Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Leftism Done Right

Hugo Chávez: A real leftist?

In 1999, Hugo Chavez became president of Venezuela. Soon after, he declared that he was leading his oil-rich country toward a 'socialist revolution' based on something called 'Bolivarianism.'

In the name of leftism, Chavez and his succesor Nicolas Maduro have expropriated property, organized worker collectives and recruited Cuban medics - and sent corruption out of control skyrocketed the homicide rate.

But at the same time, the so-called chavista revolution has failed glaringly to behave revolutionarily on social issues.

Across the globe, pot is becoming legal, abortion rights are expanding and same sex couples are winning legal recognition - but not in the supposedly revolutionary Venezuela, or its allegedly leftist allies Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.

Two cuddly guys. Mujica and Brazilian
ex-Pres.Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Contrast Venezuela with Uruguay, governed by Pres. José Mujica, an ex-guerrilla with true leftist/revolutionary credentials. (Chavez, in contrast, achieved fame by leading a failed military coup attempt.) In little more than three years, Mujica's government has legalized abortion and gay marriage and is working on legalizing marijuana. But Mujica doesn't call his policies a 'revolution' - just practical policy. He wants marijuana legal in order to take the business away from outlaw gangs which have become inceasingly violent. During a recent interview with Colombia's W Radio, Mujica, in his steady, houghtful way, explained that uruguay's 'drug problem' isn't overdoses, but violence by gangs fighting over the illegal drug business. And drug legalization isn't populist policy in Uruguay - most Uruguayans actually oppose the idea, according to polls.

Even countries ruled by conservative governments, such as Colombia and Great Britain have moved forward on these issues (which should call into question the left-right labels). Guatemala's Pres. Otto Pérez Molina, an ex-military general, in an outspoken advocate of drug legalization - altho he has not changed laws at home.

In the company of gay leaders, Venezuelan
Pres. Nicolas Maduro declares that the
revolution isn't homophobic.
The contrast couldn't be greater with 'revolutionary Venezuela,' where a chavista congressman recently accused opposition politiciansof running a gay/transsexual prostitution ring and said to opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles: “Respond, homosexual, accept the challenge, maricón."

Venezuela's supposedly leftist allies Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua haven't done any better. In fact, in a monumentally cynical move, Nicaragua's then presidential candidate Daniel Ortega, bought the support of the Catholic Church by promising to prohibit all abortions. So much for a moral compass.

Perhaps the contrast between Mujica and Chavez reflects a deeper difference in character. As president, Mujica lives modestly, drives his old car and lives at home on the outskirts of the capital. Chavez, in contrast, spent Venezuela's wealthy lavishly on himself - and by importing military weapons.

What's that all say? Maybe one man has character and the other did not.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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