Morales’s departure from office marks both a sea change in Latin American politics and a stinging rebuke to the naïveté of parts of the Western left. Even though there had always been strong evidence of their anti-democratic leanings, new socialist leaders such as Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Morales in Bolivia were widely celebrated throughout the first decade of the 21st century as the future face of Latin America.
Now virtually nothing remains of their erstwhile appeal. Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, have made Venezuela deeply authoritarian and shockingly poor. Meanwhile, the Bolivian people have come out in great numbers to stop Morales from violently crushing their protests. As one of the most famous slogans of the Latin American left holds, El pueblo unido jamás será vencido: The people united will never be defeated.
From east to west, and south to north, the dream of Latin America’s so-called pink wave has turned into a nightmare. And the many scholars, writers, and politicians who have for years sung the praises of aspiring dictators like Maduro and Morales should not be easily forgiven for sacrificing the rights of distant people on the altar of their rigid ideology.