Review of <i>La nueva izquierda en América Latina</i>

04 October 2008
In the media
Published at
El Pais
In the last decade, the left has taken power by democratic means in several Latin American countries. But we should rather speak of ‘the lefts’ in the plural as one of the key features of this enormous transformation is the wide variety of progressive forces in government, ranging from more or less classic social democrats – Michelle Bachelet in Chile – to a sort of populism with authoritarian tendencies – Hugo Chávez’s regime in Venezuela – through political strategies of quite difficult classification – such as Lula’s government in Brazil. Despite the significance of the changes that have taken place after the fall of the Berlin Wall and after a long period of neo-liberalism in Latin America, most of academia has failed to analyse properly a process that has strong roots in the region. The increasingly frequent Spanish media attention to Latin America is given in the context of a dearth of ideological discussion. Thus, many complain that the daily news about Latin American politics that Europeans read is reduced to clichés, prejudices or very biased opinions. Among the intellectuals who have lamented this lack of analysis and debate are the editors and authors of this book, essential reading for understanding recent years. After criticising the lack of ‘good news’ about Latin America – paraphrasing that master of journalists Ryszard Kapuscinski in referring to Africa – Professor Juan Carlos Monedero highlights in his foreword the plurality and diversity of socialisms that govern the other side of the Atlantic and the existence of common traits, such as the continuous electoral victories and the strong personal leaderships of the Latin American left. Based on the joint work of leading Latin American academics, all committed to a progressive vision and defenders of the popular classes, the book has the good sense to offer a reading country by country. After an introductory chapter to the topic under the very appropriate title of "Utopia revived?”, several specialists analyse in detail the current situation and the political background of the left in Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico and Bolivia, concluding with three essays that provide an overview of the region. As the foreword points out, this is a very welcome publication that will “help to promote in Spain a new vision of Latin America, breaking away from colonialist nostalgia or intellectual inertia”. La nueva izquierda en América Latina Daniel Chavez, César Rodríguez Garavito y Patrick Barrett (editors) Los Libros de la Catarata. Madrid, 2008 376 pages. 22 euros Translation by Daniel Chavez, Amsterdam