It’s not just the United States that’s being pulled (or is it pushed?) to the left. It’s happening throughout the Western Hemisphere. All the largest economies, and many of the smaller ones, in North, Central and South America, comprising about 90 percent of the population, are now run by leftists.
Just look at North America. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) of Mexico and our own President Joe Biden are all center-left politicians.
The nine largest countries by population in the Western Hemisphere – the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Canada, Peru, Venezuela and Chile (in that order) – all have self-proclaimed leftist leaders. And then there’s the smaller countries, such as Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba, whose biggest exports, besides the many citizens willing to do whatever they can to flee from them, may be their socialist ideologies.
Of course, there are different degrees of left-leaning politicians and governments, just as there are different degrees of right-leaning politicians and governments.
Some of the countries are trying to retain a veneer of capitalism and free markets. President Biden, for example, claims to be a capitalist. So does Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). But theirs is not a capitalism that any defender of free markets and limited government would recognize.
Biden has moved the United States further and faster to the left than any previous president. There’s very little practical difference between him and self-proclaimed democratic socialists Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
To be sure, Biden is not as far left as, say, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega or Bolivian President Luis Arce, a proud member of the Movement for Socialism. Those three countries have largely destroyed their economies. Biden hasn’t gone that far — yet.
That leftward shift among so many countries will eventually lead to slower economic growth throughout the Americas, and therefore the world. And it will likely mean growing shortages of everything from food to energy, as well as rising public tensions.
Take Colombia. Last year, Gustavo Petro, a former armed guerrilla, became Colombia’s first leftwing president. Colombia is Latin America’s third-largest oil producer. And yet Petro says he will be cutting back on oil production. “The only way to halt the climate crisis is through zero consumption of carbon and petroleum,” he recently told the World Economic Forum.
And then there’s Mexico. AMLO has begun restricting foreign investment in the country’s oil production. In addition, Bloomberg reports, “Mexico’s Senate passed a bill that completes the overhaul of the country’s election regulator, a long-sought objective of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that the opposition denounces as an attempt to tamper with next year’s elections.”
Actually, it’s fairly common for leftist governments, once in power, to pass or impose election reforms that make it easier for them to stay in power. And they often press for judicial reforms so the courts will bless their power grabs.
And I need to mention the other major recent change in Latin America: the election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) as president of Brazil, the second-largest country in the Western Hemisphere. A left-winger, he was convicted in 2017 of corruption and money laundering. And there’s very little reason to think he’s changed his ways, especially now that voters have validated him, though by a very slim majority.
All these left-leaning leaders seek to expand government and its control over their citizens’ lives. They want to increase taxes, spend more taxpayer money and grow their welfare programs.
But it isn’t all bad news. When Luis Lacalle Pou became president of Uruguay in 2020, he ended a 15-year leftist rule. In 2021, Ecuador voters elected Guillermo Lasso, the country’s first center-right president in two decades. And although new Peruvian President Dina Boluarte has a history of embracing socialist ideals, reports claim she now appears to be reaching out to moderates and the center-right.
The left’s widespread grip on the Western Hemisphere means slower economic growth and less individual freedom at a time when the world needs more of both. In years past, the United States could have served as a model for reform. As it stands, Latin America and the world will have to wait at least two more years.