The Blog

Venezuela's Weak Strongman

Chávez does not speak for the South American left.

12:00 AM, Aug 19, 2008 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Have many countries elected candidates of the left? Sure. But it should be clear by now that Chávez does not speak for the South American left. In 2003, a center-left Chilean government signed a free trade agreement with the United States. In Brazil, the center-left Lula government has pursued a sound, market-oriented economic agenda and worked with the Bush administration to promote ethanol production. Peru's center-left president, Alan García, has embraced market reforms and free trade. In early 2007, the United States and Uruguay signed a "Trade and Investment Framework Agreement." Uruguay, too, has a center-left government, led by President Tabaré Vázquez.
In other words, Chávez is losing the ideological battle, and we should not inflate his stature or the extent of his influence. Thanks to computer files recovered earlier this year by the Colombian military, we have learned more about Venezuelan support for the narco-terrorists of the FARC. These revelations have further damaged Chávez's standing in the region. Now is the time for Washington to boost its own standing in Latin America and deepen cooperation with its democratic partners.

Jaime Daremblum, former ambassador of Costa Rica to the United States (1998-2004), is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.