The Ghost of Pinochet

The death of General Augusto Pinochet, Chile’s former military dictator, provides perhaps an appropriate end for a year that saw the Latin American left return to glory, a revival that Hugo Chavez’s overwhelming reelection in Venezuela is but the strongest sign. For unlike in the days of Pinochet, fear of the left has mostly vanished across the continent.

Indeed, the left has won in countries in which it has previously never held power. Despite the fact that the victories of Felipe Calderon in Mexico, Alvaro Uribe in Colombia and Alan Garcia in Peru put a stop to a supposed tsunami of Socialist victories, the trend toward the left is unmistakable.

Chavez is no longer a lonely populist. In the Andean region, he is accompanied by two clones that are reheating his recipes: Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador. In the rest of the continent, the other left - the one deemed reliable by Wall Street and London bankers - will not join Chavez’s postures, but neither will it join a crusade to unseat him.

This other left, however, is not radical. The return to power from the political wilderness of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Alan Garcia in Peru, two of the most demonized enemies of US foreign policy during the 1980’s, provides sardonic testimony to this. Ortega won thanks to an alliance with the heirs of Nicaragua’s old dictator Somoza. His only ideology nowadays is Daniel Ortega. García defeated Ollanta Humala, who would have presumably joined the drift toward Chavez.