Sunday, May 21, 2006

This Anti-Imperialist Thing Isn't Over

The corporate media is on the war path against Latin American leftists, and they're willing to use any weapons in the war against socialism. Newsweek's weapon of choice is lies and half-truths, as is displayed in Ruchir Sharma's column entitled This Chavez Thing Is Over. What Sharma and his corporate allies fail to recognize is that this "Chavez thing" isn't about Hugo Chavez at all - it's about liberating Latin America from the grip of multinational corporations and empowering them to determine their own destinies. Sharma's thesis rests on two fallacious planks: the ideas that the leftward tilt of Latin America is a new phenomenon and that this radical shift is over.

The column begins with a passionate denunciation of the nationalization of natural resources by Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales, and then claims that this economic restructuring isn't indicative of Latin American leftism. This is far from the truth; the socialist economic measures of both Bolivia and Venezuela have been hailed by their populations. Morales and Chavez have both had consistent approval ratings topping 80%. Both leaders are following the will of their people; Morales' nationalization of the hydrocarbon industry was the result of a 2004 referendum in which 95% of Bolivians voted in favor of nationalization. Bolivia's program hasn't been in effect long enough to see the benefits, but Venezuela's state controlled oil industry has reaped huge profits. These profits translate directly into social programs and poverty relief for the average Venezuelan, including programs stressing literacy and public health. Nationalization won't end with Bolivia and Venezuela; Daniel Ortega and Ollanta Humala, running for the presidencies of Nicaragua and Peru respectively, both promise to implement similar plans.

Of course, the concept that this trend towards socialist and radical economies is newfound is absurd. The Latin American socialist saga, and subsequent U.S. repression, began in 1951 with the election of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, who's successful redistribution of corporate land caused the United States to replace the Guatemalan government with a brutal military junta. In 1971, Chile's Salvador Allende nationalized the mining industry and used the revenues to pay for education and food. Allende's plan would have come to full fruition had the United States not backed Augusto Pinochet's overthrow of the Chilean government. Ronald Reagan continued the war against the economic rights of sovereign nations throughout the 1980's by waging a terrorist campaign against the leftist Sandinista Government in Nicaragua. For the past ten years or so, the United States has managed to keep a lid on Latin America's socialist heritage, but the elections of Chavez, Morales, and their kin indicate that we can't keep the lid on people's liberation any longer.

Ruchir Sharma's anti-nationalization hypothesis is clearly not derived from any political reality, but rather from a desire to keep poor Latin Americans in economic shackles so that American corporations can expand their markets and resources. This "Chavez Thing" isn't over, it's only beginning.