Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Real Reason For Rebuking Chavez

More details have emerged about the rebuke Chavez received from Spanish King Juan Carlos at the Ibero-American Summit in Santiago, Chile: it’s about the lackluster economies of Latin American countries. According to Spain, which invests heavily in Latin America, the region needs more foreign investment. This set Chavez off:
But behind the royal reprimand, much of the international media missed what may have set Chávez off in the first place. Chávez became visibly irritated at the summit when Spain's current Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero — a socialist and Chávez ally — insisted that Latin America needs to attract more foreign capital if it's going to make a dent in its chronic, deepening poverty. Chávez blames "savage capitalism" for Latin America's gaping inequality and insists "only socialism" can fix it — hence his tirade against Aznar and other free-market "fascists." At that point Zapatero chided Chávez, reminding him that Aznar himself "was democratically elected by the Spanish people." Chávez kept trying to interrupt — summit organizers even turned off his microphone — at which point the King said what was on most summiteers' minds, if the general applause he got was any indication.
Chavez can afford to indulge in his socialist fantasies. After all, he has oil, and plenty of it.
And it pointed up a fact about Chávez's revolution that chavistas are too reluctant to acknowledge. Venezuela, with its vast oil wealth, can afford to indulge socialism and eschew foreign investment; but most other Latin American nations can't. Their economic growth still depends on the kind of capital that global competitors like China and India are raking in, but which Latin America seems unable or unwilling to garner. The chavistas rightly argue that the distribution of capitalism's fruits has been grossly unequal in Latin America — which is a large reason why leftists like Chávez have been swept into power in recent years. But the region needs that investment nonetheless — and even leftists like Zapatero sound impatient with the region's mediocre performance.
This is Chavez’s megalomania on display. His goal is not to spread socialism, but his brand of socialism, financed by him and led by him. He has branded himself as a toxic mix of Che, Simon Bolivar and Fidel Castro, all in one neat package. No wonder other Latin American leaders, including many fellow leftists, are weary of him and his burning ambition to be numero uno in Latin America. Countries like Brazil are increasing their defense budgets to counter Venezuela’s growing appetite for arms, fearing Chavez might spread his revolution by force, if not coercion.

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