[Marxism] Populismo overtaking Latin America?

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Apr 17 11:36:32 MDT 2006


(Powerful and eloquent commentary, though I can't agree with all of it:

"Eradication has been a costly failure. It has not and cannot cure
addiction. It makes the illegal trade more lucrative and corrupting.
And it infuriates many people, who feel the United States is dealing
with its own inability to control its people's habit by intervening
in their countries. This resentment connects again with the
intervention in Iraq, the United States' history in Latin America,
and Chavez's sinister suggestions of U.S. plots.

"But finally neither Chavez (nor Morales, nor Humala) nor United
States policy fundamentally explains the vulnerability of the
northern Andean states to the rabid populism that now threatens it.
The root lies in centuries of rule by European oligarchs and their
mixed-race allies, heedless of the interest and at times even the
humanity, of indigenous people."

==============================================================

chicagotribune.com 	
Populismo overtaking Latin America?

By Jack Fuller. 
Jack Fuller was editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-0604110271apr11,1,2821305.sto
ry

April 11, 2006

It is not every day that South American politics penetrates the
Chicago City Council chambers. Aldermen, like most people in the
United States, barely know what is down there, let alone who is in
charge.

The other day Ald. Edward Burke (14th) raised the possibility that
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez might be planning to influence U.S.
elections through a company that makes voting machines. Burke had a
point about Chavez wanting to swing elections; he simply had the
wrong geography.

The sneeringly anti-American Venezuelan president, who is squeezing
the opposition and the news media at home, is also relentlessly
extending his reach in countries of the northern Andes. And the
United States, despite its concern about him, is helping.

In Peru, Chavez backed presidential candidate Ollanta Humala (like
himself a leader of a failed military coup and a strident populist).
Humala leads the returns from Sunday's election and will be the
front-runner in a runoff.

In Bolivia, Chavez's tool is President Evo Morales. Like Humala,
Morales gained his political edge by appealing to the pride and
resentment of the indigenous people, descendents of the Incas, who
for so long have been treated not much more generously by the leaders
of the country than their ancestors were by the Spanish
conquistadors.

A movement of indigenous people in Ecuador has been disrupting
transportation by blocking roads (a technique used by Morales in the
run-up to his election) in an effort to keep the country's lame-duck
president from signing a free-trade agreement with the U.S. It will
be a miracle if someone like Morales and Humala, backed by Chavez,
does not come to the fore in the next Ecuadorian election.

After a decade of democracy, freedom of expression, and generally
free-market economic policies, the situation in the northern Andes
suggests the beginning of a period of crackdown on political dissent
and press freedom along with a reversal of economic direction toward
more protectionism and state control, all of it tinged by racial
appeals. Only in Colombia does a non-populist president with ties
with the U.S. seem politically strong.

The political drift in Latin America generally (with the exception of
Central America) has been to the left. But other than Chavez, Morales
and Humala, the change has been subtle and not unhealthy. Brazil, for
example, has continued to respect democratic institutions and has
avoided the temptation of economic central control. The newly elected
leftist president of Chile promises to do the same.

Meanwhile, as in Cuba, the U.S. has made it easier for the very
forces it most resists. The invasion of Iraq and the toppling of
Saddam Hussein touches painful chords of memory in Latin America,
with its long history of U.S. intervention. Chavez has played these
like a virtuoso, warning that the U.S. government is out to overthrow
or assassinate him, that his opposition consists of clandestine U.S.
agents, and so forth. Idiocy like evangelist and Republican activist
Pat Robertson's call for Chavez's violent removal is a lovely gift to
the Venezuelan.

The single-minded U.S. drive to eradicate coca production (the plant
from which cocaine is extracted) also helps Chavez in his drive to
realize his dream of consolidating power among his neighbors. This
most clearly showed itself in Bolivia, where Morales, a former coca
grower himself, attacked United States anti-coca policy (a position
from which he has more recently been leaning away).

Coca is an issue in Peru as well. The plant has legal uses (as anyone
can attest who has stopped in Cusco on the way to Machu Picchu and
sipped mild coca tea in the finest hotels to ameliorate the effects
of the high altitude). When grown for the cocaine trade, it offers
people a dubious brew of money, violence, U.S.-backed eradication and
interdiction efforts, and criminal enterprises like the Sendero
Luminoso (Shining Path) reincarnated not as a radical guerrilla
movement but as a narco-trafficking organization like the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Eradication has been a costly failure. It has not and cannot cure
addiction. It makes the illegal trade more lucrative and corrupting.
And it infuriates many people, who feel the United States is dealing
with its own inability to control its people's habit by intervening
in their countries. This resentment connects again with the
intervention in Iraq, the United States' history in Latin America,
and Chavez's sinister suggestions of U.S. plots.

But finally neither Chavez (nor Morales, nor Humala) nor United
States policy fundamentally explains the vulnerability of the
northern Andean states to the rabid populism that now threatens it.
The root lies in centuries of rule by European oligarchs and their
mixed-race allies, heedless of the interest and at times even the
humanity, of indigenous people.

I have often heard it said by serious observers of the situation that
the appeal to indigenous groups by people like Morales and Humala
amounts to virulent racism and threatens the kind of violent conflict
found in the Balkans and the Middle East.

I hope they are wrong about the consequences. But I am sure that
until political, economic and cultural leaders in South America begin
to rectify the virulent racism and the enormous disparities of power
and well-being within their own borders, the Chavezes, the Moraleses
and the Humalas will always be there, just waiting for their moment.

Copyright C 2006, Chicago Tribune





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