John Paul Rathbone looks at the pink tide and concludes that
As Chávez’s death focuses attention on the economic failings of radicals, pragmatists are proving more successful
Comparing the Latin American countries,
Today, about half of the region’s 20 republics are centrist or centre-right. Not that this has diminished the importance of social progress everywhere. Caracas rightly boasts that it has halved poverty levels in Venezuela. Yet this performance has been repeated elsewhere, in Chile and Peru for example, without ransacking the economy as Chávez did.
The Chavista model is a busted flush but no leader in the region will publicly admit it. Nonetheless, tributes have flowed in all week. Dignitaries and world leaders, from Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad to the Prince of Asturias, have flown to Caracas to pay their respects. In Havana, the Castro government declared three days of mourning.
Much of the radical left’s grief is real, but so too is the self-interest. Because Chávez’s demise confronts it with a bind. The populist left is dominated by outsize personalities. With its most extravagant character gone, others are jostling for supremacy. That is as true inside Venezuela, where chavismo is riddled with factions, as outside.
“The space and rhetoric won’t change,” says Franklin Ramírez, a sociologist at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Quito. But the “map has been changing”. The main contenders for influence are two economic blocs: Brazil and its partners in the southern Mercosur trade pact, and its regional counterweight, the free-trading Pacific economies of Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile.
The second and bigger problem is that the radical economic model is unsustainable. Even with the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela has turned to China for $40bn of loans to keep itself going.
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