘bad’ left because of his “emotional devotion to Cuba” (French 2009: 352). Even Chávez and Morales come from very distinct backgrounds: (Cameron 2009: 334): While the latter gained power through a grassroots mobilisation, Cameron sees Chávez as the true populist, who only chose the democratic way after his coup failed and bases his power on a multi-class coalition.

Cameron’s definition converges with Chávez’ intent to define and link the Latin America’s left. As he emphasizes, all lefts basically “walk the same way, in the same direction” and minor differences may occur due to different “circumstances” in which countries are (French 2009: 358). French points out that promoting unity is very beneficial for Chávez to guarantee cooperation on the continent (ib.: 363). For French, the dichotomy of two lefts is an artificial reduction applying a western definition of social democracy. But just like this definition has undergone huge changes over time, one has to take into account the historic development and diverse historical trajectories of the left in each country (ib.: 356). This is where the cultural, social and ethnical heterogeneity of Latin America comes into play. The same ambitions expressed by distinct charismatic leaders can lead to very different responses in each country. So to characterize different personalist leaders, it is helpful to not only look at how they present themselves, but also at how their followers see them (ib.: 356). As will be shown in the next chapter, this perspective is very important to understand Lula and Morales.


Excerpt out of 12 pages


National shades of Latin America’s pink tide
Lula’s and Morales’ campaign documentaries
Utrecht University  (Latin American and Caribbean Studies)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
426 KB
Entreatos, Cocaleros, Evo Morales, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Electoral campaign, Documentary, Pink tide
Quote paper
Neele Meyer (Author), 2011, National shades of Latin America’s pink tide, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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