Latin American peoples between obscurantism, nostalgia and new utopias

In October, Argentines and Ecuadorians are once again called to the polls. In the case of Ecuador, a second round of voting will determine who will occupy the presidential seat of the ousted banker-president Lasso in a shortened mandate for the next two years. The candidate of the Citizen’s Revolution, Luisa González, winner in the first round by almost ten percentage points, has to face the candidate of the oligarchy, the banana businessman and offspring of the tycoon dynasty Daniel Noboa.

In Argentina, the electorate will have to choose in presidential terms mainly between the ruling party represented by the current economy minister Sergio Massa, the neoliberal right headed by Patricia Bullrich, Mauricio Macri’s former security minister, and the ultra-liberal caveman Javier Milei.

Although less than in the primaries, but not negligible, will be the proportion of those who, despite the fact that voting is compulsory (as in Ecuador), will express their displeasure through abstention, blank or null vote, while a much lower figure, around 5%, will opt for Trotskyism in the figure of the current PTS deputy Myriam Bregman or the anti-Kirchnerist Cordobesism of Juan Schiaretti.

Beyond the fact that the forced polarisation forces progressivism to avoid by all means the arrival in government of neoliberals, whether they are called Milei, Noboa or Bullrich, the conviction is growing stronger and stronger about the need for a profound renewal of political projects and social utopias, today clearly worn out.

The darkening of politics

Little can be added to the ultra-liberal barbarism that Milei exhibits in his numerous public appearances. His candidacy, promoted by the concentrated media cartel and managed by national and transnational economic power, hides behind his histrionics and an anti-bureaucratic discourse, the ambition to install a market dictatorship, in the best style of the programme developed by Milton Friedmann’s disciples in Pinochet’s Chile.

In Ecuador, with somewhat more demure public manners, Noboa Azín is the son of the six-time losing candidate of the business right, Álvaro Noboa, and grandson of the then richest man in the country, Luis Noboa Naranjo, founder of the eponymous corporation, mainly dedicated to banana exports. The proximity to the possibility of turning Ecuador into a “banana republic” is not entirely unreasonable. His grandfather started his business in a long-standing relationship with the US Standard Fruit Company, whose plantations in Honduras and influence on the country’s politics gave rise to this derogatory nickname.

Curiously, in reference to the animal species with which the fruit is associated, Argentine Peronism often calls the opposition right-wing “gorillas”, a name that the defenders of Perón’s overthrow in 1955 adopted as their own at the time. The anecdote refers to a radio sketch parodying the film Mogambo, then playing in Buenos Aires, in which the jungle noises around were attributed to apes, which in turn referred to rumours of underground intentions to overthrow the Peronist government, which finally ended up happening.

The aggressive profile of the recalcitrant right-wing pairings is accentuated by the focus on their vice-presidential candidates. Victoria Villarruel is the daughter and niece of military officers who participated in the repression and openly advocates historical denialism in relation to the cruelty of the dictatorship that claimed thousands of innocent lives, equating state terrorism with the actions of guerrilla groups. In his statements, he promises to reform laws “so that the military can operate within the territory when there is no state of siege” and could be in charge of security and intelligence in an eventual Milei government.

Verónica Abad, from Cuenca, defines herself in her profile on the X network (formerly Twitter) as a “fusionist politician”, a political philosophy that unites the criteria of economic liberalism with conservative values, developed by Frank Strauss Meyer, taking concepts from the Austrian School economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek and the English historian and politician Lord Acton. Fusionists claim Ronald Reagan and Margareth Thatcher as prominent examples of their current.

In keeping with these ideas, in a 2019 Facebook post, Abad describes herself as follows: “I am right-wing, a classical liberal, a believer in God, the Bible, a defender of the individual, the family, life, property, limited government, free enterprise and competitiveness, I love freedom and I dream of an Ecuador of order, justice, peace and truth, a free, republican and capitalist one… And with great honour, dammit!

In Latin America, this combination had its main disseminator in an Argentinean, Alberto Mansueti, who promoted failed political projects in Venezuela, Guatemala and Peru, framed in the idea of the Five Reforms, based on the privatisation of health, pensions, education, the free market and government limited to the areas of security, defence, infrastructure and justice, also privatising political parties.

The occupation of the political front page by these characters, supported by various entities promoted by the US State Department, NED and USAID through the Atlas Network, is much more than just the implementation of anti-people policies. Riding the regressive international tide, they have opened the lid of a sewer whose stench is similar to the stench of recent and medieval torture rooms. Their discourses, servile to the most closed capitalism and typical of rampant neo-rationalism, encourage and naturalise violence and political repression, encouraging the growth of individualism and social insensitivity.


After the lacerating and bloody trail left by the horror of military dictatorships in the region, which opened the way for the imposition of neoliberal regimes, a decimated generation was able to emerge from the rubble, raising slogans of progressive social recomposition.

Thus, in the first decade of the new century, and in parallel to the demands of the indigenous, feminist and environmental movements, several popular governments emerged that improved the lives and expanded the rights of the inhabitants of these lands. The imprint of that resistance to neoliberal rapacity showed itself even belatedly in spaces previously tightly controlled by corporations and the imperialist political apparatus, such as Mexico, Chile, Honduras, Colombia, Peru and, with nuances, in the most recent case, Guatemala.

Meanwhile, new generations have been growing up whose memory has been forged under the sign of progressive administrations and whose present is far from responding to the promises of collective emancipation, much less to the reveries of individual appropriation unleashed by an inclement propaganda, consubstantial with the capitalist model. Submerged by this suffocation and without clear horizons, many young people turn their backs on these political forces, blaming them, justly or unjustly, for their situation.

In the progressive camp, the look of the already grey-haired age groups, faithful to a developmentalist ideology typical of post-war industrialist stages, defend themselves against the new onslaught of the renewed classic capitalism – today completely financialised and managed by trillionaire investment funds – and yearn for a return to the formulas of the previous post-neoliberal cycle.

The political scene has thus become generationally dislocated. Yesterday’s revolutionary efforts do not connect with the needs of young people due to their own wear and tear and the changes in the situation, while at the same time, in the course of a progressive demographic ageing, conservatism and regression appear as a mechanical response to the creeping changes in all fields.

Beyond the responses of the moment, the clamour for new revolutionary utopias of an evolutionary nature is becoming an imperative of the times, otherwise this space of radicalism will be occupied by the irrational violence of regressive fundamentalisms.

The new utopias

The ideals that guide each stage of history do not emerge out of nowhere, nor are they “new” in their entirety, but rather take up the best of the previous cycle. They even look back to past times to rescue those dreams and collective acts that remained unfinished or were degraded or prevented from being achieved due to resistance and objective or subjective limitations of the time.

Thus, the French Revolution drew on motifs from the Republic of Rome, the Renaissance condensed Eastern, Greek and Egyptian wisdom prior to the thousand years of Christian ecclesiastical rule in the West, and the Soviet October Revolution was driven by the proclamations of the anti-Tsarist agrarian Narodniki movement that had emerged several decades earlier.

In Latin America, the Cuban Revolution vindicated its national hero José Martí, the Nicaraguan Revolution the anti-imperialist deed of Sandino, Chávez anointed Bolívar’s ideas of sovereign integration with a new impetus, and the Democratic and Cultural Revolution led by Evo Morales took up the banners of predecessors in the emancipatory struggles such as Tupac Katari, Bartolina Sisa or Pablo Zárate Willka.

Where, then, are the new winds to be found today and what are the antecedents of collective memory that can connect with them?

In this globalised and fully interconnected period of history, in which the first planetary civilisation is emerging through the interaction of different cultures, a New Humanism can gain momentum, proclaiming human essentiality as the highest value, while promoting the convergence of diversity.

Alongside the just struggle of peoples for equitable living conditions and multiple development options, a non-violent morality must be affirmed that contributes to coherence between what is thought, what is felt and what is done.

Such an ideology cannot but include, alongside the indispensable social transformations, the need for profound changes in its interiority. One of the main tasks of the new revolutions will be to construct an existential sense that is not exhausted in the possession of objects and to develop a kind of spirituality of the future stripped of the institutional religious paternalisms imposed in each culture, including the theistic demands that are specific to them.

This utopia can connect and recover the best moments in the history of each culture with humanist characteristics, even if they were not called that way at the time. Characteristics that distinguish the advance in this direction, which have been present in these moments with their respective nuances, are the location of the human being as a central value and preoccupation, the affirmation of the equality of all human beings, the recognition of personal and cultural diversity, the tendency to develop knowledge over and above what is accepted or imposed as absolute truth, the affirmation of freedom of ideas and beliefs, and the repudiation of violence.

Of course, as in any revolution, these premises will clash with prejudices, such as those that currently prioritise the object or material world over the subjective ambit, with the concepts we have just outlined here being characterised as “idealistic” or even worse, “utopian”. In the face of such criticisms rooted on both sides of the political and social avenue, perhaps it would be good to wield the possibility of a balance that contemplates the need for simultaneity in personal and social change. A vision that integrates consciousness and the world as an indissoluble whole.

As for being categorised as utopian, this is the best praise that can be given to these foundations of New Humanism and precisely the proof that it can be the horizon that is being sought. We will have to see what the people say and choose.

Javier Tolcachier