Monday, December 12, 2005

Elections in South America, Truce in Mexico

After six months of involuntary but unavoidable absence, I am writing in this corner of the web. I finished the dissertation, so I am free again to write about Mexico and Latin America.

While in Mexico a truce in the electoral campaigns during the Holiday season (Dec. 12-Jan. 12) was engineered by the Federal Electoral Institute, in Santiago de Chile, socialist presidential hopeful Michelle Bachelet reached the second round of the presidential election.

Bachelet's partial victory allows seeing deep changes among the Chilean voters that, for the first time since the end of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship, decided not to give the candidates of the Christian Democrat and Socialist coalition a win in the first round of the presidential contest.
Moreover, the Chilean voters gave the center-to-right and right opposition of President Ricardo Lagos more votes than those gathered by Bachelet, although almost all pollsters assume that Bachelet, a former Health and Defense minister in Lagos's cabinet, will win in the second round to happen on January 2006. If Bachelet wins, the Christian democrat-Socialist coalition will extend their control of Chilean politics for 20 years.

During the last 15 years, the coalition has not affected the institutional design of Pinochet's dictatorship on financial, economic, and trade matters, but it has deepen the logic and the direction of the reforms originally launched by the military government at the beginning of the 1980s. Here it is important to stress that until the arrival of the so-called Chicago boys to the Chilean government, Pinochet's dictatorship was not only as brutal, but also as inefficient as the Argentine Military Junta.

However, what is more relevant to consider at this point is that the willingness of the Socialist government led by Lagos in Chile to preserve Pinochet's institutional design, stands in sharp contrast with the policies pursued by "leftist" governments in other countries of Latin America, and more important in sharper contrast with the propositions made many of the presidential candidates in other countries of the region. This difference is often times overlooked as the recent, rather poor reports of Juan Forero and Larry Rother of The New York Times exemplify.

To think, as an example, that Bachelet is closer to Andrés Manuel López Obrador than to Carlos Salinas de Gortari would imply a naivety the size of the Andes. Not only Bachelet, but Lagos and the representatives and senators elected under the banner of the Chilean Socialist Party have been wise enough to build a healthy and cooperative relation with their colleagues of the Christian Democrat Party, they have been unwilling to relinquish the political leadership of their country as that would favor the parties closer to Pinochet.

They have not done so, unlike the conspiracy theories of López Obrador and the insults of Felipe Calderón. Bachelet, Lagos, Zaldívar and other Chilean politicians of the Christian democrat-Socialist coalition have been able to conduct themselves with a maturity that is unseen in these days in Latin America. The same can be said of any comparison between Bachelet and Ernesto Kirchner, Bachelet and Hugo Chávez, or Bachelet and who appears to be the next president of Bolivia, the former leader of the coca producers Evo Morales.

Now that everything seems to indicate a new defeat of the PRI in the July 2006 elections in Mexico, the concern that I have is how many years would the political watch go back with mister López as President? Would he be willing to risk the last of Mexican oil reserves in a desperate attempt to be more like his chief financial officer, Mr. Hugo Chávez?

These kinds of questions are more pressing when one considers how López has started already a personal war against the Banco de México chairman Guillermo Ortiz Martínez, and has already challenged any reform to the financial system because in his conspiratorial mind any reform is aimed at tying his hands.

In any case, I cannot but express my happiness for the outcome of the Chilean election, and more specifically for the success of the coalition. As far as Mexico is concerned, all I can do is to get ready to swim deep into six years of populism, irresponsibility and paranoia starting on July 2006.

1 comment:

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