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My country has become a scare tactic…

How embarrassing. In the final few days before the Brazilian presidential election, the doomed right-wing candidate has started likening Lula, the lefty front-runner, with Chavez, all in a final desperate ploy to win some last minute votes. “Elect this lunatic and we’ll end up as screwed up as Venezuela is,” seems to be the crux of Serra’s campaign these days. Sad…Venezuela has become a scare tactic in foreign elections.

What’s really telling, though, is Lula’s reaction. An old-time lefty with two decades of experience in politics and four presidential elections behind him, Lula’s seasoned enough to realize how lethal the association is and has decided to run full speed in the opposite direction. He called Serra’s statement “electoral terrorism”…yikes! And to think chavistas of all sorts had been licking their lips over a supposed Fidel-Chavez-Lula axis. Doesn’t look likely, does it?

Of course, it’s just an international iteration of a trend that’s been evident here for a long time. Serious Venezuelan left-wingers have been horrified by Chavez for years. Responsible people of the left are alarmed by the way Chavez is blackening the progressive movement’s name here. We’re talking people with unimpeachable credentials as social activists, people who risked their lives as guerrillas in the 60s, who’ve been working for radical reform since Chavez was at his mother’s teat…we’re talking Americo Martin, the old Revolutionary Left Movement leader, we’re talking Teodoro Petkoff, who spent years in jail after organizing an incredibly daring raid for the Communist Party’s guerrilla movement. We’re talking Pompeyo Marquez and Douglas Bravo and Luis Manuel Esculpi and Pablo Medina and Andres Velasquez and even Jorge Olavarria; leaders who’ve devoted their lives to actually improving the lives of the poor, rather than talking crap about it. These people realize that, in the long-term, Chavez is doing incredible damage to the movement by convincing the middle-class that leftists really are the deranged lunatics they’d always feared they might be. The irony is that with this grotesque charade of a people’s government, Chavez is actually making it harder and harder for any serious leftist to be taken seriously in the future. It’s pretty sad. Ask Lula.

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Known to friend and foe alike as Quico, Francisco Toro is Executive Editor at Caracas Chronicles.

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