Saturday, May 16, 2015


I have organized two panels for the Left Forum (John Jay College, NY) that are scheduled for Saturday, May 30.

Challenges Facing Latin America’s Radical Left (10:00 -11:50 AM): A mixed picture for the Latin American radical left has emerged over the last two years. On the one hand, leftist and moderate leftist governments have won presidential elections in Ecuador, Bolivia, El Salvador and Brazil, while right-wing presidential candidates with strong possibilities of success were defeated in Chile, Panama and Colombia. On the other hand, some left-leaning governments have faced increasing economic difficulties which have contributed to weaker results in recent elections. In Venezuela the government of Nicolás Maduro has been subject to an all-out destabilization campaign and will now face a congressional election that the opposition wants to characterize as a plebiscite. In addition, the sharp decline in international hydrocarbon prices has negatively affected the economies of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. In Venezuela and elsewhere the role of the market in nations committed to socialism has become a major issue of debate, as is currently the case in Cuba. The presentations on this panel will look at the challenges facing the Latin radical left as well as factors that favor the political survival of those governments, such as the emergence of UNASUR, MERCOSUR, CELAC, ALBA and other international bodies free of U.S. domination. Finally, it will look at the role of the United States in efforts to counter the radical left in the region.

Is Post-Chavez Venezuela Still Leftist? (Saturday, 12:00-1:50 PM): In the aftermath of the death of Hugo Chávez, the key question for the left is whether his successors have been true to his legacy, or whether the “revolutionary process” has now stalled or, even worse, been thrown into reverse. The pressing problems that now beset Venezuela have convinced some Chavistas that President Nicolás Maduro is lacking in Chávez’s political acumen. These problems include chronic shortages of consumer goods and an annual inflation rate of over 60 percent. Both of these, according to Maduro, are part of an “economic war” waged by powerful interests to destabilize Venezuela. Another problem is the Chavista leadership’s intolerance toward internal criticism, including the significant number of critical Chavistas who have had their programs removed from state-run radio and television. Nevertheless, those who characterize Maduro’s rule as one of retrenchment fail to recognize that governments in the past never confronted the business sector by temporarily occupying commercial establishments and warehouses, confiscating trucks running contraband operations, encouraging community involvement in the denunciation of business abuses, or placing limits on profits. The radical Chavistas exaggerate when they point to the government’s errors and the problems the country faces as proof that revolutionary goals have been abandoned and that the process of change is fully in reverse.


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