Leftist Popularism in Latin America

You can't eat rhetoric

By Alberto Marrero Salas
Published on LatinoLA: September 30, 2007

Leftist Popularism in Latin America

Let's start by eliminating Cuba. Forbes named Fidel Castro as one of the richest heads of state in the world. Just below the Prince of Monaco with a billion and just above a Saudi sheik. To paraphrase Shakespeare "socialism surely is made of sterner stuff".

In his old age he has become a welfare junkie receiving a monthly check, food stamps and section 8 housing from his buddy Hugo Chavez.

Daniel Ortega due to the maschinations of Nicarguan politics was elected with less than 40% of the vote. That means that 60% of the population voted against him.

In Guatemala the vaunted winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, darling of the left Rigoberta Menchu won a whopping 3% of the vote in last month's Presidential election.

In Mexico, accused of having elected a hard right candidate in Felipe Calderon, the old socialist policies of Lazaro Cardenas are still in practice. Recently President Calderon spoke of the critical situation that the Mexican oil industry finds itself in.

Mexican oil production topped out at 3.4 million barrels a day in 2004. Oil accounts for 40% of the governments revenue.The largest oil field in Mexico (Cantarell) produces 1.5 million barrels a day. That is 500,000 barrels less a day that it produced just 18 months ago. The well is going dry.

Now there are huge amounts of oil reserves offshore. No problem right? NO, WRONG. Felipe Calderon, in keeping true to the failed policies of nationalism and socialism of the past, has stated that no private or foreign investments will be allowed in PEMEX the State owned oil and gas company. Mexico does not possess offshore drilling capability and in order to get on line it would take billions of dollars of investment and at least ten years of developement.

Right across the border here in the United States you have the biggest and the best offshore drilling companies in the world. Global Santa Fe, Rowan Company, Parker Drilling, Grey Wolf, Transocean just to name a few.

The solution would seem to be simple. Contract with these companies, cut a deal share the oil revenue, but nooooooo. That would mean that the Imperialist Yanqui Gringos would own Mexican oil and we can't have that. What can we have? A state run Company (PEMEX) that employs the boss, the family of the wife of the boss, the querida, the family of the querida, etc., etc., etc. Socialist corruption at its best.

In Bolivia, Evo Morales has nationalized the oil and gas industries creating his own brand of Pemex Boliviriano. The eastern part of the country is ready to secede. Should that happen, western Bolivia would become a permanent basket case.

Tin miners from cooperatives who are paid for what they produce rioted against state imposed taxes trying to lower their wages to match state employed miners who are paid whether they produce or not. Morales had to back down and instead raised wages for the socialized non-productive miners. Sixteen miners were killed in the rioting and San Luis Potosi became a war zone.

Evo, another Chavez welfare recipient was a national embarrassment when interviewed by Jorge Ramos of Univision. When asked if Fidel Castro was a dictator he refused to answer. When asked why he would refuse the people of Cuba the right to elect a leader as the Bolivian people had he abruptly ended the interview. His statement "la coca es sagrada" became a joke among Latinos everywhere.

Hugo Chavez. There is no question that Chavez loves the poor. Since he took office in 1999 the number of poor keep growing and growing. How is this possible? When he came to power oil was trading at around $12 a barrel. Today it is over $80 a barrel.

The infrastructure of the country is pitiful. Ch?ívez is driving his country into the ground. A tragicomic symbol of this was the collapse of the highway from Caracas to the Maiquet?¡a airport a few months ago because of lack of maintenance.

In comparison to Mexico, the Mexican economy grew by over 17% in the last 7 years. Venezuela zero growth. From 1997 to 2004 Mexican GDP rose by 9.5%. Venezuela declined by 45%. In 1998 to 2006 the Mexican peso declined by 16%. The Venezuelan Bolivar declined by 292%. Number of Mexican families in extreme poverty from 1998 to 2004 decrease by 49% Venezuela increased by 4.5%.

In 2006 Mexican inflation rate was 3.3%. Venezuelan inflation rate for the same period was 16%.

And yet with all of the poverty at home, Hugo Chavez keeps giving away billions in energy subsidies and outright cash assistance to Cuba and Bolivia. Chavez buys hundreds of millions of Argentine debt at above market value. All of this done in a egocentric crusade to become the leader of the "Bolivarian Revolution".

All of this is done while back home he closes television stations that don't agree with him. He threatens to close down private schools that don't walk the party line. He even threatens to deport any foreigner who criticizes his government. Apparently he has learned from his lap dog Fidel.

If there is a lesson to be learned is that popularism, especially of the leftist variety, cannot keep a stomach fed or an economy strong.

About Alberto Marrero Salas:
Cuban American (not green eyed or blond, kind of Moorish). Partner Nacara 2000 practicing immigration law. e-mail:

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