'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Kirchner, Lula, Chavez ... and Vázquez? 

Uruguay is poised to elect its first leftist president in history. From Knight Ridder:

Leftist presidential front-runner Tabaré Vázquez closed his campaign this week, promising to place relations with South American neighbors ahead of those with the United States in an election that would likely cost the U.S. an ally in South America.
Public opinion polls suggest Vázquez, a radiologist specializing in cancer treatment, will win 52 percent to 55 percent of the likely vote tally Sunday. His Frente Amplio, or Broad Front, is a coalition of leftist forces that include moderates, radicals and even ex-guerrilla leaders.

During the past six years, leftist or populist governments challenging U.S. policy in South America have come to power in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. Uruguay is likely to join the list of countries frustrating President Bush's hope for a hemisphere-wide free-trade deal by 2005.

The United States has long counted on conservative Uruguayan governments to vote with it in the United Nations against Cuba's human-rights record. Uruguay sponsored resolutions in 2002 and 2003 condemning the lack of liberties in Cuba. Working closely with Washington, Uruguay, a country of 3.4 million, last year provided more than 1,700 peacekeepers to 11 U.N. missions.

Asked Wednesday about relations with the United States, Vázquez answered the question by not answering it. During a lunch with business leaders, he said his top foreign-policy priority is political and economic integration with its neighbors. They are Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, with whom Uruguay in 1991 formed the Southern Cone Common Market, or Mercosur. It took effect in 1994.

History will show that the most postive change in the global scene resulting directly from the Bush adminstration's foreign policy is the extent to which its blatant imperialism has served as a wake-up call to the nations of the world -- especially the countries of the developing world -- and pushed them leftward. Here's the BBC on the Uruguayan election and Bush's effect on Latin America:

"The problem with Bush is not really his commercial policies," explains political analyst, Adolfo Garce. "The problem with Bush is that for Latin America he embodies a 'big stick' policy. So rejection of Bush is rejection of a US foreign policy seen as imperialistic," he says. "And in Latin America, anti-imperialistic feeling has been very strong, throughout the 20th century. And so, during the past few years, in Latin America, they've begun talking about anti-imperialism again."

Standing beside his white pick-up truck as the campaign caravan sped past, Senator Michelini agrees.

"The relationship between the US and Latin America is just one-way," he complains. "They don't listen to what we say. They throw surprises upon us. And they don't understand that South America is shifting to the left, and that it's moving towards creating a South American community. The US doesn't understand this. The EU understands it better."

You know, back in August in the glow of Chavez's triumph over the opposition I remember reading the following comment by Narcosphere's Al Giordano

The repercussions [of Chavez's victory] will travel far and wide, even to the United States presidential elections this coming November.The opposition members can and should take pride in the service they provided to their country and to the world around it: they made possible a referendum that sweeps Venezuela - and, soon, all of América - into a new day for the dream made reality of democracy that is also participatory and authentic.

and thinking to myself that it was a nice sentiment but that I didn't really believe it. If Vázquez wins I may start believing. Something is going on in Latin America, something very good. We may be witnessing the beginning of the total rejection of the neoliberal agenda in the South.

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