George Bush trashed Hugo Chavez in LatAm again

In recent days I was asked to comment on George Bush's trip to Latin America here in London. Generally speaking Britons have a very shallow understanding of the political dynamics of that region. Prey of years of incessant disinformation by the BBC and The Guardian the conventional wisdom goes pretty much in this direction: all of the region's problems are caused by the imperialistic designs of Washington. Needless to say of course that such stance marries very well with the rampant anti-Americanism in this area of Europe, however it has very little to do with reality. I remember once a debate with soon-to-be-replaced Venezuelan Ambassador to the UK at LSE; he was launching a book about globalisation that placed all of our problems on American shoulders. When the Q & A session came I asked him to quantify responsibilities of local politicos in the current state of mess. Alfredo Toro Hardy did not like my question -nor did he replied in meaningful manner to it- but the lefty professor moderating the event expressed that said questions needed to be addressed.

Sometime ago, November 2005 to be precise, a summit took place in Mar del Plata, Argentina. In it American nations' representatives gathered to discuss trade and other issues. Dictator Hugo, ever the clown, went to a stadium to whip the crowd of perfect Latino-imbeciles into a frenzy, and made a fool of himself -in the stellar company of cocaine addict Diego Maradona- by reiterating his hollow rhetoric vis-a-vis George Bush and how his visit had been a complete failure. Claiming to have triumphed in arresting the advance of 'imperialism' in Mar del Plata, Hugo returned home victorious. The euphoria didn't last long though for 29 out of 34 countries did commit to further trade talks with the 'evil' USA.

More recently George Bush visited some countries in the region. Simultaneously Thugo went out of his way to reveal his best showmanship in performances carried out in front of paid audiences in countries that Bush was not visiting. Reality caught up with Hugo even quicker this time round, he hadn't even arrived back in Venezuela and the international media -having seen the spectacle in Argentina where Hugo called Bush a son of a bitch- was already ignoring his hate-fest. The ethanol pact between Bush and Lula stole Hugo's thunder, and the promise to open the US market to other ethanol producers in the region to decrease dependence on foreign oil -read Venezuelan- all but pushed Hugo to irrelevancy territory, despite the billions he has wasted 'winning' hearts and minds.

For a long time I have argued that Latinos are a capitalistic bunch. Although the region's business environment is one of the world's toughest, most people rather run their own little ventures than being employed or lead undignified lives as handout recipients. Bush trip came to confirm my argument, for even Lula, allegedly one of Chavez's staunchest allies in the region, preferred Bush's ethanol offer over Chavez's contracts. It goes to show that pragmatism and national interests are above revolutionary humbug for all but the Venezuelan pariah. Argentine's officials no show in Chavez's gig is also a good indication that pretty much all of the region's leaders avoid antagonizing with Bush unnecessarily, and will not jeopardize for one second the chance to enter into trade agreements with the leader of the world's largest economy.

Tough lessons for the soldier of Sabaneta, who still thinks that PDVSA handouts are a match to access to the biggest market. Latinos are not undignified parasites but entrepreneurial people. Bush's social justice talk rang no bells amongst Latinos for it isn't social justice what drives them but the chance to develop and grow. That's the only way to get out of poverty and we all know it.

Chavez has spent time and much money in Latin America, however in only two trips Bush was able to crush the Bolivarian agenda. Just imagine what could have happened had George kept his promise about engaging and giving priority to Latin America...

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