Left: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, courtesy of janmarij nissen.nl
(Washington, DC) The negative rhetoric emanating from Bush administration officials toward South American governments continues to grow, with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld the newest official to take shots.
"I mean, we've got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money," he said. "He's a person who was elected legally - just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally - and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others."
Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel blasted Rumsfeld's comments.
"The unacceptable comparison of President Chavez with Hitler is a concrete indication of the desperation that reigns at this moment in the governing circles of Washington," said Rangel. "If anybody, any political leader, any head of state, can be compared to Hitler; that is President Bush. He has stepped on countries, slaughtered peoples, and installed prisons around the world."
Rumsfeld joins Senator John McCain as the latest US official to engage in a war of words with the Venezuelans. With as much difficulty as the US has in generating international goodwill, the last thing Rumsfeld should be doing is angering the leaders of an entire continent.
The election of Evo Morales in Bolivia brings the list of the leftist leaders in the continent to five; he joined Venezuela's Chavez, Argentina's Nelson Kirchner, Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and Uruguay's Tabare Vazquez. Another left-leaning candidate, Ollanta Humala, could win the election next month in Peru election.
More ominous for the US is the fact that democratic elections produced these leaders. There seems to be a continent-wide movement to reject the free market rhetoric of the US and the IMF in favor of more socialist-oriented governments.
Efforts by the American operatives to undermine these South American governments are seen as evidence that the United States is not serious in the platitudes of freedom and democracy it has been preaching. Whether we like the left-leaning policies of people like Chavez and Morales, they have been elected by a majority of the electorate of their respective nations.
Perhaps we would be better served by improving the relations with our hemispheric neighbors, rather than drive them away from us.