Monday, November 27, 2006

Correa wins in Ecuador?

BBC reports that left-wing candidate Rafael Correa looks to have won Ecuador's Presidential run-off election, with exit polls showing he has an average 14 point lead over rival banana magnate Álvaro Noboa. If confirmed, this will mean that another South-American government has gone anti-Bush - and that the red tide has swept over every South American democracy south of Colombia (the BBC seems to have recoloured Peru blue; I'm not sure why as their new President is a social democrat).

The only country left in South America's year of elections is Venezuela, to be held next weekend. Hugo Chavez is widely expected to win another term, and the question is how his opponents (and the US) will react. They didn't accept democracy when he was re-elected in 2000; will they accept it this time?

(Actually, I completely missed Guyana, where the left-wing People's Progressive Party maintained its lead over the (also left-wing) People's National Congress. I'm not sure why BBC left this one off...)


I think the Beeb colored Peru blue because the president is a social democrat in the way that the Acion Democracia party opposed to Chavez is social democratic. The AC and Apra the Peruvian party were originally social democratic but became extremely corrupt in government. In other words they are the sort of SD's the corporate state likes, not the honest SD's (like Chavez) whom they hate.

Posted by Larry Gambone : 11/27/2006 04:42:00 PM

A "red tide" you say ... what appropriate imagery.

Posted by Duncan Bayne : 11/27/2006 05:20:00 PM

The issue for the "new" left (also known as indigenous socialism, but not like the traditional socialism of Carlos Mariategui in which the emphasis was on class--here it is on ethnicity) is not so much getting elected (which given the circumstances in most Latin American countries should spell easy victory for progressive or populist platforms), but on governing. Evo Morales has already been forced to retreat from his campaign promises of nationalisation of strategic economic assets and compehensive land reform. Daniel Ortega already brokered a deal with his main conservative rivals to maintain a "market-oriented" economic policy. Krichner in Argentina and Lula in Brazil have also moderated their progressive appeals in order to maintain political stability and elite support (Kirchner almost criminally so, since he now uses the old-fashioned--and utterly corrupt--Peronist patronage networks to counter the grassroots movements that emerged in the aftermath of the 2001 economic and political crisis). Thus, a so-called shift to the left actually poses some serious dilemmas for successful candidates when it comes to governing: do they try to implement their policies and risk political destabilisation when elites and foreign investors react adversely; or do they moderate and compromise on their campaign platforms in order to do an incremental gains approach to progressive policy-making.

Incidentally, the only place where the non-indigenous left has succeeded in pursing progressive policies when in government is in Uruguay, a place remarkably like NZ. The Bachelet government in Chile is like Labour in the UK or NZ--completely sold out to elite economic interests while whittling along the margins of the economic project in order to soften or humanise it. But the essence of that market-driven project remains unchallenged and untouched.

As for Chavez. You have to see his political rallies to believe them. A sea of red, Che posters everywhere, and serious anti-imperialist bluster. The problem is that his international largesse (giving free oil to poor american communities, preferential oil supply deals with Cuba etc.) has started to breed resentment at home amongst those who, having benefitted from his original distributive polciies, now feel entitled to (as opposed to working for) them. Since he cannot quite deliver in the same measure he used to (because of his overseas economic commitments), and because Venezuela's infrastructure is decrepit (check out the main highway to the Caracas airport, which has been closed for nearly a decade while the central and municipal governments argue about who pays for fixing monsterous potholes and landslide damage), the rumblings of mass discontent are starting to be felt. Should they pose a challenge, I bet that democratic forebearence on the part of his government will be replaced by something less tolerant.

The bottom line is this: having watched Chavez up close, I would say that he may well be popular, but he sure is not a democrat (at least in the way we would think of the term).

Posted by Anonymous : 11/28/2006 05:51:00 AM

I/S says the US "didn't accept democracy" in 2000, but I notice he's careful to omit that Chavez didn't accept democracy in Venezuela either, back in 1992 when he led an abortive coup. Perhaps disrespect for democracy is only an issue when it's done by right-wing groups?


Posted by Anonymous : 11/29/2006 10:07:00 AM

Larry: Sure - but OTOH they'd colour NZ red under the NeoLib Fourth Labour government, simply based on historical outlook.

It seems to have changed back now anyway - with everything south of Colombia in that gratifying shade of left...

Son of the Southern Cross: what worries me is his plan to amend the constitution to repeal the two-term limit if re-elected - meaning he can suddenly morph into a traditional South American "President for life". There's some commitment to elections (though possibly only because he can win them), but not to the wider idea of constitutional rule - or to the idea that democracy is about kicking governments out, not ratifying them.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/29/2006 11:15:00 AM

I/S: Agreed on the negative tone of the proposed constitutional reforms. The situation in Venezuela is going to go seriously south fairly soon, not only because of Chavez's increasingly authoritarian tendencies, but the visceral and counter-productive reaction of the US government. There is an old saying in LATAM that having the US as an enemy is the best possible political endorsement. One would think after the futility/idiocy of the Cuba embargo, the Yanks would understand that. Apparently not. It is clear that the US is (directly or indirectly) conspiring behind the scenes to get him ovethrown. The Cuban and Venezuelan exile communties in Florida have formed a tactical alliance, raised funds and coordinating armed training while US authorities turn a blind eye.

The question they and their US allies have not asked themselves is the following: even if they were to achieve a military victory over Chavez's forces and remove him from power permanently( doubtful), what then? With a support rate of 60% of the population, this would mean re-imposition of US-backed, pro-capitalist authoritarianism in Venezuela against the expressed will of the population.

Interestingly, all of the other major LATAM countries with leftist presidents--the ABC countries in particular--have started to put serious distance betwen themselves and Chavez (even as they accept his sweetheart energy deals). This reflects a growing unhappiness with his meddling in other countries' internal affairs. Thus, when the armed move come sgainst him (should it come), he will receive zero support--and that includes Cuba. As they say in the region: buena suerte companero, but you are on your own.

If Chavez goes violently be prepared for armed struggle in what used to be a pretty nice kleptocracy-uh, democracy.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/29/2006 11:35:00 AM