Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Alek Boyd, the creator of Vcrisis.com who started blogging about Venezuela in Oct. 2002. Since, he has worked as an independent researcher, reporter, lobbyist, civil and political rights activist, and has experience in strategic and political consulting throughout Latin America. In 2006, he became the first blogger ever to shadow a presidential candidate in Venezuela.
FP: Alek Boyd, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
I’d like to talk to you today about how Chavez and anti-Americanism in South America.
Let’s begin by crystallizing how exactly Chavez has subverted democracy from within.
Boyd: Thanks Jamie.
Chavez has subverted democracy from within based on a three-prong strategy:
 Formation of a constituent assembly so that all powers of the land are dissolved;
 Rewriting the constitution with additions such as indefinite re-election and extensions to executive power.
This model is actually Chavez’s most successful exploit, which has been exported to and replicated in Bolivia and Ecuador. Additional to that we have the government of Ecuador in cahoots with FARC, and Bolivia ruled by a former cocalero. Add to it the sheer hatred of the US that these characters share, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Panama has just turned right, meaning that Colombia's north flank is protected. However, down south, with Obama wishy-washy attitude towards FTA with Colombia (with everything it represents), the situation is far from clear.
FP: What dangers does this situation pose?
Boyd: At first, Chavez's political moves wouldn't seem to pose any dangers to the US, considering its military might. However we are all aware of the destruction that a few individuals can cause, not only to the US but to any other nation. The world witnessed it in New York, Madrid and London. Therefore when democracy is subverted by individuals who aid and abet terrorists and are actually bent in "bringing the Empire to its knees" as Chavez has said, then attention must be paid.
The USA is already suffering some of the consequences of Chavez's unwillingness to deal with drug trafficking; much of the drug that's fuelling the war between Mexican cartels is produced in Ecuador and Bolivia and enters the international markets via Venezuela . The violence is already spilling over, and it will stretch security and intelligence budgets in an already delicate financial climate. This is far from being an imaginary situation; it is happening. The tab of the irresponsibility of some Latin American leaders will have to be picked by American citizens and its government.
FP: What is the state of anti-Americanism in South America?
Boyd: There's much hype about anti-Americanism in South America, especially in Caracas, Havana, La Paz and Quito. There's a distinction to be made between heated rhetoric, from hard core leftists holding power, and people in the streets. In my travels around the region I have found that there's a divorce, between official discourses and the many that either wish to emigrate up north or are related to someone who's already done so. To them, anti-Americanism lacks meaning, given that in most cases that relative up north is a source of support and in many cases income. They don't see America as the communists are painting it, but rather as that ideal place where hard work is rewarded with a currency that does not lose value overnight.
FP: Give us an example.
Boyd: Take Ecuador for instance, and the high inflation levels that are eroding away purchasing power considering
a) that President Rafael Correa is meant to be an able economist trained in the US;
b) that Ecuador has a dollarized economy and
c) the incredible windfall generated by oil.
How can that one be spun? What happens when economies down south suffer owing to the actions of incapable politicians? I'll tell you what, thousands upon thousands of people start pondering about the possibility of joining those relatives up north, for not only financial straits cause people to move: violence, impunity, government abuses, expropriations, etc., are also factors to be considered. In sum, anti-Americanism is institutionalised in clearly defined official areas, beyond there, where regular folks have to deal with real problems on a daily basis, it has no legs to stand on.
FP: What feeds anti-Americanism in South America?
Boyd: I am of the opinion that it has to do with the utter uselessness of populist demagogues that are simply incapable of solving the problems of their respective constituencies. Take dictator Fidel Castro for instance, he has been bickering about the blockade and the embargo since most people can remember, but what has he done to actually address the many needs of Cubans? What measures has he taken, for example, to improve their lot? Little, beyond propaganda, very little.
A side story to illustrate the point. This past week I had the pleasure of acting as a translator of sorts of Ambassador Armando Valladares at the Oslo Freedom Forum. He was arrested, sentenced on trumped charges and thrown in jail for 22 years for refusing to toe Castro's communist line. A journalist was asking him about the state of Cuba's health system, touted by some as one of the world's best. Ambassador Valladares provided a very simple, yet incredible powerful counter argument "if Cuba's national health system is so efficient, how come folks in Cuba have to rely on their relatives abroad for aspirins, anaesthetics, vitamins, band aids, cough syrups, and the most basic medical supplies? Have you got relatives in other countries? If so, what do they send you, postcards, letters and gifts or pain killers?" asked Ambassador Valladares to the interviewer.
So to answer your question, irresponsible dictators and demagogues is what feeds anti-Americanism, however its hold is far from general, as we shall see the day democracy and freedom return to those countries whose leaders have made a career out of using its northern neighbour as a scapegoat for their shortcomings and failures.
FP: What can be done to minimize anti-Americanism in the region?
Boyd: Anti-Americanism ought to be treated as anti-Semitism, especially when it comes from tinpot dictators and leaders that have no regard for rule of law and democracy. Every powerful nation is prone to criticism, but when one analyses the source of current anti-Americanism in Latin America, when one realises that a bearded dictator that hasn't allowed free elections in 50 years is the agitprop master, then one can only conclude that it is a meaningless argument from someone that forfeited its legitimate right to level serious criticism many years ago.
Same applies to Europe, which lately has contributed tremendously to the institutionalization of anti-Americanism. Whose door were these Europeans desperately knocking when Hitler was about to turn this continent into his personal fiefdom?
America needs to recoup lost ground where it matters the most: international multilateral organizations. The UN and the OAS have become the playground of thugs, human rights violators and dictators, latest demonstration of which is OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza's attempt to get Cuba accepted in a club of democratic nations.
The USA needs to take a principled stance and bring such initiatives to an end, not forcefully but by pointing the obvious. The USA should ask for the immediate dismissal of Insulza, for violating his duties under the Inter American Democratic Charter. The USA should use its considerable political clout to educate peoples about how its system allows emergence of outsiders to the highest office, and how its institutions and constitution continues to function in democracy after so many years.
Subverting democracy, trampling rights and curtailing freedom, which is what Chavez et al do, is truly anti-American and so they should be exposed, not for what they preach but for what they do.
FP: Alek Boyd, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.