The political influence of Evangelicalism in Latin America is a phenomenon that has resulted in increased political influence and activism by the Evangelical Christian community in the region. Marginal at first, different news reports and political analysts have pointed the important weight that such community has and its impact in electoral politics, even helping in the electoral victories of conservative candidates.
Evangelical political parties are a particular type of political parties in Latin America generally linked or known to pander mostly toward the Evangelical Christian community.
They are normally associated with certain stances like cultural conservatism, strong opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBT rights, legalization of abortion, drug liberalization and marijuana legalization, what they refer as "gender ideology" or identity politics, gun control and globalism. Although exceptions exist, they tend to be located on the right of the spectrum due to the Prosperity Theology associated to them, whilst supporting such things as death penalty, "hard hand" on crime, corporal punishment for kids and harder laws for juvenile delinquents.
Similar movements often interconnected or analogous according to some analysts are the Tea Party movement, the Christian right, the neo-nationalism, the alt-right, the QAnon and the conservative wave.
Protestant missionary groups mainly from the Charismatic Movement originated in the Deep South of the United States were introduced deliberately as a strategy from Washington particularly during Republican administrations as a way to reduce the influence of left-leaning Catholic movements like Liberation theology (which was popular among many far-left political parties and guerrillas) and the more moderate Christian socialist and Christian Democratic parties. According to Catholic blogger Jorge Rondón in his essay: La Expansión del Protestantismo Fue Parte del Plan de Guerra de la CIA para América del Sur (The Expansion of Protestantism Was Part of CIA War Plan for South America), U.S. President Richard Nixon encouraged the introduction of Protestant missions after a 1969 memorandum received by then Vice President Nelson Rockefeller which stated: "the Catholic church has ceased to be an ally in whom the U.S. can have confidence." Something confirmed by Wade Clark Roof in his book World Order and Religion. Guatemalan archbishop Próspero Penados also blamed the US for encouraging and sponsor Evangelicalism in Guatemala for, according to him, more political than religious reasons arguing that: "The diffusion of Protestantism in Guatemala is more part of an economic and political strategy" to oppose the Catholic social justice doctrine".
In recent decades, the Catholic Church has suffered a drain of followers, some of whom became irreligious, agnostics or atheists. Some also went to other alternative religions like Buddhism, Islam and new religious movements; but a large segment of former Catholics, particularly those of more humble origins and lower classes, went into the Evangelical Churches, with neo-Pentecostal and Charismatic movements proven popular amongst the converts. Pentecostalism also became popular among the lower income classes and the most abandoned sectors of society specially those of very poor and peripheral areas who see the Churches' ideas of economic growth through faith as an opportunity for social mobility. In any case, the growth of Evangelicals was quickly followed by their newly discovered political and electoral weight, with new forms of political activism and even the creation of specific political parties connected to their communities. Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt was one of the first Evangelical Christians in attain power in Latin America's history.
Some examples of these movements include the support from the Evangelical Christian community to Jimmy Morales (himself an Evangelical) in Guatemala, Juan Orlando Hernández in Honduras, Mauricio Macri in Argentina, Sebastián Piñera in Chile The Evangelical opposition in the Colombian peace agreement referendum is considered for many pivotal in its rejection, as was the Evangelical parties' support of the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. Countries with notorious conservative right-wing candidates supported by Evangelicals include Venezuela where pastor Javier Bertucci was the third-most voted nominee, Costa Rica where preacher and gospel singer Fabricio Alvarado went into the electoral run-off and Brazil where Evangelical Christians were pivotal in the triumph of Jair Bolsonaro.
However, in some countries the alliance was with the left. The Authentic Renewal Organization is a Venezuelan Evangelical political party and member of the official Great Patriotic Pole of President Nicolás Maduro. Daniel Ortega was also supported by Evangelical pastors in Nicaragua and his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo has links with Evangelical Churchers. The Social Encounter Party in Mexico is also unofficially linked to the Mexican Evangelical community (as the Mexican Constitution forbids the existence of confessional parties) and is a member of the Juntos Haremos Historia coalition that endorsed leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a move that brought out criticism as it was a coalition with two left-wing parties.
The movement is generally characterized by its staunch cultural conservatism (even for Latin American standards) with a very strong opposition to same-sex marriage, LGBT rights, legalization of abortion, drug liberalization and marijuana legalization, "gender ideology" and identity politics, gun control and globalism. Some may hold strong anti-communist and anti-socialist positions and endorse neoliberal and pro-free market capitalist ideas in part due to the Prosperity Theology that many hold. Some conspiracy theories like Cultural Marxism and New World Order have proven popular among its base. South American Evangelicals also tend to follow Christian Zionism and be supporters of Israel, supporting policies such as the moving of the embassies of their countries to Jerusalem.
Some have been described also as supporters of the death penalty, "hard hand" on crime, Creationism (and opposition of teaching the scientific theories of Evolution and Big Bang on schools), corporal punishment for kids and harder laws for juvenile delinquents. Their most critical opponents signal them as having far-right, religious fundamentalist, theocratic, anti-democratic and authoritarian ideas wanting to replace democracy by theocracy.
Roman Catholics in Latin America tend to be relatively more left-wing in economics due to the traditional teachings of the Catholic social doctrine and the Christian Democracy. Evangelical Christians on the other hand are mostly from the neo-Pentecostal movement and thus believers in the Prosperity Theology which justify most of their neoliberal economic ideas.
Atheist, agnostics and non-religious people are the third largest group of Latin America behind Catholics and Protestants. Coincidences with the conservative neo-Pentecostal are scarce. Although exceptions exist, non-religious in Latin America tend to be strongly culturally liberal, generally more than the average Latin American, being much more likely to support such things like secularism, abortion, same-sex marriage and birth control than their Catholic counterparts and specially the neo-Pentecostal community. Nonreligious are also much more supportive of Palestine than Israel and come mostly from the middle and high class, especially the professional and intellectual camps. Although in economic and politics nonreligious may also support right-wing libertarian, liberal and economically conservative ideas, it is also slightly more common for secularists to be more on the left and center-left of the spectrum.
Brazil's Spiritualist community had criticized the Evangelical position on Human Rights, social justice and economic policies.
The Brazilian Muslim community is split on the issue of supporting or rejecting right-wing figures like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro. Muslims in the West tend to be socially conservative but economically progressive.
Prominent pentecostal politicians in Brazil have been involved in cases of corruption and law violations. Since 2007 Federal deputy Pastor Magno Malta was in involved in many scandals including embezzlement, nepotism, bribing and emission of fake bill of goods.
In 2012, Pastor Everaldo Pereira was convicted and ordered to pay his ex-wife, Katia Maia, an indemnity of R$ 85,000 (US$ 26,350) for material and moral damage. Pastor Everaldo asked the Justice Court of Rio de Janeiro (TJ-RJ) to overturn the decision and was acquitted by the Supreme Federal Court. In 2013, Pereira's ex-wife initiated in the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) a new judicial process, alleging that the pastor committed physical violence, followed by death threats. Katia Maia said that during the aggression there were "kicks and punches, that caused a puncture in [her] eardrum". Pereira, however, said he acted in legitimate self-defense after a car pursuit in the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
Federal deputy Pastor Marco Feliciano, one of the most prominent names of the PSC, stated that Africans were cursed by Noah, leading to accusations of racism.
The deputy was charged with attempted rape and assault by 22-year-old Patricia Lelis, a PSC activist who attended the same church as the pastor. The deputy chief of staff, Talma Bauer, was arrested for initially being suspected of kidnapping the young woman and forcing her to record videos defending the deputy in order to dismiss the initial complaint. After a police inquiry, Bauer was released and the São Paulo Civil Police concluded that there was no kidnapping or aggression, and requested the arrest of Patrícia Lélis for the crimes of slanderous denunciation and extortion against Bauer.
In January 2017, Samuel "Sammy" Morales, the older brother and close adviser to Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, whose campaign slogan was, "neither corrupt, nor a crook", as well as one of Morales' sons, José Manuel Morales, were arrested on corruption and money laundering charges. According to media reports, the arrests prompted several large protests of up to 15,000 people demanding for President Morales' removal.
Jimmy Morales ordered the expulsion of Colombian Iván Velásquez, commissioner of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), after it began "investigating claims that his party took illegal donations, including from drug-traffickers" and asked "congress to strip him of immunity from prosecution." After Minister of foreign affairs Carlos Raul Morales refused to sign the executive order, he was removed from office along with viceminister Carlos Ramiro Martínez. The Constitutional Court of Guatemala finally blocked the move.
Furthermore, former cabinet minister Édgar Gutiérrez accused Jimmy Morales of having sexually abused young female public workers with complicity of other government officials.
Some parties and candidates are criticized for being supporters of Creationism over the scientific theories of Evolution and Big Bang., or for believing in conspiracy theories like Cultural Marxism, Gender ideology and New World Order.
They are also often accused of far-right, religious fundamentalist, theocratic, anti-democratic and authoritarian ideologies, or for planning to replace democracy with theocracy.
|Brazil||Social Christian Party|
|Colombia||Independent Movement of Absolute Renovation|
|Colombia Fair Free|
|Costa Rica||National Restoration Party|
|Costa Rican Renewal Party|
|New Republic Party|
|Guatemala||National Convergence Front|
|Peru||Agricultural People's Front of Peru|
|Venezuela||Authentic Renewal Organization|
Faced with the dip in support, Israel is increasingly looking to evangelical communities in Latin America, Africa and elsewhere to build international support. Guatemala, where President Jimmy Morales is an avowed evangelical, was the first country to follow suit after the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem.
One additional comment about the political theology often embraced by these groups is needed. In the 1980s, a new movement known as Dominion Theology or the Reconstructionist Movement surfaced among conservative Evangelicals. This group interpreted the Bible – especially the Old Testament – as commanding believers “to restore” each nation according to theocratic principles and to promote Evangelical moral paradigms. Reconstructionists affirm an eschatological and political vision founded on the belief that Christians were destined to govern the world. Many prominent Evangelical politicians in Latin America have embraced this ideology. They seek to bring others to their faith not only because of their propensity for proselytism but also because of their conviction that, once a nation reaches a critical mass of believers, the Spirit will pour out God’s justice and prosperity upon the population (Smith & Campos, 2012). Undoubtedly, this ideology is present, in one form or another, in other contexts and people need to be aware of its presence. It is worth noting that nowhere that the Reconstructionists have held power or influence – in Guatemala, Brazil, Nicaragua, El Salvador or Peru, for example – have they been able successfully to model sound public governance nor successfully resolve such issues as systemic corruption and violence. But they are present, they have money, and they often have access to media and to opinion leaders.
Across the region, Catholics, Protestants and people who are not affiliated with any religion generally have similar views on whether there is a conflict between faith and science. But Protestants are less accepting of evolution than are Catholics or the religiously unaffiliated.
Considering that the Latin American social imaginary does not generally include science, and Christians generally do not reflect systematically on science and religion, how we can explain their acceptance of evolution? A possible answer could be uncomfortable for Christians who try to build fruitful initiatives to discuss these issues: many Roman Catholics, who belong to a centralized religion—and who are very devoted to this religious tradition in Latin America—basically follow whatever their church officially establishes at the Vatican, which accepts evolution. On the other hand, many Protestants who accept evolution do so mainly as a reaction to evangelical fundamentalism—which has generally been seen as contrary to evolution— but not as a consequence of taking science seriously in their reflections about faith and natural world. Unfortunately, this makes sense given the uses and abuses of science among Protestants in Latin America. Many Latin American Protestants are suspicious of any attempt to generate dialogue between science and faith, or they are just apathetic about these issues. But what is more problematic is that among Protestants interested in science, it is often for apologetic and opportunistic purposes, rather than as a way to generate an honest discussions about big questions or to re-examine their worldview in the context of science.