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06/03/2006 | Bolivian Neopopulism Spreading

Carlos Alberto Montaner

Former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar has announced that he will devote much of his time and energy to fighting against Latin American neopopulism, the elegant name given in the region to the Banana Left.

 

What is neopopulism? It is an ideological trend and a form of governance that amalgamates all the errors and political vices blithely and uselessly practiced by Latin Americans throughout the 20th century: strong-man rule, patronage, statism, collectivism and anti-Americanism, to which is added -- in some countries with a strong indigenous presence -- the native component of resentment.

Naturally, not all the governments of that type display the same neopopulist virulence. The chronic cases are Cuba and Venezuela, but joining that quarrelsome and bigmouthed tandem is Bolivia, led by the hand by Evo Morales.

What direction will Bolivia take? It's not difficult to guess. All you have to do is read Alvaro García Linera. He is a former university professor and one-time guerrilla who fought against democratic governments (a practice that landed him in jail) -- and now the vice president of Bolivia. As such, he has the delicate task of defining the broad outline of the new government and administering the legendary intellectual incapacity of Morales, an intuitive but barely educated politician.

In his own words, published a few weeks ago in Le Monde Diplomatique, the European journal of neopopulism, the country is going to develop ``Andean-Amazonian capitalism.''

What does this new neopopulist contrivance consist of? According to García Linera, of ``constructing a strong state that will regulate the expansion of the industrial economy, extract its surpluses and transfer them to the communitarian sector, so as to foster forms of self-organization and mercantile development that are properly Andean and Amazonian.''

So, Morales and García Linera will not try to modernize Bolivia within the tested-and-true model of development that plucked out of backwardness and poverty countries as different as South Korea, Chile, Ireland and Singapore. Instead, they're going to discover a new road to prosperity that looks nothing like the schemes practiced in the planet for the past several centuries.

Halt this madness

Will that new economic model lead to communism? It might, but only if things go in the right direction: ``The potential that allows for the possibility of a communitarian-socialist regime must first reactivate and enrich the small communitarian networks that still survive. This would allow us, in 20 or 30 years, to start thinking about a socialist Utopia.''

In other words, several decades from now, when Morales and García Linera are as old as Fidel Castro and are tired of playing at Andean-Amazonian capitalism, whatever survivors remain will begin to experiment with the bloody Marxist-Leninist monstrosity that took the lives of 100 million earthlings in only 70 years of tryouts in various latitudes and cultures and in all possible circumstances.

Aznar does well to try to halt this madness but the task is difficult. Millions of disoriented Latin Americans usually judge populist governments by their seductive revolutionary rhetoric, not by the fatal results they achieve.

The diverse variants of Peronism have gradually pulled Argentina into a pit, yet that small detail has never been reflected in the election results. Hugo Chávez is the worst leader in Venezuela's history, yet one third of the voters remain faithful to his constant clowning. In Peru, neopopulist Ollanta Humala has a sinister record as a violator of human rights, yet he's climbing dangerously in the polls.

That is the terrible thing about neopopulism. Same as with cancer, the cells don't stop growing until the patient dies. That's where we are.

 

Hacer - Washington DC (Estados Unidos)

 


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