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CHAVEZ - 3, BUSH - 0

By Michael Rowan | El Universal

08.09.05 | In the war between Chavez and Bush on money, policy and propaganda, the score is Chavez, 3 and Bush, 0. So far, Chavez is pitching a shutout.

In the money war, Chavez is investing almost $2 billion in Latin America, much more than all U.S. aid there, including military assistance. Chavez is buying debt bonds, financing pipelines and refineries, buying airlines and infrastructure, providing Cuban health and literacy missions to the poor, and subsidizing oil costs all over the continent - he's even offered it to the poor in the U.S. The U.S. investment in Latin America is a much lesser amount for diplomatic representation or government-to-government assistance which hardly reaches the poor, who make up a majority of the continent's population. In addition [or subtraction], American corporate investment in Latin America is in decline.

In the policy war, Washington is sticking by its unpopular free trade position, its more unpopular Washington Consensus development rules, and its controversial anti-drug interdictions, while no cohesive anti-poverty program that effectively reaches the poor exists. By contrast, Chavez goes right to the heart of the problem - poverty - with oil subsidies, infrastructure investments, and missions that may be ineffective but at least they are something.

In the propaganda war, Chavez is resonating with Latin American resentment of a huge gap between the rich and the poor, rising poverty, a young population, and a consensus frustration with the failure of free markets and democracy to produce benefits for people. While the Chavez propaganda ranges from fanciful to absurd, it does provide poor people a modicum of hope. In contrast, the U.S. propaganda is falling on deaf ears. Demonizing Chavez is a useless exercise given the poverty and hopelessness of the continent. And killing Chavez, as the television evangelist Pat Robertson has suggested, has probably increased his popularity by 10% in the Latin America population.

In the late innings, the U.S. is down 3 to 0 with no heavy-hitters coming up, and Chavez is working on something he could never achieve as a fledgling baseball player - a shutout.

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