In a short space of time, the six leading countries in Latin America are facing systemic and strategic challenges under the leadership of leftist governments. It is not remembered that in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico the executive powers were simultaneously headed by political forces with a progressive orientation. Brazil has just joined that group. Lula da Silva will once again occupy the presidency of the largest State in Ibero-America.
This kind of astral coincidence has an origin and a future that surpasses each of the countries mentioned. The challenges that appear on the horizon must be analyzed from a multinational perspective. This means that the opportunity has arisen for such challenges to be addressed by political leaders in collaboration and partnership with progressive governments. In this way, the transformation programs that each of them has launched or will launch would acquire a power far superior to a political action of a country exclusively.
We do not know for now that a global progressive strategy has been proposed by any of the governments mentioned above, but there is no doubt that their performance will be judged by their peoples according to whether they have taken into account and taken advantage of that window of opportunity that has been born in the XXI century in Latin America.
It is, indeed, a unique opportunity for the left to be able to unite their efforts and adopt their decisions in such a way that one can speak of the Latin American “left” as an active political subject.
The path has been prepared by the citizen mobilizations that some Latin American countries experienced in 2019. They were massive protest movements that clearly indicated that there were very deep reasons to make visible the discomfort of increasingly unequal and unstructured societies. Electoral support for leftist parties has been a natural consequence of these convulsions, but it carries within it the demand for profound changes. That is why the leading role has been given to the left, with the hope that it will not cause frustration.
Latin America is not, of course, a homogeneous whole. Each country has different conditions to take political measures. However, there are challenges that they share, can and must face with the maximum complicity possible. They are not difficult to identify whatever point of view one adopts.
Starting from an intrinsically political approach, Latin America has to bring closer the integration processes that we have been waiting for so long from Europe. At the moment, CELAC has an integration instrument, albeit still weak and fragmented, such as CELAC, which must be strengthened. Brazil has ceased to belong to it, but with a president like Lula da Silva it would return to its bosom. It would be a fundamental step for the success of the summit with the European Union that Spain is preparing for the presidency of the Council of the Union that corresponds to our country in a year. Here is a first challenge that the Latin American left must face resolutely and that Petro and Boric seem to have already tackled.
The political and economic integration I am referring to will not be easy. It has to overcome two high-rise obstacles that have traditionally existed: political nationalism and economic protectionism.
The travel companion of integration must necessarily be the institutional framework. The Latin American countries have not achieved a sufficient level of stability and institutional solidity – political and legal – that grants the public authorities the legitimacy and strength that must be used to make the peoples advance. The policies of the left – because they are of a transformative nature – need that institutional framework, the lack of which has given so much trouble and disappointment to left-wing electorates, and has made it difficult to stop paramilitary movements, such as those that are shaking Colombia today.
The economic challenges facing the left in Latin America are obviously enormous. Almost unfathomable. And that explains why the citizens have led these forces to power.
Economic and labor informality is the other side of the coin of the absence of powerful institutions. An underground economy of enormous proportions and the stay in the legal margins of millions of workers constitute a brake on the four wheels of sustainable growth and social welfare. The Latin American left has in this challenge the key element of its triumph, unattainable for so long.
If there is something in which economic informality is forcefully reflected, it is in the very low tax pressure, in the non-progressivity of the tax system and the irremediable effect of all this: the evasion of capital to tax havens.
This is surely the most difficult point of a program of progress in Latin America, but, at the same time, the element on which the lefts can respond to the demands of the working classes depends. Without progressive direct taxes, any resemblance to a Welfare State is simply impossible.
To achieve the central objective of the economic and fiscal transformation that Latin America requires, it is essential to go beyond the borders of the State. This is undoubtedly the time to do it: when the left governs in the most important countries of the Latin American subcontinent. I am convinced that such an objective cannot be achieved from within a single State. Interstate collaboration and cooperation is essential. Without it, tax evasion is served, as well as the congenital weakness of the public Treasury apparatus.
The cooperation of the five great Latin American economies, now led by the left, is the essential strategy for them to escape the chronic drama of social and racial inequality. And so that the greatest threat that hangs over the heads of men and, essentially, women and children in America is faced once and for all: insecurity and violence. Without a shared plan at a supranational level, it is unrealistic to think of solving the problem that for many citizens is the number one priority in their lives: security. Inequality and insecurity are, on the other hand, the undoubted springs of uncontrolled intra-regional migration.
The six challenges that we have exposed as the most outstanding in the current scenario of the Latin American countries, for whose government the left is responsible, are intrinsically linked. Each one depends on the previous one: political and economic integration; institutionality; sustainable growth; progressive tax system; fight against inequality; security. All the above objectives should be part, in my opinion, of a broad plan of supranational dimension that links the large countries led by leftist governments. Given the history and the current situation of these countries, in a world affected by major crises, the conditions exist for the Latin American left, beyond national interests – which must be preserved –, to unite their efforts through a Latin American alliance of progressive governments that effectively links with the European Union. It would be essential to solve problems that are still consubstantial with the reality of the leading states of Latin America. It is what the people expect and what justice and political and social ethics demand.