Venezuela’s Humble Pie

When it comes to humble pie, there’s enough to go around for everyone these days. This time it’s Venezuela’s turn. Notice how, with Venezuelan largesse drying up, Brazil and Argentina look east to China, but the smaller, more vulnerable countries still look north to Washington. The devil you know beats one you don’t?

The big winner here is Brazil, though, which once again demonstrates the superiority of the Latin American progressive left, as opposed to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s inflammatory brand of populist left. Notice that Brazilian President Lula da Silva definitively ruled out a third term, meaning that Brazil’s emergence depends not on Lula, but on the health of Brazil’s political institutions.

There are some beneficial aspects to Chavez’s development agenda. More regionalself-reliance for South and Latin America is a good thing, as is betterhealth care and poverty-reduction. And he did well to use Venezuelan oil revenues to expand the country’s regional influence. But by basing it all on cash reserves and his own cult of personality, both inherently unstable, Chavez did little to inspire the trust and confidence necessary to develop lasting relationships. For all his talk about Bolivarian socialism, he benefitted from a momentary bubble, while leaving behind no lasting movement.

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