What Latin America's Communist Travails Say about the USA's Future
During his 1961 inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy made it abundantly clear that he was concerned that the countries to the south of the United States not fall prey to communism. He wrote:
To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge — to convert our good words into good deeds — in a new alliance for progress — to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers [emphasis mine]. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.
Yet not only have communist inroads been made south of the border, but jihadist attacks have increased. Thus, "[d]uring the 2000s and early 2010s, Iran made notable inroads throughout Latin America. Tehran capitalized on shifting power dynamics in an increasingly multipolar world and a tide of anti-US sentiments in Latin America in order to assert Iranian influence, most notably in countries where Left-leaning governments were in power. Iran's then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials deepened Tehran's relations with governments in Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela." In fact, South America has served as a "base for Hezbollah operatives who represent an extension of Iranian influence" into our southern neighbors' countries.
In 2018, apologists for socialism cited Bolivia as a "seemingly successful" socialist regime. They claimed that Bolivia had experienced a "3.8 percent growth rate" and that this was proof that socialism could work. They contrasted Bolivia's success with Venezuela's total destruction under socialism and claimed that the latter was an "outlier" instead of a prime example of what occurs under socialist regimes.
However, Brittany Hunter, from the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), notes:
[W]hat failed to be mentioned was that Morales[, then the president of Bolivia, had] allowed varying degrees of capitalism to exist in the Bolivian economy. And because of these market elements, Bolivia finds itself faring far better than Maduro's Venezuela.
By definition, socialism is state control of the means of production. In Venezuela, between 2002 and 2012, 1,168 private companies were expropriated, or taken over by the state. In Bolivia, between 2005 and 2015, only 20 private companies had been commandeered by the government. [Thus] a lot less damage can be done to a country when it chooses socialism-lite over the full-blown variety.
True, Bolivia does have a generous welfare state, but while this may be an aspect that comes with socialism, the redistribution of wealth is only a supporting feature and not a defining characteristic of this economic philosophy. This puts Bolivia in the same camp as Nordic countries, that, while praised for being examples socialist success stories, are actually using the fruits of basically capitalist economies to fund their welfare states.
But in 2019, Bolivian President Evo Morales, who had served for nearly 14 years, fled the country. An interim government came into being.
At the time, Vanessa Vallejo noted:
Morales has already shown what he is capable of. He cheats in front of an entire country. That is why Bolivians fear electoral fraud.
Morales is trying to make people believe that the country is doing very well because the growth figures seem to indicate that. However, when one looks at the fall in international reserves and the level of indebtedness, both domestic and foreign, it is clear that the apparent growth is a fictitious matter derived from his strategy of stimulating aggregate demand via state spending. Soon there will be an economic crisis in Bolivia, and there will be a socialist in power, which will only make things worse
Many factors influence the disaster faced by ... Bolivians. A spineless right-wing, leftists without any qualms who want to embark on a tyranny, sell-out judicial system, but the underlying problem, the most worrying thing, is that most people in ... Bolivia still believe in the left
They get tired of one socialist and decide to vote for another. In Bolivia, according to the polls, less than 10% of the votes would favor the candidate talking about markets and freedom.
Now Luis Arce has won the elections in Bolivia. In fact, "[t]he [Bolivian] Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced that Arce won 55 percent of the votes against six rivals on the ballot, easily avoiding the need for a run-off. Most important to note is that this election provides vindication for the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS)[, the] party of former President Evo Morales who was ousted last year"
On the one hand, Michael Waller of the Center for Security Policy maintains that the "ouster of Bolivia's pro-Iran narco-regime looks like a textbook case of how to execute a popular revolution the right way. This is a huge contrast to the failed attempt to oust the Maduro regime in Venezuela earlier this year." Waller writes, "So far, things have gone as well as the removal of an illegal regime possibly could. Evo Morales, the coca-growing president who aligned his conservative country with Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran, held on to power beyond his constitutional limits and was shown the door."
Bolivians from all walks of life joined together to pull off a textbook-perfect ouster of an illegal regime.
This was a big win for Bolivia. A big win for the Monroe Doctrine. A big win for American national interests. And a big win for President Trump's National Security Strategy that stresses the promotion of national sovereignty.
But Joseph Humire, a specialist in global security and executive director of the Center for a Free and Secure Society, debunks Waller's claim and posits that "after massive electoral fraud, from top to bottom, Morales's credibility in the country evaporated. To save whatever legitimacy he had left, he sought asylum in Mexico, where he apparently has begun a political propaganda campaign to confuse the international community about what's really going on in Bolivia."
It's working. False narratives are weaving their way into the public's conscience and have even fooled some U.S. politicians. But for those who pay close attention to Bolivia, it's important to set the record straight and ensure that these false narratives are debunked.
Humire emphatically asserts that "[t]he coup narrative has nearly no traction in Bolivia; however, the repeated claims of a coup by Morales and friends have gained credibility with certain Democratic 2020 presidential candidates. No matter how much one wants to believe that the indigenous leader was ousted in a coup, the facts simply don't add up."
Consequently, the election of Arce has the people of Bolivia delighted, but will the region see another power-obsessed authoritarian leader re-enact the policies of the previous administration?
Sabrina Martin writes that the election of Arce "opens the doors for the MAS (Movement Towards Socialism)." Thus, such a situation would allow the MAS government "to reach new agreements disguised as legitimacy with Iran, but which, eventually [will] allow more clandestine operations."
Put succinctly, Iran, the country that daily screams, "Death to America" is gaining traction in a country that is a mere 3,264 miles from Florida.
Furthermore, Joseph Humire asserts that "a MAS victory in the Bolivian presidency could intensify Iran's illicit activities in that country." Indeed, "Bolivia has been the epicenter of clandestine routes for both drug trafficking and minerals that serve as raw material for the manufacture of weapons."
In reality, Iran has had a covert presence in Central and Latin America for quite a while. Thus, for "more than 35 years, Iran has built up the potential for military presence in the region." Chávez and now Maduro have given the Iranians that capacity. Consequently, "Iran has built a dual-use infrastructure. It builds companies as a facade, which at first sight, are legitimate but are hiding other uses." It is why Iran "sends gasoline and food to Venezuela, to say that they are partners and then to trade arms."
Caribbean dictatorships such as Cuba are historically long-lasting. What of her southern neighbors? In Chile, the destruction of churches by the left is spreading across the country as "the left shows how it must eliminate all competition on the cultural and moral level in its struggle to establish an official religion: the worship of the state."
Will we look back on Bolivia's latest election results and concur that its citizens are still attracted to the dictatorial impulse of their leaders?
How this bodes for the Western Hemisphere remains to be seen.
Eileen can be reached at email@example.com.