Monday, August 18, 2008

The Imminent Decline of Chavez and Company

Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald noted recently that Chavez's radical populist friends in Latin America are not doing as well as they say they are:
In Venezuela, Chávez's popularity has plunged, as growing numbers of Venezuelans are suffering from a 30 percent inflation rate, massive corruption and nepotism (about two dozen Chávez relatives hold senior government jobs). They also resent a president who gives away petro-dollars from the country's recent oil bonanza in ego-boosting trips abroad.

In Bolivia and to a lesser extent in Ecuador, opposition forces are displaying growing resistance to these countries leaders' efforts to become presidents for life.

In Argentina, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's populist government lost its aura of invincibility when Congress -- led by her own vice president -- overturned a key government bill to further tax soybean exports. Political winds in Argentina are beginning to blow away from pro-Chávez populism and move toward the center.

And here is his bottom line, which really shows who is shrinking poverty in Latin America (hint, it's not Chavez):
In sheer numbers, Latin America's pragmatic-democratic bloc -- led by Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile -- already accounts for more than 80 percent of the region's economy, and more than 90 percent of its foreign investments.

This falls right in line with Thomas Barnett's observation that, when it comes to shrinking the Gap, foreign direct investment (FDI) is what it's all about. But to get the FDI flowing into your country, you need a) security and b) an investment-friendly environment.

Chavez and his imitators are doing all they can to provide the reverse of the second requirement, and as seen with Chavez's support for FARC in Colombia he is doing his best to ruin the security aspect too. In the end, Chavez is only perpetuating the misery in his country and that of his allies, while the rest of Latin America moves on.

Postscript: All the above is worth considering in light of our Presidential candidates' differing trade proposals for Latin America, to which I'll return shortly.

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