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Protesting in Bogota, Colombia
Protesting in Bogota, Colombia
Arlene B. Tickner

BOGOTÁ — Recent election defeats for the social-democratic Peronist candidate in Argentina, and for Bogotá"s unapologetic socialist mayor, may be part of a wider trend for leftist leaders across Latin America. Both those elections — not to mention several mass protests against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's Workers Party — suggest voters are tired of business-as-usual from long entrenched socialist leaders.

Most immediately, the victory of Mauricio Macri in Sunday's election over the hand-picked candidate of Argentina's outgoing President Cristina Kirchner could be a bad omen for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose rule may be threatened by conservatives and liberals hope to deprive the Left of its parliamentary majority in elections next month.

But the backlash may be even more far-reaching. History has shown that when left-wing forces are in the political opposition, they are usually lucid and effective in denouncing the depredations of the neo-liberal order and globalized economy, and the limitations of liberal democracy in that context. Socialist forces across Latin America have promised alternative models of development and political participation that would be fairer and more inclusive.

For a while, in the first decade of this century, booming commodities prices fueled atypical economic growth that "happily" coincided with the arrival of left-wing governments in several states in the region. Disposing of ample funds, the Left was able to free itself of some entrenched market-related restrictions and dogmas, and push through policies that reduced poverty and (to a lesser degree) inequality. Services were expanded (especially in health care and education), and awareness spread of the importance of defending the rights of weaker sectors of society.

Still, like the mythical Sisyphus whom the gods forced to endlessly roll a rock up a mountain before it tumbled back down, the continent's Left has striven to promote its social justice and fair economy ideals, but apparently lacked the ability to realize them.

Progressive promises

Undoubtedly, there are structural and international obstacles here, like globalization; as well as national impediments like weak institutions or scientific and technological deficiencies that have prevented them from delivering their promised "better world."

But the economic and political decisions taken by several "progressive" governments — which admittedly are not all identical — are also to blame.

Beside the uncommon levels of corruption that stain its record in most Latin American countries where the Left has governed, two other broader tensions remain unresolved.

One is between the principles of rule of law and primacy of state institutions on the one hand, and the "direct" and participative style of democracy touted by some, which has too often led to a leader's perpetuation in power.

The other tension is between sustainable development and development based on extracting and selling raw materials. While exploiting natural resources has resolved some problems — like filling state coffers with short-term cash — it has proved environmentally harmful, and kept Latin American economies utterly dependent on the whims of the commodities market.

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Geopolitics

Minsk Never More: Lessons For The West About Negotiating With Putin

The longer the war in Ukraine continues, the louder calls will grow for a ceasefire . Stockholm-based analysts explain how the West can reach a viable deal on this: primarily by avoiding strategic mistakes from last time following the annexation of Crimea.

"War is not over" protests in London

Hugo von Essen, Andreas Umland

-Analysis-

Each new day the Russian assault on Ukraine continues, the wider and deeper is the global impact. And so with each day, there is more and more talk of a ceasefire. But just how and under what conditions such an agreement might be reached are wide open questions.

What is already clear, however, is that a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine must not repeat mistakes made since the open conflict between the two countries began more than eight years ago.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Contrary to widespread opinion, the so-called Minsk ceasefire agreements of 2014-2015 were not meant as a definitive solution. And as we now know, they would not offer a path to peace. Instead, the accord negotiated in the Belarusian capital would indeed become part of the problem, as it fueled the aggressive Russian strategies that led to the escalation in 2022.

In early September 2014, the Ukrainian army suffered a crushing defeat at Ilovaisk against unmarked regular Russian ground forces. Fearing further losses, Kyiv agreed to negotiations with Moscow.

The Minsk Protocol (“Minsk I”) – followed shortly thereafter by a clarifying memorandum – baldly served Russian interests. For example, it envisaged a “decentralization” – i.e. Balkanization – of Ukraine. An uneasy truce came about; but the conflict was in no way resolved.

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