protest was not surprising, however. After the fall of the Berlin
Wall and the disappearance of the Soviet Union, the Left everywhere
stopped offering options for governance or serious theories about
development and equity and sought refuge in protest.
of globalization explain their ideas by stoning McDonald's to
smithereens. Anticapitalists hurl pies at the president of the
International Monetary Fund.
has turned into ideology. The communists have exchanged Das Kapital
for T-shirts with the image of Ché Guevara and choruses
of brief (and badly rhymed) slogans. The Left today is nothing
but circus and street violence.
strategy, along with the corruption and follies of many governments,
has burrowed deeply, especially in Latin America, where a growing
number of citizens despise democracy as a method to organize coexistence
and reject the market economy as a way to create and assign wealth.
almost the entire region, populism has revitalized itself in either
of its two variants: the for-now tranquil and vegetarian form
favored by Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Uruguay's
Tabaré Vázquez and Argentina's Néstor Kirchner;
and the ferocious and authoritarian form defended by Venezuela's
Chávez and Cuba's Castro, all of them sworn enemies of
international free trade, as was seen in Mar del Plata.
ago, when the first Summit of the Americas was held in Miami in
1994, the atmosphere was totally different. I remember having
a long conversation at the time with Argentine President Carlos
Menem and his foreign minister, Guido di Tella, from which it
could be deduced that Latin America had come of age and was taking
the same sensible road that the First World had taken.
No one doubted
that the way to development and an end to poverty was through
free trade, market economics and international cooperation, in
the manner of Spain, Singapore and the other Asian Dragons, and
other successful nations. Within that context, the Free Trade
Area of the Americas announced by President Clinton opened the
door to hope.
also a chart to reach safe port: the so-called Washington Consensus.
Through the control of inflation and the monetary mass -- through
fiscal balance, a reduction in public expenditure, an opening
to international trade and the privatization of the entrepreneurial
activities of the official sector -- sustained growth and reduced
poverty could be achieved.
prescription was not only for the Third World, because Europe
itself insisted on its application within the European Union,
as reflected in the Maastricht accords that later gave life to
the euro. Simply put, that was sensible governance on the eve
of the 21st century.
America, however, things generally proceeded otherwise. The populist
culture was so deeply entrenched that public expenditure could
not be controlled, and in some countries it was impossible to
privatize the ruinous public enterprises. In other countries,
the privatization processes were scandalous forms of corruption
and embezzlement, which often converted state monopolies into
private monopolies without allowing the market to behave freely.
of the failed reforms? A return to statism, a distrust in international
trade and a disbelief in democracy and the market. They all led
to the victories at the polls of Lucio Gutiérrez in Ecuador,
Chávez, Lula, Vázquez and Kirchner. It was a return
to the past, a stubborn rejection of the fact that the entire
20th century was misspent trying out the diverse variants of collectivist
Mar del Plata,
then, was a confrontation between the cheery original vision of
the first Summit of the Americas, more than a decade ago, and
the darker vision held by half the continent after a period of
frustrations and failures.
that Chile remains as an example that political and economic freedom,
when exercised together, achieve the miracle of development and
greater equity -- in Chile, Latin America's leading nation, poverty
has been reduced from 42 percent to 18 percent in 15 years. But
a more reasonable forecast points to pessimism.
say sarcastically about their own country: Latin America is the
continent of the future -- and always will be.