South Americans Declare Independence

by | Jan 18, 2006

Globe and Mail: Argentina’s defiant “no mas” to the International Monetary Fund does more than confirm its painful return from financial ruin.

Its repayment yesterday of its debts to the Washington-based lender marks a symbolic rejection of everything the fund represents — the United States, market reforms, privatization, free trade, foreign investment and globalization.

The leftward shift is occurring, to varying degrees, throughout the region. Right in the United States’ backyard, nations are rejecting the region’s once-dominant economic and political influence. The vacuum is increasingly being filled by the likes of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose anti-American rhetoric has become the region’s rallying cry.


Bolivia’s new socialist leader, President Evo Morales, for example, has threatened (and since stepped back from those threats) to cancel foreign-held oil and gas contracts and nationalize the industry.

This year could mark a further populist shift to the left in several more countries. Elections are slated for nearly two dozen countries in South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Among them: Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

Mexico, Brazil and Chile are still tentatively holding out against the leftward tilt, says Mauro Guillen, a business professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. But nearly everywhere else, political leaders are growing skeptical of free trade, foreign investment and free-market pricing.