As Venezuela melts down, uncomfortable introspection for Europe’s leftists

christian science monitorAn inspiration, a hero: these are the words leftists in Europe lavished on the late Hugo Chavez for his “Bolivarian revolution” in Venezuela.

For British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and left-wing parties like Syriza and Podemos in southern Europe, Chavez’s ascendance was long the clearest challenge to inequality in Latin America, neoliberalism in Washington, and austerity at home.

Today, it’s a decidedly foggier picture.

A humanitarian crisis is enveloping Venezuela. The country is turning increasingly dictatorial under President Nicolás Maduro. And that has placed those like Mr. Corbyn who praised chavismo, Chavez’s ideology, into a political minefield. Now, some on the left are calling for a more clear-eyed assessment in Europe of what is happening in the troubled nation.

“I think the left internationally is very confused around the question of Venezuela,” says Mike Gonzalez, a British historian and a former professor of Latin American Studies at the University of Glasgow. “It is very distressing to lots of people who have given their lives and hopes and commitments to that hopeful process of change to come face-to-face with reality,” he says. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.