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Entries in Latin America (6)

9:32AM

Chavismo in charts (WAPO)

Great article that seeks to explain successes and failures of Huge Chavez in charts.

Here they are the four that attracted my attention, as they represent judgment by peers (and not the US):

 

So he was clearly slipping inside the country, although his strong-arm populism still captured about half the population.

Colombia is where Chavez did his most meddling: supporting insurgents and setting up his regime as a trans-shipper of narcotics into North America.  Clearly no love-loss there.

The countries where the middle class is growing (and Bolivia - considered in the Chavismo camp).  Even in Bolivia, 60% don't have any real confidence in the man.  The continent's real players, Brazil and Chile, clearly wanted nothing to do with the man - whatever false praise was heaped on him by Brasilia.

The economic record indicates a moment of Putinesque "brilliance" afforded by high energy prices mid-decade, and then run-of-the-mill performance during which antipathy grows within the country regarding his heavy-handedness - only natural.  The big failure was on inflation, the long-time scourge of the region.  Stunning failure there that represented his tendency to "eat the seed corn."  That's the truly painful legacy:  Chavez ran down the oil industry and it'll take a while to get it back to its true potential.

So a good show, but no more lasting impact that any previous populist demagogue and strong-man.

 

11:35AM

Something to watch re: global stability

FT piece on how the intense heat and drought currently across most of the US farm belt is causing grain futures to rise.

From lead:

Few farmers in America's corn belt have seen anything like it. Only weeks ago, they were looking at a record-breaking harves.  Those hopes are fast turning into a mirage.

The hote summer in the US, the world's biggest exporter of corn, soyabeans and wheat, could have far-reaching effects on global agricultural markets, where memories of the 2008-08 food crisis are still fresh and price have been volatile on the back of a drought in South America.

Indiana is a big corn and soybean producer, and I can tell you that, after a very dry winter and unusually non-rainy spring, we haven't seen significant (more than half an inch) rain since 1 May.  We are thus phenomenally dry - as in, unless you irrigate your lawn, you're done mowing (as I have been) for about 4 weeks now.

Example of US corn: farmers here planted 5% more acreage this year, and under reasonable circumstances, there were very solid expectations for record harvest.

Point being, we are looking at very far-reaching - as in, global - repurcussions on food prices, which - by extension, determine a lot of political stability in countries with high import requirments (Southwest Asia leads the way) and where well over half of family household budget is spent on food (virtually the entire Gap).

9:44AM

Wikistrat post @ CNN/GPS: What Comes After Chavez?

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.


This Sunday, the historically disorganized Venezuelan opposition movement is holding its first-ever presidential primary to decide upon a single candidate to challenge long-time strongman Hugo Chavez. With regional governor Henrique Capriles expected to prevail, the aging Chavez faces a younger version of himself: namely, a dynamic rising star promising to transform the political landscape. This time, however, the figure is moving it away from the heavy-handed populism initiated by Chavez after he swept into office in 1998.

Over the course of his tenure, Chavez’s pursuit of “21st century socialism” in Venezuela has propelled him to self-declared “president for life” status. Among his accomplishments are the systematic and brutal persecution of political opponents and critical journalists, the stacking of parliament with his supporters, various cash-payment programs to the voting poor to ensure his popularity, and - in a related dynamic - the general undermining (aka, looting) of the country’s primary economic engine, the national oil company known as PDVSA. Chavez has also turned Venezuela into one of the most crime-ridden nations in the world with the annual inflation averaging close to 30 percent.

Still, El Comandante has inspired copycat Chavista leaders in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, and has reinvigorated Cuba’s communist dictatorship - all the best friends that money can buy.

But with the de facto dictator mysteriously seeking cancer care in Havana last year, widespread talk has surfaced that this election may well be Chavez’s last. Taking that hypothetical as our starting point, this week’s Wikistrat crowd-sourced analysis looks at what just might lie ahead for a post-Chavez Venezuela.  Here are five pathways to consider.

Read the entire post at CNN's GPS blog.

12:01AM

Wikistrat's "The World According to Tom Barnett" 2011 brief, Part 5 (Flow of Food)

In this section of the brief I explore water and how it connects to grain-production centers of gravity, how climate change will impact the flow of food, how that flow will surpass the flow of energy in global importance in the future, and how the Western Hemisphere evolves as a result of its incredible water advantage.

9:57AM

WPR's The New Rules: A Look Ahead at the Geography of Global Security

As part of a “big think” forecast project commissioned by an intelligence community sponsor, I’ve begun to think about the future geography of global security. As often with this kind of project, I find myself falling into list-making mode as I contemplate slides for the brief. So here are nine big structural issues that I think any such presentation must include . . .

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

11:46AM

End the Prohibition Era approach on drugs

I like Mary Anastasia O'Grady in the WSJ, because she is the rare prominent columnist who works the Western Hemisphere with such diligence.  She's also unstinting in a lot of good ways, so when she writes approvingly of a recent blue-ribbon commission (George Shultz, Paul Volcker, Javier Solana, etc) issuing yet another call to end the war on drugs, I listen.

She talks about how John D. Rockefeller came out in 1932 and admitted that the whole conservative experiment had been a complete disaster, largely because it destroyed respect for the law.  Rockefeller had been a huge supporter of Prohibition going in, committing resources.

What have we gotten with the drug war?  Unbelievable incarceration rates, drugs still plentiful and easily accessed by those who want them (according to my HSer and college kid), and the militarization of our relationship with Latin America - opening the door to China.

We simply cannot secure a border when our own money constantly destabilizes it:  we are fighting money with money, burning up resources in the process and punishing our neighbors unduly.

The madness needs to stop.  Decriminalization isn't legalization.  It just means you don't judicialize/criminalize all your tools.

Great piece.