Editorial: Latin America’s ‘pink tide’ is fading fast

Chicago TribuneIt was around the time we were coping with Y2K paranoia that the swing to the left throughout Latin America began knocking down dominoes.

Hugo Chavez stampeded into power in Venezuela in 1999 and reassembled the oil-rich South American state into a leftist nightmare for America. Then came Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his brand of social welfare in Brazil in 2002, followed by the Kirchners — Nestor and Cristina — in Argentina, onetime coca farmer Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador — the list goes on.

Remember the vitriol? During a U.N. speech in 2006, Hugo Chavez stood before the world and said he caught a whiff of sulfur, a day after President George W. Bush had stood at the same podium to speak to the General Assembly. “The devil came here yesterday, right here,” Chavez declared.

The so-called “pink tide” worried Washington, in part because Russia, China and Iran saw a chance to establish beachheads in the Western Hemisphere. Venezuela bought billions of dollars of arms from the Kremlin and conducted joint military exercises with Russia. Under Chavez, trade with China ballooned from less than $500 million to $10 billion. Both Morales and Chavez cozied up to Iran and its president at the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. …

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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.