Our Southern Mirror

Poverty falling, and fast. A stable, growing economy, resilient to external shocks. Low, steady inflation. Inequality falling, and fast. An appreciating currency. Improving educational standards. Successive leftwing governments increasingly respected and powerful worldwide. A country on track to have First World-level social indicators within the next decade.

All of the social goals Chávez told us Venezuela could only reach once we buried “the bourgeois state” (read: pluralist constitutional democracy) are goals Brazil is achieving without gutting its democracy. And they’re goals we’re failing to achieve even as our democracy gets put through the wood-chipper.

As Brazil does what we in Venezuela can only dream of – which includes putting a brilliant economist, one-time guerrilla and political prisoner, descended from Bulgarian immigrants, in the presidency – it’s perhaps time to reflect on what our Southern Counterfactual says about our road not taken.

The Brazilian experience shows that the frontal assault on our political rights and civil liberties has been entirely pointless. The monstrous contention that our freedom was the price we had to pay for social justice is quietly refuted, day in and day out, just on the other side of Santa Elena de Uairén.

As we pause to congratulate Dilma and wish her success, we can’t help but feel, with a sting, that a glance south is all it takes to realize what a monumental swindle the Chávez Bargain has been.