South American dominoes
December 18, 2005 9:25 PM   Subscribe

[NewsFilter] A leftist candidate from one of Bolivia's Indian peoples who wants to legalise coca-growing has claimed victory in the presidential election. Mr Morales, an admirer of Fidel Castro, said on Sunday that he wanted ties with the US but "not a relationship of submission". He also promises to make foreign oil and gas investors pay what he says is a fairer share to Bolivians.
posted by wilful (120 comments total)

 
More from opendemocracy.org.
posted by j-urb at 9:28 PM on December 18, 2005


From the link: "Bolivia's indigenous people, who make up more than half the population, generally support the man who pledges to legalise the production of the coca leaf, a food staple, although not the cocaine manufactured from it.

Washington has said it expects any future Bolivian government to honour previous commitments to fight the production of illegal drugs."

So with Lulu in Brazil, Chavez in Venezuela, the socialist candidate leading in Chile, and now Bolivia, there surely appears to be some groundswell in favour of socialist government in South America. What does this mean? I dunno.
posted by wilful at 9:29 PM on December 18, 2005


From j-urb's above link: In a widely-quoted speech in Mexico in October 2003, Evo Morales declared: “The worst enemy of humanity is capitalism. That is what provokes uprisings like our own, a rebellion against a system, against a neo-liberal model, which is the representation of a savage capitalism”. Elsewhere he attacks the United States: “If we want to defend humanity we must change the system, and this means overthrowing US imperialism.”
posted by wilful at 9:30 PM on December 18, 2005


In a gesture of solidarity, Sr Morales has offered the impoverished yuppies of Wall Street a steep discount on Bolivian marching powder, to take the edge off high winter coke bills.
posted by dhartung at 9:30 PM on December 18, 2005


He seems like a nice enough guy. He's not into genocide or anything, right?
posted by Balisong at 9:32 PM on December 18, 2005


"The worst enemy of humanity is capitalism. That is what provokes uprisings like our own, a rebellion against a system, against a neoliberal model, which is the representation of a savage capitalism. If the entire world doesn't acknowledge this reality, that the national states are not providing even minimally for health, education and nourishment, then each day the most fundamental human rights are being violated."

Morales or Lenin, you decide.
posted by loquax at 9:33 PM on December 18, 2005


Oh shit, a new War on Drugs.
posted by orthogonality at 9:33 PM on December 18, 2005


Bolivia's indigenous people, who make up more than half the population, generally support the man who pledges to legalise the production of the coca leaf, a food staple, although not the cocaine manufactured from it.

You can eat coca leaf? That doesn't sound very healthy. Can someone please explain this to me?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:34 PM on December 18, 2005


They chew on it, it numbs the mouth and gives a slight buzz (not as powerful as full-blown coke).
posted by Mijo Bijo at 9:36 PM on December 18, 2005


Afroblanco : "You can eat coca leaf? That doesn't sound very healthy."

Actually, it's good for respiratory stimulation (& a source of nutrients) at high altitudes, like the Andes.
posted by Gyan at 9:36 PM on December 18, 2005


Speaking only from all the docos I've watched, coca leaf is eaten to stave of hunger pangs and allow you to work harder, not for actual nutrition. And it is mildly dependence forming.
posted by wilful at 9:37 PM on December 18, 2005


They chew on it, it numbs the mouth and gives a slight buzz

Wouldn't that make it a "recreational drug," and not a "food staple?"

Actually, it's good for respiratory stimulation (& a source of nutrients)

Really? Is it actually nourishing? How do they prepare it? I didn't even know that it could be eaten.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:39 PM on December 18, 2005


"In the field of physiology, with respect to muscular exercise, we have noted that the capacity to do more work does not increase with coca chewing, but it does increase work tolerance. In relation to respiratory sensitivity, we could observe that chewing does have a stimulating effect on respiratory centers."

Both findings could be related to the increase of catecholamine, found after chewing. On the other hand, the results achieved show that the chewing of coca leaves acts on hemoglobin and inhibits platelet aggregation.

The results obtained indicate that:
- coca exerts a moderating effect on general consumption of glucose.
-coca chewing does not influence the daily nutrient intake.
- show a positive effect of coca use on the adaptation processes to life at high altitudes."

Nutritional value.
posted by Gyan at 9:41 PM on December 18, 2005


Wow. Learn something new every day. Thanks.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:43 PM on December 18, 2005


The worst enemy of humanity is capitalism

I agree with that when one considers private capture of publically created economic rents to be part of "capitalism".

Georgists and geolibertarians argue that land, while a factor of production, is not properly considered capital, and ground rents and resource extraction profits taken from the commons rightfully belong to the community.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:46 PM on December 18, 2005


I wonder how long before the CIA-sponsored coup. Or maybe they'll decide that Bolivia has WMDs, or that Morales must be arrested for drug trafficking, or they might get a border war started with Paraguay. At the very least expect a US-led embargo.
posted by davy at 9:48 PM on December 18, 2005


What does this mean? I dunno.
posted by wilful at 12:29 AM EST on December 19 [!]


They're probably sick of corporate interests dominating them.
posted by juiceCake at 9:49 PM on December 18, 2005


There's a pretty good book out, The Condor Years, that talks about the United State's involvement in supporting repressive regimes in Latin America. It got so out of hand though, that Senator Ed Koch's life was threatened by Uruguay's secret service (As in Uruguay was attempting to assassinate him).
posted by j-urb at 9:56 PM on December 18, 2005


In Peru, coca leaf is most often taken as a tea... hot water is poured over the whole, dry leaves. A miniature lime is sometimes chewed along with the leaves, which makes the somewhat bitter, earthy taste go down easier. You'd think chewing the leaves would be harmful to the teeth, but all the Peruvians I saw had great teeth, allegedly due to the calcium content of the leaves. Coca has many uses in indigeonous society, and is fully legal to grow and sell in Peru. The quantity of leaves it would take to begin the process of making cocaine is something like 50lb:1/2 oz of coke, which is kinda mindboggling. The plants and leaves among indigeonous parts of the Andes are revered as sacred.

I really, really enjoyed coca tea.
posted by moonbird at 9:57 PM on December 18, 2005


I really, really enjoyed coca tea.

I bet!
posted by Afroblanco at 9:58 PM on December 18, 2005


You can eat coca leaf? That doesn't sound very healthy. Can someone please explain this to me?

It's basically used like caffeine.

Anyway, I support total drug legalization. So w00t, I guess. I think our drug laws are totally immoral. In fact, I think our drug laws are 'worse' then communism in some respects. I don't think this matters too much, but I can't help but feel a little joy at the news.

^_________^
posted by delmoi at 9:59 PM on December 18, 2005


Oh, I meant to say that Bolivia Peru's neighbor, is pretty much exactly the same in term of indigeonous coca use, though I've less experience in Bolivian culture.
posted by moonbird at 9:59 PM on December 18, 2005


¡La coca no es una droga!

Morales has a website.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:00 PM on December 18, 2005


I view capitalism as a tool. It's an effective tool for creating more wealth. I do not view capitalism as a moral goal in and of itself, and I view people who believe that it is to be simply insane. The invisible hand and the invisible god are both figments of fervor dreams, justifications for immoral behavior
posted by delmoi at 10:01 PM on December 18, 2005


So far, Gyan's link is the only reference to Coca actually being used for its nutritional value. Even there, only the basic facts are mentioned.

Are people actually eating the stuff? Or just chewing it and making tea out of it?

Because, to my mind, if you're not actually eating it, referring to it as a "food staple" is a bit of a stretch.

So, where are the recipies for Coca Quesadillas?
posted by Afroblanco at 10:03 PM on December 18, 2005


I had some soups flavored with coca, but never anything that filling, other than a granola-bar type thingy and in a candy.
posted by moonbird at 10:06 PM on December 18, 2005


From my first link:

"We should not forget that the highest incidence of chewers takes place at high altitudes, where about 75% of the population chew coca, while at 2,000 meters above sea level only 20% are habitual chewers and only 3% at sea level."

75% sounds like a staple item. It's consumed for various effects, even if a hefty residue is spat out. Qualifies as food, IMHO.
posted by Gyan at 10:07 PM on December 18, 2005


delmoi: I'm on the fence wrt druglaws.

as a libertarian, I say we all should be responsible for our own actions. Let's party!

as a lefty, I believe the nanny state can effectively mitigate collective foolishness and the costs incurred to society therein, eg. motorcycle helmet laws & seatbelt laws.

There is of course tension between freedom and societal controls; I believe the SCOTUS's 'undue burden' test is the pragmatic balance.

I suspect our draconian drug laws are in place to keep some semblance of a protestant work ethic alive in the population. A society awash in drugs may in fact not be a pretty sight, not that we aren't up to our hips in this now.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:07 PM on December 18, 2005


Anyway, to stop the derail..

Bolivia should be able to grow coca to its enlarged heart's content. The US has a border. Control it.
posted by Gyan at 10:11 PM on December 18, 2005


But there's also a rational version of the Domino Theory which is never questioned in planning documents because it's plausible, rational, and true. That is, successful social and economic development in one area may have a demonstration effect elsewhere, and the rot may spread. Incidentally, it is for this reason that the United States typically demonstrates what looks like such fanatic opposition to constructive developments in marginal countries. In fact, the smaller and less significant the country, the more danagerous it is. So, for example, as soon as the Bishop regime in Grenada began to take any constructive moves, it was immediately the target of enormous American hostility, not because that little speck in the Caribbean is any potential military threat or any of that sort of business. It is a threat in some other respects: if a tiny, nothing-country with no natural resources can begin to extricate itself from the system of misery and oppression that we've helped to impose, then others who have even more resources may be tempted to do likewise. (Chomsky)

Countdown to the US-funded coup! I give him 30 seconds before he's demonised by US blogospheric spin, 30 days before the US government mentions him as a concern, and 30 weeks before he's dead or exiled. Yeehaw.
posted by Wataki at 10:11 PM on December 18, 2005


75% sounds like a staple item. It's consumed for various effects, even if a hefty residue is spat out. Qualifies as food, IMHO.

I believe that's where we differ. But no use arguing semantics.

In regards to anti-drug laws : I think they are the essence of bullshit. The idea behind anti-drug laws is to provide a deterrent. However, as anyone who has ever done drugs can tell you, they provide their own deterrent.

Ask anyone you know why they aren't a junkie or a crackhead. Chances are, they'll give very reasonable responses - family, friends, job, not having a totally assbrained life being addicted to something, etc.

I think that you would be hard-pressed to find someone who says "because it's illegal," and if you do actually find someone who says that, they are probably the most at risk. Because, lets face it, you really should have a better reason.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:13 PM on December 18, 2005


"The coca leaf has medicinal properties for man and community alike. Individually indians use it to combat hunger and fatigue and to cure pulmonary and digestive ailments."

Gum is food? I think not. Reminds me of the betel nut; interestingly, the betel nut is not a controlled drug in the US.

According to present US jurisprudence, even if the Indians' use is therapeutic on the individual level, if the state is afraid of wider nugatory effects to society on the whole, it can be outlawed.

And of course, the US, as all imperial powers, seeks to export its legalisms to the four corners of the world.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:14 PM on December 18, 2005


Afroblanco : "I believe that's where we differ."

What would you call it then?

The way I see it: most of everything you eat in, comes out. Difference is the coca chewers have realized that one can chew & spit from the same orifice and derive the benefits (nutrition & stamina)
posted by Gyan at 10:22 PM on December 18, 2005


Causachun coca! Wañuchun yanquis!
Long live coca! Yankee go home!


From Morales site. His point seems to be that their society has lived with the plant for hundreds of years, just because ours is to immature to handle it doesn't mean they have to go without the medicine plant of their ancestors.

More:

Under the cover of these conventions and after impoverishing our people with their neoliberal policies, the United States government, foremost enemy of the Indians, has used its dollars to bribe our officials, corrupt our institutions and pit white Bolivians against us. Lately the United States Embassy in La Paz has put afoot a mercenary force with orders to eliminate the coca plant and the Indians defending it.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:23 PM on December 18, 2005


wilful writes "So with Lulu in Brazil, Chavez in Venezuela, the socialist candidate leading in Chile, and now Bolivia, there surely appears to be some groundswell in favour of socialist government in South America. What does this mean? I dunno."

It means the CIA's gonna be having a fucking ball.

Gyan writes "Bolivia should be able to grow coca to its enlarged heart's content. The US has a border. Control it."

Amen, man. If America has a drug problem, why should Bolivia give a rat's ass?
posted by brundlefly at 10:24 PM on December 18, 2005


Well, would food be in the same league as medicine? Heck of a tummy ache cure.
posted by moonbird at 10:26 PM on December 18, 2005


Difference is the coca chewers have realized that one can chew & spit from the same orifice and derive the benefits (nutrition & stamina)

Is chewing tobacco a food? Cigarettes? I don't think any nutrition is gained from coca leaves.

The only usage of "chewing tobacco is a food" is an ironic usage.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:27 PM on December 18, 2005


What would you call it then?

I guess it would ultimately depend on what you were using it for. I mean, yes, it does look like coca has nutritional value. But is that really what it's being used for?

To me, it looks like it's being used as a mild recreational drug, an appetite supressent, a stimulant, a flavoring, a sort of "chewing gum," etc.

Even if you could call something that is used in the above contexts a "food," I would hardly call it a "food staple." I think that something could only really be called a food staple when it comprises a large portion of your diet.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:29 PM on December 18, 2005


Afroblanca: "But is that really what it's being used for?"

I doubt that centuries ago, people would think of eating, say, mangoes for "nutrition". They ate because it tasted good i.e. felt good. A staple food need not be the dominant portion of your diet, just a regular item, like the 3rd meaning here.
posted by Gyan at 10:36 PM on December 18, 2005


There is really something to be said for the medicinal value. Many American tourists are all about the tea (which really helps with altitiude sickness), and you actually can get it here delivered here, or import it (as a tea) from Peru in small amounts. I wouldn't say at all that indigeonous users consider it a recreational drug... far more so the Americans who sip it and feel all naughty about it and smirk and joke in the hotel lobbies.
posted by moonbird at 10:40 PM on December 18, 2005


From Gyan's link:
3. A basic dietary item, such as flour, rice, or corn.

So you really would put coca in the same category as flour, rice, or corn?
posted by Afroblanco at 10:43 PM on December 18, 2005


I guess that the point is that the indigenous President-elect thinks that they should be allowed to continues their cultural traditions without external interference. But when the external interferer is he-who-shall-not-be-named, this creates interesting times.
posted by wilful at 10:46 PM on December 18, 2005


Afroblanco : "So you really would put coca in the same category as flour, rice, or corn?"

Yes. Just because only a tiny fraction of the world's population has integrated it in their diet, doesn't mean it's not a staple for them.
posted by Gyan at 10:48 PM on December 18, 2005


Gyan, the error you are making is calling all staples foods. All foods can be staples, but not all staples are foods. Eg. Mt Dew was a staple of my diet 2000-2002, but it was not a food, since it was not nutritious.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:49 PM on December 18, 2005


I get pissed off at cokeheads as much as the next guy, but if someone's gonna grow coca and profit off it, I'd much rather it be a decent human being than a gangster's thug or lackey.
posted by Football Bat at 10:51 PM on December 18, 2005


Gyan - agreed to disagree.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:51 PM on December 18, 2005


whoops:

"The coca leaf contained many essential nutrients in addition to its more well-known mood-altering alkaloid. It is rich in protein and vitamins, and it grows in regions where other food sources are scarce"

from wikipedia. It's a food!
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:53 PM on December 18, 2005


I doubt that centuries ago, people would think of eating, say, mangoes for "nutrition".

You think that "centuries ago" people didn't know that food sustained life and that some foods did it better than others? I daresay they probably knew it much better than you or I do, even if they couldn't name the molecules involved.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:53 PM on December 18, 2005


HM, with all due respect, this current taxonomy of the stuff we put in our mouth in terms of its nutritional and caloric functionalism, is a recent 19/20th century view.
posted by Gyan at 10:54 PM on December 18, 2005


is a recent 19/20th century view.

well, I'm just a 19/20th century guy, yaknow?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:00 PM on December 18, 2005


So when does Negroponte become ambassador?
posted by ryoshu at 11:02 PM on December 18, 2005


The world political reaction to Bush's naked imperialism has often been worrying. Here's hoping that this is a sign of movement towards a more progressive and secular anti-Americanism.
posted by washburn at 11:04 PM on December 18, 2005


A point that may be going unrecognized is that Morales is a politician, which explains his fairly strident views on things like cocoa and the US. I assume he was just digging for votes.

He could end up being a Castro, but my bet is he will follow Lulu's path and take a pragmatic approach to dealing with the US. I think that strategy, in the end, would be the best thing for his people.

And to keep things on-topic, cocoa leaf is totally not a food staple, IMHO.
posted by newscouch at 11:05 PM on December 18, 2005


Cultures that have existed in the same area for centuries which furthermore have an ongoing acquaintance with hunger learn very well which foods are nutritious, conducive to health (and healthy children) and practice diet and food preparation accordingly. Example:

Central Americans have prepared corn meal with lime (calcium oxide, not the fruit) for centuries, because it increases the nutritional availabiity of the corn's niacin, an essential B vitamin. They may not have known anything about the chemistry involved but they knew the effects. If this isn't choosing and preparing food for "nutrition", nothing is.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:06 PM on December 18, 2005


how about chile - the daughter of one of Allende's crew about to become the leader of the country... a single mom at that.

Viva chile, viva la revolucion!

and f*ck bush and his criminal father that backed the pinochet junta and the deaths of thousands and thousands of good chilean civilians. bush sr. and pinochet should be sent to the hague together.
posted by specialk420 at 11:08 PM on December 18, 2005


The recent swings to the left certainly seem to put the lie to the claim that there is only one true course, being a free-market globalised economy.
posted by wilful at 11:15 PM on December 18, 2005


G_S, all I'm arguing is that the Andeans don't look at coca as _not Food_ as Afroblanco argues. Consuming coca leaf at high altitudes is *conducive to health* ergo food. In any case, you missed my point which is not that they didn't select food for nutrition but that they didn't have a strict taxonomy as we (apparently) do of what constitutes food.
posted by Gyan at 11:16 PM on December 18, 2005


and f*ck bush and his criminal father that backed the pinochet junta and the deaths of thousands and thousands of good chilean civilians.

No worries. Some of Pinochet's commandos are handling security in Iraq now. Democracy Spread™ now in Chile flavor!
posted by ryoshu at 11:19 PM on December 18, 2005


wilful: nationalizing Bolivia's natural resources like natural gas (more power to 'em is what I say, we should nationalize our own frigging remaining natural resources) and decriminalizing cultivation of a medicinal herb is a rejection of de-facto US imperialism, not the global economy.

But confusing the two is quite easy, what with a major architect of PNAC now running the World Bank and all...
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:20 PM on December 18, 2005


I wonder if there aren't almost too many fires now for the US to effectively run things anymore... we've managed to sabotage and undermine governments all over the world in order to extract resources. And now all of a sudden it looks like we're reaching a criticality where they are all simultaneously toppling in directions our powers-that-be would not prefer... even the US can't fight wars in a dozen countries at once.
posted by muppetboy at 11:21 PM on December 18, 2005


This is positive news. I wish him success - and longevity in office.
posted by jam_pony at 11:23 PM on December 18, 2005


Let's just hope these revolutions go velvet instead of violent.
posted by muppetboy at 11:23 PM on December 18, 2005


unrecognized is that Morales is a politician

an important point of fact is that he's of native ancestry, not of the power elite.

cocoa leaf is totally not a food staple, IMHO

many people familiar with it say it is, apparently.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:30 PM on December 18, 2005


The response: U.S. military is building bases in Paraguay. The allegations of a 'terrorist hotbed' in the region have already been made.

So i guess the answer is that the men in black have been studying this for a while, and seek to contain it, as they have the last 60 years or so. I hope Morales can be as lucky as Chavez, and that people are as organized in Bolivia as they seem to be in Venezuela.

Maybe all the attention given to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the recent purges in the CIA, mean that our secret government isn't as effective at 'securing our interests'?

I hope so, for their sake.

##########
The oil companies operating in Bolivia include Total from France, British Petroleum, British Gas, Petrobras from Brazil and Repsol from Spain.

random links
http://www.latinpetroleum.com/cat_index_14.shtml
http://www2.petrobras.com.br/ingles/index.asp
http://www.bgplc.com/
http://www.corporations.org/bp-amoco/
http://www.hoovers.com/repsol-ypf/--ID__41831--/freeuk-co-factsheet.xhtml
posted by eustatic at 11:34 PM on December 18, 2005


hmm, on a per-capita basis they've got just as much natural gas now as Canada (700B m3)... @ 30c /m3 that's $200B, a per-capita boon of $20,000, or about 10 years worth of GDP.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:01 AM on December 19, 2005


Machu Pizza.
posted by euphorb at 1:45 AM on December 19, 2005


thanks for the links eustatic!
posted by rks404 at 3:55 AM on December 19, 2005


Eh. We'll see what happens. The only semi-socialist power able to operate in South America with relative impunity has been Chavez in Venezuala, and it's not a coincidence that they're the country with the most oil reserves (shop at Citgo?). Lulu's found his social program severely curtailed, and has had a lot of trouble recently in getting things past parliament. I don't see Morales actually able to do all that much (especially regarding nationalization) because of the hefty burden of international debt. I don't know what Structural Adjustment Plans Bolivia is under (though I suppose I could get a rough idea from the IMF website), but in poor countries the ability of the executive or legislative branches to truly reform society is pretty well hamstrung. Can't pay your loans? Can't get credit, can't buy oil or import food, can't buy medicine, can't buy industrial equipment... A little clamp-down and the populace is usually willing to go back to the neo-clientellism of Breton Woods institutions— slavery versus starvation.
posted by klangklangston at 6:04 AM on December 19, 2005


Wow, great news at first glance. I too wish Morales a fruitful rule, and I hope he doesn't get gaffled by the CIA.

Man, just when things look bleak, South America starts to give me a reason for hope.

Amazingly, just a few years ago, Aregentina was the World Bank poster child; their economic catastrophe left the IMF with a pretty crap reputation around those parts. Meanwhile, Brazil, previously reviled as recidivist by the IMF, has quietly made some much-needed progress, and without taking a position of "submission."
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:05 AM on December 19, 2005


Just some thoughts.

First and foremost, the native Andes people has been chewing coca leafs for hundreds and hundreds of years. It is pretty irrelevant to them wether the white conqueror classifies the leaf as food, drug or figment of deranged imaginations. Actually, Morales ascension to leadership started when Bolivia and the US signed an agreement to destroy the coca fields in Bolivia.

And just to reinforce the point on how the Bolivian people feel about their country's relation to the US: in the last presidential election (2000) Morales was in a far third place when the US ambassador decide to say that if he was elected the US would be very displeased. That was almost enough to hand him the presidency then and there. Since then, two consecutive Bolivian Presidents were forced to resign by popular pressure, mostly against the handing of Bolivian oil gas fields to foreign companies. Just to put it in perspective, Petrobras (the Brazilian state-owned oil company) produces 15% of Bolivia's National Gross Product, pays 20% of all Bolivian taxes and controls all gas refineries in that country (and since we're here, Brazil's President is called Lula, not Lulu).

As for a CIA sponsored coup, just remember their last attempt, in Venezuela, was a major fiasco - the US was the sole country in the world to recognize the new government (within ours of the coup's announcement), a government that in 24 hours had managed to show all its true intentions (closing the Congress, dissolving the Supreme Court etc). The popular unrest that followed quickly re-conducted Chavez to the government and all local American puppets faced prison or exile. With most Latin American countries going left quickly (Besides Brazil, Venezuela and Chile, already noted above, Argentina, Peru and Uruguay have leftist Presidents or strong Presidential candidates), American interference is more and more un-welcomed. Even the planned military bases in Paraguay are under close scrutiny or open attack by all Paraguay neighbors, first and foremost Brazil (that more or less controls Paraguay's economy).

A last detail: Bolivia has an strange and instability-inviting Presidential election process. If no candidate get more then 50% of the votes, the Congress then chooses the President between the two best voted. The exit polls indicate Morales will have something between 41% and 47% of the votes, 10% above the second place. So it is possible (but not likely) for the Congress to choose the closest right-wing opponent. But most analyst doubt the Congress would be able to face the popular protest following such a decision.
posted by nkyad at 6:07 AM on December 19, 2005



posted by matteo at 6:17 AM on December 19, 2005


Oh, let me correct myself, I was working on Sunday information. It seems that the projections are now giving Morales more than 50% of the vote. This is a result beyond any expectations (no pre-election opinion poll managed to predict such a margin) and possibly the best thing that happened in Bolivia for a long time.

All hail Discordia!!
posted by nkyad at 6:39 AM on December 19, 2005



jeffrey sachs on bolivia, from a 2000 interview, pbs

old news, funny, except that he's now lieutenant governor

"DALLAS - Evidence has recently surfaced strongly suggesting that David H. Dewhurst, candidate for Texas land commissioner, may have been involved in the overthrow of the Bolivian government.

According to The Report of the Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the U.S. Intelligence Community, David H. Dewhurst worked as a "clandestine service officer" for the CIA in Bolivia in 1971.

Four months after Dewhurst's arrival in Bolivia, the government was overthrown in a bloody coup directly assisted by the CIA and led by Hugo Banzer, a Colonel in the Bolivian Armed Forces and a School of the Americas (SOA) graduate. (This story, as well as the CIA connection, is fully detailed in the book The CIA: A Forgotten History by William Blum.)"
posted by eustatic at 6:44 AM on December 19, 2005


oh that jeffrey sachs link is good, but you might have to scroll up a bit

cheers
posted by eustatic at 6:48 AM on December 19, 2005


Nutrition.
posted by peacay at 7:24 AM on December 19, 2005


I admit that I'm quite fascinated by the way that South America is transforming itself into a laboratory for neo-Marxism.

We know what happens when socialism gives way to well-administered capitalism (good) or poorly-administered capitalism (very bad), but the reverse, not so well understood.

Bolivia's not a very interesting test-bed -- because capitalism there was in pretty poor shape as it was -- but it will be interesting to see what happens to Chile if a new government tries to undo its free market orientation.
posted by MattD at 8:23 AM on December 19, 2005


Some clarifications:

1) As was said, it's Lula, not Lulu
2) Lula has a marxist speech, has marxist friends (Chavez, Castro), but not action. In practice, he managed to maintain the same recessionist policy as his predecessor, with some PR assistentialist programs (like "Zero Hunger"), but nothing solid or "leftist".
3) He also got involved in a pretty big corruption scandal. Actually the only thing socialist about his government was putting his circle of trust in increasing power, just like a communist camarilla.
4) 2 and 3 have caused some strong rightist backlash, with Lula being projected losing the next year's election against any of the possible candidates from the opposition (PSDB, previous government, from 1994 to 2002). Also, his party (Worker's party) is greatly weakened from the latest scandals.
posted by qvantamon at 8:46 AM on December 19, 2005


klangklangston: "Eh. We'll see what happens. The only semi-socialist power able to operate in South America with relative impunity has been Chavez in Venezuala, and it's not a coincidence that they're the country with the most oil reserves (shop at Citgo?). Lulu's found his social program severely curtailed, and has had a lot of trouble recently in getting things past parliament. I don't see Morales actually able to do all that much (especially regarding nationalization) because of the hefty burden of international debt. ... A little clamp-down and the populace is usually willing to go back to the neo-clientellism of Breton Woods institutions— slavery versus starvation."

---
That said, it's important to note that, yes, Venezuela has been fortunate enough with the oil prices, but Chavez has now been putting that capital to good use not for his people only, but for the entire region. I'm not sure if he has any deals set up with Bolivia, but I can imagine him doing so, which would give deeply discounted oil in the same way he has done with Jamaica and many other nations in the region. I think the profit he is building isn't an "economic" profit, but a profit of "trust", which builds solidarity.

The program of Chavez's in question is called ALBA (links below). Now, that said, if you look at the case of Lula, part of the issue with him is that he was never completely left-wing, he's more of a "Democrat" though perhaps more left-leaning, thus his goals weren't quite as lofty as Chavez's, and the issue with Lulu is not so much his plans but the corruption in his own party that's bringing his power to rule down to effectively nil (correct me if I'm wrong).

Upon review: what qvantamon said.

IOW, realize that these countries can forge a solid alliance and they're not just fighting back alone. Of course, there is stiff opposition from those who are already in power, but any "revolution" will always have those issues. So far, we've been fortunate that there hasn't been much bloodshed. We'll see what the future holds...
posted by symbioid at 9:28 AM on December 19, 2005


p.s. I DO shop at Citgo for precisely that reason :)
posted by symbioid at 9:29 AM on December 19, 2005


In Februaury CIA chief Porter Goss described the 11 upcoming elections in 2005 and 2006 in Latin America as "potential areas of instability". That says it all.
posted by euphorb at 9:36 AM on December 19, 2005


As for neo-Marxism, MAttD, to extend a bit on qvantamon above:

1) First, I don't know exactly who you're calling neo-Marxism. Chavez for sure, but in all other countries where a leftist government got the power (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay), we haven't seem nothing even close to Marxism being put in practice.

2) Even Chavez, regardless his rhetoric and the US press and government distortions, has not implanted a socialist state in Venezuela - private property exists both in law and in practice, most of the press is in private hands etc. Chavez has been subject to a mid-term plebiscite that could have cost him the rest of his Presidency and won a clean (according to international observers) vote. He has also recently won all chairs in the Parliament because the opposition refused to run on completely dishonest grounds.

3) We should not confuse leftist government actions with the form of government. Chavez is trying to re-direct most of Venezuela's oil profits to help the poor by taxing the rich, creating all form of government subsidies for food, education etc, implementing a radical land reform. Argentina not only refused to pay its international debts, it has successfully done so (all debt was renegotiated). Argentina has also revoked the (dictatorship enacted) laws that protected the military from being prosecuted by the torture and murders they've performed/ordered/tolerated while in power. In Brazil the government has been a disappointment much along the lines qvantamon explains, but even so there are social many initiatives worth noticing ("Zero Hunger was actually incorporated in an inclusive program called "Bolsa Família", something like "Family Grant", that encompasses not only the food needs but also all other social aspects of fighting extreme poverty, including health and education - even the opposition admits this program is a huge success). All the actions I refer to are clearly "leftist", but most are not fundamentally "socialist" and none require changing the form of government in any fundamental way.

4) And just a last thing: "Actually the only thing socialist about his government was putting his circle of trust in increasing power, just like a communist camarilla.". So, the capitalist camarilla that sold most of Brazil's infrastructure, led Argentina to bankruptcy, kept Brazil's and Venezuela's wealth distribution on par with the poorest African nations and, why not remember, led the US into a colonial war, what are they? Noble gentlemen?
posted by nkyad at 9:42 AM on December 19, 2005


poorly-administered capitalism (very bad), but the reverse, not so well understood.

Nonsense, almost every country in western Europe has elected socialist-leaning governments at some point in the last 50 years. And predictably enough, they've generally been associated with higher rates of wages, lower unemployment, and improvements in health and education. On the other hand, relatively right-leaning governments have usually been associated, predictably enough, with variations on looting and pillaging, such as borrowing, cutting, and privatizing, just as Bush is doing to the US right now.

Of course Left governments have always been associated with endless dishonest whining in the capitalist-owned media, mainly because of rich people being asked to finally pay a fair share of taxes - something the rich, and their newspapers, always find completely unacceptable, in every country.

Democratic socialism is a relatively recent phenomenon in Latin America simply because in the past, every country to elect a left-leaning government has been attacked by the US. However, is the US really strong enough to destroy every other country in the world at the same time? This, perhaps, is the truly interesting experiment of our times.

Long live Evo Morales!
posted by cleardawn at 10:13 AM on December 19, 2005


rich people being asked to finally pay a fair share of taxes

well, I'd just leave it as a higher share.

"Fairness" is subjective, and as a Georgist I find taxing somebody's true capital returns to be somewhat abhorrent (but until we start actually taxing ground rents it'll have to do I guess).
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:25 AM on December 19, 2005


Democratic socialism

We're not talking about democratic socialism here. Just to be clear, he is opposed to the concept of capitalism. He proposes communism, not lefty politics.
posted by loquax at 10:28 AM on December 19, 2005


i am drinking coca tea right now, in celebration of the election. coca no es coocaina!
posted by tarantula at 10:43 AM on December 19, 2005


Long Live Evo Morales Indeed!

Since most Americans have become so entranced by their TV's as to become almost totally divorced from reality; it's not surprising that we've become so addle-brained as to voluntarily give up our Constitutional Republic for a fledgling totalitarian police-state! As the U.S. slowly goes the way of Czarist Russia and Weimar Germany, we shouldn't begrudge more sensible peoples their right to a better way of life. As the old left-right labels are essentially meaningless, there are really only two types of government on this earth. Those who seek to serve their own peoples and those that serve the globalists. The U.S. is among those nations who serve the globalists so we're really not qualified to lecture others on democracy or anything else. If the average American had any inkling of what a sham power the U.S. really is, they'd see that they have a lot more important things to worry about than the politics of courageous and intelligent leaders like Chavez or Morales.
posted by Acheh at 10:54 AM on December 19, 2005


loquax : "We're not talking about democratic socialism here. Just to be clear, he is opposed to the concept of capitalism. He proposes communism, not lefty politics."

Last time I checked "Democratic Socialism" is exactly what Chavez is striving for in Venezuela and mostly what Morales seem to want - both speak a lot about "participative democracy". One should be aware, when speaking about categories, that Marxism and Communism are too very different things.
posted by nkyad at 11:13 AM on December 19, 2005


I have never in my life encountered another human being who described themselves as a Georgist. Viva the LVT.
posted by I Foody at 11:20 AM on December 19, 2005


he is opposed to the concept of capitalism. He proposes communism, not lefty politics.

Disagree. I am a virulent capitalist who is opposed to the private, permanent ownership of land and natural resources.

While I don't know Evo from Evita, if he is fighting the looting of his peoples' natural resources by transnational "capitalist" enterprises he gets a gold-star from me.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:21 AM on December 19, 2005


"And predictably enough, they've generally been associated with higher rates of wages, lower unemployment, and improvements in health and education."

Well, no. They've generally been associated with higher wages, higher standards of living, higher unemployment, higher interest rates, higher social tensions between citizens and immigrants...
Note that I prefer the lite-socialism generally, but not enough to misrepresent its effects.

(Oh, and good stuff Nkyad, wilful, etc. Great thread, great discussion. Even Loquax, as the token conservative, has added to the conversation.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:43 AM on December 19, 2005


higher social tensions between citizens and immigrants.

this is a very important dynamic. The "free rider" problem of socialism is in fact significant, and seeing people with few ties to the "community" going on the dole is quite fractionating for taxpayers.

I believe we see a similar issue here in the states, where taxpayers don't necessarily mind helping "their own", but do have major problems with minority "welfare queens" and immigrant illegal laborers getting the taxpayer-funded bennies of the New Deal / Great Society utopianism.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:55 AM on December 19, 2005


Last time I checked "Democratic Socialism" is exactly what Chavez is striving for in Venezuela and mostly what Morales seem to want - both speak a lot about "participative democracy".

Yes, they do, however both speak of the elimination of capitalism wholescale, not just for natural resources. Both have their ideal is the common ownership of the means of production. This is communism, not "socialism" as it's known in Canada, Spain or France. Whether or not they can implement such a scheme remains to be seen (I doubt it), however their objectives are quite clear. Obviously there can be a differing of opinion on whether or not that's a good thing. And I'd be very curious to see how committed they remain to participatory democracy if and when the permanent revolution turns against them. When there is nothing but the state, anyone who disagrees is, by definition, an enemy of the people. How long before counter-revolutionaries are imprisoned?

Disagree. I am a virulent capitalist who is opposed to the private, permanent ownership of land and natural resources.


He goes further than you. He is speaking of Marxist revolution against neoliberalism and capitalism, "the worst enemy of humanity".

I'm not commenting on his stance with respect to the indigenous people of Bolivia, or the US, or even the hydrocarbon laws. In fact, I support his goals of improving society, doing what's right for Bolivia and Bolivians, and differing from the US where necessary and appropriate for the country. Perhaps, however, the solution for the inequities and problems in Bolivian society is not communism, or Marxism, political and economic ideologies that have led to the suffering of hundreds of millions of people, and have been very nearly abandoned by any state that once employed them.
posted by loquax at 1:12 PM on December 19, 2005


loquax : "Yes, they do, however both speak of the elimination of capitalism wholescale, not just for natural resources. Both have their ideal is the common ownership of the means of production."

The Morales words that have been doing rounds in the international press this year are, in full "The worst enemy of humanity is capitalism. That is what provokes uprisings like our own, a rebellion against a system, against a neoliberal model, which is the representation of a savage capitalism. If the entire world doesn't acknowledge this reality, that the national states are not providing even minimally for health, education and nourishment, then each day the most fundamental human rights are being violated."

It is a little bit confusing, but I propose it can be interpreted as an attack at savage capitalism, globalization and the Washington Consensus model (aka neo-liberalism), not as an all out attack on capitalism. We must remember Bolivia is the poorest South American country, with something around 960 USD annual per capita income.

About the natural resources, MAS (Morales party) platform calls for a "nationalization without confiscation," with proposals geared toward renegotiating of contracts on terms more favorable to Bolivia. Not for expropriation as one would expect from a purely revolutionary movement. Morales vice-president recently declared: "We should admit that Bolivia will still be capitalist in the next 50 to 100 years".

loquax : "This is communism, not 'socialism' as it's known in Canada, Spain or France."

I fail to understand this sentence. Are you proposing the far-fetched thesis that Canada, Spain or France are or have been in the past (except for parts of Spain during a few years in the 30s) socialist? Wouldn't that be stretching a bit too much the American common view of anything left of a Kennedy being communist?


loquax : "He is speaking of Marxist revolution against neoliberalism and capitalism"

I don't see it that way - Morales and his party seem to be far more reasonable, accepting that instead of a revolution there will be a long reform towards a fairer wealth distribution (I believe Chavez, despite his justified rhetoric against the US, follows the same path). Morales will not start confiscating property, but I am curious to see how he will deal with the cut of American funds that will come after he legalizes coca cultivation and expels the American military forces currently implementing the anti-drug policies there. And also how much help he will have from his neighbors.
posted by nkyad at 1:47 PM on December 19, 2005


I of course agree with nykad. "nationalization without confiscation" is not communism, it's not (necessarily) even socialism IMV, given the availability of rent-sharing and severance taxes to modulate naked rip-offs inherent in neoliberal "capitalism".

Marx, in fact, called Henry George's pol-eco theories "capitalism's last ditch".
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:03 PM on December 19, 2005


Not for expropriation as one would expect from a purely revolutionary movement. Morales vice-president recently declared: "We should admit that Bolivia will still be capitalist in the next 50 to 100 years".

Morales and his party seem to be far more reasonable, accepting that instead of a revolution there will be a long reform towards a fairer wealth distribution


"nationalization without confiscation" is not communism

I acknowledge that, however I think claims like these can be viewed with more than a little skepticism (at least as much that is employed when American politicians make vague promises). This is what they're saying now, but a gradual shift along the lines that you suggest will not be able to keep the momentum of the current revolution going. Slow change will likely quickly prove to be quite unpopular with those that follow Morales, and at that point, he'll have a choice - wealth redistribution, confiscation and continued revolution, or a slow fade to insignificance, if not the outright success of a counter-revolution. Chavez has the same problem; casting the US and savage capitalism as the twin evils that keep the people down works for only so long - eventually real benefits have to be seen by the people once the euphoria of revolution wears off. I sincerely hope that this doesn't come to pass, but I think it's inevitable in the long run. If, of course, the progression to radical Marxism and communism in a totalitarian wrapper has not predetermined by Morales and his ideological brethren, as they've expressed desires for numerous times. Look at Cuba - that state would not survive without the repression of dissent, state control of everything, and the absolute intolerance of anything that threatens the status quo. If Cuba is the model they aspire to, capitalism in any form, along with liberalism, pluralism and participatory democracy are doomed, in an exchange for the "equality" that will replace them.

Are you proposing the far-fetched thesis that Canada, Spain or France are or have been in the past (except for parts of Spain during a few years in the 30s) socialist?

No, no, only to differentiate what is in my mind, the vast gulf between what Morales, Chavez and Castro stand for and what's commonly (although perhaps not on this site) called the "left-wing" in those countries.

I cannot help but see Lenin in these leaders. Of course it's not a perfectly analogous situation, in scope or practicalities, but remember the timeline after the overthrow of the Tsar - he won elections first with popular support, but when he lost the next ones, he closed parliament, killed his opponents, and began implementing his vision of revolution. The horrors of the Soviet Union would have not come to pass if he hadn't assumed total, unilateral control over the state. The revolution was too important to be left in the hands of the people, and must be continued at any cost. Opposition is nothing but bourgeois scum, terrorist enemies of the people, or imperial American agents and saboteurs. I see nothing in any of the rhetoric or actions of the South American three to suggest that they believe otherwise, or that they would willingly hand over the reins to their countries to those that would undo what they've accomplished.
posted by loquax at 2:26 PM on December 19, 2005


Latin America eternal fascination for Cuba and Cuban Revolution has its roots in poverty and extreme inequality. No one really "aspires" the end of pluralism, free speech or democratic rules, but when the choices narrow to "democracy" or "food", people usually take food. In Latin America, freedom of speech and press too often got confused with freedom of speech for those who own the presses (see how all private news channel out of Venezuela are consistently against Chavez). Cuba, regardless what the American press publishes, has managed to build amazing educational and health systems (Cuba one of the most advanced vaccine producers in the world). The Cuban people are very poor but there is no starvation.

loquax : "I see nothing in any of the rhetoric or actions of the South American three to suggest that they believe otherwise, or that they would willingly hand over the reins to their countries to those that would undo what they've accomplished."

But then again, Chavez has won every election held in Venezuela since he was first elected (all those elections were closely followed by international observers). Now, again, Morales won with an impressive majority and in a country where the vote is mandatory (that is he was not elected by 51% of the 30% that choose to vote, he was elected by 51% of the more than 80% of all voters). I think we should wait and see. I present you another tiny fact: Venezuela was recently admitted as a full member to Mercosul (the South American Free Trade agreement). Bolivia (and Morales) has given indications they want in too. Now, Mercosul has a "democratic clause" stating that a lapse in the democratic process is grounds for expulsion from the block. It is at least a flimsy assurance both countries will not fall into totalitarian ways.
posted by nkyad at 2:51 PM on December 19, 2005


Chavez has the same problem; casting the US and savage capitalism as the twin evils that keep the people down works for only so long - eventually real benefits have to be seen by the people once the euphoria of revolution wears off.

So do you think the people haven't already seen real benefits?
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:06 PM on December 19, 2005


One opinion from earlier this year:

Venezuela's Chavez Avoids Class War

...While in Venezuela this past June and July, I made it my personal quest to determine why Venezuela's upper classes hate Chavez. "He's a socialist," was a common response. Another common response was that he provokes the United States with his anti-imperialist rhetoric.

Other responses I received had more to do with guilt by association: Chavez hangs out with Fidel Castro and even visited Saddam Hussein at least once. Finally, I was commonly told that he is usurping patriotism for his political advantage and that he is trying to pack the courts with judges who think like he does. Sound familiar?

"But what is Chavez doing that you hate so much?" I asked. "What, specifically, are his governing policies?" The answers I received, while purely anecdotal, were telling. In general, the wealthy criticize his taxes and social programs, many of which are remarkably similar to U.S. social programs.

I discovered that, for the first time in Venezuela's history, the government is truly enforcing its tax laws. What does this mean from a leader who claims to be a "21st century socialist"? I asked my cousin, a successful orthopedic surgeon, what he now must pay in income taxes under Chavez. "10 percent to 15 percent of my income," was the response— not quite the wealth redistribution I'd envisioned.

...What else has Chavez done? In exchange for oil to Cuba, Castro has sent teams of Cuban physicians to Venezuela. Chavez then sends them into poor neighborhoods to provide free health care for people who have never seen a doctor in their lives.

In addition, he has built vocational schools in poor neighborhoods so poor people can learn skills that will allow them to earn more. The wealthy view this as raising the cost of labor.

What else has Chavez done? The Chavez government uses its oil wealth to hire workers to engage in public works projects, such as fixing potholes in roads, keeping parks clean, and improving public buildings. For example, the government is building the first-ever public subway system in Valencia. People of means complain that "only poor people will use it."

The government also has started a housing program for the poor through which the government works with builders to build livable, low-cost housing. It works with banks to provide long-term, low-interest loans to home buyers.

The feeling I got in Venezuela last month is that people with money still have money. I saw an abundance of new expensive cars on the road. One of my uncles continues to build and run high- rise apartments and hotels at a healthy profit.

I saw a complete freedom to speak out against the government, with daily newspaper articles and songs on the radio calling for Chavez's ouster. It made me question our freedom here in the United States. With so many people here opposed to the war in Iraq, and with some brilliant anti-war songs being written, why haven't I heard even one of those songs on the radio?

I am painfully aware that Chavez may ultimately turn out to be a cruel and corrupt dictator. That has been the history of Venezuela, and it certainly could happen again.

However, by giving a voice to the poor, Chavez also may have prevented a bloody class war. I have seen that Venezuelan war coming for years.

posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:10 PM on December 19, 2005


I sincerely hope that this doesn't come to pass, but I think it's inevitable in the long run. If, of course, the progression to radical Marxism and communism in a totalitarian wrapper has not predetermined by Morales and his ideological brethren, as they've expressed desires for numerous times. Look at Cuba - that state would not survive without the repression of dissent, state control of everything, and the absolute intolerance of anything that threatens the status quo. If Cuba is the model they aspire to

1) Cuba is not the model, Cuba became very much "not the model" when the Soviet Union collapsed its solidarity economy with Cuba in 1990ish. Venezuela is the model, obviously (large percent of the people illiterate, in poverty, a country rich in oil wealth). Chavez is a poster boy for how a type of capitalism can work, and if you study his rhetoric, instead of just flipping that capitalism/communism duality fallacy in you head, you would know that he recognizes the power of the people to affect change is what keeps him in office, so he cultivates that.

Morales has even more of the indigenous streak in him; indigenous lifeways are neither communist nor captalist, but something else entirely. Read the declaration of Cochabamba, it's awesome. It was written by direct democratic process that Americans only dream about. It's processes like this, that have been growing in size and frequency for some time, that lead me to believe that this is not a revolution built on the brittle sticks of the ideology of some arty know-it-all who wants power. This is democracy. Recognize.

2) Neoliberal Capitalism has been in the 'totalitarian wrapper' within everyone's very recent memory (please see my thread about the Lieutenant Governor of Texas above), and that's why everyone hates it. So spare us the Hayek lecture, this isn't Europe. In latin america, Washington Capitalism is totalitarian. just ask Pincochet.

No politically capable leftist (or rightist) would dare institute a police state with such a mobilized populus, able to shut down entire cities for weeks. Also, you forget, the leftists were the ones thrown in jail, assassinated, etc, often with the help of the U.S.

3) Inevitable in the long run? Historical Inevitability? Gee, who do you sound like? Do you mean bowing to US dominance? You are a fool if you think that what's happening in Venezuela is the result of a few leaders, and not the decades of social organizing that put them in power. Chavez is a ham, and I don't think that New York or Boston would have that sweet oil deal with Citgo if it weren't for a leader with panache, but Chavez is not Bolivarian Revolution.

By contrast, Lenin rode on the back of the kind of social revolution that Chavez and Morales cultivate. There may well be a Lenin for South America, but i think that's decades away at the soonest.

4) "Real Benefits?" Health Care, Education, a democratic political process, genuine Economic Development aren't real benefits? what do you mean by this statement?
posted by eustatic at 3:15 PM on December 19, 2005


*not the Bolivarian Revolution

*Pinochet

sorry if i'm snippy, i'm tired.

zzzzzzzzzzzzz
posted by eustatic at 3:28 PM on December 19, 2005


So with Lulu in Brazil, Chavez in Venezuela, the socialist candidate leading in Chile, and now Bolivia, there surely appears to be some groundswell in favour of socialist government in South America. What does this mean? I dunno.

It means the poor in those countries are not making the same mistakes the poor in some of our democracies have made: they're making sure that people come first, corporations second.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:06 PM on December 19, 2005


So with Lulu in Brazil, Chavez in Venezuela, the socialist candidate leading in Chile, and now Bolivia, there surely appears to be some groundswell in favour of socialist government in South America. What does this mean? I dunno.

It means the poor in those countries are not making the same mistakes the poor in some of our democracies have made: they're making sure that people come first, corporations second.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:06 PM on December 19, 2005


So with Lulu in Brazil, Chavez in Venezuela, the socialist candidate leading in Chile, and now Bolivia, there surely appears to be some groundswell in favour of socialist government in South America. What does this mean? I dunno.

It means the poor in those countries are not making the same mistakes the poor in some of our democracies have made: they're making sure that people come first, corporations second.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:06 PM on December 19, 2005


So with Lulu in Brazil, Chavez in Venezuela, the socialist candidate leading in Chile, and now Bolivia, there surely appears to be some groundswell in favour of socialist government in South America. What does this mean? I dunno.

It means the poor in those countries are not making the same mistakes the poor in some of our democracies have made: they're making sure that people come first, corporations second.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:06 PM on December 19, 2005


So with Lulu in Brazil, Chavez in Venezuela, the socialist candidate leading in Chile, and now Bolivia, there surely appears to be some groundswell in favour of socialist government in South America. What does this mean? I dunno.

It means the poor in those countries are not making the same mistakes the poor in some of our democracies have made: they're making sure that people come first, corporations second.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:06 PM on December 19, 2005


Georgists and geolibertarians argue that land, while a factor of production, is not properly considered capital, and ground rents and resource extraction profits taken from the commons rightfully belong to the community.

Well, hell, I guess I'm turning into a geolibertarian. I've got nothing but admiration for the Inuit, who appear to have made sure their diamond resources are used to the benefit of all their people, wrt work, services, environmental quality control, etcetera. I'm developing nothing but a pissy attitude about the rest of Canada's approach to damn near giving away all our other resources. We Canucks should all benefit by the lease of our forests, oil, lands, fish, etcetera.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:09 PM on December 19, 2005


That's why you call yourself five fresh fish?
posted by nkyad at 5:29 PM on December 19, 2005


Some clarfications:

1- Michelle Bachelet (Chile's next president) is nominally a Socialist, but in fact her economic program is a bit to the right of the current US administration, in for example free-trade, non-protectionism, etc. Her social agenda is semi-liberal but nothing crazy. She's closer to a Spanish Social-Democrat and is not by any standards a Marxist, neo- or otherwise. She's basically continuing Ricardo Lagos' policies, which are seen as too capitalist and aligned with the powers-that-be by the more revolutionary neo-left governments in L.A.

2- Coca != Cocaine. The fact that the US seeks to resolve it's social and medical issues by proxy fighting outside of its borders is just a way to be able to point a finger at some other evil dark skinned people for their own lack of compasion and social responsability . Coca != Cocaine.

3- Bolivians don't eat quesadillas, so I doubt they'll make Coca quesadillas anytime soon.

4- More power to Evo Morales: Bolivia is getting their first Indian president the same year Chile's getting it's first Woman president. In your face, racists and sexists the world over.
posted by signal at 5:49 PM on December 19, 2005


It'll be time to "liberate" Peru soon I expect.

Hey, if they call the crap they serve at McDonald's food, surely a little leaf passes the test.
posted by clevershark at 5:51 PM on December 19, 2005


doh... not Peru, Bolivia...
posted by clevershark at 5:53 PM on December 19, 2005


5- Regardless of whether or not people here define Coca as food, this is not the point: Coca is an integral part of Aymara and Quechua culture and has been for centuries; it's an important cash crop and is used even as an exchange medium. The fact that first-worlders found a way to blow their brains out with it is nobody's concern but their own.
posted by signal at 6:04 PM on December 19, 2005


signal : "Coca is an integral part of Aymara and Quechua culture and has been for centuries"

Actually it seems that the correct timeframe here is thousands, not hundreds, of years - they have almost the same right to use the plant as, say, the Jewish people has to establish a State in the land of Canaan.

And Morales has declared today that if Coca-Cola can legally use the coca leaf in its product he can't see why the Bolivians can't use the same plant in their own traditional ways. I like this guy.

clevershark : "doh... not Peru, Bolivia..."

You are not so far off: Peru elects a new President in April and the candidate now in a close second is Ollanta Humala, a nationalistic former army officer (like Venezuela's Chavez) who is being pushed forward by his appeal to the poor (indigenous) Peruvians.
posted by nkyad at 6:29 PM on December 19, 2005


5- Regardless of whether or not people here define Coca as food, this is not the point: Coca is an integral part of Aymara and Quechua culture and has been for centuries; it's an important cash crop and is used even as an exchange medium.

Totally agreed. I was specifically referring to the text of the BBC article that referred to coca leaf as a "staple food," which I still think is a bit of a misnomer (although Gyan disagrees.)
posted by Afroblanco at 6:55 PM on December 19, 2005


"he won elections first with popular support, but when he lost the next ones, he closed parliament, killed his opponents, and began implementing his vision of revolution."

No, not really. He lost an internal party election, but ended up with more delegates (hence Bolshevik over Menshevik), mobilized the soviet militia, lost more elections, then stepped into a vacuum when the parliament first fomented a coup through the military (after military soviets caused a breakdown in heirarchy that led to catastrophic losses) then hung the senior military out to dry, thus eroding their counter-balancing military force. While his opponents were certainly demonized (mostly by Trotsky), and Lenin's doctrine of "democratic centralism" was inherently a means of institutionalizing a dictatorship, the killings didn't really begin until Stalin.

Further, to equate Chavez with Lenin is incredibly flawed and shows a pretty shallow view of both Lenin and Chavez; it's like equating Gorbachev with Lenin because he used explicitely Leninist rhetoric for his reform policies.
posted by klangklangston at 8:36 AM on December 20, 2005


Well, yes, Lenin only killed maybe a few hundred thousand, tops, in purges, and maybe a million or two more in various other indirect endeavors, but the real blood started to flow with Stalin, as Trotsky said.

Further, to equate Chavez with Lenin is incredibly flawed and shows a pretty shallow view of both Lenin and Chavez

Like I said, hardly perfect, or really anything more than a way of illustrating my fears concerning Chavez and his friends in South America. The rhetoric they're using is quite similar to that employed by Lenin in his revolution, and to many of the same ends, and I believe that things will tend to play out in a similar way to what happened in Russia between 1917-1921. I hope not, of course, and I agree with an earlier posting who said that we should wait and see before casting judgement. I was just a little alarmed at some of the naked cheerleading upthread, with what I saw as very little critical thought directed towards their policies and intentions, and how they might differ from current promises.
posted by loquax at 10:45 AM on December 20, 2005


with what I saw as very little critical thought directed towards their policies and intentions

I "cheerlead" the apparent reformers to the extent they fight corruption and institute a more just society. As I hope you do, too.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:20 PM on December 20, 2005


and I understand your implicit argument that all populist reform opens a pandora's box of potential totalitarianism, but I think the people who are getting screwed in the status quo really have nothing to lose but their chains, so to speak. By Rawl's "veil of ignorance" arguments I'd rather be in Chavez's Venezuela than some hard right neoliberal paradise.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:25 PM on December 20, 2005


Heywood Mogroot, I didn't intend to refer to you. I appreciate reading your comments.

I "cheerlead" the apparent reformers to the extent they fight corruption and institute a more just society. As I hope you do, too.


In so far as those are their intentions and their actions lead to this, yes, of course I do. Don't get me wrong, I understand the social and economic problems that Bolivia and Venezuela face, and if Morales or Chavez were able to make the people's lives dramatically better while maintaining freedom and at least basic classical political liberalism (as opposed to "hard right neoliberalism", if you like), I don't care what political or economic philosophy they subscribe too. I just think that there are some philosophies that are doomed to failure, one way or the other.

but I think the people who are getting screwed in the status quo really have nothing to lose but their chains, so to speak.

I agree with you. I certainly don't blame the people of Bolivia for following Morales (at least the 50% that do), I likely would as well if I were in their position. I just hope it ends better for them than others who followed other populist Marxism revolutions.
posted by loquax at 1:43 PM on December 20, 2005


I disagree with the "other" in your close. "Anti-capitalist" is not necessarily "marxist" when the capitalism in question is imperialistic predatory capitalism as practiced in L.A. for over 100 years.

heh, just learned that Bolivia is one of the few nations not in the Berne copyright convention...
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:47 PM on December 20, 2005


"Anti-capitalist" is not necessarily "marxist"

I agree, in general, however in the case of Morales, it seems to me that he's quite clearly in the Marxist, as opposed to "left wing socialist" camp. He speaks of wealth redistribution, an essential opposition to capitalism (without qualifications, as far as I've seen), state control of industry and support for Chavez, a self-proclaimed Marxist (at the very least, a regurgitator of populist Marxist rhetoric). Even if the "Marxist" label is removed, I believe that he's far along down that path that the end result would be the same as if it weren't.

As an aside, an interesting take on Morales from some real hardcore revolutionary Marxists.

Revolution is not a game. When the question of power is posed, the leadership of the working class must be prepared to take it. If they do not do so, if they confine themselves to revolutionary speeches without taking decisive action, the opportunity will be lost. The masses, not seeing a way out through direct revolutionary action, will get tired of the endless speeches and talk, of meetings and resolutions. The movement will ebb and the initiative will pass to the ruling class...

Therefore, the ruling class in Bolivia has launched an unprecedented scare-mongering campaign against Morales, accusing him of all sorts of things from being an “agent” of “Venezuelan imperialism”, to being a communist (something he is certainly not).
posted by loquax at 11:38 AM on December 21, 2005


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