The Silent Treatment

Twoof Latin America's richest nations are in trouble, and the US response - or lack thereof - is telling of global trends.

Venezuelans, both rich and poor, rose up against the once-popular President Hugo Chavez yesterday in a general strike. Most businesses closed in protest against his many dictatorial decrees, such as a Castro-like plan to take land for distribution.

Mr. Chavez's diatribes against the US, his increasing autocratic ways, and his slow destruction of an oil-rich economy have isolated him. The US has been largely mute, except to deny him trade benefits for opposing the war on terror. Chavez is getting the silent treatment from the US.

Likewise for Argentina, which is in a financial meltdown for lack of fiscal discipline. The US is letting the International Monetary Fund hold back a bailout - in sharp contrast to IMF help for Turkey, a key US ally in the war on terror. Argentina is being used as an example to show the wrong way to run an economy. Its government faces a general strike, too, on Thursday.

Unlike during the cold war, these two giants of South America can't always count on US help, nor can they defy global trends toward better-run economies and democracies.

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