December 20, 2005
Evo Morales: A Golden Ending

By Pablo Kleinman

The unexpectedly wide margin of victory with which Evo Morales, the self-proclaimed “nightmare of the United States,” won the presidential elections in Bolivia this past weekend can be considered a «golden ending» to an eventful year. It began with the ascent to power of the first socialist government in Uruguay, followed by the fall of Lucio Gutiérrez in Ecuador after a leftist-ethnic uprising, and the political consolidation of left-wing president Néstor Kirchner and of dictator Hugo Chávez in Argentina and Venezuela, respectively. The climax of it all was perhaps the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, in which the Argentine government acted as both host of the official summit and financier of the unofficial “anti-summit,” in essence an anti-American fiesta where extreme left elements caused violent disturbances and significant destruction of private property.

In all cases it was a triumph of the most anti-American and pro-Castro positions, as well as of government policies that have always resulted in the creation of more poverty wherever and whenever they were applied in the past. In every case it was a triumph of those positions most unwilling to acknowledge self-responsibility and most inclined to blame imaginary adversaries.

The most striking aspect of it all for me was to confirm the extreme inability of Latin Americans to accept responsibility for their own mistakes. To observe, once again, that historic propensity to blame external factors that the majority of times are completely unrelated to their problems or don’t even exist. But the whole routine of “playing victim” is not new to Latin Americans, as is not the now exacerbated anti-American sentiment that prevails throughout most of the countries in the region.

Twelve years ago I was asked to write a report on federalism, then a hot topic after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. For reasons of familiarity, I decided then to focus my analysis on our hemisphere. I analyzed the construction of the nation-states that resulted from the fragmentation of the former Spanish empire in the Americas, and it turned out that the whole game Serbs and Croats were playing was a pretty old game in other places; for each given Latin American country there was always an infamous neighbor that was responsible for their terrible misfortune.

As part of the history taught by the majority of Latin American governments to its citizens from a very early age, it turned out that Argentina accused Brazil and Chile of “stealing” territories, while at the same time it was accused of stealing by Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile. Paraguay accused Brazil and Argentina, but at the same time it was Bolivia’s villain. Poor innocent Bolivia was also the victim of Chilean, Peruvian and Brazilian “greed.” And while Peru accused Chile, it was the vile invader of the “Ecuadorian Amazon.” Colombia and Venezuela had stolen from one another, and while the former had taken advantage of the weakness of Nicaragua, the latter had claims to about half of the landmass of neighboring Guyana. Let’s not even talk about the Brits (always so inclined to taking what’s not theirs!) who had stolen from such distant countries as Argentina, Venezuela and Guatemala, the latter also a victim of Mexico, who in turn was a victim of the United States… I hesitate to even mention the fact that all of these countries’ governments barely managed to hold on to and adequately provide for the citizens of the territories that were still under their control!

All of the countries in Latin America, with the notable exception of Cuba (because it’s an island) and of Bolivia, Ecuador and Uruguay, were their neighbors’ torturers and ideal targets to justify past and present indignities, as well as superfluous military budgets. And regarding the mentioned exceptions, the Uruguayans were just happy to keep their accidental independence while Bolivians and Ecuadorians were too busy with regional squabbling and trying to keep the bits and pieces they were left with from seceding.

The fact that today we Yankees are regarded by so many Latin Americans as their Great Satan and common enemy is not primarily a consequence of the actions of the Bush administration. It is a consequence of the now governing Latin American left’s “latinamericanist” instincts, which have prompted these countries to begin loving their neighbors and forced them to fashion a new victimizer. This doesn’t deny the fact that the United States has as much to do with Latin America’s and Bolivia’s misery as have for the latter the “evil Chileans and Paraguayans” throughout generations.

Pablo Kleinman (Buenos Aires, 1971) is an American entrepreneur and journalist. A graduate of the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California, Pablo later attended the London Business School and obtained an MBA from the HEC School of Management, the top business school in France. He is a pioneer of online services in Latin America and has worked over the past decade as a technology consultant and participated in the launch of several startups. He writes frequently about international affairs and is Editor-in-Chief of El Iberoamericano, a Spanish-language political journal (www.eliberoamericano.com).

Pablo Kleinman

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