Posted by: vernacularsnoop | August 20, 2008

South American presidents create broad prosperity

Evo Morales is Bolivia’s first indigenous president and former head of the cocaleros’ (coca farmers’) union. Cocaleros have been especially hard hit by the US government’s War on Drugs, which uses a blend of carrots and sticks to coerce South American governments into criminalizing and suppressing centuries-old agricultural lifestyles. When he took office Morales’ opponents warned that he was a dangerous left-wing radical, and used no small amount of racist rhetoric to whip up hatred against him. Despite these obstacles, as this New York Times article points out, Morales has governed better than any Bolivian president in recent memory, creating strong economic growth that is shared by rich and poor alike.

A Radical gives Bolivia some stability

Another president who has shrunk the income inequality gap while growing the economy is Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva (commonly known as Lula). While the US media has focused on the demagoguery of Hugo Chavez, Brazil’s leftist president has quietly – and effectively – set about eradicating poverty from his country, using targeted social programs and microcredit.

Strong economy propels Brazil to world stage

“Long famous for its unequal distribution of wealth, Brazil has shrunk its income gap by six percentage points since 2001, more than any other country in South America this decade, said Francisco Ferreira, a lead economist at the World Bank.

While the top 10 percent of Brazil’s earners saw their cumulative income rise by 7 percent from 2001 to 2006, the bottom 10 percent shot up by 58 percent, according to Marcelo Côrtes Neri, the director of the Center for Social Policies at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Rio de Janeiro.”

These figures are amazing – no US president has accomplished anything close to that kind of poverty reduction in decades. Morales and Lula are proving that we don’t have to choose between poverty reduction and economic growth – we can have both. The continuing success of Bolivia and Brazil, in contrast to growing inequality in the US, is further proof that trickle-down economics has failed and should be abandoned. Now let’s hope that recently freed Colombian Green Ingrid Betancourt will soon be moving into the presidential palace in Bogota…

Ingrid Betancourt

Ingrid Betancourt

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