Contrary to what many Americans may believe, the most important news stories over the last month was not anything regarding Iraq or the U.S. Presidential election. No, the two most important stories were the defeat Hugo Chavez’s proposals in Venezuela and the fraudulant elections in Russia that pretty well created a clear path to a Putin dictatorship.
These stories are infinitely more interesting and important to me than anything regarding a U.S. Presidential election ever will be. However, it has not gone unnoticed by your (sometimes) humble coorespondent, that no one really cares about these stories. They consistently get read less than anything else I write. Thus, I put off writing about Russia and Venezuela and their massive significance, to write about Mitt, Giuliani or Iowa; this is what the ‘consumer’ wants.
However, I can stay my hand no more, as current events in Bolivia complete the trilogy of socialist stories over the last three weeks. But before I dive into what is going on in Bolivia, allow to give a brief overview of how these stories are interconnected and why they are so important.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has stood as the sole handler of world power. There is no country that comes close to the United States economically or militarily. However, this did not cause all countries to fall in line with U.S. policy. In all actuality, U.S. hegemony allowed for governments, leaders, and electoral candidates in respective countries to blame their faults and terrible conditions on the U.S.
While the reasoning above is not wholly responsible for what has occured over the last decade, it certainly has been a significant factor. During this period the world is again dividing into two camps. The way most seem to describe it is geographically, East vs. West, however this is not really accurate as countries from each region fall within each group. So I will call it the U.S. camp and the China camp. (It should be noted that putting China here is not exactly accurate as they are more friendly to us than the others, but being the up and coming counter-balance to American hegemony and their close ties with Russia and Iran, it seems appropriate).
The U.S. camp includes the old garb of world power, the United States, Canada, and the EU, Israel, and Australia – the standard “Western world”. Also included in the U.S. camp are newer powers, economically and militarily, and younger, pro-American democracies. These include India, Japan, South Korea, and much of eastern Europe; I am also inclined to include the UAE, Kuwait, and even Iraq.
The China side includes Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and North Korea. Perhaps by looking at this list you can understand why I hesitate fully including China.
Each camp has two “major” powers. The U.S. camp is lead by the U.S and Europe while the China camp is lead by China and Russia. This latter camp has become more and more socialist over the last decade. Venezuela voted in Hugo Chavez who is staunchly communist and anti-american, Bolivia voted in Evo Morales who is viewed a Chavez puppet and whose economic policies resemble those of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
Chavez, Putin, and Ahmadinejad are actively working on building a counter-weight to the United States, no doubt with Chinese backing. But unlike the Chinese, they intend to do it through building socialist states with socialist economic policies, while China is arguably more capitalistic than the U.S. Ironically, each of those states are advertised as capitalistic and democratic while China is advertised as dictatorial and communistic. This is a real divide and the three events of the past two weeks directly impact the development this bi-polar world.
The latest news in Bolivia is that six of the wealthier and more developed Eastern provinces, lead by the local goverment leaders in Santa Cruz, have declared political autonomy and plan to submit a complete independence referendum to the people.
This move is in response to the communistic economic policies established by President Evo Morales. Morales has been a strong proponent of redistribution of wealth, is in the process of nationalizing the energy and petroleum sectors, and plans to implement land re-distribution policies similar to those in Zimbabwe.
One would think that Morales would look at how much of a complete failure such policies have been in Zimbabwe. But, he is an idealist and idealism always obscures objective and pragmatic thought. Undoubtedly, Morales’s positions will completely destroy the already weak economy of one of South America’s poorest countries. Nevertheless, like all ideologues, he resonates with the country’s poor and native population, of which he is one.
Fortunately, a majority of the people in more developed areas of Bolivia are not buying into it. Industry leaders and provincial government officials are taking a hard stand against Morales to prevent him from destroying the country; even at the threat of military confrontation with Bolivia’s army and even Venezuela.
In two of the last three major events involving states heading towards dictatorial rule, two have moved in favor of freedom. Only Russia has fully continued down the path towards Communism. Hopefully, Venezuela and Bolivia can build on these latest moves in their respective countries to free themselves of autocratic rule, however they are still a long way from being in the clear. Chavez and Morales will not go down without a fight, the question is how much resolve do the freedom loving people in those countries have? How much are they willing to sacrifice to preserve such freedoms?