Monday, July 10, 2006

Latin America rejecting socialists

A few months ago it looked like Fidel was conquering Latin America, but he suffered two large set backs in the past few weeks. Hugo Chavez, after being elected in Venezuela, called a Constitutional Assembly which closed the elected National Assembly. Then it "It also increased the presidential term of office from five to six years, allowed for two consecutive presidential terms rather than one, introduced a presidential two-term limit." How convenient for Hugo: instead of being limited to 5 years he could rule, I mean serve, for 12 years. That was just his first year in office. He has done more since to consolidate all power in himself. Chavez embraces Castro openly, saying:
"Fidel Castro's Cuba ... (had) been far more influential in Caracas than George W. Bush's mighty US"
In Peru Ollanta Humala is a leftist who ran for president, but lost last month. And last week in Mexico in a very close election the voters rejected leftist candidate Andreas Manuel Lopez Obrador, electing Felipe Calderon of the PAN political party of Vincente Fox. Dick Morris and Eileen McGann report:
The Mexican result - driven in part by strong female support for the reform party of Vicente Fox, the PAN - is a sobering indication of the intelligence of the country's impoverished electorate. While the Mexican middle class population has expanded from about one-tenth of the nation in the mid 1990s to about 40% today, more than half of the people still have incomes of less than $1,000 per month. Obrador promised these poor people an immediate increase of 20% in their incomes, as well as free gas and electricity, and a doubling of old-age pensions. But the Mexican voters listened instead to the warnings of Calderon's PAN that Obrador's policies would cause a crippling debt and a renewal of the path to self-destruction that Mexico experienced in the 70's and 80's which led to the peso collapse in the 1990s.
And they say that much credit belongs to President Fox who combined social programs with a tiny touch of capitalism.
But the real lesson of the election is the success of the way President Fox - who boasts a 60% job approval that Bush can only envy - used Mexico's oil wealth to begin to lift his country up out of poverty. With the substantially increased additional national revenues, Fox created successful programs to invest in people, education, and the economy. He began by offering free health insurance to more than a third of the Mexican people who had no coverage at all. His Opportunity program extends micro loans to fledgling small businesses. He vastly expanded scholarship programs and helped to subsidize poor families to allow them to send their children away from the fields and factories and into the schools each day. It was by this merger of free market capitalism combined with vigorous social welfare policies that Fox was able to blunt the leftist offensive. The lesson of Mexico is that wealth will, indeed, trickle down, if it is irrigated and encouraged to do so by well conceived public policies.
And this can work elsewhere:
But the Mexico result shows that sound, solid economic growth, coupled with public education and good social policies, may offer an alternative that could yet save this continent from another round of boom-and-bust. Without such policies, we will soon be facing more Castros and Chavezes in the rest of our hemisphere.

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