Tue, Mar 12, 2013 - Page 9 News List

New dawn for left-wing leaders in Latin America

To speak of ‘the left’ in Latin America, post-Chavez, makes no sense. There is no one single vision uniting the new left-wing leaders — they display the same complexity, nuances and different aspects of the continent itself.

By Hector Abad

A president who gives away his salary, cooks his own lunch and turns up to the presidential palace in a clapped-out car inspires sympathy — even more when he attempts to legalize marijuana; he is a melancholic old man, practically the reflection of a country where there are more cows than people.

Let us now turn to the pro-indigenous left, with its clear racial overtones, of Evo Morales in Bolivia.

As Bolivia was for centuries ruled by an abusive white minority that oppressed and belittled the indigenous majority, it is natural to feel a sense of satisfaction when an Indian achieves power, at last. An Indian so proud of his race he even believes that they never go bald because they do not eat fast food or genetically modified vegetables. He has nationalized many European and US companies, because the country can now live off the gas it exports.

Is Brazil socialist? Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his successor Vana Rousseff Dilma come from socialist movements, but they are first and foremost pragmatic presidents of a country as vast as a continent and the second case in the Americas of an ex-colony being more powerful and dynamic than the mother country.

Brazil is the opposite to Uruguay: Brazil is joy. The black Africans freed from slavery blessed them with a powerful, erotic and wonderful literature and music. The Brazilian left of Lula and Rousseff does not suffer racial resentment; nor does it see businessmen as enemies. As a skilled and astute trade unionist, Lula learned how to deal with them: To get as much out of them possible, without going so far as to tip them into bankruptcy or send them into exile.

What else? The oil-dealing left of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa which simultaneously shuts down local radio stations, threatens the press and offers asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Then there is Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the double heiress: to the old caudillo (strongman) Peron and to her husband. Her regime combines short-term public welfare solutions with endemic corruption. As the heiress to Peron and Evita she is a model for Venezuela: The Chavez movement aims to be a kind of new Peronism, without excluding its military, fascistic facet.

So now we come to Chavez, to his secret illness in Cuba, or to the “cancer caused by the empire,” as Acting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said, in a fit of paranoid fantasy.

Well, there are precedents: Chavez also claimed that the earthquake in Haiti was the work of the US marines.

Chavez dies with all the rites of a pope, and there are still doubts as to whether to bury him next to Simon Bolivar the liberator in the National Pantheon, or instead to build a glass pyramid for him. Millions weep for him, in red mourning garb, in a kind of collective hysteria.

During his long mandate of 14 years, Chavez gradually converted to the Taliban-like fundamentalism of the Castro brothers: class hatred, sometimes even racial hatred, intimidation and threats to the opposition, verbal violence, the invitation to the middle classes to emigrate.

Chavez polarized Venezuela and encouraged a deepening of the hatred between classes. Nine million people voted for him and 6 million for the opposition, but to the Chavists this opposition was made up of “scum, wannabe Yankees, weaklings.”

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