Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva says in an interview with German weekly Der Spiegel that Hugo Chavez is Venezuela’s “best president in the last 100 years.” And (Chavez) does “not exert even remotely the influence attributed to him,” adds da Silva.
Da Silva also tells Der Spiegel that the election of leftist figures like Chavez, Bolivian President Evo Morales and, most recently, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay “are signs of democratic progress. It was time that presidents who truly come from the people were elected.”
“Europe need not fear the left in Latin America,” President da Silva says in an interview published immediately before the Summit of Latin America, the European Union and the Caribbean convenes to explore ways of cementing closer ties between Latin America and the EU.
But what faction of the “Latin American left” is da Silva talking about? Radical leftists like Venezuela’s Chavez, Bolivia’s Morales, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega? Moderate leftists like Chile’s Michelle Bachelet or da Silva? Or perhaps da Silva means the populist husband-wife team of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, a pair of world-class external debt deadbeats who have pimped some $7 billion out of Chavez since 2003?
The EU has good cause to be concerned about radical leftist leaders like Chavez and his fellow communists in the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA). This crew despises free trade, globalization, foreign investment, private property rights, individual rights and democracy. And they have failed utterly to spur sustained economic growth in their respective countries.
Chavez has been in power longest and has enjoyed immense financial resources, yet Venezuela today is in far worse shape than it was a decade ago, irrespective of the robust GDP growth numbers reported in recent years. Violent crime has never been higher and corruption has never been greater. Someone is murdered in Venezuela every 60 minutes, and someone is kidnapped every 24 hours. Venezuela’s non-oil productive sectors have been decimated by the idiotic “socialist” (i.e. thieving) policies of the Chavez regime. Petroleos de Venezuela has been wrecked beyond repair.
But Morales, Ortega and Correa also are mucking up badly in their countries. Private investment is down, economic growth is stagnating, social and political tensions have increased significantly, and corruption is growing worse. Viva la robolucion!
Efforts by Morales to turn Bolivia into a communist state modeled on alleged indigenous political history and culture are driving that country towards Balkanization as the wealthiest and most productive lowland regions seek greater independence and autonomy from the Marxist idiocy coming from La Paz. Now Morales faces a recall election thanks to political opponents in the Senate who may have miscalculated their strength. If Morales wins the recall election it will be seen by highland Bolivians as a renewed mandate for his indigenous revolution, while lowland Bolivian likely will interpret their loss as a step towards civil war.
Nicaragua’s political opposition also is pushing for a recall election against Daniel Ortega, the aging leader of the communist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). Since his election, Ortega has been sticking closer to Chavez than stench to a pasture patty, stoking tensions with Colombia over San Andres Island and joining ALBA. But Nicaragua’s economy remains stalled.
Ecuador’s President Correa has turned his demonstrated complicity with the FARC into a one-sided diplomatic war with Bogota. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez gave Correa (and the rest of Latin America’s do-nothing leftist presidents) a world-class lesson in statesmanship and diplomacy at the Rio Group Summit in March, right after Colombian warplanes killed FARC chieftain Raul Reyes on March 1 while Reyes, an accused pedophile, kidnapper and narco-terrorist, slept at a permanent FARC base camp inside Ecuador which the Ecuadorean government had known about for at least three years.
Correa has been ranting ever since about Colombia’s “illegal” incursion into Ecuador and the alleged execution of Ecuadorean citizens in the FARC base camp after it was struck by up to six laser-guided “smart” bombs (thank you, Plan Colombia). Correa’s tantrum is because he was caught red-handed doing business with the FARC and compromising Ecuador’s national security in the process. Correa knows the generals are probably wondering if it’s time to get rid of the president, so he’s pushing a nationalist fight with Colombia in an effort to save his own derriere.
When this group of wannabe revolutionaries isn’t pushing their respective radical agendas at home or picking fights with their neighbors, their core economic policies seek to expropriate all of the productive sectors in their countries. That is how radical socialism (excuse me, communism) works. Productive sectors must be nationalized and stolen from their rightful owners, because communist state-owned enterprises only produce permanent financial losses and beaucoup corruption. High oil prices have kept the Chavez regime from drowning economically, but Morales, Ortega and Correa are barely managing to stay afloat with Hugo’s help.
This radical “Wild Bunch” makes all Latin American leftists look bad, including moderates like Bachelet and da Silva. They are way out of touch with the rest of the world, and the economic development of their countries is suffering as a result.
Da Silva’s assertion that today’s radical leftists in Latin America are like the radical European leftists of the 1920’s, only confirms his ignorance of European history. They’re not the same at all. EU and Latin American reds – ok, ok, “Socialists” – are as similar as apples and bananas. But we digress.
Besides the taint of being associated ideologically with the region’s radical leftists, da Silva and Bachelet have a lot of their own domestic baggage which some Europeans must be wondering about.
For example, what has da Silva done for Brazil in terms of social and economic progress that would not have occurred under a different president from the center-left or even the right? Brazil was already advancing before da Silva was elected president. Brazil’s economic success in recent years owes more to its own core strengths as one of the largest emerging powers in the world, than to any socialist measures introduced by da Silva. But yes, da Silva does deserve credit for not trying to muck things up by pushing Brazil sharply towards the left. Of course, if da Silva had attempted to drive Brazil sharply to the left, his presidency would have been very brief.
Bachelet is in a similar boat. Chile’s sustained economic success is rooted in the free trade and free market policies institutionalized in the 1980s by the right-wing military regime of General Augusto Pinochet, who voluntarily stepped aside in 1989 after Chilean voters declared their preference for democratic rule. In the years since, successive Socialist governments have not dismantled these core economic reforms, although they have tinkered with the system in ways which have made Chile’s economy less efficient. But what else have Chile’s Socialist governments, including Bachelet’s, actually accomplished in terms of bettering the lives of the Chilean people?
Da Silva’s assertion that Chavez is Venezuela’s “best president in 100 years” also confirms the Brazilian leader’s ignorance of Venezuelan history. And his ignorance is insulting to all Venezuelans because the president of Brazil presumably has the personnel and resources to do a little research before talking trash about Venezuela in an interview with Der Spiegel. Over the past century Venezuela has been ruled by many decent presidents who achieved positive social, democratic and economic change in incremental steps.
General Eleazar Lopez Contreras, who ruled from 1936-1941, freed all political prisoners who were jailed by his predecessor, the dictator Juan Vicente Gomez. Lopez Contreras also promulgated a new constitution, enacted a new labor law, created the National Labor Office (later the Labor Ministry), and the ministries of agriculture and communications. And he established the Venezuelan Children’s Council, the Industrial Bank and the National Office of the Currency.
His successor as president of Venezuela, General Isaias Medina Angarita (1941-1945), respected human rights and freedom of expression. He allowed the free activity of political parties, promoted constitutional reforms granting voting rights to Venezuelan women, instituted the direct election of deputies, and allowed the legalization of the Venezuelan Communist Party.
President Romulo Betancourt (1959-1963), who started his political career as a communist but realized quickly that communism would enslave and impoverish Venezuela, strengthened Venezuela’s control over its own oil resources, encouraged the creation of OPEC and founded the Corporacion Venezolana de Petroleo (CVP), Venezuela’s first state-owned oil company. He carried out land reform measures that invigorated agricultural production, and fairly compensated the owners of expropriated land. Betancourt stopped efforts by Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro to propagate communist revolution in Venezuela. Throughout his presidency and later, Betancourt always represented, and defended, democratic values and institutions n Latin America.
We could go on, but the point is da Silva’s calculated ignorance on the history of Venezuelan presidents in the past century is a slap in the face to Venezuelans who believe in true democracy. Da Silva’s permanent defense of Chavez is essentially a betrayal of the democratic values he claims to defend. He may be president of the largest nation in South America, but da Silva most certainly is not a statesman. Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso is a statesman, and his Social Democrat roots are much closer to European socialism than the Latin American region’s current generation of communist bozos who costume themselves deceitfully as Socialists. But da Silva’s performance internationally is more like Morales’ role as Chavez’s poodle in Bolivia.