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Argentina, Brazil said to fret over Venezuela spillover

Feb. 21, 2014 at 3:09 PM   |   Comments

BUENOS AIRES, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- An Arab Spring-like contagion of discontent and protest sweeping through Venezuela is worrying leaders in Argentina and Brazil for its potential spillover, analysts say.

Latin American commentators have long anticipated and speculated about reverberations from the chain of events that began in Tunisia in 2011 and led to peaceful or violent regime changes in Arab Middle East and North Africa.

"Is 'Arab Spring' coming to town?" a Latin American commentary signed by Adrian Salbuchi asked back on June 26, 2012. Political scientist Nikolas Kozloff pondered the connection months earlier in a Feb. 29, 2012, analysis, "The authoritarian left goes awry: From the Arab Spring to Latin America," on Aljazeera.com.

This week, it was Argentine political scientist Rosendo Fraga's turn to reframe the question. The current political crisis in Venezuela is rattling regional organizations and leaders, including those in Argentina and Brazil, Mercopress reported Fraga wrote.

Left-wing leaders see the troubles in Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil as part of a concerted right-wing effort to destabilize governments that are generally seen as progressive, populist and invariably arrayed against right-wing interests. The United States is almost always seen representing the right, irrespective of who governs in Washington.

Both Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff have clashed with left-wing opposition and labor leaders, Rousseff more intensely in recent months after riots over government spending on this year's World Cup and the Summer Olympics in 2016.

Economic problems have made that polarization more acute. Rousseff warned she won't hesitate calling the troops out if protests in Brazil continue into June, when the FIFA World Cup tournaments start.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro blamed the "fascist right" for anti-government protests he alleged were backed by the United States. He also accused right-wing Latin American politicians, including former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, of plotting his ouster.

Maduro took over from President Hugo Chavez when he died of cancer last year.

Maduro has found strong support from Mercosur trade bloc not only because of left-wing ideological affinities, but because both Brazil and Argentina fear the contagion of violence spilling over from Venezuela into their countries, Fraga said.

After repeated pronouncements the protests were the work of "fascists," government and provincial leaders pledged a robust "counterattack" to deter the protests.

At least eight people were shot in a single protest that turned violent in Valencia, El Universal reported.

Maduro's opponents now accuse the president of betraying the legacy of his late mentor, Chavez.

"As popular dissatisfaction in Argentina and Brazil grows over unprecedented political corruption, violations of basic rights, and government ineptitude, we may ask: Are there lessons that Latin Americans can learn from the failure of the Arab Spring in Egypt?" Argentine political scientist Daniela E. Rodriguez said in a commentary, "Lessons for Latin America from the Arab Spring," carried by AtlasOne.org, a website of the non-profit Atlas Network, and other news media.

"The first lesson is more than clear: Democracy is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the stability of a country. The proof rests in the great speed with which a large group of alleged democracies in the region have become tyrannies of the majority.

"The second lesson will be a bit more difficult to grasp for people in South America, but it is certainly very helpful: What is needed for progress today is a healthy market economy and a strong rule of law," Rodriguez wrote.

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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