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Latin Left's Oil (& Coke) Boom

By Dick Morris | New York Post Online Edition

11-16-05 | THE growth of leftist regimes throughout Latin America and their increasing links with the new axis of Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez poses a serious danger to the United States. The left is using revenue drugs and oil to offer voters in these young democracies an alternative to free markets and global economics.

It's leading to the eclipse of the democratic processes that these leftist forces are using to achieve power. Whether the peoples who follow their siren call end up like Cubans, with no elections, or like Venezuelans, with no rights, the end is not a good one.

My wife Eileen and I have worked in 11 Latin American countries over the past decade — Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. We watched a heartening embrace of democratic and free-market values spread through the continent in the wake of the collapse of the military dictatorships of the '80s. But now an anger at the failure of globalization to deliver improved living standards for the poor is leading to a leftist backlash.

In Argentina and Brazil, the leftist drift has remained wholly democratic and constitutional. Argentina's President Nestor Kirchner, who is retaining his popularity, and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula, who is not, are each part of a democratic context and can be ousted by the will of their people at the ballot box.

But the Castro-Chavez ring offers a different brand of leftism, which overrides democratic norms and leaves a new form of authoritarianism in its wake. This impetus away from democracy might well sputter and die if left to its own devices, but with huge oil revenues pouring into Chavez' coffers, it is likely to accelerate and spread.

Chavez has increased his ties to the FARC, the revolutionary drug gang that infests Colombia's jungles. His growing links with the guerrillas have led Colombia's government — one of the most stable democracies in the hemisphere — to cut back relations with Venezuela in protest.

The deadly combo white cocaine and black oil threaten hemispheric stability.

The left has conspired to oust Bolivia's democratically elected pro-Western moderate President Gonzalo "Goni" Sanchez de Lozada and now has brought that poorest of countries to the verge of anarchy. Chavez is likewise moving to destabilize Peru as its elections approach — via Antauro Humala, like Chavez a former Army officer.

In Nicaragua, the old Sandinista faction, led by Daniel Ortega, is using its control of the military and of Congress to bully the elected government and make it a puppet of the left.

But it is Mexico that the Castro-Chavez threat is at its most dangerous. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the Democratic Revolutionary Party candidate who was recently mayor of Mexico City, is the frontrunner in the elections set for next July. If this overt admirer of Castro wins office — and uses Mexico's vast oil wealth in concert with that of Venezuela — America could face an OPEC on its own borders of leftist regimes financed by our oil dependency.

Some of the leftist revival is due to the café society disapproval of the Bush administration that is sweeping the intellectual communities of Europe and Latin America. But much of it is powered by an oil- and drug-based alternative to free-market globalization. With these two sources of revenue, one licit and the other illicit, the left feels that it may have found a way to pay for an alternative to worldwide capitalism.

China has moved quickly to strengthen its links with Latin leftists and is seeking to supplant the United States as a prime market for hemispheric oil.

The U.S. answer to the left has got to be liberalization of our trade restrictions on Latin products and nations. The Democrats who almost killed the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA, ratified by one vote in the House) are doing nothing to help. But the Republicans — by protecting the American sugar, textile, steel, orange juice, and beef industries — are asking Latins live by free-market rules we don't apply to ourselves. These restrictive quotas and our massive farm subsidies (to largely wealthy farmers) combine to make Latin America and its poverty fertile ground for subversion and leftist infiltration.

With our trade barriers, oil dependency and cocaine use, America empowers its own enemies in its own hemisphere.

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