Tuesday, December 05, 2006

WHEN YOU SEE THE STRONGMAN, DOES THAT MEAN YOU'RE AT THE CIRCUS?

As I touched on last week, the leftward push in Latin America continues, all the more obviously after Hugo Chavez's sweeping re-election in Venezuela. With Chavez, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and of course old man Fidel in whichever of Havana's state-supported hospitals he's convalescing this week, there are five leaders who are more-than-willing to identify themselves as leftists, socialists, statists, what have you. And this says nothing about Néstor Kirchner of Argentina or Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, two heads of state that while not radical or leftist, are nonetheless farther along the redistributionist road than what we see here in the states.

I'm not throwing my opinion out as to whether this is good, bad, up or down. I don't live in those countries, so I have no real idea of life on the ground there, whether it helps or hurts people. And I'm not gonna inveigh about whether it's good or bad for the United States: it's not other countries' jobs to devise systems of government that best help the big boy next door, nor is it our business to tell them what to do. All I know is -- with the notable exception of Castro -- the citizens chose these guys, and at a base-level, that's good enough for me.

What I find interesting is that given the chance to choose a government, the poor and under-educated masses of many Latin American nations are picking populist leaders that claim to represent the impoverished, the under-represented, the indiginous peoples so long oppressed, the rural farmers, the slum-dwellers. This is "interesting" not because it's difficult to understand. To the contrary, it makes all the sense in the world.

No, what's interesting is how, in opposition to Central Asia or Eastern Europe where market "reformers" continue to win office, or the Middle East which seems to slide backwards towards theocracy any time an "election" is held, our neighbors to the south seem to walk a walk that ever-so-slightly resembles the fever-pitched, and rhetoric-laden, talk. Forget about those regions less inclined in recent years towards representative government and free elections, this isn't even the kind of election result we've grown accustomed to here in the US, Western Europe, or East Asia.

We'll have to see. Chavez seems to respect notions of democratic government about as well as his hero, Fidel. He's already chirping about amending the Constitution so he can run for a third 6-year term in 2012. Expropriating private property to "give it back" to the masses may represent the will of a majority of the people, but functioning republics intercede with a judiciary that protects the rights of the minority, whether poor or rich, native or second generation.

At any rate, I remain of a mixed mind on these south-of-the-border goings on. A voice for the oppressed is a good thing, no matter how it affects "US markets." And, call me naive, but I neither expect a Mexican version of Mad Hugo to appear in the Mexican statehouse, nor will I be concerned if he does. But I also respect legitimately free elections, a free press, and truly free markets (not just corporatism & upwardly-roaming welfare) enough to worry that we're on the verge of yet another motley collection of tin-pots, banana republic juntas, and latter-day Perons in countries that surely deserve better.

And, as I said last week, the question that most intrigues me is how this doesn't seem to be happening anywhere else. Will it?

19 Comments:

Blogger DED said...

Latin America seems to swing back and forth from right wing dictators to left wing dictators all under the guise of democracy. Right now, it's swinging towards the leftists. They don't mind redistributing power and wealth to the masses so long as it's not their own power and wealth. In fact, el presidente should get "rewarded" for his liberation of the people from capitalist pig dogs.

Brazil, which has had its share of political and economic oppression, is the 400 lb gorilla on the continent. These days many on Wall Street are smiling about its economic climate, but if the Marxist movement that's sweeping South and Central America gets a toehold there, expect troubles. It'll be the 1970's all over again.

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

True, in theory. But these guys were elected. No coups here.

In fact, in the case of Chavez, he retained power in spite of an attempted coup against him.

9:48 AM  
Blogger DED said...

True. They were elected. It doesn't mean they're any less susceptible to corruption than their predecessors, many of whom were elected as well.

As for Chavez, before he was elected the first time, he tried a couple coups of his own.

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

True.

But Chavez, Morales, Lula, etc represent the will of the people. Right or wrong, good or bad, that means something.

Maybe Latin America will swing rightward someday. I don't doubt it. But today, in 2006, they're swinging in a leftward direction.

10:10 AM  
Blogger DED said...

Yes, I'll grant you that. And for the sake of fairness, I'll assume that there were no "voting irregularities" in any of those countries.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

for the sake of fairness, I'll assume that there were no "voting irregularities" in any of those countries.

Very diplomatically-stated, DED. That could be the only fairness in play with this topic.

10:22 AM  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

And of course we will all assume that our governments have never had corruption issues.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Hey, Chavez ain't all bad. How many other leaders go to the U.N. and call W. the Devil? And the coup that Hugo had to survive was backed by W. And he gives the country cheaper oil than the Middle Eastern countries. As for amending the Constitution to allow for a 3rd term, there was talk of that in the U.S. when Ronnie was the president. And my point? Who the hell knows.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

of course we will all assume that our governments have never had corruption issues.

No. Of course we won't assume that. But more importantly, what does US governmental corruption have to do with the question of whether Latin America's leaders represent the choice of the citizenry?

And John, Chavez is an idiot. It's one thing to stand against W, another to go to the UN and make of mockery of your own country by calling him a "Devil."

I don't like my elected leader acting like a jack-ass; why would I think Venezuelans like it?

11:06 AM  
Blogger DED said...

I'll second what Mike posted.

Beepbeep you must be new to Mike's Neighborhood, otherwise you'd know that he, and those of us who comment here regularly, don't tolerate corruption anywhere.

And speaking solely for myself now, just because I'm critical of Latin American despots, doesn't mean I'm any less critical of my own gov't. In fact I'm more critical of Bush because he's the "elected" leader of MY country and the damage he's done will take decades to repair, if it can be repaired at all!

1:01 PM  
Blogger DED said...

John,

Big different between Ronnie and Hugo. It was Ronnie-worshippers who wanted to amend the Constitution to end the 2-term limit for the President. Reagan never said anything about it. Whereas, down in Venezuela it's Chavez himself who's looking to amend that country's constitution to rule longer.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Look, I'm not a big Hugo fan, but, sometimes you just gotta ask, who's idiot leader is worse?

Can't believe I'm defending a nutjob banana republic leader. What is the world coming to? Next thing you know, I'm going to become a Yankees fan. Maybe some one should shoot me and put me out of my misery now.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

he, and those of us who comment here regularly, don't tolerate corruption anywhere.

I didn't know there was a concensus among me and my three regulars, but I like it.

We can call it the "No-Corruption Zone." Unless, DED, you have other suggestions for a motto.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

sometimes you just gotta ask, who's idiot leader is worse?

It's not quite To Be, Or Not To Be . . . but who am I to criticize another's metaphysical musings.

But seriously, why do we have to ask the question. This either/or game that both sides of the political spectrum plays is puzzling to me.

Does saying "Osama bin Laden is a murdering bastard who deserves to die a violent death" mean I can't say "George Bush is a bad President"? Or, to switch ideologies, if I say, "The Islamic world has issues of intolerance and radicalism it needs to overcome" means I can't be a proud American because "we have a number of Christian fundies"?

That said, if you become a Yankees fan I'll have no choice but to label you a "Steinbrennofascist." And nobody wants that, right?

1:24 PM  
Blogger DED said...

We can call it the "No-Corruption Zone." Unless, DED, you have other suggestions for a motto.

Works for me. :)

This either/or game that both sides of the political spectrum plays is puzzling to me.

It's what Rove and his henchmen have been using to divide this country for the past 6 years. Everything is black and white to them when Reality is a diverse rainbow of shades of gray.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

what Rove and his henchmen have been using to divide this country for the past 6 years.

No doubt. The right does this shit as reflexively as a kid reciting the ABCs.

But both sides play this game. Go and criticize a prominent Muslim leader at Kos and see how that flies. Somehow you lose the right to join in the Bush feeding frenzy if you acknowledge that there are some crazy mofos out there that want to harm the US.

Reality is a diverse rainbow of shades of gray.

Man, you're quite the poet today, DED. Maybe that should be the motto here.

4:22 PM  
Blogger DED said...

But both sides play this game.

They do! Gotta write a song called "The Politically Moderate Blues."

you're quite the poet today, DED.

Why thank you. ===bows=== ;)

4:32 PM  
Blogger Roberto said...

To beginn to understand the politics in South America, I believe you need to live here.

Everything I read about the "landslide" victory in Venezuela by Chavez gives the impression that everything is wonderful and everybody is happy with their president.

If anyone was to really look behind the facade they would see an opposition that one day will have the courage to say "bastante es bastante".

As for the victory of Correa, the people were ready for a new face, and I believe if he tries to take this country down the same path that Venezuela finds itself, the people will do what is necessary to block him.

We are watching what Chavez is doing to that country and it is not a pretty site.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

As for the victory of Correa, the people were ready for a new face, and I believe if he tries to take this country down the same path that Venezuela finds itself, the people will do what is necessary to block him.

Rpberto, thanks for the update. It's great to get the word from someone who knows what's going on, yet isn't beholden to the standard US news line.

By the way, is Ecuador parliamentary, or more like the US Congress? In other words, could he be succeptible to a vote of no-confidence down the road? Is there an impeachment/conviction analog?

6:32 PM  

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