Friday, February 24, 2012

ALBA Has a Dictator Problem

Almost a year ago, I wrote this lament about Hugo Chavez's devotion to authoritarian regimes like Ghaddafi's Libya. Implicit in that post's title, "The Enemy of my Enemy is no Bolivar," is a question: what would the historic liberator, Simón Bolívar, make of dictators like Ghaddafi or Bashar al-Assad?

It is neither surprising nor sinister to see Venezuela attempt to involve itself in an intervention that circumvents the United States. Venezuela has been working very hard to establish alternative avenues for international relations, regional development, and even a regional currency, that are independent of U.S.-dominated neoliberal capitalism. There is something of a tradition in Latin America of multi-state conflict resolution, and if Chavez can make an opportunity to raise Venezuela's profile -- his own, in fact -- as a peacemaker by exporting such diplomacy, it's no surprise he would give it a shot. And no one else has proposed putting the civil war on pause and negotiating some sort of exit for Colonel Ghaddafi.

It's a strange sideshow -- at least, I suspect it is just a sideshow -- because if there is one thing Hugo Chavez has in common with the United States ruling class, it is an affection for authoritarian regimes. Chavez has eagerly sought diplomatic ties with states like Libya, Iran, Belarus, and the Russian Federation. This has something to do with opposing U.S. dominance, but for what alternative? What do these characters have to offer to the goals of Chavez's "21st century socialism" or his project for a people's political economy?

Furthermore, considering Chavez's close political identification with Bolívar:

Simon Bolivar does not strike me as a person who would order an Air Force to open fire on his own people in order to preserve his own power. And one has to question the idea that Ghaddafi liberated his people after seizing power -- from one kind of king to another. A strange liberator it is who declares, as Ghaddafi did in 1973, that the nation he seized in a military coup would be subject to the law of a monotheistic religion; who claims to rule a jamahiriya, a government by the masses, yet assassinates critics and executes dissidents. There are reports this month that soldiers who refused to open fire on their civilian countrymen were executed as well.
One promising development in Chavez's presidency has been the formation of a regional bloc that stands as an alternative to U.S. dominance in the region. That alliance is ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America. Unfortunately, ALBA, like President Chavez, has a bit of a dictator problem, backing Assad in Syria (here is the communique in Spanish) without denouncing the regime's violence against its subjects.

It thereby diminishes ALBA and its prospects for modeling regional coordination among states based on social welfare, mutual sharing and economic assistance, rather than neoliberalism.

Again, one has to wonder how Simón Bolívar would feel about declaring solidarity with the Assads?

[Image: ALBA ministers visiting Syria in 2011.]

1 comment:

Petteri Sulonen said...

Yeah. It is depressing as hell that the available alternatives to American/Western hegemony are what they are. On balance I really don't like Chavez or Castro or the PRC any better.

I still have hopes for Brazil and maybe India. Perhaps something truly worthwhile will eventually emerge from Africa, but that doesn't look exactly imminent either.