[Marxism] Some imperialists okay with Correa and Chavez

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 28 07:51:52 MST 2006


New York Times - November 28, 2006
News Analysis
Ecuador Vote: Leader Forges Middle Road Among Leftists

By SIMON ROMERO

QUITO, Ecuador, Nov. 27 — The walls in the office of Rafael Correa,
the economist who seems almost certain to be this oil-exporting
country’s next president, are decorated with photos of leftist
leaders in Latin America whom he admires, including Hugo Chávez of
Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia.

But when Mr. Correa starts talking about his ideas, in rapid-fire
Spanish interspersed with tangents in English, French and even the
occasional phrase in Quechua, he conveys a more sophisticated image
than the nationalists who have risen to power elsewhere in the region
out of the armed forces or trade unions.

“Foreign investment that generates wealth and jobs and pays taxes
will always be welcome,” Mr. Correa, 43, said in an interview here,
sounding precisely like someone with postgraduate degrees from
universities in the United States and Belgium. (His are from the
University of Illinois and Catholic University of Leuven, where he
met his Belgian wife, Anne Malherbe.)

Mr. Correa, between declarations of admiration for the American
political system and the Democratic Party in the United States, added
that investors could look forward to his government, which would
“strictly follow the rule of law.”

Yet the markets wasted little time trying to decipher who the real
Mr. Correa may be. Skeptical speculators in New York and London
engaged in a sell-off of Ecuadorean bonds on Monday as concern grew
that Mr. Correa would carry out promises to renegotiate Ecuador’s
$10.4 billion of foreign debt.

And Mr. Correa still seems intent on pressing forward with popular
proposals, like limiting American influence by not renewing an
agreement, which expires in 2009, that allows the United States
military to operate from a Pacific coast base.

In some ways, Mr. Correa’s rise points to how varied, and persistent,
the leftist groundswell has become in Latin America. He had 68
percent of the votes cast Sunday, compared with 32 percent for his
opponent, Álvaro Noboa, with about half of ballot boxes counted by
Monday; final results were expected Tuesday.

A former finance minister, Mr. Correa wears tailored suits and chats
about how North American economists like John Kenneth Galbraith have
influenced him. Yet before crowds, he rails against the Bush
administration and the International Monetary Fund.

The competing strands make any hasty judgment on Mr. Correa
premature, particularly as he finds his way in the unstable world of
Ecuadorean politics, where Congress can oust unpopular presidents
with ease.

Vying to become Ecuador’s eighth president in 10 years, Mr. Correa
seemed prepared in recent weeks to moderate his speeches, and perhaps
even his ideas, when he fell behind Mr. Noboa, a banana tycoon.

Stung by Mr. Noboa’s description of him as someone who would wreak
economic chaos, Mr. Correa reached out to chambers of commerce and
the American ambassador, Linda Jewell. Mr. Correa toned down
references to a polarizing proposal for an assembly to rewrite the
Constitution that could eventually give him authority to dissolve
Congress.

And after losing in the first round to Mr. Noboa, Mr. Correa was also
more nimble in his use of new campaign technologies from the United
States. For instance, Mr. Correa in the past month adeptly had his
supporters post videos of gaffes by Mr. Noboa on the Web site YouTube.

Though those images reached relatively few Ecuadoreans, they created
a cascade of comments, particularly among young voters, and enabled
Mr. Correa to bypass the concerns of the news media, which had been
hesitant to explicitly criticize Mr. Noboa, Ecuador’s richest man
with a fortune of $1.2 billion.

It remains to be seen whether the agility of his campaign was merely
a function of tactics, or a reflection of a new kind of leftist
leader in the region. Even if the markets were not willing to give
Mr. Correa the benefit of the doubt, others were. “If his campaign
was any indication, we’ll see a Correa who is more flexible and
pragmatic than dogmatic,” said Hugo Barber, director of Datanálisis,
a political analysis firm.

Mr. Barber said he expected Mr. Correa to emerge as a moderate
leftist more along the lines of President Néstor Kirchner of
Argentina than as a leader embracing the militaristic socialist
rhetoric of Mr. Chávez.

Mr. Correa said he looked forward to stronger ties with Venezuela,
but unlike leaders in Bolivia or Nicaragua, he does not currently
need Mr. Chávez’s aid. “Correa is going to be a friend, not a client
of Chávez,” said Michael Shifter, an analyst for a Washington-based
policy institute, Inter-American Dialogue, who was in Quito for the
election.

Mr. Correa has the luxury of inheriting an economy that is benefiting
from a combination of high oil prices, a tax increase on oil
companies and the seizure this year of a crucial oil concession held
by Occidental Petroleum of Los Angeles, which had been Ecuador’s
largest foreign investor.

Together, those factors have given oil revenues a boost of $1 billion
this year, according to the credit ratings company Fitch Ratings. Of
course, this reliance on oil exposes Ecuador to a crash if oil prices
sharply decline; they are already down nearly 20 percent from midyear
highs.

That is what makes some of Mr. Correa’s ideas, like rejoining OPEC,
strengthening the national oil company Petroecuador, or renegotiating
the foreign debt, troubling to some analysts here. Ecuador is
supposed to remember the pain, they say, of past oil busts.

The country left OPEC in the early 1990s when it had trouble paying
its dues. Since then, Ecuador has had a debilitating dependence on
imported gasoline because of inadequate refining operations.

Mr. Correa will come to the presidency with virtually no support from
a recalcitrant Congress that reflects, however imperfectly, a country
whose instability has resulted in two million Ecuadoreans emigrating
to the United States and Europe.

“Any government will have difficulty conciliating the demands of a
highly mobilized and very volatile public that is impatient for
results and now used to bringing pressure and being successful at
it,” said Kenneth Maxwell, a professor of Latin American history at
Harvard.

===

NEWS RELEASE
Council on Foreign Relations

November 27, 2006

United States Should Ignore Hugo Chavez's "Blustery Rhetoric," Argues
New Council Report

"Chávez's bark...is far worse than his bite," says a new Council
Special Report, which urges U.S. officials to "look beyond his
blustery rhetoric...as long as Chávez does not take steps that
fundamentally threaten essential U.S. interests in Latin America."
With polls showing Chávez strongly in the lead in the upcoming
December 3 Venezuelan presidential election, the United States needs
to prepare for another six-year term with the controversial leader.

In the short term, "the United States should be seen in the region as
ignoring Chávez's theatrics and seeking to work pragmatically on
issues of bilateral and regional concern," such as energy policies
and poverty reduction. By doing so, "Washington wins either way—
whether Chávez accepts or rejects the American 'peace' overture. Such
a practical approach, even if it fails to yield significant results,
may make Latin American governments more willing to work with the
United States collaboratively in an effort to establish a clear set
of boundaries that Venezuela will not be permitted to cross."

"Despite Chávez's tendency to publicly insult American leaders and
whip up anti-American sentiment, the United States and Venezuela
remain mutually dependent. Chávez relies on U.S. oil demand to
sustain the Venezuelan economy; roughly 60 percent of Venezuelan oil
exports are destined for the United States." In turn, 11 percent of
U.S. oil imports come from Venezuela.

The report, Living with Hugo: U.S. Policy Toward Hugo Chávez's Latin
America, was produced by the Council's Center for Preventive Action
and written by the Financial Times' Richard Lapper.

In the long term, "the United States needs to tackle the underlying
problems of inequality and poverty that feed Chávez's appeal.
Restoring U.S. leadership will require a significant shift in how the
United States articulates its vision for the Andean region and Latin
America as a whole. It is imperative that American government
officials begin to directly and openly acknowledge the profound
social schisms that most Latin Americans face each day," says Lapper.

While acknowledging that the United States has a limited set of
options, Living with Hugo outlines a series of proactive policy
recommendations intended to increase U.S. legitimacy in the region,
and thereby indirectly countering Chávez's appeal.

Bilateral Issues

-- Although Chávez's anti-American rhetoric may be more beneficial to
him than the benefits of working bilaterally with the United States,
"it may still be possible to pursue a pragmatic relationship with
Venezuela....After the December 2006 presidential election, the Bush
administration should offer to hold working-level discussions with
Venezuelan officials on a range of specific bilateral issues, such as
border security, energy, drugs, and public health. This gesture from
Washington would help demonstrate to the region that the United
States is trying to work pragmatically with Caracas, despite Chávez's
rhetoric."

Rhetoric and Regime Change

-- The Venezuelan opposition, at this point, does not seem strong
enough to unseat Chávez, "through either legal or extra-legal
means. ...The Bush administration and its successor should make
crystal clear that the United States has no intention of intervening
forcibly in Venezuela, either overtly or covertly. ...All U.S.
officials of the executive branch should join the State Department in
continuing to moderate the rhetoric used to characterize Venezuela,
its head of state, and public officials."

-- The United States should be seen as a neutral party in the
upcoming presidential election. The "[United States Agency for
International Development], [National Democratic Institute],
[International Republican Institute], and all of their grantees in
and outside of Venezuela, must be subject to scrupulous oversight and
scrutiny in order to guarantee the nonpartisan nature and
constitutional commitments of their activities in Venezuela."

Regional Dialogue

-- Chávez's influence in Latin America has grown over the years and
he has not been secretive about his desire to expand this influence.
However, "more consolidated democratic and nationalist political
cultures in Latin America, especially in countries such as Brazil,
Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, are generally resistant to the crude
populist appeal and interventionist tactics of Chávez. ...As long as
the United States is seen to covertly support opposition groups and
promote regime change in Venezuela, U.S. denunciations of Chávez's
own regional activities will ring hollow."

-- Venezuelan ties with Iranian leaders have become increasingly
active, yet the notion that Chávez could, as a result, ignite violent
conflict in the Western Hemisphere should not be exaggerated. "Chávez
risks alienating those Latin American allies whose cooperation and
support are more vital to his hemispheric project. ...The United
States should seek the support of other Latin American governments in
order to warn Chávez to keep his flirtation with Tehran within
acceptable limits, such as excluding military or nuclear cooperation."

Full text of the report is available on the Council's website:
www.cfr.org/venezuela

Council Special Reports (CSRs) are concise policy briefs that provide
timely responses to developing crises or contribute to debates on
current policy dilemmas. CSRs are written by individual authors in
consultation with an advisory committee. The content of the reports
is the sole responsibility of the authors.

The Council's Center for Preventive Action (CPA) seeks to prevent,
defuse or resolve deadly conflicts around the world and to expand the
body of knowledge on conflict prevention. It does so by creating a
forum in which representatives of governments, international
organizations, corporations, nongovernmental organizations, and civil
society can gather to develop operational and timely strategies for
promoting peace in specific conflict situations. CPA focuses on
conflicts that affect U.S. interests, but may be otherwise
overlooked; where prevention appears possible; and where the
resources of the Council on Foreign Relations can make a difference.

Founded in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations is an independent
national membership organization and a nonpartisan center for
scholars dedicated to producing and disseminating ideas so that
members, students, interested citizens, and government officials in
the United States and other countries can better understand the world
and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other
governments.

About the author:

Richard Lapper has been Latin America editor at the Financial Times
since May 1998, where he guides its coverage on Latin America both in
the newspaper and on-line. He writes most of the Financial Times'
editorials on the region and edits, often writes "Latin America
Agenda," a weekly on-line analytical column, and contributes
frequently to the newspaper's features pages. He has had a long
association with Latin America, making his debut in journalism in
1980 as a Central America correspondent with the London-based Latin
America Newsletter, subsequently writing on a wide range of
development and financial issues for publications including the
Economist Intelligence Unit, South Magazine, and Caribbean Insight.
Richard is currently based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but travels
frequently within the region and in the United States.

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