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April 01, 2006

Not an April Fool's Story: The Accidental Revolutionary

George Bush and his policies have inspired a left-ward surge that is uniting Latin America.   James Wolcott points us to an article by Nick Miroff on Tomdispatch.

Has Latin America ever had such a unifying figure?

At political rallies, his visage is held aloft as a beacon to regional independence and self-determination. He's helped forge new trade partnerships to spur economic growth and alleviate poverty. And his leadership has fanned a gale-force electoral trend that's sweeping the hemisphere to topple one pro-Washington government after the next.

Who is this grand inductor of Latin American leftism? Venezuelan fireball Hugo Chavez? Blue-collar Brazilian Lula Ignacio da Silva? Bolivia's coca-farmer-cum-president, Evo Morales?

¡Epa! It's George W. Bush, the accidental revolutionary.

In the past five years, the swaggering Texan has inspired a leftward surge that is uniting Latin America and threatening to knock Che Guevara right off all those natty t-shirts.

He then talks about the attempts of these Latin American countries to try democracy and market-oriented economic policies - with little positive impact. 

"The macroeconomic proposals of the Washington consensus have not been working," says Guillermo Delgado, professor of Latin American Studies at UC Santa Cruz. "That model was supposed to create prosperity and, after so many years, such prosperity has not been seen and class polarization has grown deeper."

Sensing an opportunity, new social and political movements in the region began marshalling their forces. Then George W. Bush came along, combining Yankee hubris with a Che-worthy radicalizing touch.

And with the election of George Bush and the Republican trifecta?

Bush has since presided over one of the most significant political re-alignments in the history of the Western Hemisphere. By this summer, every major Latin American nation but Colombia is likely to be run by elected leaders with stronger backgrounds in Marx than free markets. If Cold War-era "domino theory" has been a bust in the Middle East, it's working with textbook precision in Latin America.


In a recent Zogby poll, fewer than 20% of Latin American elites (typically the most politically conservative voters in the region) gave Bush a favorable approval rating. Only 6% said Bush's policies were better than those of his predecessors.

Some analysts have attributed Latin America's political shift to U.S. foreign policy negligence, arguing that, because the Bush administration is so consumed with Iraq, American officials are now incapable of wielding effective diplomatic influence in the region.


But Latin America's leftward shift stems from more than White House distraction. It's not that the United States is acting aloof with its neighbors; rather, we're the worst-behaved homeowner on the block. We fly the biggest flag, make the loudest demands, and on top of it all, we don't even like having guests over. Sure, the United States has treated Latin America as its "backyard" for two hundred years -- but now, Bush's own party wants to fence it off.

House Republicans recently approved a plan to erect a 2,000-mile, Israeli-style barrier that would wall off Mexico and the rest of Latin America. The plan isn't expected to survive a Senate vote, but it sums up the current state of north-south relations quite well.

Posted by Lynn Allen on April 1, 2006 at 10:01 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink


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I guess they expect Colombia to stay with the right-wing Uribe in May. The conventional wisdom is that he'll be re-elected, but with the recent saber-rattling over FARC and an unpopular free trade agreement signed in February, it's possible that Bush could sink his last ally. It would be a spectacular achievement in foreign policy ineptness.

Posted by: thehim | Apr 1, 2006 11:57:08 PM

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