by Ron Nehring
Communism may have been relegated to that “ash heap of history” Ronald Reagan described in his 1982 address to the British Parliament, but a new strain of “21st century socialism” as envisioned by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is on the march in Central and South America.
Fortunately, that march came to a halt ten days ago with the election of a new conservative President of Honduras.
For years, socialists south of our border have led a drive to move Central and South America to the radical left. In 2004, Venezuela under Hugo Chavez and Cuba under Fidel Castro founded the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) as a new socialist club to serve as a counterweight to the United States in the region and strengthen socialist regimes in the member states. In the 9 years since its founding, it has grown to 9 members, all with socialist governments: Antigua/Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela. In addition, the group has three “observer” countries: Haiti, and the virulent anti-US regimes of Iran and Syria.
In 2008, then-Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, after taking a profound turn to the left only after he was elected in 2005, signed an agreement to join ALBA, an act subsequently reversed when Zelaya was removed from office in 2009.
The November 24 Honduras election pitted Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro and her new leftist Libre party against conservative Juan Orlando of the National Party. In an election which international observer groups deemed transparent and fair, Orlando won.
Castro, who speaks fondly of the now-deceased Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, would have put the country on the track to mimic Venezuela’s turn toward socialism. She promised to move Honduras back into ALBA, and in so doing, back into the Venezuela/Cuba sphere of influence.
Castro also planned to follow the Hugo Chavez recipe for consolidating socialist power within the country, primarily through calling a constitutional convention to eliminate the country’s one-term limit on presidents and vastly expanding state control of the economy.
Honduran voters had the opportunity to see for themselves what socialism can do to a country, and Venezuela provides a prime example.
Under socialist rule, first under Chavez and now under his successor Nicolas Maduro, the country has become an economic basketcase. The annual inflation rate is currently at 54%. Its people are plagued by massive shortages for consumer goods, most notably toilet paper. Troops were sent in to take over electronics stores and force vendors to sell goods at government-dictated “fair” prices. Price controls were just imposed on the sale of new and used cars. In a country with some of the world’s largest petroleum reserves, power outages have grown more common.
Given the Venezuelan example of what socialism means for quality of life, Hondurans chose to return the conservative National party to power.
In so doing, Hondurans also chose to step up their fight against another enemy: the drug cartels.
With the success of U.S. drug interdiction efforts in the Caribbean, cartels moving South American drugs into the United States shifted their distribution network to Central America. As a result, massive quantities of drugs, along with the corruption and violence associated with the trade, are moving through the “Northern Triangle” countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Experts on the ground in Honduras tell me that the leftist Castro lost the election when she stated she would remove the military from the day to day fight against the cartels, sending them back to their bases and limiting their role to border protection. Hondurans remain fiercely committed to ridding themselves of the drug trade to restore security to the country, and instead backed the conservative Orlando, who promised to increase the role of the military in working with the police to combat the cartels and the local gangs they hire to move drugs, weapons and even people through the country. In general, the Honduran military is well respected in the country and is seen as less susceptible to corruption than local police.
How do Hondurans feel about the United States? Overwhelmingly positive: 88% of the country’s citizens have a favorable view of America.
Hondurans on their own have delivered a setback to “21st century socialism” while electing leaders who are committed to driving out the cartels. It’s in America’s interest to see that they are ultimately successful on both fronts.
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