Over the last few weeks, high-ranking authorities of the Bush Administration including Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have taken a closer look at the situation in South America. Political analysts and journalists have also commented on a situation that is slowly but surely deteriorating.
The intensification of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s “Bolivarian revolution” is especially causing serious concern. His most recent activities threaten to sink the country into a state of instability that can spread throughout the continent.
Under a cloak of legality, Hugo Chavez gradually consolidates a regime in which civil liberties are curtailed and private property rights trod underfoot. Using constitutional reforms, Chavez has seized control of the legislative and judicial branches. The horizon looks even darker as Venezuelan government officials openly talk about creating armed people’s militias to defend the “revolution.”
On the international front, Hugo Chavez is intimately connected with Castro’s Cuba. He has been accused of supporting the FARC, Colombia’s Marxist terrorist movement and has fostered subversive movements in several countries, as recently occurred in Bolivia. In addition, his ties with Brazil’s President Lula da Silva and Argentina’s Nestor Kirchner are becoming ever closer. Finally, Chavez is developing ties with Iran as seen by a recent visit by the Iranian president last month.
Hugo Chavez, who heads the world’s fifth largest oil producer, has announced that oil sales now being made to the United States will soon be switched over to China. Moreover, with Lula’s close collaboration, he is seeking to create a Latin American state-owned oil company.
Chavez has also embarked on an unprecedented arms race in the region, with the support of Russia, Spain (Zapatero’s socialist government) Brazil and other countries.
Chavez’ announced purchase of 100,000 Russian-made AK-47 rifles has caused concern among international political analysts, who see it as a bid to arm the Colombian terrorist movement, FARC, and similar groups in other countries.
In an official visit to Brazil last month, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sounded the alert about the weapons’ sale in a press conference attended by Brazil’s Vice-President and Minister of Defense José Alencar,
A few days later, President Lula responded to the American warning by manifesting his total support for and “solidarity” with Hugo Chavez saying that Brazil will not allow that “defamation” and “insinuations” be made against the Venezuelan president.
Socialism: the Ideology Inspiring “Latin American integration”
Speaking recently at an international conference on poverty in Caracas, Hugo Chavez ended up defining the nature of his “revolution.” Attacking western capitalism as incapable of solving global social and economic problems, he said, “If not capitalism, then what? I have no doubt, it is socialism,” CNN reported.
Thus, socialism is seen as the ideology inspiring the “Bolivarian revolution” and the much-trumpeted “South American integration” long advanced by both Chavez and Brazil’s President Lula DA Silva.
Weakened by the crumbling of the Soviet empire and the resounding fiasco of the Communist experiment, the Latin American left now seeks to create a large bloc of nations which can re-stage a “new” socialist experiment which mixes statism and self-managing experiments where private property and free enterprise are totally or almost totally eliminated.
This new bloc of nations must necessarily oppose the United States ideologically and geo-politically. This is because the United States is the nation-symbol of western capitalism with a socioeconomic regime based on private property and free enterprise.
An example of this new bloc of nations with anti-American overtones could be seen in the recent inauguration of Uruguay’s president Tabaré Vázquez, whose leftist government is but one more step of Latin America’s trek toward socialism.
In an article in London’s Independent, Rupert Cornwell called the new Uruguayan president’s swearing-in ceremony a symbol of the “slow drift of Latin America away from the U.S. orbit.” On that occasion, Chavez and Lula, who a few weeks earlier had signed a “strategic accord” (including important treaties on oil production and arms sales), convinced Argentina’s President Kirchner to adhere to the pact.
Man-made crisis threatens Latin America
To gauge well the socio-political process that led to the rise of this new bloc of socialist governments, today we feature a short but comprehensive analysis of the metamorphosis of the Latin American left and their new tactics to seize power.
Written by political analyst Alfredo McHale, the article was published in the March issue of the Brazilian magazine, Catolicismo (www.catolicismo.com.br).
Man-made crisis threatens South America
When huge popular protests brought about the crumbling of the Soviet empire in the late eighties, socialist leaders and their grassroots worldwide faced their own crises. They faced the choice of either denying or acknowledging the glaringly obvious inhuman conditions in which the communist sect kept the nations under its dominion.
Leftists realized that if they continued with their obsession with the egalitarian, statist and totalitarian postulates of Marx and his henchmen, they would certainly lose elections in one country after another. In addition, they themselves would face demonstrations of huge popular discontent. Their designs for world conquest would risk being set back by decades.
Facing this situation, many leaders of the South American left did not hesitate to change their tune. With suspect versatility, they simply “forgot” their oft-repeated classic mantras and adopted a much more moderate policy in appearance. Such was the case, for example, of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) which even went to the point of changing its name to the Popular Socialist Party (PPS).
Other leftist went even farther by appearing to accept reducing the State’s size, privatizing public companies, embracing a market economy, adopting measures to free up international trade and loosening labor laws to encourage investment and employment and thus bring about prosperity.
The left changes its skin, and optimists believe them…
Due to this change in tactics, many in the corporate business establishment – in an incorrigible fit of optimism — began admiring notorious leftists and even die-hard Marxists, believing they had found effective allies in areas where they once had been enemies.
Forsaking decades-old tactics, many leftists donned this ideological camouflage as a means to gain political power. Once in power, they were even willing not to impose their ideology upon the populace – at least in the beginning phases. They read the handwriting on the wall knowing full well that imposing socialism right away would be like betting on a chimera.
Thus, for a certain time, South American socialists put on a cloak of pragmatism, seemingly supporting principles they had fiercely fought: fiscal restraint, the legitimacy of free enterprise, limiting state intervention and so on. More often than not, they did not defend such principles but simply abstained from frontally attacking them – until the time to suppress them.
Artificial Crises Favor Marxist socialism
The socialists’ adaptations, however, were much more apparent than real. Whenever possible, they encouraged policies that undermined the stability of the market economy, thus jeopardizing some of its efficacy.
Over the last 15 years, South America fell far short of the great economic development goals many had set in the wake of the fall of communism, the waning of socialism and the discrediting of their respective myths. Why? Many observers and international investors doubted, and rightly so, that the change was for real and thus looked elsewhere.
True, many investments did flow to the continent, but the instability of the market economy scared away a large number of investors. As a result, those measures that could have freed up the economy and promoted prosperity were only partially adopted and temporarily successful. Soon, crises – many of them artificially provoked – began to pop up as leftist measures were increasingly adopted as “solutions.”
The enemies of private property and free enterprise had staged a comedy by first playing the role of converts to those principles. The second act called for bringing their conversion to an end. And the day is at hand when they resume their offensive against both.
What do these maneuvers have to do with recent developments in South America? How will they affect the continent as a whole? Let us look at what the left is doing country by country.
A brief summary of what has happened in South America
Argentina: In the nineties, the country experienced ten years of recycled Peronism seemingly transformed into neo-capitalism under Carlos Menem. This was followed by similar policies in the three years under the Radical Party’s Fernando de la Rua. The country has since been hit by a political, economic and social earthquake caused by a grave financial crisis. Two years ago, leftist Peronist Nestor Kirchner rose to power. Without returning totally to the practice of classic socialism, he has taken many steps in that direction, working together with other leftist governments.
Bolivia: After several administrations which made slipshod attempts to correct some socialist aberrations of the past, Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada was elected president for the second time in 2002. After only a year in power, he was overthrown by a wave of popular protest promoted by the left and replaced by Vice President Carlos Meza. The political upheaval has since subsided but the precarious government survives only because influential sectors of the public know that, if it falls, an even worse administration will take its place.
Brazil: After two terms of socialist Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a supposed convert to the market economy, the recycled and even more socialist Lula DA Silva rose to power, causing an understandable fright in the world. After defining his government’s policy, many reacted with relief. Lula adopted fiscal restraint – defended by capitalists – and made agreements with international banks and many corporate leaders (many of which typically have socialist mentalities). Despite these policy changes, President Lula DA Silva continuously encourages land reform and openly supports land invaders who are gravely jeopardizing Brazilian agriculture and causing serious apprehension among objective analysts.
Chile: As is known, 17 years of military government – politically anticommunist and economically favorable to free enterprise – allowed the nation to rise up again from the yoke of a Marxist regime and the enormous misery it had produced, to the point that today Chile has the best performing economy in the whole region. During the subsequent 14 years, the Christian Democrats (DC) took power with socialist support, and the socialists later took power with the support of the Christian Democrats. Although the economy remains stable, the government has taken many steps favoring moral decadence and attacks on the family. This Cultural Revolution will ultimately lead to destruction of the family and prepare the way for an egalitarian and amoral country dominated by the left.
Colombia: This country is unique in the region. It is the only country in South America progressing on all fronts – morally, judicially and economically. The government is inflicting severe setbacks on guerrilla terrorism and drug traffickers, and is trying to force all violent movements to choose disarming according to government rules. The economy has recovered remarkably, and violence levels are gradually decreasing. Thus, Alvaro Uribe is the most popular head of state in South America and Colombia’s most popular president in 100 years.
Ecuador: Lucio Gutierrez, a notoriously leftist ex-colonel and leader of an attempted coup, was elected president two years ago on a coalition platform with the leftist Indian movement. With a profile very similar to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez – heavy-handed and socialist – Gutierrez nevertheless broke off his alliance with Indian leaders and moderated the tone of his government by allying himself with other political forces. However, he recently broke away from them and is using the Chavez tactic of trying to take over the nation’s court system. His recent ouster leaves many questions about the country’s future.
Peru: After the fall of President Alberto Fujimori’s regime in 2000 and a fleeting transition government, leftist Alejandro Toledo rose to power in 2001 with clear support from elements of the international financial world. Nevertheless, his administration has faced a continuous crisis due to weak popular support. This is the result of ongoing scandals and a lack of political direction because public opinion does not support his leftist line.
Uruguay: A profoundly socialist government has just been elected. President Tabaré Vasquez is an ally of former terrorists who today also pretend to be moderates – in stark contrast to their decades-long positions. This “change” has created illusions in the bourgeoisie and other political currents.
Venezuela: The nation remains a captive of the heavy-handed, populist and socialist regime of Hugo Chavez strengthened by the referendum last August. He claims to follow in the footsteps of Bolivar, Peron, Fidel Castro and “Che” Guevara. He took upon himself the task of muzzling the independent press and the nation’s courts, and uses state oil revenues to form fanatical militias of his partisans who attack and intimidate the opposition. Moreover, he welcomes to Venezuela large numbers of Cuban communists who will obviously be instrumental toward imposing communism or a despotic populist regime as soon as circumstances allow.
Dangers of mutual contagion
Given this background, what can one conclude about the direction events have taken over the last few months? The nations on the continent resemble family members who suffer from several grave contagious diseases. Should they infect one another, catastrophe is certain to ensue.
This contagion is precisely what Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez are trying to cause as they strive to form an international coalition uniting Presidents Lula, Kirchner, Gutierrez, Meza, Toledo and the Colombian guerrillas. In this coalition, the more leftist members obviously have the upper hand. Venezuela’s “Bolivarian” hosts, the Brazilian Landless Rural Workers Movement, the Argentine “picketers,” Bolivian “cocaleros” and so many other leftist movements will look to the Colombian guerrillas as models and teachers.
In addition, the followers of a native Indian revolution, allied with the Catholic left, have sown seeds of discord in Bolivia and Ecuador seeking to paralyze and drag them to a primitive, collectivistic and tribal regime. They are now seeking to stir up similar movements in Peru, Colombia and southern Chile, as many local authorities look on complacently.
With American support, the Uribe government’s strong combat against terrorism, guerrilla movements and drug trafficking has greatly improved the situation in Colombia. However,the agents of these three scourges have migrated to neighboring nations. They are tolerated and protected by local governments, which are nevertheless aware of the evil their undesirable guests have caused in Colombia and can cause in their own countries at any time.
The Future Outlook
The Revolution in South America today tries to advance on three main tracks – terrorism, guerrilla warfare and drug trafficking – though other venues could be cited. All of them point to the formation of a united front of leftist governments that aspires – when their leaders are unmasked – to confront the United States and engulf the whole continent in a bonfire of agitation, class warfare, state violence and generalized chaos. As the left itself puts it, such upheaval would somehow compensate them, in the Americas, for the huge fiasco they suffered in Eastern Europe fifteen years ago.