Headline Howler: The “ebbtide” that ain’t

How’s this for stupid, from the AP’s Mark Stevenson:

“NEWS ANALYSIS: Leftist tide may be ebbing”

Conservative Felipe Calderon’s apparent victory could signal that the leftist tide sweeping Latin America has reached its high-water mark, as voters frightened by the radicalism of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez seek refuge in more mainstream ideas across the region.

That trend has emerged with Mexico’s presidential vote count Thursday, the setback dealt to Bolivian President Evo Morales in a referendum Sunday, and Peruvian moderate Alan Garcia’s victory over Chavez ally Ollanta Humala last month.

Intolerance, confrontation, messianic attitudes and stridency — once staples of Latin America’s left — are proving less attractive than leaders who can provide stability and strengthen historically weak institutions, like the separation of powers, independent central banks and judiciaries.

With a less than 0.5% advantage to Calderon, all votes not yet re-counted, and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador not conceding because he rightly suspects theft (he is backed up by an unlikely ally, Subcomandante Marcos, in this), and ZERO regime change in Mexico (since when was Vicente Fox, who is of the same party as Calderon, a leftist?), this is premature to say the least. This isn’t a “high-water mark”, let alone an “ebbing red tide”. It’s a very disputed, fraud-ridden election that will probably result in serious political instability and mass protest if this claimed result is permitted to stand. Ballot boxes from heavily pro-AMLO districts have been found in garbage dumps. And the Mexican media, unlike that in the US, is not covering it up. Do I have to spell out for you what that could mean?

As for the “setback” dealt to Evo Morales, as I’ve pointed out, it is in fact a mandate, if a less than overwhelming one. Evo has a majority, but not quite the two-thirds he needs for absolute control. He will be pressing ahead with intended changes anyhow, and chances are good that he’ll realize most of them; what kind of “setback” is that? Stevenson’s reading comprehension on this is apparently lacking. (Either that, or he wilfully chooses to misinterpret; my money’s on the latter.)

And Peru’s Alan Garcia is still on the left; he’s just not as far to the left as Ollanta Humala. Plus, he has a shoddy record, despite all the trumpeting of his “spectacular comeback”, which would force a major rethink among Peruvians if his earlier mistakes make a spectacular comeback along with him. Ollanta’s not exactly going away, either; as official opposition leader, with more congressional seats than Garcia’s party, he’s going to be making plenty of noise. So Garcia won’t have an easy ride of it, and may in fact be forced further to the left than he would like to go. Let’s hear it for checks and balances…

As for “intolerance, confrontation, messianic attitudes and stridency” being “staples of Latin America’s left”–Stevenson, what are you smoking? Banana hash? That viewpoint is SO outdated. Even Hugo Chavez, arguably the loudest and most garrulous LatAm leftist leader today, is downright quiet compared to, say, former guerrilla Douglas Bravo. You want strident, confrontational, messianic and intolerant? Get a load of what the Right is now up to down there…or in the United States, for that matter. Great democrats they ain’t. All they’re good for is screeching like enraged monkeys because their easy access to the money tree has suddenly been cut off. And whining and crying to Dubya for help in killing that wicked Chavez. Or just more NED money; same thing.

And of course, we mustn’t ignore that obligatory backhanded slap at a certain popular, red-bereted ex-colonel. Contrary to his portrayal in much of the foreign media, Hugo Chavez is no tyrant, but a democratic leader whose biggest achievement is to let the people write and ratify the Venezuelan constitution. He is also quite the innovator, for his socialist policies have borne ample fruit even in the capitalist sphere–the GDP is up, particularly in the private and non-oil sectors! And will Mr. Stevenson please tell me what’s so “intolerant” about Chavez’s repeat calls for cross-continental solidarity against what he rightly recognizes to be a particularly exploitative form of imperialism? I would say Chavez is right to be “intolerant” of that, seeing as how his more “tolerant” predecessors have let it run Venezuela into the ground for more than 40 years. Perhaps Mr. Stevenson begs to differ…

As to the “stability” the rightards have brought, I think “stagnation” might be a better word for it. The worst-off citizens everywhere south of the Rio Grande haven’t benefited from it. In fact, they’ve only been victimized. But hey, at least it’s a steady victimization…and one that keeps them scurrying northward to marginally better wages, like a remarkably steady influx of cucarachas. (Which is no doubt how the mainstream US media would like us to see them.)

The rest of the article is basically a mess. There’s a lot of backpedalling away from the assertions of the opening paragraphs and the headline, beyond which the average reader probably won’t go. I suggest you read it anyway; it’s good for a laugh, especially when those quoted actually undermine the author’s thesis. They call THAT a “news analysis”?

I call it a pile of horseshit.

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