The Left, Cornered

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By Felipe Burbano de Lara

Recently, the Latin American left suffered a major political blow when its key figure, the emblematic Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, was directly implicated in a corruption scandal involving Brazilian state company Petrobras. With Lula’s successor at its head, the management of the Workers Party (PT for its Portuguese acronym) hangs by a thread. On Sunday, huge demonstrations in major cities demanded the dismissal of Dilma Rousseff, adding social pressure to the impeachment request that is pending in the House of Representatives.

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Corruption and a mishandled economic crisis, especially with regard to fiscal policy, are the two key issues undermining the prestige of PT and putting the continuity of its government at serious risk. Within Latin America’s swing to the left, PT is not the only movement or party facing similar difficulties or worse. In Venezuela, the leftist trend has taken an apocalyptic and dramatic turn, with food and medicine shortages leaving the country on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. It’s impossible to imagine a ruling elite more incapable, irresponsible and immoral in the management of government than the Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela. Argentina is experiencing a complicated transition after the end of Kirchner-ism, with the economy forced to undergo a series of simultaneous adjustments to deal with the currency crisis, fiscal deficit, inflation and bureaucratic hypertrophy. Furthermore, the former President and some of her closest associates have been accused of making unjustified capital gains: the net worth of the Kirchner family alone rose from $7 million in 2003 to $64.6 million in 2014.

Ecuador is in the midst of an economic crisis arising from an external shock, no doubt, but also from the prolonged waste of state resources and a global economic imbalance that has left the private sector too weak, demobilized, and lacking investment to tackle the crisis. And Bolivia, with Morales at its head, now faces a scandal over influence peddling, after an ex-lover of the President was appointed as commercial manager of a Chinese company with over $500m in State contracts. Before this latest controversy, Bolivia’s Movement for Socialism (MAS) was rocked by scandals involving the use of resources from the Indigenous Fund.

All these cases involve the mishandling of an economic cycle of prosperity; allegations of corruption; aspirations of wealth in presidential inner circles; and ambitions for social advancement that Marxists would call petty bourgeois. For one enormous example, we need only look at the Vice President of Bolivia, one of Latin American left’s most respected intellectuals, whose nuptials in La Paz rivaled any European royal wedding.

The combined sins of the left, the corruption, the eagerness for wealth and social advancement at any cost, are insurmountable. They destroy the myth of being , for purely ideological reasons, believing themselves far removed from vulgar, petty, capitalist and bourgeois vices; bearers of a higher moral code. Accustomed to leaders with strong personalities who put themselves above the law and institutions, the left has generated immoral power networks around its superheroes that undermine the movement’s prestige and credibility.

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