Thursday, July 6, 2006

Mexico awaits a leader

Mexico’'s presidential race could be the latest installment in the burgeoning populist left’s grand narrative of Latin American political ‘destiny’.  Exit polls taken at a whopping 80 percent of polling stations found the two primary
candidates — Felipe Calderón, a conservative, technocratic, free marketeer, and López Obrador, a spendthrift leftist proffering a $20 billion welfare bonanza to Mexico’s poor — were too close to warrant a prediction, at 37.1 percent and 36.1 percent respectively.  Although both men wasted no time in declaring themselves the winner, each will face an agonizing wait until the votes have been counted.  With any luck, a campaign marred by US-style mudslinging won’'t come with a recount to match.

If Obrador is elected, it will continue a discouraging trend many trace back to the ascendancy of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, a man aptly described by the 2006 National Security Strategy as “a demagogue awash in oil money”.  Chavez’'s nationalization of the country’s oil reserves has been his primary political capital-generating asset, as he has spread it liberally among the country’s poor, his cronies, and even some friends abroad in his campaign to create a ‘unified’ leftist Latin America indiscriminately opposed to US interests. Although his massive social spending programs have provided food relief to the
poor and increased literacy, they have left the country much as it was before he was born—economically backwards, with a crumbling infrastructure and no way to support itself once the oil runs out.

Chavez, who is known for his personal abrasiveness and name-calling, also has a habit of interfering in the electoral affairs of other countries.  His oil money has bubbled up everywhere from his protégé Evo Morales’ campaign funds, to Ollanta Humala’s of Peru, to Obrador’s, whom he has also taken it upon himself to endorse.  Although Chavez ended up having to eat his words when Humala recently lost the Peruvian election (he has yet to follow through on his threat to break off relations with Peru if his candidate lost), Obrador’'s victory would expand an emerging bloc of Latin American leaders whose policies will ultimately be as detrimental to the interests of their own people as they are to the United States’.

It may turn out that, like so many other blowhards, Chavez is nothing but a paper tiger.  His radicalism and US-bashing have already proven divisive among the very countries he is trying to unite.  However, until this is borne out, the United States and its allies should continue to provide economic aid and guidance to those Latin American countries that are still receptive to it.  To be sure, improper development advice from imperious western financial institutions, particularly the IMF, are partly, or even mostly to blame for the difficult situation we face today.  It is nevertheless crucial that we learn from these mistakes and pursue Latin American development with a keen eye for the ‘little guy’ being swayed by Chavez and his thugs.

Tyler Bleau
Editorial writer

1 comment:

Michael said...

Fear not, Mexico has pushed back against the tide of leftism in Latin American and elected Felipe Calderon. Mexico won't be mired in exorbinant, wasteful welfare state spending. In all reality, this election result could be a double-whammy for the leftists of all the Western Hemisphere. Not only was Hugo Chavez's Third World-bloc rebuffed in Mexico, but if Calderon is successful in expanding Mexico's business and industry, the United States' union labor leaders could also find themselves trying to answer for why even more of their members' jobs are not being defended and in turn shipped to Mexico. Free trade and capitalism foils the Left again!