Dead Men Left

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Morales wins, Telegraph whines

Excellent news from Bolivia:

A FORMER coca farmer who was elected President of Bolivia yesterday is threatening BG Group with the nationalisation of its gas assets in the Andean states.

Evo Morales, who leads the Movement towards Socialism party and who describes himself as “Washington’s nightmare”, said that he would revoke the rights of natural gas producers at the well head.

Foreign control over Bolivia’s vast natural gas reserves was a key issue in the election, alongside coca farming, which is under pressure from Washington over concern that it fuels the drug trade. Señor Morales said that he wanted to change the terms on which foreign companies, such as Repsol, of Spain, Petrobras, of Brazil, and BG Group, of Britain, extract gas.

It's always a pleasure to read what the Right have to say after events like Morales' election, but I wasn't expecting them to be quite so defensive. Here's the unusually meek Daily Telegraph leader:

In the past 30 years, Latin Americans have abandoned the generals in favour of democracy and are now using that freedom to push the continent to the Left...

Such tweaking of Uncle Sam's nose will delight those who hate Mr Bush. Yet two words of caution are in order. The Washington/International Monetary Fund free-market prescriptions may have led to a widening of the gap between rich and poor. But, looking beyond the anti-yanqui rhetoric, that does not mean their outright rejection south of the Rio Grande.

See, for example, the moderate economic policies pursued by President Luiz Inácio da Silva in Brazil. Second, protectionism has been tried before in the region and found dismally wanting. That should serve as a lesson to a small, poor country such as Bolivia, which, despite its natural gas resources, needs foreign investment to build its infrastructure almost from scratch.

How fitting that the hapless Lula should held up as an example; if there's one direction that would be catastrophic for Bolivia, it would be following the same course that the Workers' Party have taken up the backside of the IMF. "Protectionism" may well have been "found wanting", but it still was not as disastrously bad as the free-market alternative.

The graphic failure of neoliberalism in Latin America is a difficult one to argue around, admittedly. But this mealy-mouthed criticism just won't do. All that is need is a little imagination. Mark Steyn's got the right idea. The US as rape victim? The man has a certain style, has he not?