(CNN) — After a long process that began with a party internal in March, a first round of presidential elections in May, and finally a second and final round this Sunday, Gustavo Petro was elected president of Colombia, joining the list of recent presidents in Latin America that are part of a new left.
Longer still, if you consider Petro’s two previous attempts to be president, in 2010 and 2018, and his controversial tenure as mayor of Bogotá, when he was removed and then reinstated in office.
Either way, Petro is now the most recent progressive president elected in recent years, following the triumph of Gabriel Boric in Chile (2021), Xiomara Castro in Honduras (2021), Pedro Castillo in Peru (2021), Luis Abinader in the Republic Dominican Republic (2020), Nayib Bukele in El Salvador (2019), Alberto Fernández in Argentina (2019), and Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico (2018).
The arrival of these leaders to power took place before and during the covid-19 pandemic, and then, like a pendulum, a wave of center-right and right-wing presidents (Mauricio Macri in Argentina, Sebastián Piñera in Chile, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, among others), who, in turn, proceeded to another wave of leftist leaders, sometimes grouped in the broad and poorly defined category of Socialism of the 21st Century (including Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Néstor and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, among others).
But what do the leaders of this new wave of progressive presidents have in common—and what don’t they?
Left-wing presidents in Latin America: professional politicians or outsiders?
Gustavo Petro, Alberto Fernández and Andrés Manuel López Obrador are veteran players in the politics of their respective countries, while Boric (the youngest president in Latin America), Castillo, Bukele and Abinader are relative newcomers, and Castro gained notoriety after the overthrow of her husband, Manuel Zelaya.
A former guerrilla in the M-19 movement, he was a representative, senator and mayor of Bogotá, and competed three times in presidential elections (2010, 2018 and 2022), until finally winning this Sunday and in the second round against Rodolfo Hernández.
Throughout his career he was a member of progressive left and center-left parties —far removed from Uribeism, the dominant force in past elections—, among which the Alternative Democratic Pole and the later Colombia Humana stand out, which is part of the Historical Pact alliance. for which Petro competed in these elections.
In his government program, Petro has promised to change the economic model by promoting agricultural production; commit to caring for the environment, changing the energy matrix; promote women’s equality; changes in the security forces; advancing tax reform with progressive taxes.
When he announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2019, under the support of former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, everyone in Argentina knew who he was. Fernández had been chief of staff of President Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and, for a time, of his wife Cristina Fernández. After breaking with the government, his figure continued to be relevant until he finally reconciled with Fernández de Kirchner prior to the formation of the Frente de Todos alliance.
But before all this, Fernández had also been a legislator for the City of Buenos Aires, and throughout his life he was part of the Partido Justicialista, or “Peronism,” one of the most popular and historically relevant forces in Argentina.
Since his arrival at the presidency, Fernández has had to deal mainly with the covid-19 pandemic, as well as with the recession inherited from the previous government.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
Like Petro, AMLO also became president of his country on his third attempt (2006, 2012 and 2018). And although he has a long political career in Mexico, he too was considered an outsider, competing outside of the two main forces: the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the National Action Party (PAN).
There are more similarities: AMLO, like Petro, was in charge of the executive in the capital of his country, Mexico City.
But his origins are more traditional: he began his political career as a member of the PRI, although he later joined the Party of the Democratic Revolution and more recently formed his own party, the National Regeneration Movement, known by its Spanish acronym as MORENA.
The president of Chile has a different profile. At only 36 years old, he is the youngest president in Latin America, and became president after a military man in the student movement (he was president of the Student Federation of the University of Chile, between 2011 and 2012).
He was also a deputy in Congress between 2014 and 2022, but his figure gained relevance during the so-called “social outbreak” that occurred in Chile between 2019 and 2021, a wave of demonstrations demanding living conditions that were repressed by the police and gave foot to the call for a Constitutional Convention to reform the Constitution, which was approved during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet
Boric competed in the 2021 elections as a candidate of the coalition Pact Approve Dignity, but belongs to the left-wing Social Convergence party, linked to the Broad Front.
The first female president of Honduras won the elections in 2021 and took office in 2022, amid persistent problems of violence and migration and the still present shadow of the 2009 overthrow of then-president Manuel Zelaya, her husband.
Castro began his political career working on the campaigns of Zelaya — who became president in 2006 — and on the women’s movement of the Liberal Party.
His figure began to rise after the coup, and he competed in the 2013 presidential election, in which he came in second place, before finally triumphing in 2021.
The candidate of the Modern Revolutionary Party, a force that defines itself as progressive, won the elections and took office in 2020, in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic.
The businessman capitalized on the unrest in the Dominican Republic after 16 years of government by the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), another center-left force, and became president in a second attempt (2016 and 2020).
The son of a senator who tried, unsuccessfully, to reach the presidency three times, this is the first elected position for Abinader, who had also competed as a vice-presidential candidate in 2012.
Also a businessman, Bukele was the youngest president in the region at 40 years old after winning the elections in 2019, until the arrival of Boric.
Despite his age, he has experience as mayor: first of Nuevo Cuscatlán (2012-2015) and then of San Salvador, the capital, between 2015 and 2018.
Bukele defines himself as a man of the left, and promoted, as mayor of San Salvador, the recovery of the Historic Center under the idea that “the public should not be less than the private”, which has led his detractors to accuse him of ” populist”.
He began his career in the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a left-wing force that is one of the two most important in the country, along with the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA). He later broke with the FMLN and founded his New Ideas party.
Difficult to classify, Bukele ultimately ran in the 2019 elections for the GANA party, a center-right force that often forms alliances with ARENA.
Rural teacher in the city of Chota, in Peru, Pedro Castillo was part until 2017 of the Peru Possible party, of former president Alejandro Toledo, today imprisoned in the United States for an extradition order in a case of alleged bribes he would have received from the construction company Odebrecht , accusations that Toledo denied at the time as a trade unionist.
In the midst of the political crisis that has affected Peru in recent years, during which several presidents were removed or resigned, Castillo, who was one of the most visible faces in a teachers’ strike that occurred during the government of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, became the representative of the Peruvian left and especially deep Peru.
He narrowly won the 2021 presidential election in the second round, running for the Peru Libre party, and took office that same year.