During my last birthday, I was living in El Centro of Mexico City.
Decided to go get a meal at Chilis and then relax with some drinks at home.
As I was walking towards Chilis, I noticed the section of the street where the Chilis was happened to be cut off.
There were a bunch of tents in the street and a lot of police in front of those tends blocking anyone from crossing them.
So I had to go around them through a park to finally get to Chilis.
But, as you can read in greater detail here, I wanted to know what was happening.
So I wrote that big article above to document my experience with a protest that happened to be against the Mexican President AMLO.
What were their concerns?
Well, they had various concerns like not enough money going for kids with cancer and water issues…
So on and so on.
You can read that article linked here for more details.
But the relevant point in that story that has to deal with this article you are reading now has to do with a certain fear the protesters had.
In which some of them talked about the ties AMLO has with other leftist leaders in Latin America…
And ultimately they promoted the idea that AMLO is basically going to turn Mexico into…
“The Next Venezuela.”
What do they mean by that?
Well, whatever you would think of when you think of Venezuela…
Essentially that Mexico will be turned into some form of a failed state with millions of people escaping from a collapsed economy and a literal leftist dictator.
Now, keep in mind, this isn’t just a Mexico thing.
I’ve heard this narrative either while in other Latin countries or from people I know who live in other countries.
The Fear of the Next Venezuela
In short, Venezuela is kinda like a boogyman almost to so many Latinos down here.
It’s such a great talking point it seems to basically scare the shit out of the voters by saying “if we vote in x leftist candidate, we will be the NEXT VENEZUELA!!!”
To a degree, I think it’s a little bit ridiculous.
Perhaps justified in other cases.
First and foremost, it’s an obvious political talking point that we will discuss in greater detail later.
Every country has politicians that try to use talking points that might be exaggerated or misleading to paint the other side as being destructive to the country.
Which is why we can’t vote for them!
And, to be fair, this type of narrative happens even outside of Latin America in the US also!
Here’s a video right here of a politician warning about the US becoming the next Venezuela.
But it’s not just Mexico and the US that have politicians playing this narrative…
Here are a bunch of videos of people talking about the narrative of how some x politician in their respective country will make their country into the next Venezuela.
Since my Portuguese is pretty crap, the Brazil one had to be in English lol.
And that’s just the news, politicians and Youtube content creators with lots of viewers.
It goes beyond that.
How about social media?
Here is a screenshot of something someone posted on Twitter about how the left is gaining traction in Latin America.
Which is what reminded me of this topic to write about.
And while a lot of the responses were dominated by comments about how the “CIA will be busy soon” and other comments celebrating the rise of the left as a way to counter “US imperialism.”
You also had other comments like these here for example comparing the rise of the left to the dangers of Venezuela.
At any rate, if you want more examples of people warning about their respective politicians making their country into a Venezuela…
Just play with the search results of Twitter.
Type something like “AMLO Venezuela” or whatever.
You’ll be able to find more folks online saying how their respective country will be another Venezuela.
On top of that, you also have articles online that talk about the possibility of certain leaders making their respective countries into the next Venezuela.
First, we have Argentina in which some random important person named Susana Gimenez….
Who, from my brief research, seems to be some businesswoman, actress and TV Presenter…
Had this to say as you can read here about Argentine President Alberto Fernandez:
“Cuando vi a una señora hacer una fila desde las 4.30 de la mañana para comprar huevos, vi a Venezuela y tengo terror de que nos quieran convertir en eso".
Second, we have this article here that discusses the possibility of AMLO making Mexico into the “Venezuela of the North” and if that possibility has any merit behind it or not.
But I already covered Mexico from my own personal experience with this so let’s move on from that.
Third, we have this article by Expat Chronicles here that does a good job discussing Peruvian politics and how a candidate by the name of Pedro Castillo of the left is doing fairly well in the polls.
Will he make Peru into another Venezuela if he wins?
Well, I’m no expert on Peruvian politics or really the politics of most countries here outside of Mexico.
So I’ll leave the analysis to that article cited above with this quote here explaining how the risk of Castillo making Peru into another Venezuela is not likely:
“Castillo doesn’t have Congress.
Castillo doesn’t have the security forces.
Castillo doesn’t have the public.
Castillo doesn’t have money.
Castillo doesn’t have the international community.”
Fourth, we have Bolivia with its leftist President Luis Arce.
This guy should feel fortunate – I couldn’t find any articles on a brief Google search about how he will make Bolivia into another Venezuela.
Granted, I’m sure someone said it but most of the articles I could find had to do with him opening relations with Venezuela.
Not necessarily making Bolivia into a Venezuela.
But I did find some articles, like this one here, discussing the risk of the previous President Evo Morales turning Bolivia into Venezuela.
It actually was a pretty good article but here’s the basic summary of it regarding how Bolivians don’t need to panic about being Venezuela but there will come challenges for their country essentially:
“La reflexión, es entonces, que no seremos la próxima Venezuela, no se asusten, pero dado el crecimiento desmedido del Estado y los gastos mal planificados, el próximo gobierno que ingrese deberá reducir ciertos gastos, lo que implicará una fuerte ola de protestas sociales, sobre todo con los sectores sociales más vulnerables.”
Fifth, we have Chile with its efforts to basically write up an entirely new Constitution and replace the old one made by dictator Pinochet.
This was actually funny to research because this article here warns about Chile becoming the “next Bolivia.”
That’s a first!
I guess Chileans are more worried about Bolivia than Venezuela?
After all, if they become the next Bolivia, they’ll lose access to the sea!
Haha haha haha haha….
I’ll walk myself out.
Anyway, I did find some articles discussing the narrative of those who say Chile could become the next Venezuela due to its own changes.
At any rate, there is this article here that references and also rejects the narrative promoted by the political right of Chile that say that the policies of leftist politicians will make Chile into a “Venezuela, Cuba or North Korea.”
Here’s a quote summarizing it:
“Ante la evidencia de que las tendencias económicas mundiales de auges y caídas afectan tanto a Chile como a otros países, podemos descartar totalmente que exista una crisis que llevará a Chile a la pobreza extrema y una serie de otros mitos que dañan la democracia, que imponen el terror y promulgan la ignorancia a cualquier costo.”
Anyway, I could go all day with this.
Let’s summarize this part of the article by telling you which Latin countries I couldn’t find any brief articles on warning about how they’ll be the next Venezuela.
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
Though just because I couldn’t find an article discussing the narrative of any of these countries above becoming another Venezuela…
Doesn’t mean other online content doesn’t exist analyzing that topic.
Like this video here of someone discussing the possibility of El Salvador becoming the next Venezuela.
And obviously I didn’t include Venezuela in the list because it already is….
Kinda like Venezuela!
Haha haha haha haha….
Alright, alright, no more lame jokes.
But, to be fair, Venezuelans should be worried because they haven’t hit bottom yet…
After all, according to this article here, Venezuela could be a Second Cuba!
Sure seems like there is a little hierarchy here of countries you don’t want to be.
Something like this:
- Bolivia is the least worst of the worst countries you could be.
- Venezuela is next
- Cuba is Level 3 of Ultimate Fuckery
Why bring this all up?
Well, now that we have established that there is a narrative in Latin America and the US that always warns us about not “becoming the next Venezuela.”
Here are my thoughts on the matter one by one.
Are Any of These Leftist Guys Nuts?
I’d first like to say that I don’t necessarily support any of the left wing candidates in Latin America that have been accused of radical policies that could make another Venezuela.
As I said, I only have a vague familiarity with the politics of certain countries down here with Mexico being the most familiar to me.
Take for example the Peruvian case.
On April 12th of this year, I got a message on Telegram here from this guy warning about “the Marxists” winning Peru.
Then that same guy shared a few messages with another guy in a group chat about the risk this guy poses.
Are they right?
Is Castillo a major threat to Peru that he is going to bring the country down?
I have no idea.
Out of similar respect to the fact that this guy has residency and knows Peru much better than I do like with Colin from Expat Chronicles...
I'll assume that the comparison isn't completely out of line.
However, I thought that article I shared here was pretty informative since it at least broke down the internal politics of the country...
And how certain roadblocks exist to stopping Castillo from fucking up Peru that badly.
So I just wanted to start out by saying that I don’t support or oppose any particular leftist candidate in Latin America because I don’t have strong opinions on most of them.
I have opinions on Evo Morales, AMLO, Maduro and Lula.
But Alberto Fernandez of Argentina?
Though I have more of an opinion on previous Argentine folks like Cristina Fernandez.
But anyway, I just wanted to start out with that.
So let’s carry this on to other thoughts.
Right Wing Propaganda?
As I already said, I think this is an obvious political talking point by both political and financial elite.
To a degree, I do think there needs to be some push back against this overuse of the saying “x president will make us into Venezuela!”
And I’ll get into why I think the comparisons are sometimes favorable but sometimes unfavorable.
But we need to recognize the obvious.
Every country has politicians that have talking points against the other side.
As far as I can remember, I always remember folks warning about how “x politician will make the world laugh at us! Not respect us!”
Be it Bush 2, Obama, Trump, etc.
And even we use the fear of Venezuela in our country as I showed way earlier in the article.
But I’m just saying don’t be swayed so easily by this talking point that, in my opinion, borders on fear mongering or exaggeration at the very least.
Most Latin countries (maybe all of them) are not going to be the next Venezuela in terms of having the same degree of crisis that Venezuela has had.
They’ve been through leftist politicians before during the Pink Tide as you can read about here.
And none of them in my opinion ever turned out as badly as Venezuela when the commodity boom ended.
Granted, many of them felt pain!
Like Bolivia for example.
A country that got lucky with the commodity boom where prices of hydrocarbons went up and they had more money to spend on the poor.
The prices go down eventually….
Well, they survived.
Not as bad as Venezuela.
And while the politicians promote this exaggeration for their own political benefit…
You should be conscious of the possibility that large corporate media owned by wealthier individuals and wealthier individuals themselves might be more concerned for their own interest…
And not necessarily yours…
Therefore, some of them (not all), might try to promote that fear mongering or exaggerations to discourage a politician that might promote policies that benefit common folks and not themselves.
Maybe someone like that Argentine businesswoman named Susana Gimenez mentioned way back?
Just know that you might be being played here by individuals and corporate interests that don’t give a fuck about you.
That isn’t to say that certain leftist politicians down here aren’t bad shit insane and would be bad for the country…
They might absolutely be!
But stop treating politics like football where you have to be on the left or the right all the time.
Stop believing every talking point you hear that sounds good on paper but might be exaggerated from reality.
And consider the sources of those who say what – the financial and political elite of both sides (left and right) don’t always have your best interest at heart.
Here’s a relevant video to that which doesn’t discuss Latin politics but I feel has a similar message that I resonate with that works well for what I’m saying right now.
Next point to bring up is the point these folks bring up regarding how these leftist politicians seemingly have an alliance with each other.
When I was discussing politics with their protesters against AMLO on my birthday as you can read more about here…
It was mentioned how AMLO somehow has a connection with something called the “São Paulo Forum.”
You can read more about it here.
But what is it basically?
It’s essentially a conference of leftist leaders and organizations from Latin America.
And the idea is that folks like AMLO will make Mexico into the “Venezuela of the North” because he attended these conferences and learned from other leftist leaders who fucked up their own countries.
Similarly, when I was doing research for this article, I found similar talking points emerge whenever a country in Latin America would improve diplomatic relations with Venezuela.
“Oh, is our country going to be Venezuela!?! We now have better DIPLOMATIC relations with Venezuela!”
Eh, I think that’s lazy thinking.
A country improving its diplomatic relations doesn’t mean it will adapt the political system of that country.
Obama tried to improve relations with Cuba but it doesn’t mean we became Cuba.
Most US Presidents try to maintain a decent relationship with Saudi Arabia but that doesn’t mean we will adapt their political, economic and religious systems.
It’s the same bullshit.
Sometimes countries form relations with each other because those relations have important benefits.
Like the US relationship with Saudi Arabia and the benefits with the petro dollar it brings.
Or how a better relationship with Cuba would make it easier for the US to have more diplomatic influence in the rest of Latin America.
As well how it would allow for good business opportunities that can benefit us.
And so when you are a leftist leader in Latin America and you need allies…
Yeah, it makes sense that you’d stand up with other leaders in the region that have similarities to you.
That doesn’t mean that a country like Chile is going devastate their economy by making their country heavily dependent on petroleum, destroy their internal industries, drastically increase government spending beyond reasonable levels and then wait around for the price of petroleum to drop.
Or a country like Argentina or Brazil.
Which goes into another point….
Ignoring Internal Political Factors
When you saw those screenshots of people on Twitter talking about the next Venezuela and all because of the rise of leftist governments in the region…
I’d ask them – “how familiar are you with all of these countries and their political and economic situation?”
Let’s take Obama for example from the US.
A lot of people feared he would be this major socialist president that will destroy our economy.
And regardless of if you think he is a socialist or not…
We all know the history of how his presidency played out with him losing control of Congress to the GOP.
Consequently, Obama couldn’t do as much as he wanted domestically.
Let’s take Mexico now.
Mexico is going to have some congressional elections coming up.
As you can see in this article here…
“Morena, el partido del Gobierno mexicano, dejará de tener la mayoría absoluta tras las elecciones del próximo 6 de junio y necesitará pactar con partidos aliados para controlar el Congreso, según una encuesta de SIMO Consulting para EL PAÍS.”
Now, to be fair, maybe AMLO pulls off an alliance with other parties well enough.
But it still takes away his political support and he’ll have to negotiate with other parties more and not get as much of his way.
And that’s just Mexico.
How will the internal politics play out in other countries of Latin America?
But it’s not just political either…
Ignoring Internal Economic Factors
I’m not the best expert at what happened with Venezuela.
So I’ll include a video in the end of this section that maybe explains it better.
But my impression of what happened in Venezuela in simple terms was this:
First, you had one of the best performing economies of Latin America but lots of inequality. So not everyone was enjoying the economy and many lived in poverty. Plus, the price of oil decreased a bit causing Venezuela to embrace austerity, pissing off the poor quite a bit that caused unrest.
Second, economic crisis continued to get worse and the poor got sick of it and wanted in a candidate who would help them out (even if all of the policies are not the best for the country as whole). Said candidate was Hugo Chavez and voted into power.
Third, a coup is done against Chavez to keep him from power but fails in the end. In typical Latin America fashion, Chavez the populist paints the US as the big bad wolf and how they need him to stand up to the US. Need to rally up support from your base? Talk shit about the US imperialism (justified or not).
Fourth, Chavez does stupid shit like in this video here just expropriating businesses and all. Hurting domestic industry because who wants to invest in a country like that?
Fifth, Chavez increases public spending but, like other leftist leaders of the time, was also benefiting from the commodity boom. Does it last? No. Price of petroleum drops and much of Venezuela’s economy is dependent on petroleum.
Sixth, Chavez and later Maduro can’t decrease government spending despite less money coming in because it would piss off the political base that voted them in. Keep the spending but now take on massive inflation and other economic issues.
Seventh, political crisis happens at some point as Maduro becomes a dictator and has political power of his opponents taken away.
Eighth, lots of people say “fuck this” and leave the country.
Ninth -- ???
Now, to be fair, that is probably an extremely simplified version of what happened in Venezuela.
I’m sure any real Venezuela expert will rip my head off for missing important details that I never heard about.
But that’s what I always read.
At any rate, the point here is to not ignore internal economic factors.
It isn’t just a matter of if said country increases government spending or not…
But also what money do they have coming in and from where?
How diversified is their economy?
Sure, a lot of it or most of it might come from commodities…
But are all of the commodities the same?
It took a beating when the price of hydrocarbons went down…
But it also had money coming in from elsewhere from my understanding.
Didn’t have as much investment drop either.
So on and so on…
So, despite how simplified my understanding and explanation of Venezuela might be given how many complicated factors led to what Venezuela is like now.…
Well, hopefully the videos help add more context....
The main point I’m trying to land here is that you shouldn’t ignore the entirety of economic conditions that would shape any particular country into becoming another Venezuela or not.
Like overall spending, diversification of revenue, foreign direct investment, inflation rates, etc.
Here’s that video by the way.
Then there’s another thing to consider…
The Populist Element
We all know Latin America likes its fair share of populist leaders.
But I guess if we were to make Venezuela comparisons…
I’d ask how populist does the guy in office you hate seem?
Does he have his own little TV program like Chavez did here?
Or anything else where he wants to make himself the star of the country?
The only one that matters who can fix all of the issues himself?
Something to consider…
Strength of Civil Society
Next, the last thing I’d consider is the strength of civil society and independent media to challenge the president in question if he ever steps out of line.
Such support can be crucial in defeating the “Aspiring Chavez Candidate of x Latin country” in whatever election…
Be it his own presidential election or congressional elections that his party is involved in…
Or whatever it might be.
In defense of those saying AMLO is the next Chavez or Maduro...
Well, to be fair, there are articles like this showing how AMLO is trying to tear down civil society that shows corruption.
Finally, I’d consider one last point.
All Leftist Policies Bad?
Look, not every policy promoted by a politician of the left is the worst thing in the world in my opinion.
Some are bad shit crazy!
For example, as you can read in this article here, there was a point when the Workers Party in Brazil worked with a social movement called the Landless Workers Movement to basically steal land from people.
Still, you have major issues in some of these countries like we all know.
Issues like income inequality for example where Latin America is apparently one of the more unequal areas of the world.
You can’t have social stability when socioeconomic inequality is crazy.
Which, to be fair, isn’t to say that the political right doesn’t have good ideas for how to address that issue.
Though the political right does seem to piss a lot of people off when it comes to this issue when they decide to promote policies that piss off the poor….
Like the Water Wars of Cochabamba that helped increase the popularity of Evo Morales as you can see in this video here.
Still, I’ll open up my own political beliefs here and say I prefer free market solutions as well.
But I also see where the role of government can be important at times depending on the issue we are trying to solve.
I don’t simply treat this like a fucking football game where you have to pick a side.
Not every idea on the political right or the political left is solid.
Sometimes you take ideas from both to handle different issues like socioeconomic inequality.
And so policies from the left to address that are as welcome to me as policies from the political right.
Plus, other changes you see down here….
Like Chile wanting to change their constitution?
Well, that can be a good reason to be concerned as there is a lot of uncertainty there.
Change it into what?
What are the fine details of how it’ll look?
But given the last constitution was heavily influenced by the infamous dictator Pinochet who killed a lot of people…
I get it.
I’m not entirely opposed to the idea of simply changing the constitution to reflect the opinions of the majority.
And, if you value democracy, then changes to the constitution don’t sound extreme on the surface when the previous one was made during a dictatorship.
Granted, as I said, that is “sounding good on the surface.”
We still don’t know how exactly the new constitution will look.
But the point here at the end of the day is to stop labeling every idea from someone on the left as “taking us to be the next Venezuela!”
Stop being useful idiots for the political and financial interests that want you to reiterate that talking point against any policy that might benefit society at large and not them.
Though, to be fair, some of the people on the political left in Latin America deserve heavy criticism for their ideas.
I’ve never heard anyone say anything good about Castillo of Peru for example.
So this isn’t a call either to blindingly support everyone on the political left down here.
Just a push back really against this talking point or fear mongering of becoming “the next Venezuela” that I have seen so common down here over the last 4 years especially.
Personal Examples in LATAM
Well, that’s all I got to say.
I was going to mention all of the personal examples I have seen in real life of people bringing up the “next Venezuela” talking point in other countries outside of Mexico.
Like in Argentina for example…
I was once hooking up a few times with a chick named Tami as you can read about here…
And she’d often complain about some leftist politician of the time…
I think Cristina Kirchner?
She had issues with university costs being basically free and how students seem to take advantage of that and are too lazy to take their studies seriously because they have no skin in the game.
And just in general had the same talking point about “Argentina becoming the next Venezuela.”
Which, at the time, I could at least see why she was worried as there was a bit of inflation happening at the time in Argentina.
Granted, I’d still argue it was a bit of an exaggeration.
Same thing in Colombia.
When I was living in Barranquilla, there was a Colombian guy named Andres I knew that you can read about here…
Who hated all the Venezuelan immigrants coming into the country and would often complain how they specifically will turn Colombia into Venezuela.
That, by his logic, if you bring enough in, they will eventually have voting power.
If enough of them are in, they will then vote in a guy like Chavez or Maduro.
Thus, ruining the country.
A bit similar to the logic you have about people complaining about California folks moving to areas like Texas.
Time to leave.
Now let’s fuck up other areas by voting in bad folks there.
Actually makes sense.
In theory, it should work out if said folks didn’t learn their lessons from their bad voting history back home.
What are my thoughts on Venezuela?
Since that is the article topic after all....
Well, I don't disagree necessarily with taking the profits of a commodity boom and spending it.
What I do disagree with is how, from my perception, it seemed like Chavez focused more on helping poor people survive in the moment without a long term strategy.
Because commodity booms don't last forever.
While it is nice to help poor people live better, you also need to make sure they can get off the government money and be self-sustainable.
And for that to happen, you need industry and more jobs.
Which is why it didn't help Venezuela very much when the price of petroleum dropped and now they have less money for those social programs for the poor.
Had Chavez did a better job at trying to build industry (instead of scaring away investors from expropriating everything)...
Thereby diversifying the economy a little bit more...
Venezuela could've had a better outcome today.
Though, to be fair, such efforts to diversify the economy would've had to start a bit back before Chavez even took power.
Of course, the real world is much more complicated and uglier when you have corrupt financial and political elites of both political sides who fail for decades to properly invest in the country and mostly care for their own interest.
Either way, that's all just my opinion.
At any rate, that’s all I got to say on the matter.
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Drop them below.
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Thanks for reading.