22 February 2011 ~ 0 Comentarios

Leftist influence in region waning

The Miami Herald
Posted on Mon, Feb. 21, 2011

Leftist influence in region waning


Arturo Valenzuela, assistant secretary of state for Latin America, has just declared that the influence of Venezuela in the region is declining. He’s right.The so-called 21st-Century socialism is clearly sinking. While four or five years ago it seemed that it would be the determining ideological force in Spanish-speaking America, the signals now coming from the continent indicate the contrary. The five countries riding that political wave are in crisis.

•” Cuba, the group’s brains and ideological lighthouse, has recognized the failure of its collectivist system and tries to replace it with something the island calls “the Vietnamese model.” Raúl Castro intends to maintain political and economic control of the country while authorizing the gradual creation of a private entrepreneurial fabric that will soothe the horrors of statism and boost the country’s feeble productivity.

That quest for efficiency includes justifying prices and acknowledging that the market is more competent than centralized planning. This admission of faults and correction of course leaves 21st-Century socialism without an ideological referent.

•” Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez used to say that Venezuela was moving toward the Cuban “sea of happiness.” When the poor Venezuelans get to that point, they’ll discover that Cuba is no longer in the same place. The Cubans are sailing toward the sea of Vietnamese happiness.

Chávez has lost influence in Latin America, especially in Venezuela itself. According to Valenzuela, only 30 percent of Latin Americans have a favorable opinion of” Chavism. It is possible that the same happens inside the country, despite Chávez’s almost total control of the media.

In 12 years, the colorful president, a great generator of chaos, has spent $950 billion – a figure larger than all of his country’s revenue in the 20th Century – only to spark the flight of one million hard-working and educated Venezuelans, create the most corrupt and dangerous society in Latin America, shut down half of the entrepreneurial sector and begin the Haiti-ization of Caracas, while the personal relations between” Chavistas” and anti-” Chavistasbecome tenser and tenser.

In a country that used to be a model of civic cordiality among adversaries, today one breathes a thick political hatred that could culminate in a blood bath if the spark is ever struck.

•” Evo Morales’ popularity in Bolivia crashed loudly after his failed attempt to increase the price of gasoline. The people took to the streets, and the government was forced to retract the decree. Because the mechanism worked, it became a lesson learned quickly by the Bolivians – each and every austerity measure will be met with protests.

Placed in that position, without the ability to fine-tune the economy or put an end to the subsidies, challenged by the populist demagogy to which Morales was so addicted when he himself was in the opposition, the government will undoubtedly choose to print more currency – an irresponsible option – to deal with its obligations.

What will happen? The same as in the past: a rampant inflation that will destroy the economic foundations of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, as that ill-starred country now calls itself.

•” Resistance to Rafael Correa is rising in Ecuador, in a reaction to his unbounded appetite for power. First, he violated the constitution under which he was elected and swept clean the old Parliament to build a state to his liking. After that, and after realizing that he couldn’t govern as he pleased anyway, he took to harassing the press and using the courts to destroy his adversaries.

His aversion to national and foreign capital has created the worst possible economic climate. The Ecuadoreans’ savings flee abroad to escape the corruption and misgovernment.

Meanwhile, international investors don’t want to hear the word Ecuador, especially after the court ruling against Chevron, fining the company $9.5 billion for alleged ecological damage to the jungle between 1972 and 1990, damage that the company insists was not impartially demonstrated by qualified experts. Chevron calls it a sentence motivated by political reasons.

•” Last comes Nicaragua, the poorest and most backward of the 21st-Century-socialism countries, whose Sandinista government, presided over by Daniel Ortega, remains upright for only one reason: the inability of the opposition democrats to present a united front that will put an end to the status quo.

It would be enough for the liberals to have the patriotism and common sense to present a single candidate to the next elections to knock Ortega from power. It’s a shame that they’re not doing it.

(c) 2011, Firmas Press

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