The left begins to pay

Mauricio Macri's win in Argentina may be the beginning of the region's leftist chickens coming home to roost.

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Mauricio Macri has just pulled off an inspired win in Argentina.

While complete results are not yet available, it is clear that today Argentines gave the center right candidate an historic victory, and put an end to twelve raucous years of populist Kirchner rule.

This election marks a turning point in Latin America, because for the first time, the left in the region is paying for the economic havoc that they created.

All across the region, voters are tired.

They are tired of a stalling economy, of creeping inflation, and of rampant corruption. But more than that, they are tired of a model that promised to include them, but instead squandered a once-in-a-generation commodities boom, leaving their hopes dashed.

The left in Latin America enjoyed a golden age during the 00s. The commodities boom coincided with their rise to power, and the boom was translated into increased standards of living. Gullible voters somehow believed the Lulas, Kirchners, Chávezes and Correas of the world, and thought – I’m doing well, it’s probably thanks to them.

But while the leftist model had its achievements, now we realize it was a huge wasted opportunity. It may take a generation until we see another chance like this.

What many are now realizing is that it was all an illusion. Many Brazilians who lept to the middle class are close to going back into poverty now that their country’s economy is shrinking. Argentines are facing an enormous budget deficit and double-digit inflation. Ecuador is close to a balance-of-payments crisis. And let’s not even discuss Venezuela.

A few days ago, Rodrigo Linares came to my house for lunch, and over an actual sobremesa we discussed whether or not Hugo Chávez was in fact a leftist. Rodrigo, speaking from an apparent sympathy for the left, simply framed him as a failed authoritarian, but I was adamant (shocked, even) that this was even a debate.

Of course he was a leftist, a leftist through and through. Chávez’s failure, Lula’s debacle, Dilma’s dysfunction, Cristina’s unraveling, Correa’s sputtering … is the legacy of the left. That is something every sympathiser of the left – even moderate versions such as those of Lula or Bachelet – will have to come to terms with.

But while the leftist model had its achievements, now we realize it was a huge wasted opportunity.

Mauricio Macri did not frame this struggle as left versus right, but that is beside the point. The true indictment here is not against the Kirchners themselves, but against an ideology and a form of government that has simply not delivered.

When the 90s ended, the “neoliberal” governments were blamed for our economic shortcomings, and with good reason. The Washington Consensus did not deliver all it promised, and voters were probably right in giving them the boot.

Now, after squandering the boom, the “progressives” deserve to be taken to task. Voters across the region should hold them accountable, and should send them into political wilderness.

Let’s hope the Macri win is the beginning of payback for the region’s “progressive” brand of politics.

112 COMMENTS

  1. A Patria Grande without Argentina is an extremely mutilated Patria Grande! It’s a Patria Pequena, actually! No one will respect our glorious and stillbirth URSAL anymore. Sigh…

  2. In defense of Rodrigo’s observation, if you look at major sectors of the economy like health care, transportation, education, infrastructure, banking, it is hard to see how the Venezuelan economy has been transformed to any more socialist model. I’d even ask this: have personal income tax rates gone up substantially?

    I think chavismo is essentially fascist/authoritarian in character. I don’t even think the average Venezuelan has more of an appreciation of socialist ideology than their counterparts elsewhere, so even on the level of ideological awareness the chavista socialist project is essentially words from a now deceased windbag. I think it would be a mistake to conclude moreover, that the voting out of these moribund and corrupt governments signifies a broadbased ideological shift to the right. It signifies people want to vote the bums out. We will have to see what more flows from that in the coming months.

    Or my feelings could simply be the rationalizations of a sympathizer with the ‘true left’ 😉

    • My, my.
      Yes, taxes have risen dramatically. So has the size of the state. Private sector diminshed, numerous rules and regulations. I mean, really?
      “if you look at major sectors of the economy like health care, transportation, education, infrastructure, banking, it is hard to see how the Venezuelan economy has been transformed to any more socialist model.”
      Infrastructure – private concessions were done away with. Tolls and regional governments running infrastructure, those are gone too.
      Health care – are there any new private clinics in Venezuela? Price controls all over the place. State interventionism everywhere.
      Education – freezing of tuition rates, intervention into school books, etc.
      Banking – really? Nationalization of Banco de Venezuela, growth of government-owned banks, the government deciding how much has to go to each sector.
      This is all out of the left-wing playbook.

      • My sense was always, a chavista is not opposed to capitalism, if he is the owner. And I think a lot of what we see today bears that out. There is state intervention everywhere yes. But there is no reconfiguration of the basic model that existed before. Chavistas want their kids to go private schools, to the private health clinics, they enjoy a day at the shopping mall as much as anyone. I’ve seen first hand all gradations of the left, from Communist Eastern Europe, to Cuba, to Social Democratic Germany, and Venezuela just does not sit well in that spectrum. The fine dining in Havana just does not stack up to present-day Caracas.

        I remember well a while back, the look on the face of a prominent servant of the Chavez regime when I told him in Ontario, the state distributes liquor. He looked at me like the idea was crazy.

        • The Chavistas are obviously opposed to free market and capitalism, otherwise Venezuela would have free-trade agreements with several economic blocs and would be attracting zillions in FDI from multinational conglomerates from all over the world. None of that is happening. They will never join TPP or attract a company like Intel to build a research center in Caracas either, but, of course, they are not opposed to having luxurious lives. But none of the commies thoughout history were really against that, were they? The Soviet nomenklatura lived like princes too.

          http://www.farewellcomrades.com/en/topics/16/

          • One of Venezuela’s largest trading partners is still the USA, ostensibly its greatest ideological enemy, after all these years of Revolution. It doesn’t add up. There is no Berlin wall. Chevron can live with the situation. The most consequential thing that has happened in this cold war is that Diosdado Cabello probably can’t go skiing in Colorado anymore.

            It wasn’t like this back in the USSR. They didn’t make a big show of expropriating a yoghurt company. They were the real enemy of capitalism, not some half baked pseudo revolutionary clown show.

            I think this bolivarian revolution has been a total con game, for many reasons and on many levels, starting with its name.

            Not that the real thing would be an improvement. Not at all. We don’t want to see that.

          • Canucklehead, the socialists del siglo XXI know that they must be flexible like the bamboo in order to not disappear. They can’t deny realpolitik, they also can’t deny the importance of the money that will allow them to hold firm grip on power. They may be lunatic, but not the kind of lunatic that deny gravity law. To survive, they know that they must do alliances with parties they wouldn’t naturally do, with companies like Chevron, for example, because they have to extract the damn oil. Besides, there’s no “perfect communism”, there’s only the possible kind of communism.

            Even in the USSR there were thousands of private enterprises operating clandestinately sending products directly to the black market. It’s assumed that at least 30-40% of the Soviet GDP was in the black market. The government knew it, but they knew that to stop that would devastate the country. The same thing has always happened in Cuba too…

        • My sense was always, a chavista is not opposed to capitalism, if he is the owner.
          ————————————————-_————————–
          Please do not abuse the internets that you just won.

      • Arent you conflating leftist principles with gross mismanagment ?Venezuelans were promised leftist reforms but were instead given a kleptocracy lubricated with empty left leaning rheroric. . none of the benefits promised have been delivered and none of the few programs established were ever planned to be sustainable. iVenezuela is not a failed leftist model . it is simply a grossly mismanaged economy populated by an uneducated administration.

  3. You can call Chavez and all your Latin American opponents “the left”, but I am more impressed with Bernie Sanders’ point of view: he says it’s a smear to associate social democrats such as himself with a “dead Communist dictator”.

    There’s lots to differentiate Chavez from Lula, from Correa, even from Evo Morales. Missing that is a big political mistake.

    • There may be a lot of differences between these folks, but there is one thing in which they are all alike: with the possible exception of Evo, they have all left their countries as economic basket cases.

      • Yes, but then again, their predecessors did the same to the economies, as the Argentine monetary meltdown during the last Radical government should remind us.

        On the question of who is on the left and who is on the right, the Argentine example is again of interest. The recent Peronist government, said to be “left”, has roots which go back to Juan Peron, and through Menem and Cavallo, all of whom were thought to be either rightist (Menem) or far-right (Peron and Mrs. Peron. Chavismo has a similar contradiction at its centre.

        • far-right (Peron and Mrs. Peron.

          Juan Domingo himself exemplifies this ambivalence. As Labor Minister in the GOU- O’Farrell military government of 1943-45, Peron worked to improve worker’s conditions and pass laws which favored unions and workers. Peron would not have been elected President without union support. As an example of his populist stance, recall Evita I’s saying “Lets Burn down Barrio Norte [rico rico.].”

          From Wikipedia [in italics because CC doesn’t do block quotes]:
          In his first two years in office, Perón nationalized the Central Bank and paid off its billion-dollar debt to the Bank of England; nationalized the railways (mostly owned by British and French companies), merchant marine, universities, public utilities, public transport (then, mostly tramways); and, probably most significantly, created a single purchaser for the nation’s mostly export-oriented grains and oilseeds, the Institute for the Promotion of Trade (IAPI).

          Nationalization? Friend of the unions [as long as they followed his dictates} ? Sounds left-wing to me. At the same time, Peron permitted many high-level Nazis to take refuge in Argentina. But a lot of Jews were in Peron’s government. Juan Domingo was a man of many stances, many of which contradicted the other.

          In his final years in exile, many left-wing guerrillas – Montoners, ERP et al- did their deeds in the name of Peron. From Spain, Peron in no way disowned what they did in his name as he was in contact with them.

          When Peron returned to Argentina, his tone changed. While the leftist guerrilla campaign of kidnappings, killings, bombs and bank robberies was of help in toppling the military government that preceded Peron, once in power in Argentina, Peron wanted no competition. Peron proceeded to try to eliminate the leftist guerrillas who had once been his allies.

          Peron a right winger? Not that simple.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Per%C3%B3n

  4. When the left predictably fails, they say that it wasn’t the true left. I would like to see Evo and Ortega without venezuelan money, they will be basket cases again.

  5. “Voters across the region should hold them accountable, and should send them into political wilderness.”

    After the economic depression of 1999-2002, was the ‘right’ not sent to the political wilderness in Argentina for a time period? It is the turn of the so-called progressives to be cast out. However, if Macri and his successors don’t combat inquality, the time of the likes of Kirchner may come again.

  6. as long as the goverments, left or wathever, ignore established economic logic, steal every last penny in the coffers and get into debt to pay for food, they can only delay their certain doom.

  7. Today is a bright spot on Latin America’s history, one that has been needed for so long. Let’s hope the future has good things for us…

  8. Er, pardon the interruption. This is a time of celebration, not heavy politics. Please go and find a chilled Cointreau to enjoy, or a vodka tonic perhaps, or find that lovely cut-glass brandy snifter in the bottom cabinet and pour at least two inches of a 25 year old Courvoisier into it. The first domino appears to have fallen. A celebratory drink is in order.

  9. Awesome !!
    I am really happy about this !
    Congratulations to Argentina.
    Hope this workout for the better across Latin America. The Kirchners were a disaster.
    @Juan, I am not sure if Macri is Center Right. Other articles cast him at the very Center of the political spectrum.

    • Anti-drugs, anti-abortion, pro-family, pro-capitalism, anti-class war, anti-bolivarianism, anti-mercosur, anti-Maduro, pro-TPP, pro-improved US and EU relations, what else you need?

      Yes, there will be some handouts given here and there, privatizations very likely won’t happen, but his focus and discourse is not only on that part as our dear leftists do, and that makes all the difference in the world from the K idiots.

      • Most of the things you listed doesn’t make him Right winger. Being anti-maduro is just common sense. He is a bit on the conservative side though.
        Regardless of ideological spectrum I hope he goes pragmatic above all and moves Argentina forward.
        Just the break from Peronism and the radical left is such a breath of fresh air !
        However I remeber reading theArgentinian Congress remains on the left, so we will see how that will plays out.

  10. Minor style point, but one has to be careful with that loaded word “Left”, which means totally different things to anglophone readers than it does in the context of Latin American politics and its specific relationships to marxism.

  11. First time I watched telesur for more than 10 minutes. From 22:00 to 2:00. Germany is +4 hours. I stayed awake for so long thanks to the great entertainment their expert panel had to offer.
    Same as in Brazil and Venezuela: The center-right tends to win in the economic stronger areas, whereas the 00-years left keeps its strongholds in less developed areas. This pattern even emerges inside provinces. The capitals voted Macri.
    Clientelistic support networks appears to be their last effective argument, which is the opposite to innovation desperately needed in this times of low prices for raw materials.

        • There were a group of argentinian experts, who discussed stuff like “its another blow of a series of golpes de la derecha, that started with the attack on the Raul Reyes camp” and stuff like that. I’ve forgotten a lot. They got very angry. I hope someone recorded it and will put it on youtube. Its a historic document. Naki Soto also mentioned it on her twitter.
          Except some cuban TV, Telesur is the only latinamerican TV channel on german cable network. Normally it gets boring after 5 minutes, but their coverage of the argentinian election was great entertainment. Hope that 6-D will become even better.

          • “its another blow of a series of golpes de la derecha, that started with the attack on the Raul Reyes camp”

            So people voting in a opposition candidate is a coup? Haha typical

  12. Look, competence isn’t distributed along a Left/Right axis. Competence is distributed along a Competent/Incompetent axis.

    The Argentine and Venezuelan lefts aren’t imploding because they’re left. They’re imploding because their almost comically bad at economic management, which is a central part of their job description.

    The proof of this is in La Paz, and in Quito, where leaders who are just as left-wing as Maduro or Cristina are on 55-75% popularity. Why? Because they haven’t run the economy like a bunch of coked up nutters and imbeciles.

    You could, of course, argue that the left is systematically more economically incompetent than the right. But you don’t!

    • Agreed 100% here.
      A trademark of incopetent leaders is the reliance on idealogy rather than pragmatism and common sense because Ideology provides a simplistic answer to issues they clearly dont understand.
      And talking about following ideologies, as long as Democracy relies on wide open Universal Sufrage we will have populist representatives rather than competent ones and that is specially the case in countries with big portions of uneducated population.
      The fact that this key issue is not even on the discussion table tells me that the majority of people are dead set on ideologies rather than creative problem solving.
      Yes it all comes down to copetence !

      • I’m shocked that you’re assigning blame to “competence” rather than the terrible ideas the model is based upon. So you mean to say that when Lula and Dilma were riding sky high in popularity and the country was growing, they were somehow more competent than they are now? What does this mean, that Arreaza’s ideas for regulating the price of eggs, for example, could work if he was only more “competent”?

        The system is unworkable, and it’s showing everywhere in the continent, even in Quito. Look here

        http://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2015/07/26/nota/5037496/mandatario-baja-encuestas-fue-temor

        The Ecuadorian economy is a mess, and it’s not due to “incompetence.” It’s because it’s based on bad ideas and false premises that are the staple of the Latin American left.

        Sure, Bolivia and Uruguay are exceptions, but to what extent can we characterize their economies as “left-wing”?

        Let’s face it, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela (hell, even Chile) are mired in a terrible slump, and it has little to do with competence. It’s the model that the left-wing rulers fostered that has run its course. You can sympathize with the left all you want, but you can’t blur the terrible track record leftist *ideas* have brought to the continent.

        • I think there’s a semantic problem here.

          If by “the left” you mean “Marxism” you’re clearly right. State ownership over the means of production is obviously a catastrophe. Its bastard cousin, the heavy-handed regulation of private property by a state that doesn’t believe in competition as a disciplining mechanism, is very nearly as bad. I don’t think that’s really in question.

          But in reducing “the left” to “Marxism” you disappear, de un plumazo, a whole raft of non-Marxist leftwing positions centered not on substantive control over the means of production or the reckless mismanagement of state finances but on a focus on equalizing outcomes by redistributing wealth, risk and opportunities away from people born with lots of privilege and towards people born without lots of privilege.

          That’s the left I sympathize with, and basically all minimally smart leftists long ago realized that if this is the agenda you want delivered on, Marxism is not the vehicle that’s going to get you there.

          There’s tons of space for a leftwing policy regime that sidesteps the moron mistakes of Marxism – the regulatory madness, the uncontrolled money printing, fiscal and monetary insanity – provided they’re implemented by people with basic economic competence and some idea of what the hell they’re doing. There’s no reason why a policy of aggressive redistributive taxation, intensive investment on areas of social neglect, and a determined approach to social inclusion need to generate economic chaos.

          But listen: not too long ago you were ranting on this very blog about the Venezuelan opposition’s oligarch problem, Juan.

          If that’s what you’re concerned with – the abuse of cultural and political power by a traditional elite to further its own class interests – then you’re quite a lot farther to the left than you quite realize. It’s just that you’re not an idiot, so you don’t propose to address those concerns with policy prescriptions that have failed horrifically everywhere they’ve been tried.

          So, you wanna get a good look at Latin America’s forward looking, non-Marxist left? Grab the nearest mirror!

          • Actually, I’m not talking about the Marxist left, I’m talking about the Lula and Cristina left. These are moderate left-wing regimes when compared to, say, Cuba. And yet they have failed miserably.

            That is not to say that the answer lies in advocating for the right wing. In fact, I wanted to steer clear of endorsing anything Mauricio Macri is going to do. But we should not be ashamed to bash the left-wing experiments (some moderate, some less so) of the last fifteen years that have not delivered.

          • To me, the semantics of right and left has to do with the power of wealth. Free enterprise does not mean the rich should have the freedom to corrupt democratic process in their favor! On the other hand, the poor should not use democratic process to corrupt the free enterprise system!

        • “Sure, Bolivia and Uruguay are exceptions”

          Uruguay, a country with a ridiculous small population and territory and can’t even manage to fix its chronic double-digit inflation that outlived Mujica.

          Bolivia, a country that depends heavily on gas exports, and that would be bankrupt in a matter of months if Brazil cease to import such commodity.

          That’s are the “exceptions”, lol… It’s a matter of time to see these two crashing too.

    • There are those who think the right are the wealthy who want to feed off the poor, and the left are those who believe the poor should feed off the rich!

    • What is lacking in extremist governments (all sorts) is accountability. Virtually any system will function, so long as, at all levels, authority and responsibility are on par with each other. I suppose that even an absolute dictatorship would function, if the dictator knew that the moment his approval rate dropped below 50% he would be instantly executed.

      Private companies and organizations work hard to try to make authority and responsibility of all their employees equivalent. A manager without any accountability for his work, may slack off, abuse his subordinates, and misuse company resources. A manager without sufficient authority to carry out his responsibilities will be unable to carry out his duties and will probably quit. Either scenario is a recipe for failure. Companies that don’t understand this ultimately go out of business because they just can’t compete.

      Government organizations are no different, except that they usually don’t have to compete or make a profit. Government’s hold a monopoly on central power. The only accountability they have is to the citizens during elections. Successful governments have to satisfy the majority of their citizens, or they don’t last long. When extreme ideologies or charismatic (yet incompetent) leaders come into power, that accountability get’s lost.

      Mind you, accountability does not guarantee competence. But it does assure that the system will function.

  13. Love Franciscos and Toro Volts point , its been my mantra in this blog that functional competence rather than rethorically spruced up ideological rants and narratives and irresponsible unsustainable distribution programs what SHOULD be the main factor in selecting who should govern , and that traditional democracy has a hard time recognizing this .!! Competence isnt as emotionally sexy as the Histrionic Discourses and blatant distributive populism for most ordinary citizens …but how do you change that ??

    • Yes, if only expropriations and the nationalization of oil had been handled “competently,” then it would have worked out perfectly!

      Sheesh.

      • The oil nationalization was handled superbly , the Pdvsa that rose from the 1976 nationalization operated as competently and profitably as the best of the oil companies of the 1st world if not better !! What happened in 2002 after Chavez took over Pdvsa from those that ran in professionally is another story , one of Venezuelas failure as a democracy and as a society with deeply flawed political institutions .

        You are right that orthodox Marxist inspired ideologies are a formula to failure in their persecution of the market competitive model , but there is nothing to prevent a state institution from operating properly , Central Banks and the Judiciary and much of the worlds best educational systems are publicly run even in the most pure competitive market systems and they do fine. Ideological dogmatic puritanism however doenst have all the answers , even in economic terms …

        The problem in large part is one of a dysfunctional state that’s the result of political systems both liberal and Marxist in inspiration engaging in irresponsible forms of clientelism and populism and cronyism as a means of holding on to power !!

        In the end there are no utopian models capable of worship , not even the liberal market model , it also needs control and guidance and state stimulus to work its miracles !!

    • “But how do you change that ??”

      First, you need to understand why it’s sexy. And I don’t mean a scientistic approach a la “it tickles their ego.” I mean we need to understand what is in these narratives, or the memosystems they exist in, that we al instinctively feel is very important.

      If the world was run by competent people, for example, wouldn’t they have to be competent according to modern, outdated ideas? Only narrative and rhetoric can bring to the fore existential human issues that matter at a deeper level than how many angels can dance on the tip of functional branding strategies.

      • American televangelism is religion served up as syrupy entertainment , and its very popular , Politics served up as a form of rousing ideological circus is also very popular , its popularity or vulgarity however is nothing but a degradation of what these human endevours should be . We worship popularity and whatever idiotizing cheap methods are used to bring it about . We have to wean ourselves away from this superstition !!

        The truth is that politics has a bona fide purpose and that is to act as means to hold rulers accountable for their good performance in the use of public resources and the promotion of a better life for the population under its rule , if people cant be trusted to hold rulers accountable for what they do wrong because they are tricked and deluded and bought by freebies and rethorical glitter, then somebody better figure a way of making politics less vulnerable to these influences .

        In olden times medical attention was given by sorcerers that created an entertaining spectacle to make the patients think that something was being done to cure them of their illness , then came modern medical science and cured people by doing things which weren’t always very agreeable but got results . The use of hocus pocus hokum by sorcerers in primitive societies is the equivalent to the use of revolutionary or populist hocus pocus rethoric by pols in our day . Some how we have to grow out of these sham theatrical superstitions and gain the ability as a society asses the performance of those that propose themselves as rulers . Until we do this our worship of popularity will get us nowhere.!!

        • But modern physicians have a narrative and theatricality too! Bedisde manner is just one of the many elements of it.

          To let these faulty politics convince us that there is not a central space in politics for theatrics, which is just a condensed form of powerful communication, is a mistake. As I see it, if sound economic policy can’t be explained to a 3 year old, it doesn’t work. Einstein was far advanced, no? And this was his standard. And I don’t think he meant patronizing people, either. Rhetoric is potentially the principle by which complex necessities are made to cohere, honestly and fully, with the communal narrative. With people’s very understanding of what it can mean to live a better life. A constant strife which is the stuff of human worth!

          But we, who have the time and inclination to think about these things before making a narrative, should really dedicate serious time to how a theatrical narrative can cohere with the best humanity is capable of so far as far as communal organization goes, and even decide what that “best” is, instead of assuming that the “best” is pointless to wonder about and narrative a tool of evil men.

          • Politics has three dwellings : the Temple of pure absolute abstract principles which we are called to worship but which exist only in the high heavens and in the hearts of the worshiper, The Circus of gladiatorial theatrics where making a great impression about our selves by heroically fighting and vanquishing an enemy is the main object and The Market were real conflicting interests are transacted , exchanged , compromised so collective decisions can be made which allow the operation of an always divided society . Politics include all three manifestations but unless there is a Market.. Politics is just a Circus where nothing gets done and everything has to be settled through destructive acts of war.!! If we reduce politics to a pure Circus of glamorous gladiatorial struggles ( a la Chavez) , to an spectacle , we are doomed to a life ravaged by Wars of Destruction and to utter failure.

  14. Juan, you have one misconception and need some reminders. The first, what is ‘modern’ left. You need to be reminded of Chavez’s motivations towards policies. Let me start with the second.

    I want to start that I didn’t say that Chavez didn’t pursue any left policy. He did. He also did many right wing policies. But nearly all of them poorly implemented and totally moronic.

    Chavez barely expanded the healthcare system. In fact, when he got to see the state of the current healthcare infrastructure did he make marked improvements? No. Not once. Chavez expanded Barrio Adentro which are more like small clinics (ambulatorios). The kinda place you go to get a prescription if you have a fever, but not a place where they could even fix a broken bone. That’s it.

    Tolls. Let me remind you that they were removed not because they were costly, but because the comandante was appalled that it took him so long to go across one one time so they were remove due to traffic. Yes, Juan, traffic. Chavez in fact did very little for the country’s insfrastructure and they few project it accomplished yield very little benefits, much less social benefits.

    Banking. Banking is highly regulated. But highly, highly profitable. You know this. You have written about this. You know how much the financial sector has grown. You know how many made a quick buck. You interviewed a banker where he told you that he was happy with the regulations as they had to do nothing. Only rake the money in.

    Education. Yes. Lot’s of regulation to private schools. But chavismo has not discriminated. Public schools all the way to universities are equally destroyed. Where is the left there?

    Let’s talk about unions, and how chavismo likes them? Pretty leftist, huh?

    How about indigenous activist? Environmentalist? Give me a break.

    How about how the government enforces labor laws internally?

    What’s Venezuela’s minimum wage like? Minimum wage has always been so low that only a very few percentage get payed minimum wage.

    Chavismo if you are to identify it with an ideology it fits way better with comunitarians.

    (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communitarianism)

    Chavismo is a collection of contradicting, local, and in many cases, messed up values. Chavismo is at the same time feminist, patriarchal and chauvinist. And this is chavismo on a pretty day. In a bad day they are simply fachos. But Chavez was able to appeal to them all and they all made a formidable base for chavismo.

    You know what kind of things does a modern left do? Tax breaks for the poor. Day-care and preschool payed by taxes. Provide high minimum wage.

    Rawls did a great job of summarizing what liberal equality must do in two simple principles:

    1.- each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others.

    2.-Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that:
    (a) they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society, consistent with the just savings principle (the difference principle).
    (b) offices and positions must be open to everyone under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.

    Why do you say this is important? Because we must take care of the most vulnerable members of society. It is a justice imperative. You know what’s the right problem? That they can’t articulate this. They can’t explain how the economic prosperity translates in that the most vulnerable members of society will be better off. I told you over lunch that the problem with the venezuelan right is that they can’t have an ideological debate. And you proved me right here.

    What really bothers me is the too simplistic logic inflection. Chavismo was left, thus left is bad. That’s just lazy. This whole discussion reminded me of an occasion in which Quico posted some news about some shared bicycle program in Caracas by Libertador. Of course, Quico was making fun of it. How it would be destroyed in weeks. And he is likely right. Why? Because chavistas have a track record of screwing things up. Even screwing great ideas up. Is shared biking a bad thing? No. Quite the opposite. What makes me really sad about this is that chavismo’s brutal incompetence is creating bad precedents on policies that are fantastic when properly implemented. But by failing they are sabotaging not only themselves, but us in the future.

    • I think Chávez’s (and Cristina’s, and Dilma’s) left-wing credentials go beyond what you point out.

      For example, you are leaving out

      a) the automatic alignment with Cuba and against the United States, a staple of left-wing discourse in the region.
      b) creating entitlements way beyond what the country’s fiscal capabilities allow for, and as a consequence growing enormous budget deficits. Again, fiscal imbalances are a staple of the left pretty much everywhere.
      c) the idea that the Central Bank needs to be “coordinated” with the rest of the economy, something Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba all do. (To its credit, Brazil seemed to not do that)
      d) high minimum wage – Chávez raised the minimum wage to ridiculous levels before reality brought all those plans crashing down.

      Your lack of critical thinking on this issue is revealed here:
      “You know what kind of things does a modern left do? Tax breaks for the poor. Day-care and preschool payed by taxes. Provide high minimum wage.”

      Aw, all great things! You left out puppies and unicorns.

      You know what a more balanced approach to what the left is needed to include? Big government, suspicion of private industry, high taxes. All those are things Chávez, Cristina et al. instituted.

      • a) There are plenty of left leaning nations that aren’t opposed to the US (nearly all Europe).

        b) There are plenty of left leaning policies that are in line with the fiscal reality. In fact, many policies are there not to be a money dump, but to make sure you can continue to grow in the future.

        c) But there are many leftist who have independent central banks (including Bolivia). There some that even rely on the feds (Ecuador). So is it the left or the chavistas? You argue that is the left, I argue that it is chavistas.

        d) I will say it again. Minimum wage was never a significant part of the income distribution.

        Again, not all left is suspicious of private industry as not all right is suspicious of government (are you?). The Venezuelan state is not only too large but misplaced. Doing things it ought not do, and not doing things it ought to do.

        Again, when you can articulate the proposals of the right that result in that those more disadvantage are better off I will be all ears. Some have tried (Nozick). And I am all for economic prosperity. I think you can’t build social programs without prosperity, but I also know that prosperity won’t last unless you make all prosper. Even those that are severely disadvantaged. If you don’t make that your long term goal, them why bother? Just to tick some indicators up?

        Thinking that you can achieve liberal state where we all share equal rights and equal opportunities may be thinking of unicorns and puppies. But I rather aim to a high goal and fail partially than start as defeated and to think that such a thing is not even possible. If I do the second, then I failed from the start.

        • Here’s a thought exercise: South Korea, or Singapore. Left wing? Right wing? The answer is neither, or both. Only when we see some sort of plan similar to those countries’ can we say that the debate is no longer left vs. right. But in Latin America, for too long, the debate has stayed in the same place.

  15. “All across the region, voters are tired.”

    People make it sound like this was a landslide victory over Socialismo and Chavismo. Well, “a win is a win”, as we say in US Sports, but.. if you look at Argentina’s map, most of its geographical area ended up with Scioli, with just the central part with Macri, and the difference was only about 700,000 votes.

    It was not a Crushing defeat of stupid Populism and Chavista crap.

    Much like in Vzla where people think Chavismo is dead, except you have 6 MILLION Maduristas, plus over 60% of the “pueblo” who still Adore Comandante Pajarito Supremo.

    In Venezuela, with a similar 30 Million “socialistoide” population of 30 Million, that kind of voting effort for change would fail. Cabello and Rodriguez would bring Chavez’s big guns: Fraudmatic. Just like they did in Brazil, for Dilma to steal the elections in extra-innings by a razor-thin margin. The little secret source code, secret software Smartmatic-Olivetti wicked machines. Same ones that kept Capriles out of the office, also in mysterious late-evening extra-innings, remember?

    People are over-confident in a MUD victory that would mean big changes. Please do Wake Up.

    The pseudo-socialist, Castro-Chavista pest is far from vanquished or extinct in the Region.

    “Venezuela is next to break free from “la izquierda populista” You’re sure?

    First, In Vzla these are not Presidential Elections as in Buenos Aires. Parlamentarias, y de vaina.. Completely different: It’s the freaking Venezuelan corrupt-to-the-bone “parliament” where diputados cost a few barrels of oil per month, plus maybe a car or a little “vivienda” in the Bahamas. Plus you would need an overwhelming, heavy-duty Mud Mayoria to even cry wolf in the “parlamento bolivariano”

    Second, Cabello and Rodriguez (and the Military, and the CNE, and the TSJ) have 18 different ways to Cheat; Plus freaking Smartmatic, easy to hack, even Delcy can do it. So all they will do is turn an 80% disaproval into a laughable, bogus 55% “Mud Victory”, then purchase or intimidate a few diputados, y listo el pollo.

    Sorry to rain on the premature, extraneous celebration parade in Caracas, but someone has to do it.

  16. About the “Left vs. Right” interesting ideological debate here, and the relevance of “Ineptitude”..

    I think the level of Massive Corruption is much more important than the levels of “aptitude” or adeptness.

    If these Latin American bullshit socialist governments simply stole a little bit less, they could afford to be as inept and even leftist as they wished. Regardless of aptitude or political ideology, imagine Brasil or Venezuela Simply if they did not steal all that much.

    • A certain degree of corruption does not prevent a competent official or organization from achieving good things , we are too proud of our indignant righteousness to recognize this so here go three samples , History has revealed LBJ to be personally a corrupt pol and yet some of the greatest legislative achievements of the XX century are the result of his political talents and inspired agendas, MPJ whom many credit for being an able administrator was corrupt and yet that didn’t stop him from being perhaps the foremost creator of Venezuelas public infrastructure , Ortega wrote an essay depicting the greatest politician of his age , Mirabeau who if he hadn’t died prematurely could well have prevented the red terror while achieving a constitutional monarchy was corrupt ( he received secret assignments from Louis XVI) . Yet another example Talleyrand one of the most corrupt men of France in the early XIX Century, a bishop during the ancient regime, a revolutionary firebrand during the French revolution , a devoted minister to Napoleon and afterwards to the restored Bourbon Monarchy won for France in the Treaty of Vienna advantages which would have been unthinkable but for his diplomatic genius. The US itself knew one of its greatest growth during the period of the so called Robber Barons .

      The Chinese have turned around their country into a growing economic powerhouse (from the times of penury of Mao) while allowing a great amount of corruption to flourish (which now they are trying to control before it threatens to destroy their achievements) .

      While Venezuela is clearly a place where corruption is become destructive in its vigour and range, there is a degree of corruption which is not necessarily an impediment to development and growth . Of course that only happens where accompanying that corruption is great ability and competence in the management of things.

      • You missed the main point: what is more important? Less ineptitude or just a bit less of this Mega-Galactic corruption?

        I would take a bunch of Honest Aborigenes to run any country over a bunch of mega-thieves. The level of corruption of the Chinese is Laughable compared to Venezuela. Billions stolen Per capita. That’s one of the reason I scratch my head when they say the abominable Perez Jimenez was a thief. I wonder where he stole all that money to build all the infrastructure he built in just 5 years.

        • No Lee I hit it right on the mark , I agree that corruption makes development more difficult , but that being highly competent at things like making an economy grow and keeping things sane and stable can tolerate some degree of corruption . I share your opinion however that when corruption becomes very endemic and corrosive (case in point Venezuela) it becames a real barrier to the achievement of development even if those that engage in it are competent. I gave you six historical cases where the presence of corruption did not prevent some noted achievements . LBJ. MPJ , Mirabeau , Talleyrand , The US Robber Barons of the XIX Century and Deng Tsiao Pings China .

          What worries me most is peoples puerile assumption that just because some leaders are saintly , heroic , tender , eloquent and noble hearted- even if they are incompetent-, they are going to achieve anything …….competence counts!!

          • Guess we’ll never see eye to eye you and me. No matter how many times I change my name over the year. Or the specific subject at hand. Your elaborate historic and geographic extrapolations are rendered virtually invalid in today’s harsh street reality, out of context. This is not China or Rome or the Middle East (please tell that to the freaking muslim barbaric terrorists)

            You can only use such historic references as vague reminders, Bill.
            It’s a different ball game now, Now don’t get me started on Talleyrand..

  17. IOW, Venezuela, Brasil even Argentina, etc, are nothing but different forms of modern Kleptocracies.

    They conveniently disguise as “socialist” or “a favor del pueblo” just to steal as much as they can as fast as they can. They’re not really that much to the “left” or the “right”, but they all want power and money, and they utilize the vast ignorance and under-education of the average people to deceive them. As simple as that. Populist Politics 101.

    • You only say that because you identify yourself with the left, and you just can’t accept that such horrible people are part of the same political ideology as you do. So they are “socialists”, they are not the “real left”, they are “disguised” as leftists. There’s no real “ideology” behind what they do. Fidel Castro would be just a common corrupt person like Fujimori. That’s a hell of way to make sure people elect the same class of people over and over again. Thank God the Argentines didn’t fall for this trick and didn’t elect yet another leftist thinking that this time it would be the “real left” that never comes just to be disappointed again.

        • Oh, sorry then… But the word socialists between quotations marks is a trick they often use to be forgiven by their mistakes and receive a yet new chance from the fools: “We distorted socialism for the thousandth time, we must try for the thousandht first time, this time it wil be for real! Elect us!!!”

          Advice for the young at heart, if it wears red, run for the hills! Then you will never do any mistake.

          • It depends on whether you think fascists are leftists. I know that’s a funny statement, but they WERE called the national socialist party.

            Certain right wingers, on the very tips of the longest feathers, believe in state over market as much as communists, so they wouldn’t be opposed to a word like socialism and the overreaching government it suggests.

  18. Interesting comments!!! Are we really facing a right-left battle in Latin America? I don’t think so. Not because Chávez-Lula-Kirchner are not somewhere near a left politics definition, but because there is not a true right political proposal.
    OK, in Venezuela we have a government that controls private economic activity, that’s true. But, as many have written before me, we don’t have a stronger welfare state after bolivarian revolution. Talking about numbers, public spending in health (barrio adentro+social security+traditional health public facilities) is less than public spending in PRIVATE health insurance for public employees. So, when someone believes (like me) that public spending should be devoted to public goods that make people capable (and, therefore, free) to work and improve his living conditions through whatever economic activity he wants to choose… we cannot accept that this kind of social policy can be understood as “socialist”, it is not.
    State intervention in economy is one thing, how public services are financed and who are entitled to this benefits, is something different. Certainly our latest governments have donde much of the former, but they have not guaranteed social rights for every Venezuelan. Social policy has been just a favor to the loyal ones.
    Finally, a state that does not act and does not play a role in economy or social policy doesn’t exist. The real issue is where and how a state chooses to intervene, which interests are benefited and which are not. You don’t have to believe me, I really recommend this reading, a clasical: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic1134169.files/Readings%20on%20Social%20Democracy/Esping%20Anderson%20-%20THe%20Three%20Worlds%20of%20Welfare%20Capitalism.pdf

      • The only reason Gloria wants to shift the debate away from that is because the “right” (to which she clearly belongs) is associated with human rights abuses in Guatemala. It’s all about branding, it’s not about the truth.

        • That is why we need to start eliminating the “Left” – “Right” labels. Each group is promoting the negative associations of these labels to attack their opponents.

          See my Pournelle Chart comment below.

        • She claims to be a “liberal, progressive, focused on the potential of individuals, taking the good from the “left” and the good from the “right”. Against Populism, which she happens to define quite accurately, imo. You don’t have to have to label her from the “right”, , just because she believe in Private Property and true Capitalism (please google up that definition, with etymology, as well as “Republic” )

          That said, when I get over her cute looks, I disagree with some of the stuff she says. Notably, that such a liberal, oferta-demanda, con socialismo, blended arroz-con-mango, laissez-faire system can really work anytime soon in our savage, under-educated, totally corrupt 3rd world countries. She’s an educated, smart, good looking idealist. With good intentions and a good heart, I might add.

  19. Modern left, marxist left, latinamerican left. So back to the point, when it predictably fails it is because they are not the true left. The same crap with the same results, call them prostitutes or whores nothing changes.
    And please stop comparing Europe with the real left we have in latin america, a square does not fit in a circle, so stop the BS.

    • but I also see fit not comparing the latin american right (AKA military dictators) with any right-winged civilized government? Does a latin-american right government means human right abuses? I think it doesn’t. As a Latin-american left doesn’t need to mean incompetence.

      • Let’s move away from the whole “incompetence” angle, because any government (left, right, mixed) that is incompetent is bound to fail.

        What happened here is that the commodities boom was spent on unplanned, misguided “social” policy that we clearly not sustainable, and was going to run dry once the boom receded. The fact that “social” policy was given a priority over other things, such as developing innovation, entrepreneurship, or strong institutions, is entirely due to the left’s preference map.

  20. missing in all the really committed and sincere discussion is the key matter about Rule of law and a functioning legal and social punishment for wrongdoers.

    Protestant anglosaxon societies, be it left, center or right governed, are based on an underlying value of trust first, punishment ofr non compliance later.

    Social transaction costs and efficiency are dramatically better, and this the whole society benefits from these “social contract rules”

    If government officials and state bureaucrats (like any human) do not face any risks for: a) being incompetent, b) being corrupt or c) being criminal, there is little chance they will behave in the national interest.

    If the agents are not in fear and control of their principals, there is little hope for performance.

    Left and new left and non-marxist left and all the other framing constructs are just window dressing and spin ideologies to cover up a, b or c above.

  21. The entire one dimensional “left-right” paradigm is far too simplistic of a model. We all end up using labels for which we can’t even agree on the definitions. Take a look at the following link for a two dimensional model called a Pournelle Chart: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pournelle_chart

    Most of you will find some point more towards the center of this chart where you feel comfortable. You will also recognize the the true character of the extremist ideologies. Chavismo, while it claims to be “Socialist” is actually more Fascist.

    To date, in the history of modern democracies, the most successful find a sweet spot near the center that is appropriate for their own country’s circumstances and culture. The democratic process provides a negative feedback mechanism that pulls the political system back to the center and prevents extremist ideologies from gaining total control of the government. Even the the various fluctuations within the center zone serve to keep the government dynamic and flexible to changes and prevent the bureaucracy from becoming entrenched and moribund.

    In general (for my tastes), I find Latin American culture too trusting of and dependent on government, of whatever stripe. On the Pournelle Chart, that would place Latin America to the right of center and bouncing back and forth from the upper to the lower of the right two quadrants.

    I hope this helps everyone define their terminology and promotes a more productive debate.

  22. As terrible as dictatorships are, and the horrible “capitalism… this is how far “right” many free thinkers like me are : Venezuela is too screwed up by now to be fixed by any corrupt Chavista light MUD crap. Would take decades to get back to the 90’s..

    Example: Chile was lucky to get the horrible Pinochet for 17 years, saving the country from Allende’s Castro-Chavismo, while Venezuela got ad/copey/mud chavismo for 56 years. 3rd world countries as corrupt and uneducated need a strong Carrot&stick system, whatever you wanna call it. A LOT less people die in the process and abysmal under-developed countries build a work-ethic, infrastructure, education. Look at both countries today: Best in Latin America, Worst in Latin America.

    Wish there was a better option, but sometimes, if given the choice you’d have to elect the lesser evil. But it’s too late for Venezuela, they will endure another 40 years of ad/voluntadpop/mud/chavista crap. Viva la Cleptocracia!

    • Well, if that’s the case, then Pinochet was not right-wing, nor was Franco, nor Reagan. Why there is simply no difference between Margaret Thatcher and Justin Trudeau. I mean, if we’re gonna dispense with labels, let’s dispense with all of them. This left-right debate – so simplistic!

      • Absolutely. Those labels should be trashed. heck, even in more advanced countries like the USA it’s tough to really tell between “democrats” and “republicans” or “conservatives” and “liberals” . It’s all in the can for mass consumption..

      • I think it is not simplistic. It’s a necessary debate and we need to take it seriously. I think the left-right concepts safe and sound, even if you don’t like them. We have seen how they become more complex when author cross them with other axes (like authoritarianism-liberalism).

        I am very happy to read what I have read in this comments section.

        PS: What I don’t like about your post, is how you respond to dissent. You are “shocked” when people differ. It is important for a democratic debate to admit other points of view as valid.

  23. Back in the 90s, I was a die-hard neoliberal apologist. But when the decade ended and neoliberals were taken to the woodshed to lick their wounds, I had to come to terms with the failure of the experiment. It’s not ideology, it’s data. It would have been intellectually dishonest to come back and say “oh, that wasn’t neoliberalism AT ALL, the problem was that neoliberalism never really existed!”

    Similarly, I sense that many of you sympathize with left-wing ideas. But the fact remains that the left that has ruled Latin America for the past fifteen years a) shares many of the ideals and policy prescriptions you hold dear; and b) has failed miserably.

    Folks need to own up to this reality if we are ever going to move forward.

  24. BTW, this is exactly what the “sobremesa” posts are supposed to be about. I hope you forgive my non-PC ness. I’ll go back to being civil in my next posts.

  25. Leftists: “Should this, should that.”

    Rightists: “But how?!”

    Leftists: “I don’t know, but anything not to be a soul-sucking rightist regime!”

    Rightists: “Where are your balls?”

    Leftists: “Where are your manners?”

    Rightists: “People ought to be God fearing.”

    Leftists: “People ought to be kind.”

    Somethingists: “How about this: why not focus on what people do instead of on people?”

    Rightists: “You mean sin?”

    Leftists: “You mean cruelty?”

    Somethingists: “Ugh…”

  26. Robert Service’s book on the history of modern Russia (from early XX) as well as his biographies of Stalin, Trotski and Lenin are worth reading.

    If you go through communist history you will see all of them tend to consider the contenders a treason to Marx’s ideas. But then Marx was kept alive by a rich bourgeois called Engels and both did some money with shares.

    Anyway: already Fanny Kaplan, who tried to kill and seriously injured Lenin considered him a traitor of workers as he lead his people penetrate the councils, the soviety, so that the party would take control of everything. Go and read Trotsky about Stalin and it’s the same rubbish.

    At the end of the day, most communists nowadays see what Stalin instituted and what came later with Khrushchev, Brezhnev, etc, as state “capitalism”.

    You can’t never win with them. Theirs is a fata morgana, an “end is nigh”, an idea similar to what Jehova witnesses keep developing about the arrival of the Messiah.

    I disagree with how Juan tries to cherry pick items of the “left’s failures”. He defines socialism by the way private schools, for instance, were attacked. He fails to observe that

    1) the percentage of pupils in private schools did not decrease…in spite of all, it actually kept stable and, at least until 2010, as far as I remember, the share of pupils in private schools actually rose a tiny bit. This, of course, also has to do with the continuous collapse of Venezuela’s public schools.

    2) Chavismo completely failed to increase the educational level of Venezuelans. The Soviets, on the other hand, did raise Russia and the Russian Empire from a condition of widespread illiteracy to nearly absolute literacy and a lot of scientific accomplishments. The same can be said about China even before Deng came to power.The boligarchs sending their kids to private schools: is that left? Teachers not being able to live from their salaries: is that left?

    Finally, whereas Juan seems to recognise the so-called left kept power for many years only thanks to a commodity boom, he fails to see the counterpart: that the so-called right actually failed when commodity prices were collapsing.

    At the end of the day here I go again with my mantra: more than left and right, these are feudal groups with proto-left and proto-right flashes of ideas, all a bunch of compradores and or bad imitations of revolutionaries.

    Guys: all these groups are a bunch of contradictions.

    Milan Kundera talked about imagology to refer to the political systems in Europe of the sixties to eighties. Ideologies were really on paper. This is even more so nowadays, particularly in Latin America.

    At the end of the day, it is more about warlords with old or new money, some more incompetent than the others, some more violent.

    That is Latin America.

  27. Honestly, going back in time about Marx and stuff is nothing short of pathetic, nostalgic intellectualized brain masturbation.

    Today in Petare, it’s quite simple: Corruption + horrible education = More Theft. Call it whatever you like.

    Being brutally honest, I call it Kleptozuela, but hey, who doesn’t enjoy tragicomedias at las Mercedes theaters these days.. Ask the Greeks regarding the details.

  28. I liked Juans exchanges with other bloggers even more than the main piece it self , and lots of the comments were indeed worthy of further reflexion , One thing that needs underlining is that labels sometimes mislead us because we are so intent on defending what distinguishes an ideological identity we personally like that we lose our capacity to see reality in the flesh . Trying to BE left or right in our views distracts us from all those instances were reality doenst really fit any of those tags.!

    One guy who understood that clearly was Deng Tsiao Ping, the creator of Modern China , his phrase ‘I dont care about the colour of a cats furr provided he catches mice’ says it all !! Some of Juans phrases appear to reflect this idea, as when he made reference to whether one might appropiately call Singapores or South Koreans policies right or left .

    Without meaning to Juan said the same thing when he called on his readers to forego paying attention to the issue of public organizational competence , because it didnt matter whether a govt was leftist or rightist if it was incompetent it had to be judged a failure , implying that competence came before the ideological label used to categorize that government. Judging a government or policy by the results of its performance whatever the ideological label used to describe it , seems to be the most sane !!

    This is precisely Fukuyamas point in his very sagacious books , democratic accountability is important , so is Rule of Law but no system of government can be considered succesful if it is dysfunctional , if it doesnt perform its basic job of peforming those tasks that help its people achieve a higher standard of living !!

  29. And there is another twist: there are incompetent people and there are criminals.
    Venezuela’s regime is a bunch of incompetent criminals who, by sheer natural selection, manage to be utterly incompetent and yet keep for so long performing their crimes.

    • We underestimate the competence of those chavista criminals. They are extraordinarily adept at the art of massive embezzlement, and they get away with murder time and time again, year after year. They very darn good at it.

  30. It is relatively easy to embezzle the funds of govt if the whole machinery of justice is under your control , if every judge and public prosecutor is coerced into looking the other way whenever an indictable offense is committed by an official or its minions. Where a regime offers its criminal members the mantle of absolute impunity it doenst take much brains to keep themselves out of trouble.!!

  31. I think it’s a real pity that this blog has framed the significance of Macri’s victory in terms of right vs. left. A much more important struggle has been going on for the past 15 or 16 years, between two absolutely antagonic visions of governance. One that respects the traditions and principles on which the Inter-American system is founded – including the separation of powers, respect for minority rights, alternability and so on – and one which would obliterate them.

    Astonishingly, those governments which represent the former have for the most part acted as silent accomplices as the others (led, of course, by Venezuela) have gone about their demolition work. So apparently uncommitted are they to the defence of democracy and human rights that they have even welcomed the return of the Cuban dictatorship as an equal in regional forums, without demanding even a token act of contrition.

    They appear to believe that keeping the United States out of the region is a much more important goal than holding their neighbours to the principles they pay lip-service to. Macri’s election, and his promise to promote democracy and human rights in the region represents the first important breach in the authoritarian wall. The whole left-right debate, which has its place of course, is neither here nor there in this context.

  32. Here’s Andres Oppenheimer on left/right: “—Yo no lo pondría en términos de derecha e izquierda. Porque es muy discutible si Cristina condujo un gobierno de izquierda. Lo que condujo fue un gobierno populista, caudillista, corrupto, pero no sé si de izquierda, porque la pobreza creció en el gobierno de Cristina Kirchner, según datos del Observatorio de la Deuda Social de la UCA, que dice que desde el 2007 hasta hoy aumentó un punto. Yo dudo mucho que este haya sido un gobierno de izquierda. Lo que se rompió es la dicotomía entre el pseudo-progresismo, el pseudo-izquierdismo, que era una forma disfrazada de caudillismo, de presidentes que en Venezuela, en Bolivia, en Ecuador, en Argentina se aprovecharon de un enorme boom de las materias primas para realizar políticas populistas, repartir rodeándose de una verborragia de izquierda, pero que en realidad, fue con un proyecto caudillista y autoritario para perpetuarse en el poder. Eso no es la izquierda, para mí la izquierda inteligente es la de Ricardo Lagos en Chile, la de la propia Michelle Bachelet, con sus ideas y venidas, la de Fernando Henrique Cardoso en Brasil. Para mí el eje es entre presidentes democráticos contra presidentes populistas que se arroparon con un lenguaje izquierdista para perpetuarse en el poder, inventando enemigos que en un 90 por ciento eran ficticios para justificar sus abusos de poder.”

  33. Is anyone else worried about the Macri effect? last time Obama tried to enforce sanctions against Venezuelan officers Maduro managed to spin things around and ended up going up in the polls thanks to the antiimperialista and foreign interference speech he knows by hearth. Could someone please tell Macri to shut up for a couple of weeks just until the election? I guess we can focus on the positive side which is they got ride of the Kirchners but celebrating the guy too much could end up backfiring if he keeps opening his mouth before our election.

    • Macri should press for the UNASUR “accompaniers” to carry out their task as honestly, rigorously and transparently as they can. He should leave talk of sanctions against Venezuela until the elections are over and take the Brazilian government and others up on the suggestion that a judgment then be made. Unfortunately, he is being advised by maximalists who are prone to overestimate their political strength.

      • Macri is a presence , a voice which wasnt there before and who can bring unasur and generally latam countries to have to face critically the disaster that is current Venezuela.

        Phil is right that he should be less shrill and follow the Brazilian suggestion , still the fact that if the fraud is too blatant the Regime can expect protests from a latam govt is important !!

        Chavez took advantage of the rooted anti americanism of so many in latam to play the melodramatic epic heroe fighting big mean uncle sam , however there is no anti argentine obsession in latam so Macri can become a more efffective voice of international opposition to the Venezuelan Regime .

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