Martin Varsavsky questions the Argentinean public’s support of Hugo Chavez, attributing it to a juvenile tendency to blame foreign powers (whether the United States, Spain, or Chile) for Argentina‘s problems. Varsavsky believes that Chavez is nothing more than a peronist leader, incapable of helping his country to develop economically or socially, and that Nestor Kirchner‘s partnership with Venezuela will lead to inevitable failure. Argentina would do better to model itself after Chile or Spain, poor countries that have been able to raise themselves up and prosper. It must learn that there are no magic formulas for success as a nation. In order to progress, the Argentinean people must accept the complexity of progress and work towards better education, tolerance, and greater maturity in their governmental decisions.
Martin Varsavsky is President of the Safe Democracy Foundation and founder of six successful businesses in the last fifteen years. He is the current Executive President of FON.
THERE IS A RECURRENT TENDENCY IN THE ARGENTINEAN MEDIA to throw the blame for Argentina’s failures and problems over the last several decades on foreign countries. And so Hugo Chavez, self-declared enemy of all western successful democracies, has become one of Argentina’s best-loved heroes.
I read criticism about Spain and its multinational corporations all the time, attacks on America and its business. Europeans are criticized demagogically, over issues like the waste in the Uruguay River, and it kills me to see how lost the Argentinean public must be in order to believe that outside forces, and not the Argentineans themselves, are causing all of our problems.
In my opinion, the answer is very clear: the only people to blame for Argentina’s current situation are the Argentineans, all of them in one way or another, me included. While a plenipotentiary ambassador, I tried to help change the situation, but failed (I had especially little success trying to convince Cavallo to devalue the peso in a controlled and orderly fashion).
It is absurd to place the blame on the Spanish, the English, the Americans, the Chileans, or on any country that has had some success on this planet. Argentina has a history of bad government and insufficient development. We are one of the only undeveloped-developed countries in the world.
Argentina should be as advanced as Australia, a country in the southern hemisphere that has become incredibly developed, just, and rich. Yet, it is not, and not because the Australians have had an unfair advantage. Argentina is lagging behind because of the Argentinean tendency to elect bad leaders, who fail to successfully integrate the country into the world economy in a productive manner.
FROM NEO-LIBERALISM TO CHAVISM
It seems to me that the new partnership that is being forged between Kirchner and Chavez is just another example of Argentina’s incapability to find the proper middle ground. This new change symbolizes a massive leap, typical in Argentinean politics, from the fanatical neo-liberalism of Cavallo and Menem in the 1990’s to chavism in modern day.
The country has gone from having the highest inflation in the world with Alfonsin, to the lowest with Menem; from the least growth in the world with De la Rua, to the most with Kirchner; from loving multinational companies with Cavallo, to hating them with Kirchner; from being one of the major exporters of food in the world, to seeing its citizens starve with hunger; from having the greatest debt of the developing world, to the largest bankruptcy of all time (three times the size of Enron’s).
A COUNTRY WITHOUT PERSONALITY
Argentina seen from the outside appears to be a country without personality, victim to the changing whims and fashions of the international community. It seems to love extremism, and to be incapable of following its own policies based upon institutions, and global reality.
There is one thing we can all be sure about though, through all of the flip-flopping of Argentinean politics. We can be sure that in a few years, when Chavez’s model has failed because it lowered the price of oil without having the money to support such an action, and his people have kicked him out of the country, just as the Argentineans kicked out De la Rua, this military dictator whom the Argentineans now revere so highly as a democrat, will join the pantheon of hated demagogues alongside Menem, Cavallo, and so many other fallen angels.
One of the biggest differences between Argentina and the more mature democracies of the world is that Argentina is not divided between conservatives and progressives, but rather, the entire population is capable of sympathizing with neo-liberalism for a few years, and then switching to chavism for a few more.
Otherwise, how would it be possible to explain the fact that in the 90’s, seventy percent of people supported the easy convertibility of the peso to the dollar, while now, seventy percent of people support Chavez over the United States?
When will we stop being such eternal adolescents, constantly changing our political tastes; one day punky, the next alternative, the next Bush supporters, the next greens, the next