While Venezuelans assume it is the future of their country which is at stake in the October Presidential elections, much more is at stake than that. The presence of Hugo Chavez in the region not only supports dictatorial and quasi-dictatorial Governments like Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua, but allows other countries like Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador to pass as “moderates”, because in comparison they seem more democratic and respectful of human rights.
But the truth is that the region is hitting a new low in terms of human rights and democratic ideals. And the demise of the Bolivarian revolution will go a long way into helping the return of true human right and democratic values to the region.
It has become common to suggest that freedom of speech and freedom of choice are just some of the basic rights that people have and there is no preference for one over the other. Which is true. The problem is that the right to life or to health care or the right to an education are not only costly, but require a coordinated effort to provide them. And lots of hard work and long term planning, something lacking in many regional Governments. Meanwhile, the right to speak out, the right to choose politically have little cost, they just require the will of the Government in charge to be tolerant and understanding of what democratic principles and human rights are all about.
Unfortunately, the region has gone backwards in the last ten years. When the leaders of the Americas restricted the participation in Summit’s to democratically elected countries in 2000, none of those leaders could have envisioned that we would have had the discussions of last week. Here are the Castro brothers, one a self-appointed Dictator, the other one endorsed by his brother, ruling a country for fifty years and we are supposed to ignore the atrocities and the human right violations, just because the Castro brothers are somehow supposed to be simpatico or spouse some idealistic goals, that they have miserably failed to deliver for more than five decades. When their participation i the Summit becomes a point of contention, you know something is trully rotten in the region.
But somehow, the rise of China and India has generated a commodity boom for Latin America that has given the people of the region some sense of prosperity such that their leaders can ignore not only what is going on in neighboring countries, but also what happens in their own.
And that is why it is so important for the Bolivarian revolution to end this Fall. What is at stake, is not simply the plight of 28 million Venezuelans, but the indirect impact of an amoral regime directly on Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and more indirectly on Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and others.
The Hugo Chavez autocracy has helped the Castro brothers extend their grip on power in Cuba, propped up Evo in Bolivia and Ortega in Nicaragua and provided billions to Argentina, Brazil an even Colombia in funds that should have stayed in Venezuela, financing our prosperity, not theirs, instead of going elsewhere to buy trinkets that give Venezuelans the illusion that things are well under the revolution.
Which is why Capriles and the unified opposition should understand that what is at stake is not only whether Venezuela will or not be turned around, but whether millions of Latin Americans will be able to enjoy in the future an open society and whether they will have choices and rights with no discrimination.
What is at stake in October is more transcendental than what the Venezuelan people seem to understand. Let us hope that Capriles, his supporters and Venezuela are up to the historic task at hand.