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