Saturday, March 09, 2013

End of Chavez and Chavism..Eventually Lulaism will prevail in Latin America

I grieve for the untimely and sad death of Chavez, for whom I had great admiration when I went to Caracas in 2000. He worked for the poor people of Venezuela and made their life better. His oligarchic predecessors had squandered the oil wealth leaving 50% of the people poor and the economy in bad shape. Chavez emerged as a messiah of the masses. He made the PDVSA, the oil company accountable and used the oil revenue for development. He reduced the excessive dependence on US and opened new markets like China and India for the Venezuelan oil. He stood up against the US (which considered Latin America as its backyard and playground) and literally isolated President Bush in the Mar del Plata Summit of the Americas. He gave strength to the resurgent Left in the region and helped many small Caribbean countries and Cuba with oil at very concessional terms.

Chavez was a charismatic leader and engaging personality. He spoke to my son for five minutes when my son did not understand a word of spanish. He had incredible political instincts and mobilised the masses with his Bolivarian Revolution.

That is the positive part.

Like Qaddafi and Saddam Hussain, he became a megalomaniac, although as an elected autocrat. He has destroyed the industry, business and education system. He controlled foreign exchange, imports and oil income and allowed the Chavistas to become corrupt. He polarised the society with his venom, abuse and insult against anyone who did not follow his line. He ruled by threats, abuses and insults. He allowed crime to flourish in Caracas to teach a lesson to the middle class people who did not vote for him. He was so mean and vindictive against anyone who did not say yes to him.

Chavez sullied the image of the Left by taking it to ridiculously radical levels. He polarized Latin America and resurrected the hated Caudillo image back in the region.

On balance,  the damage to Venezuela, Latin America and the Left are much more in comparison to his positive contribution. It will take atleast 14 years ( he was in power that long after changing his own constitution) for Venezuela to recover from Chavez's destruction.

Of course, Nicholas Maduro might get elected by the sympathy wave. But he and other rivals of him cannot be as bad as Chavez.

So while I condole the death of Chavez, I believe that this is the time of hope for Venezuela.

Will the Bolivarian Revolution, the 21st Century Socialism and Chavism continue after Chavez?  May be for some time Chavism will linger on like the Peronism in Argentina. But the Latin Americans have had enough of the polarising and confrontational ideological battles.  What will prevail eventually is Lulaism which replaces the destructive Chavez model of polarization with a constructive model of Consensus. This consensus, called as Brasilia Consensus, seeks a pragmatic and balanced approach of pro-poor and pro-market policies.