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  • An Aymara woman carries her baby.

    An Aymara woman carries her baby. | Photo: AFP

Published 29 May 2016

The Bolivian vice president argued that the future of progressive governments in Latin America depends on their capacity for self-criticism and recognizing shortcomings.

A politician whose political movement came to power as part of South America’s socialist Pink Tide, Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, has argued that the way for Latin America’s progressive governments to confront the resurgence of the right across the continent and protect social gains is to recognize the weaknesses of the left to build a stronger movement.

The Latin American Left: Challenges for 2016 and Beyond

“It’s clear that the right will always seek to conspire and that is a fact of life,” Garcia Linera said Saturday in a speech delivered in Buenos Aires at a forum titled “Conservative Restoration and New Resistance in Latin America,” organized by the German Abdala Foundation.

“But it is important that we evaluate what we have not done well, where we have had limits, stumbles, that have allowed or want to allow the right to resume the initiative,” he added.

“Because if we realize our own weakness, it is clear that we can overcome that weakness and prevent this return of the right or regain the initiative again to replace that right once again with the democratic mobilization of the people,” he continued.

Alvaro Garcia Linera and Bolivian President Evo Morales I Photo: AFP

Garcia Linera pointed to five specific weaknesses that he argued the Latin American left should recognize as part of building a stronger progressive movement to confront the right-wing resurgence that has already made gains specifically in Argentina, Venezuela, and Brazil.

First, he argued that economic contradictions have been a downfall of the left.

“It’s as though we had given little importance to economic issues within revolutionary processes,” he said, adding that the economy is key and will be a deciding factor in the fate of progressive governments.

Second, he suggested that progressive governments have failed to promote a kind of cultural revolution alongside the political revolution that has made significant advances in wealth redistribution.

Social programs have successfully lifted many out of poverty, creating a new middle class with new consumerist sensibilities, but the question remains how to promote a “new common sense” along with the widespread improved living standards, he explained.  

Third, Garcia Linera said that weak “moral reform” has prevented progressive governments from going far enough to tackle entrenched corruption brought on by neoliberal privatization.

Fourth, he stated that the question of the continuity of leadership remains a major challenge.

And finally, Garcia Linera argued that Latin American economic integration remains a weakness despite considerable advances in political regional integration. “Economic integration is not an easy thing,” he said, pointing to the fact that each country has its own interests.

Latin American Unity in Light of Right-Wing Resurgence

The Bolivian vice president also identified key characteristics of the advances made by progressive governments in the region over more than a decade. He argued that the passing of state power to social and popular forces, strengthening of civil society, redistribution of wealth, reduction of social inequality, and progressive regional integration have been important gains.

But he stressed that paying attention to shortcomings alongside these successes is key to the future of the left.

Garcia Linera’s speech comes at a pivotal moment for the Latin American left, as right-wing forces have made a considerable resurgence in recent months, including major electoral gains for the right in Venezuela and Argentina, ongoing destabilization attempts in Ecuador, and, most recently, the institutional coup against the progressive government in Brazil.

But despite the uphill battle for the left, Garcia Linera remained optimistic about the future of the socialist movement, despite not knowing how long the fight could take.

“History is on our side,” he said. “We are the future. We are hope.”

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