Carrots and Sticks

I would like to understand certain radical leaders of our America.  I share many of the social political views of the left and I have my doubts about a liberal economy.  Above all, when it is poorly applied by the leaders of the continent.

For almost two centuries there have been enough Latin American presidents who mostly ran their countries like they were their own country estates. Many see the government as a way to write their own ticket and loot the public treasury.

It’s the same from the left and the right.  Look at Carlos Menem or Hugo Chávez.  Without considering their inveterate habit of becoming plotters and dictators. We blame our ills on the United States. It is the easiest. True, the colossus of the north, which emerged as a nation around 1775-76, more than a few times has referred to the region as its natural backyard.

We don’t have U.S. type leaders for the simple reason that Latin American governments tend to nepotism and warlordism. The Yankees, with their gift for business, realized they could impose their views on the continent throughout the centuries with a couple of dollars and a few threats.

In the deal between two people or countries one invariably tries to set itself above the other. It is the animal tendency of the human being. This has happened because the brilliant military leaders such as Bolívar, Sucre, Paez, and San Martín who brought about independence were not succeeded by statesmen of their stature.

In the United States, no.  The leaders of their revolution were equal to or less than their counterparts on the continent. It is at the time of governance that the country of the stars and bars surpasses the countries of the region.  In Latin America there has not been a Washington, Lincoln or a Roosevelt.  The majority of our statesman are more worried about leaving rich from their time in office, and in creating an opaque framework, than in governing well.

Sad to say, but that’s the case.  Now in the 21st century, we look with favorable eyes on presidents like the Chilean Michelle Bachelet, or the Brazilian Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, two who are philosophically socialist but realistic about the world around them.

And in 2009 a guy like Barack Obama came to the United States, a black man who exceeds the leaders of the continent in clear ideas, empathy, and good sense.  I watch with concern as radical statesmen like Evo Morales or Hugo Chávez who, at the first sign of change, add to the hackneyed speeches accusing him of “Yankee Imperialism.”

If they were to govern democratically, respecting differences without polarizing the logical contradictions of opinion that usually exist in any nation and do not always look askance at what the U.S. president does and says, this would be the first big step forward for the region.

In the Summit of UNASUR (Union of South American Nations), held in late August in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, leftist radicals engaged in a bitter debate over the establishment seven U.S. military bases in Colombia.

They may be right. I do not think it’s time for military bases. But I’ve never heard of Morales, Correa and company criticizing the joint military exercises conducted this year by Venezuela and Russia. Nor did they criticize Chavez’s huge purchases of Russian weapons, nor do they criticize their complicity with autocratic governments like Iran.

I believe in social ideas. I consider myself a kind of leftist. I’m tired of seeing populist rulers, made hoarse by protesting U.S. policies and yet being silent when it applies to measures affecting the people or the sovereignty of other nations under a leftist president or a dictator like Fidel Castro.

I’ve never heard Chavez or Morales demand that the Castro brothers allow other political parties, free press or elections. Nor do they recall that in the Fall of 1962, Cuba had nuclear missiles and Russian military bases.

It’s true. It is pragmatic and convenient to portray the USA as allied with the worst guys on our continent. But the blame for most Latino leaders has been scant, we can not always say everything is the fault of the gringos. Yes, it is also true: at times they use the carrot and stick approach.

But we must recognize that during its more than two centuries of existence, the U.S. government has enabled its people to live better. Latin American radicals make splendid speeches, talking about bright futures and social theories. But in practice it has not worked. If you doubt this, look to Cuba.

Iván García

Translated by Karen