Nehring – Hugo Chavez's 21st Century Socialism

Address to the Union de Partidos Latin Americanos Conference in Guatemala City

Center-right parties must work together to defeat Hugo Chavez’ “21st Century Socialism”

Ron Nehring     Friday, April 1, 2011

For those of us who study history, it should be of only some surprise that we are gathered today, in 2011, to discuss the urgent need to defeat a threat which many thought 20 years ago was consigned to the ash heap of history.

After all, it was after twenty years of relative isolationism following World War I that my country found itself dragged into World War II with the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The world is a dynamic place, and threats to peace emerge.  We can either face them early, or late, but sooner or later we must face them.

History is replete with cycles.  So here we are, twenty years after the fall of the Berlin wall, to discuss the challenge of Hugo Chavez’ vision of “21st Century Socialism.”

Well, I’ve looked at 21st century socialism, and it looks a lot like 20th century socialism: oppressive, dysfunctional, backward, and very good at making and keeping people poor.  Meet the new socialism, same as the old socialism:

·         Venezuela now ranks 175th in economic freedom worldwide. 

·         As it nationalized one business and sector after another, its economy shrank by 3.3% in 2009.

·         Its citizens’ savings are being destroyed by a negative interest rates and a 27.1% official inflation rate, while the actual rate is undoubtedly much higher.

·         Job-creating investors are pulling out of the country and taking jobs with them, with Foreign Direct Investment inflow at a negative $3.1 billion and continuing.

·         Corruption is rampant, as Venezuela ranks at 162nd out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2009.

Hugo Chavez has done a masterful job proving that socialism in the 21st century is still as effective in destroying wealth and opportunity as it was when the Berlin Wall fell.

He is an extremist in every sense of the term.  Only an extremist could look upon the backward, impoverished nations of Cuba and North Korea with envy and attempt to turn his county into theirs.

As defenders of individual liberty and freedom, we cannot be content to write off Venezuela as some isolated regional quirk whose aberrations will eventually be corrected by history.

Certainly Mr. Chavez is not interested in only sending his own country into a state of permanent emergency.  His treatment of Columbia and other regional neighbors makes that clear.  He is intent on using whatever wealth and resources his country has left as leverage to spread his influence and to undermine the defenders of liberty.  As proponents of free societies, ladies and gentlemen, his target is us.

There is a battle taking place for the future of our hemisphere, and we must rise to meet this challenge – all of us, including the United States.

We must start first by saying “the line must be drawn here.  This far, no further.”  Not one more citizen, of any country, should fall victim to the destructive forces of Hugo Chavez, his ideology, or his allies.

This means we must commit to working together to share resources, expertise, advice and support to see that center-right parties succeed in elections throughout the region in the months and years ahead.

Being right, in the sense of having the best ideas, is not enough to win in politics.  If it was, we would have little need for campaigns. 

The reality is that the winner of a political contest, over time, is determined by the number and effectiveness of those on each side of a struggle. 

It’s not enough for our side to have the best ideas to advance the causes of freedom and justice.  We must march the strength of our ideas with the strength of powerful political organizations capable of defeating the forces of socialism in every county, department (state), and municipality.

I would like to suggest today that each of our parties must commit to dramatically strengthening our ability to organize and communicate – to build a barrier of political strength sufficient to defeat those who would take the region backward.

Our opponents have long understood the importance of political organization to long term success.  Marx, Lenin, and other leftists have always stressed the importance of communication and organization.  We cannot underestimate the power of strong organizations behind bad ideas to overwhelm weak organizations based on the right ideas.

Building strong center-right parties that reach every community, every neighborhood, and every home is not an option.  It is an imperative.  Failure to do so is an invitation to Chavez and his allies to intervene in a country’s internal affairs.

To build these center-right political parties of the 21st century demands leaders with a clear vision of victory for freedom over tyranny.  We need leaders who are careful and calculating in their tactics, but bold and uncompromising in their convictions.

In every country there are times when we are so consumed by internal issues, or an indifference toward the rest of the world, that we can turn isolationist.  Now is not the time for isolationism.  Circumstances do not permit it.  Instead, we must be boldly engaged with expanding the cause of free societies, and protecting them against the aggressive threat from the bully in Caracas.

To this end, I propose the following:

1. We must ensure that each center-right political party in the region has access to the best techniques, technologies and practices to organize and communicate.  Training and development for today’s leaders, and tomorrow’s, must be a priority.  I’ve witnessed first-hand the power of sound political technologies combined with solid principles to change government for the better.  The center-right parties of our hemisphere should become the world leaders in organization and communication.

2. We need to ensure that American political leaders are continually informed of developments in the region, opportunities to work together, and engaged in this struggle for the future of Central America.  It is not enough to assume the State Department or Foreign Ministry will take care of this.  Building relationships between government leaders and party leaders at every level is essential to maintaining the level of engagement needed for victory.

3. We must continually look for targets of opportunity.  Elections, issues, and sudden opportunities that emerge in a dynamic world where the cause of freedom can be advanced.  We know that our opponents will never let a crisis go to waste.  Every change has within it an opportunity.  We should look for these, and be prepared to engage to help candidates, elected officials, NGOs, and civil society whenever the result can be expanded freedom and liberty.

We live in interesting times, filled with opportunities and dangers.  I look forward to working with you in the fight to protect the rights and freedoms of the ultimate minority: the individual.




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