28 January 2006

Is the Right emerging in the Americas?

London 28.01.06 | Recently Canadians booted out the liberal, and corrupt, government of Paul Martin and elected Conservative Stephen Harper. After bearing witness of a marked decrease of Canada's international preponderance and 12 years of rather dull internal politics, the electorate chose a new option. Bush-bashing has proved to have limited mileage amongst intelligent people, especially if not accompanied with sound policies. For some, like myself, is reason to joy. However this victory does not mean that Harper will have an easy ride. Parti Quebecois managed a record 54 seats in the House, and their attempts to have yet another referendum to decide on Quebec's sovereignty can be counted on, in spite of the unexpected turnout of federalists in that province. It remains to be seen whether they will succeed on getting the much needed 50%. Nonetheless if Harper plays his cards right, i.e. a meaningful compromise with Jean Charest, it could well be the end, for now, of the separatists Quebecois' dream.

Down South, parties aligned with the Chavez pseudo revolution in the Netherlands Antilles, have suffered a tremendous defeat in yesterday's elections. The FOL (Workers’ Liberation Front) went from 5 seats to 2 and the PLKP (Labour Party People’s Crusade) from 3 seats to none. It is to be noted that Errol Cova, leader of the PLKP made overtures in the past to re-enact chavista mischief in the Antilles, which got him into trouble. Emily Jongh-Elhage's rather conservative PAR (Party for the Reconstructed Antilles) of Curaçao won majority.

In Peru, Conservative Lourdes Flores has a sound 10 point lead over Chavez's man, Ollanta Humala, of the racist Etnocacerista movement, whose brother Antauro is doing time for leading an uprise. Elections are scheduled for April 9.

Undoubtedly hope and patience of Venezuelans are running at an all time low, after 7 years of rampant corruption, unabated crime, abuse of power and human rights violations by chavismo. If transparent elections were to be had today, probably the Venezuelan electorate would castigate Hugo Chavez the same way Canadians did to the Liberal party. The tragedy, for our country, is that it hasn't a credible right-of-center political platform. Brazilians will not favour Lula but Colombians seem sure to re-elect Uribe. Bolivians will soon learn the meaning of having an apátrida at the helm. In sum, sooner or later, the backlash will come.

The US on the other hand appears firmly set in the hands of the Republican party. It seems unlikely that Hillary Clinton, or the Democrats, are going to make it, although Soros' power, as the separatism of the Party Quebecois further North, is a force that needs to be reckoned with. For as the saying goes "money talks..."

However if the intentions of the US administration to recoup the lost leverage in Latin America are sincere, it should be throwing its weight behind those with whom they share ideological and political stances. This does not mean in any manner to doctor or fabricate candidates, but rather to support what's already in the ground, whilst revising carefully policies vis-a-vis the OAS and their own 'pro-democracy' outlets, read USAID, NED, etc.

The time is due for Latin Americans to get a true sense of what capitalism means, in their own countries. Immigration data shows that it is indeed the USA, and its capitalist system, the prefered destination when the time to emigrate, either legal or illegally, comes. As good old Hernando De Soto argues "no one moves to Cuba" or to Venezuela, I may add, lest of course terrorists, drug cartels and the world's pariahs.

Neoliberalism as culprit of Latin America's failure

London 28.01.06 | In doing research for a paper I have to present in a conference later on this year, I have come across, too often, with the notion that neoliberalism is the main culprit for the democratic deficit and economic failure in much of Latin America. Such premise denotes, firstly, a profound ignorance of what neoliberalism is meant to be; secondly, it proves Goebbels' principle that a lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth; and thirdly, demonstrates that placing blame on other factors, instead of admitting own responsibilities, continues to characterize the class of "the perfect Latin American idiots."

I set out in my little quest for information. After a bit of internet browsing my first stop was Foyles, in Charing Cross Road. I was amazed by the dominant presence of leftist 'thinkers' in the shelves, that form the legion of detractors of the discipline. And just to gain a glimpse into their thinking, as if I didn't know already what to expect from that lot, I purchased "A Brief History of Neoliberalism" by David Harvey, which includes 'reviews' from elements such as Leo Panitch. Readers may imagine the content of Harvey's 'history.'

Definition of Neoliberalism

It is rather hard to pin down a single definition of the term. Supporters describe it, generally, as a method by which goods, capital, services and individuals should be able to move freely across the board, whilst intervention and the role of the state ought to be diminished to a bare minimum and state-owned enterprises should be privatised. The respect for private property is at the core of the doctrine. Market forces are, in this view, the best mechanism to allocate resources. Critics, on the other hand, see it as the result of nefarious economic policies put in place by elites or upper clases to maintain and expand their parcels, in detriment of the welfare state, the people, society and labour actors, read unions.

There seems to be agreement upon the correlation between neoliberalism and the "Washington Consensus." This term in turn was coined by John Williamson around 1990 and it's resumed in ten points:

* Fiscal discipline
* A redirection of public expenditure priorities toward fields offering both high economic returns and the potential to improve income distribution, such as primary health care, primary education, and infrastructure
* Tax reform (to lower marginal rates and broaden the tax base)
* Interest rate liberalization
* A competitive exchange rate
* Trade liberalization
* Liberalization of inflows of foreign direct investment
* Privatization
* Deregulation (to abolish barriers to entry and exit)
* Secure property rights

Latin America's utter failure

Probably with the exception of Chile, that under Pinochet implemented, for real, policies associated to the neoliberal doctrine -the results are there for everyone caring to pay attention and for all Chileans to enjoy, almost all Latin American countries have failed to comply with the much maligned "Washington Consensus" or neoliberalism. First world leftists and irresponsible LatAm politicians continue to put the blame of their utter failure on neoliberalism, without even realising how weak their argument truly is. It is like a doctor prescribing ten different pills to a cancer patient, but the latter, out of his own volition, deciding to take only three or four of them; not everyday as instructed, but with the six-pack of beers that his compadre manages to bring surreptitiously twice a week. How can then the relatives even claim that the doctor is responsible for the death, when in fact, the dying patient never bothered to follow the set of instructions and medicine given? Very simple, for neither the dead patient, nor his compadre, informed them that the doctor's advice had never been properly followed.

Ergo have property rights been secured in LatAm? Which Latin American country can boast about its fiscal discipline? LOL!! How about redirecting expenditure to infrastructure, health care and education? Tax reform anyone? Deregulation? Sigh...

What none of the books on the topic will ever include is an analysis of the consequences of corruption, nepotism and the sheer irresponsibility of those in positions of power to bring about necessary change. Nor will they conclude that wealth creation must be the foremost premise of any country willing to abandon subdevelopment and pauper status.

The medicine exists; it's called neoliberalism, or the "Washington Consensus," or in fact, any system that promotes individual freedoms, upholds the supremacy of the principle of private property over collectivism and bases itself upon democratic premises. Further the patients that have taken it have indeed survived, their health has improved dramatically. Regardless of the amount of literature to the contrary, the fact of the matter is that, given the choice, most individuals will rather live in a system where they can fully enjoy the product of their work, without arbitrary state restrictions. The intellectual dishonesty that underpins leftist critique and thought shines through with respect to neoliberalism.

21 January 2006

On Marcela Sanchez's "The Petty Politics of Venezuela's Arms Purchases"

London 21.01.06 | It continues to amaze me the sheer disregard that purportedly respected journalists have for facts. Even more worrying is their continuous repetition of old cliches, politically charged articles, in which they pretend to know more about topics where their ignorance is the most salient of characteristics. Such is the case of Marcela Sanchez of the Washington Post. In her latest "The Petty Politics of Venezuela's Arms Purchases" she lashes out, as usual, the hypocritical stance of the US administration. Considering that Sanchez is of Hispanic background, she seems to be appallingly misinformed about Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. Furthermore her knowledge of international law and regulations stands in the way of proper reporting.

The USA has every right to forbid business partners to pass technology to third parties, especially considering the bellicose nature of the such third parties. Spain is in clear and explicit violation to European legislation with the arms sale to Venezuela, yet Sanchez fails to mention that detail in her piece. She goes on to state that the contract between Venezuela and Spain represent jobs for about a thousand workers in Spain's shipyards, which, in any case are bankrupt and near dysfunctional. Sanchez also quotes from Brazilian Minister Celso Amorim, which prompts a question: what do you think Ms. Sanchez, that Amorim will go on the public record saying how reprehensible can be to sell loads of weapons to Chavez and jeopardize a contract worth millions?

A pearl comes about at the beginning of the piece: "Spain and Brazil insist that the equipment they want to sell Venezuela would not destabilize the region." Oh no, comrade Chavez has promised Zapatero and Lula not to use the weapons with his neighbours, these are only to keep Venezuelan opposition and citizenry at bay.

But the icing on the cake is this remark "Last September, Chavez signed a new law, the Ley Organica de la Fuerza Armada Nacional, which makes preservation of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela the military's mission." This is a half true, in the best of cases, not to say plain inaccurate. The LOFAN established as the primary and foremost mission of Venezuela's Armed Forces the protection of the wellbeing and integrity of Hugo Chavez and that of his family, even before the stated mission of preserving the sovereignty. In fact the LOFAN is but a copy of Cuba's FAR, but of course Sanchez omitted such important information. But then, the following just throws any intelligent person into disbelief "These militias are clearly not the kind of forces that could lead a military attack against a neighboring nation." Says who, Marcela Sanchez?

Sanchez closes the article thusly:

"...what's really at stake here is the triumph of one country's political goals over the financial calculations of its allies."

So please do tell Ms. Sanchez: is it in your view unquestionably correct to sell all sorts of war weapons to an individual that once upon a time used his country's tanks and army to lead a coup d'etat to kill his president and countrymen?