Home > Americas, Economics, Latin America, Politics, USA > How the US Lost Latin America to Hugo Chavez

How the US Lost Latin America to Hugo Chavez

Lawrence Davidson writes in Logos Journal:

In recent times there has been a general shift to the left in Latin American politics. The traditional center-right parties that had controlled politics in most of the South and Central America were not really democratic ones. They were patronage parties deeply rooted in a culture of corruption and often in league with military despots. Often, the elections that were held turned out to be rigged, and the poor bribed for their votes or shut out from the polls. While in power, these parties relegated most wealth to a relatively small elite and left the poor to live out their lives in shanty towns and rural degradation. When, finally, popular pressures resulted in relatively honest elections, as they have in many countries over the last twenty years, the result was a political expression of popular revulsion that swept many traditional parties into political oblivion. In exchange, ever more of the population in South America have followed the dictates of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and voted in favor of those who offered programs to meet their primary requirements for food, clothing, shelter and security.

For the United States there is much irony in this trend. Despite the fact that the administration of George W. Bush claims to be the world’s champion of democracy, the practice of honest elections has meant that a many Latin Americans have turned their backs on the U.S. Why is this so? As it turns out, Washington has never been interested in democracy unless it provided the “freedom” of the “open market.” As we will see, American politicians have persistently confused these two often conflicting ideas– popular democracy and economic laissez faire. However, there has been no confusion on the part of a majority of Latin America’s poor. Their experience tells them that they need protection against the ravages of “open market” capitalism. Given the chance, they have used democracy to elect governments that will give them just that.

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