America’s preoccupation with the crises du jour – the rising terrorist menace to the liberation of Iraq, the Iranian regime’s determination to acquire the means to act on its genocidal threats against Israel and the United States and, most recently, North Korea’s nuclear coming-out party – has left Washington ill-prepared to deal with one of tomorrow’s major security challenges: the rise of the radical anti-American left in Latin America.
The emergence of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez as the oil-rich heir to Fidel Castro’s revolutionary ambitions has translated into a mortal threat to liberal democracy, freedom and economic opportunity in much of the hemisphere. With Chávez’s money and Castro’s coaching, the two have adapted the longstanding Cuban revolutionary program of violent overthrow of elected governments to meet present circumstances. Today, virulent leftists are seeking, and frequently succeeding at, obtaining power through the ballot box – then using it to destroy their government’s constitutional processes and any checks on that power.
The United States government has paid scant attention as Bolivia and Argentina have moved squarely into the Chávez-Castro orbit. A similar disastrous outcome was narrowly averted in Peru but may well be in the offing at this writing in Ecuador.
The region’s largest country, Brazil, is in the hands of a long-time Castro ally, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Despite his differences with Chávez and generally moderate approach to economic policy, Lula can be expected to make renewed common cause with the leftist agenda if he is reelected on October 29.
Particularly appalling, the region’s Axis of Evil is poised, all other things being equal, to return Nicaragua – the country Ronald Reagan did so much to help free from the Sandinistas’ communist rule – to the tender mercies of their long-time authoritarian comandante, Daniel Ortega.
Washington’s inattention may also encourage the most strategically important reversal sustained to date by the Chavez-Castro axis to be substantially undone. Despite its concerted and well-heeled efforts to ensure the election as president of Mexico of an ideological soul-mate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the results of a remarkably clean election gave the victory to a pro-American conservative, Felipe Calderón. There is, as a result, an unprecedented opportunity for constructive relations between the U.S. and Mexican governments.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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