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Latin leaders discover a Ch?vez embrace can be toxic

The red wave of Bolivarian populism enveloping Latin America has dissipated for the time being as Ollanta Humala gracefully acknowledged defeat in Peru’s (Country Report) presidential election on June 4. Humala’s defeat represents a severe blow to Venezuela’s President Hugo Ch?vez and his dream of a united Latin America, free of Washington’s influence. Symbolically, the Peruvian election represents a vote of no confidence in Latin America’s populist bloc led by the stridently anti-American leftist Hugo Ch?vez . Quite correctly, Ch?vez’s grandstanding and incessant meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign nations has begun to draw the scorn of various governments and populaces, causing dissension within the ranks of Latin America’s leftist leaders. Humala’s caudillo persona generated considerable fear among large segments of the Peruvian populace. Peruvian President Alan Garcia rightly played to these fears, portraying Humala as Ch?vez’s Peruvian reincarnate. During a handful of Garcia political rallies, the candidate got the crowd on its feet and shouting “Ch?vez, out of Peru.” Opinion polls released last week by the Lima-based Apoyo polling firm indicate that Peruvians have little patience for Ch?vez, with 17 percent of voters holding a positive view of the Venezuelan leader. (For further analysis concerning the Peruvian presidential election campaign, please see the April, 7 2006 Intel Report and the January 5, 2006 Intel Report) Monte Reel of the Washington Post wrote on June 6, 2006, “Peruvians knew going into Sunday’s presidential election that a vote for Alan Garcia also meant a vote against the regional ambitions of Venezuela’s Hugo Ch?vez.” During Garcia’s victory speech on June 4, he declared Ch?vez to be the true loser of the election, exemplifying the distain Garcia and 83 percent of the populace holds for the man. Ch?vez’s black and white view of the world has caused considerable discomfort among the political and economic elite of Latin America. Since 2002, Ch?vez has effectively called upon Latin American leaders to choose between the United States and Venezuela, effectively eliminating any middle ground. Hubristic messages emanating from the US throughout the latter half of the 20th century precipitated Latin America’s sudden reversion to leftist-populist leaders. Failing to understand the populaces’ inherent discomforts associated with such hubristic messages, Ch?vez is proceeding along the same lines, alienating state governments and local citizenry. Elections to be held in Mexico in July 2006 and Nicaragua in November 2006 will determine more accurately the disintegration and/or preservation of Ch?vez’s Bolivarian revolution. Currently, leftist Mexican presidential candidate Andr?s Manuel L?pez Obrador (see photo below) is attempting to distance himself from Ch?vez, as Mexican voters have demonstrated their distaste for the Venezuelan leader. Like Alan Garc?a, however, Mexico’s conservative candidate Felipe Calderon has been relatively successful in juxtaposing Lopez Obrador and Ch?vez in a series of TV ads, overtaking the leftist candidate in presidential polls. Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, however, has effectively tied his election chances to the embrace of Ch?vez among the Nicaraguan populace, which remains more fearful of US interference than Venezuelan interference. Although the election of Bolivian President Evo Morales was viewed as the triumph of radical, ultra-nationalism within Latin America, the subsequent election of Chile’s Michelle Bachelet and Peru’s Alan Garc?a demonstrates Latin America’s affinity toward socialist, leftist leaders who champion free market principles. The success of both the Peruvian and Chilean economy in the last five years further endorses the principles of the free market in conjunction with increased social spending. Political success, as outlined by Bachelet, Peru’s outgoing President Alejando Toledo and Brazil’s Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, takes a middle of the road approach, discarding radical left or right political philosophies. The Latin American community

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