As Europe is moving to the right and the USA have had an atrocious conservative government over the last 7 years, Latin America after years of conservative and military regimes is moving in the opposite, between left wing democracies and leftist totalitarian regimes.
After the disorderly, but still not accomplished farewell of the socialist and communist regimes in Europe at the end of the 20th century, we see a rebirth of leftists with an identical philosophy but a more professional agenda concentrating upon the salvation of the society and an honest distribution of wealth. The phenomenon of populism: “the saviours of the nation” have risen, but they don’t show the typical features of the left wing regimes, crumbled in Europe and China, but instead are giving hope to the Latin American.
In the US an even moderate socialist is often referred to as a communist. In Europe with its century long labour movements even the most leftist socialist is not seen as a rascal. In general, with a few exceptions, even the extreme socialist in Latin American is equal to a moderate democrat in the US and a left wing centrist in Europe.
Let’s, before we evaluate the “red rascals” of Latin America and the policies they stand for, have a close look at them. Here they come: Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Argentina.
Chile – Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria (29 Sept, 1951) is a central-left politician and the first female president of Chile. With 53,5% of the popular vote she defeated her contender the central-right billionaire Sebastián Piñera. She is a surgeon and, being the daughter of an, by Pinochet murdered air force general, who in the Allende-administration was responsible for food distribution, studied military strategy. She is a polyglot, speaking Spanish, English, French, German and Portuguese. A moderate socialist. Her administration consists of 10 males and 10 females.
Brazil – Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (27 Oct 1945) has been elected in 2002 with 61% of the popular vote in the second round. Regarding his roots his policy should have been leftist even touching communistic behaviour. Elected as the most left winged Brazilian president since João Goulart, his policy, however, is soft social-democratic. Lula received little or no education. He left school as a four-grader and started his professional life as shoeshine boy and street vendor. When he was 14 years old he entered his first official job in the copper industry. Finally Lula went back to school and graduated college. For years he was one of the most militant labour union leaders.
Venezuela – Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (28 July 954) is president since 1999. Known for his socialistic policy, his opposition to neo-liberalism and his hostility to president George W. Bush of the USA. The changes he implemented in his country are called the Bolívarian Revolution. He was educated at the military academy and graduated in applied military sciences. He finished his studies at the Simón Bolívar University. In 1998 with 56% of the popular vote he was elected president. Never before had so many people cast their vote. Chávez is very popular and how he yet lost his last referendum is another and different story. He is number five on a list of the most sexy men of Venezuela.
Paraguay – Óscar Nicanor Duarte Frutos (11 Oct 1956) is president since 2003, the first non-catholic president. Son of a police officer and a seamstress, he is since his 14th member of the same political party as his father, the Asociación Nacional Republicana (Partido Colorado), the most important and powerful in the country. Duarte Frutos is a lawyer, philosopher, journalist and professor in sociology. He studied at the Universidad Nacional de Asunción and at Universidad Católica de Asunción. Minister of Education from 1993 to 2003. Although he is member of a conservative political party, he adheres a left wing policy, in stark contrast to his predecessors.
Bolivia – Juan Evo Morales Ayma (26 Oct. 1959) is a Bolivian peasant leader, politician and since 2006 president of Bolivia, one of the poorest countries of Latin America. Morales is the leader of the progressive Bolivian “cocalero”-movement, a loose federation of coca planters scraping a living off a small plot of land in the province Chapare in south-east Bolivia. He is also a leader of the political party Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS). He is the first native president in the Bolivian history.
Morales was lamaherd, musician and worked as coca planter, became labour activist and was with 70% of the votes elected in congress in 1997. Evo Morales is famous for the simple clothes he is always wearing.
Ecuador – Rafael Correa (6 April 1963) is a politician of left signature. Jan. 15, 2007 he was sworn in as the new president after defeating his contender, the banana billionaire Álvaro Noboa.
Correa studied economy at the University of Guayaquil (Ecuador), the Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium) and the University of Illinois (USA). In April 2005 he became minister of finance and economy in the government of Alfredo Palacio but left office after 4 months realising he could not implement his economic plans. Correa’s economic reforms centre on the combat on poverty and the promotion of more national economic independence.
Uruguay – Tabaré Ramón Vázquez Rosas (17 Jan 1940) is a Uruguayan politician and president since 2005. He is the first socialistic president of Uruguay and is member of the Frente Amplio (Wide Left Front), the most important leftist coalition of the country. He won the elections with 50,45% of the popular votes in the first round.
Born in the neighbourhood of the capital Montevideo Vásquez studied medicines at the Universidad de la República. He specialised in oncology.
Argentina – Cristina Elisabet Fernández Wilhelm de Kirchner (19 Febr.1953). She won the presidential elections with 45,29% of the popular votes and with a 22% margin on her rival, securing the nomination without the need for a second round. Cristina Fernández studied law at the National University of La Plata. She is, as is her husband the former Argentinean president, member of the peronistic political party Partido Justicialista (the largest within the peronistic movement). She started as member of the Young Peronistas, whose left radicalism was suppressed vigorously by the military junta. Before elected to president she was a senator for the province of Buenos Aires. Cristina promoted strongly the woman rights and the persecution of persons who misbehaved during the military junta from 1976 till 1983.
All presidents oppose fiercely any interference of the USA in domestic affairs, which all countries in one way or another, have faced in the past, as the USA always have been regarding Latin America as their backyard. They regard the US proposals for a free trade zone with scepticism and criticise the meddlesomeness of the Worldbank and the IMF. The most moderate is Verónica Bachelet of Chile and the fiercest is Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
Please note, the high percentages with which they won the elections and almost always in the first round. Note also the qualifications of the opponents.
In spite of all these democratically elected left wing presidents the conservative movement and power have not been eliminated. Let’s listen to Manoel Horacio Franscisco da Silva – President of Banco Fator – in his opinion populist governments tend to perpetrate seven social sins: policy without principles, wealth without work, well-being without conscience, education without character, business without ethics, science without humanity and religion without sacrifice.
As you see the conservatives have a lot to learn.
What ever the case, never forget that the progress started by these left wing governments is in no way synonym for red rascals, communists, socialists, terrorists, or what ever name the conservative right wing likes to call them. Never forget that a Latin American leftist government never even approaches the basics of the original and faded governments of Eastern Europe. They are not more to the left (sometimes even more moderate) than the conventional central-left political parties in Europe, Labour in the UK and the Democrats or Independents in the US. They are certainly not red rascals and certainly not a danger to the western economic powers.
It is obvious that the Latin American people are following the progress in the American elections with great interest. The future of the inter-American relations will be defined by how the changes in Cuba will be handled by the new US president.