May 26, 2006


That Chávez Thing Is Over: If his foes triumph, he will be pushed to the fringe. The Chávez road will have led nowhere. (Ruchir Sharma, 5/29/06, Newsweek International)

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is the new rock star of world politics. His impassioned rants against globalization, with animated poses to match, make front-page headlines almost daily. The commentariat—particularly in Europe—seems to buy Chávez's line that Latin Americans are so disenchanted by their short tryst with liberalism that they now prefer a strongman to spread the benefits of a commodity boom. The recent moves by a Chávez soulmate, Evo Morales, to renationalize the energy resources of Bolivia reinforce a growing perception that Latin America is lurching to the radical left.

But it's not. While Chávez does seem to rekindle a certain romantic Western nostalgia for Latin American guerrilla movements, the underlying trends point in the opposite direction. Voters in Latin America, far from crying out for a radically new economic model inspired by Caracas, are in fact rallying powerfully behind leaders and parties who promote more-orthodox economic policies. As candidates espousing Chávez-style populism have plummeted in the polls in Mexico and Peru, their camps have tried to distance themselves from the Venezuelan leader. Elsewhere, incumbent presidents like Alvaro Uribe in Colombia and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil have won plaudits as economic managers, and look likely to be reelected.

This is good news for Latin America. It shows that political societies have evolved to the point where most people realize that, in a globalized world, they have to stick to a reformist path.

As the Right looks at Ahmedinejad and thinks it sees the will of the people, so too the Left thinks Chavez popular. In each case it tells us more about our own political extremes than about the countries invvolved.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 26, 2006 6:07 PM

Interesting comment. I wish I had your optimism, but won't gainsay.

Posted by: jdkelly at May 26, 2006 7:47 PM

"As the Right looks at Ahmedinejad and thinks it sees the will of the people" --

so you've been on the Right all along?

Posted by: pj at May 26, 2006 8:05 PM

No, I recognize him for the fluke he is.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2006 8:10 PM

Yeah, but there are a lot of nasty flukes in history.

Posted by: jdkelly at May 26, 2006 8:45 PM

I still think he's the bad cop in a scripted routine.

Posted by: ghostcat at May 26, 2006 10:53 PM

All conspiracy theories depend on such absurdities.

Posted by: oj at May 26, 2006 11:02 PM

They desperately want negotiations with us. No conspiracy theory necessary. They're just being bazaar-ly shrewd.

Posted by: ghostcat at May 26, 2006 11:25 PM

...and on the notion that our enemies are brilliant.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2006 8:51 AM

As shrewd as the kid with chocolate all over his face denying he's been in the cookie jar.

Posted by: erp at May 27, 2006 8:53 AM

oj - Not brilliant, desperate. The Internet age is undermining support for all the dictatorships, and their response is to lash out.

Posted by: pj at May 27, 2006 12:12 PM

Shrewdly? That's silly.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2006 3:56 PM

You have a long memory, eh?

Posted by: ghostcat at May 27, 2006 5:16 PM

Yes, rotten systems don't produce shrewdity.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2006 5:57 PM