Oliver Stone on Wall Street, Gordon Gekko, and Hugo Chávez
Oliver Stone talks about his two latest films, “South of the Border” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”
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The US media tend to ignore the fact that so many of the poor today are better off than under previous regimes. From 1980-2000 when neo-liberal policies reigned, growth was dismal, the gap between rich and poor grew far larger. Yet, until the Wall Street-induced recession, growth has been high across the region under this new breed of leftist leaders. From 2003-2008, for example, Venezuela’s economy nearly doubled in size. After [former Argentine President] Nestor Kirchner got rid of the IMF loans [after he came to power], unemployment dropped from 20 to 8 percent, and the economy grew 63 percent over 6 years.Skip to next paragraph
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Criticisms of Venezuela
Gardels: Yet, key figures of Latin America’s left are also critical of Chávez, Morales and the rest. Jorge Castaneda, Mexico’s former foreign minister, divides Latin America into the “irresponsible” left of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Argentina and the “sensible” left of Brazil and Chile.
His worry is that the “irresponsible” left’s anti-globalization, populist spending policies, in the mold of [mid-20th century Argentine President] Juan Perón, will lead Latin American back to the old cycle of inflation, stagnation, personalist authoritarian rule, corruption and disillusion. Former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso has the same worry: “A country has to make a living in a globally competitive environment,” he says. “Building prosperity requires caution and patience. It requires time. Populism is a short cut that doesn’t work.”
Indeed, today inflation in Venezuela, at 30 percent, is the highest in Latin America. The credit markets also rate it among the highest risks globally to default on its debts.
Is there anything to these criticisms in your view?
Stone: Today’s inflation does hurt the middle class most. And that is a problem. At the same time, let’s put it in perspective: inflation in Venezuela was more than 100 percent in 1996, two years before Chávez was first elected. Inflation hurts the poor less under Chávez because they now have subsidized housing, education, and healthcare.
As for the concern about Chávez’s personalist authoritarian rule in the stead of Juan Peron, former Argentine president Nestor Kirchner raises the issue in the film. He said, “I like Hugo as a friend, but I advise him that he should have 20 Hugos to succeed him instead of hanging on.”
That is an issue.
If you ask Hugo, he will say that “I’d love to be president until 2020, a third term to consolidate my changes.” In his view, he wants one more term – which a referendum the country voted on has now allowed – because Venezuela needs sustained attention to change a very screwed up country.
But after that, he has said to me, “I want out. I’ll take my pension and go back to live a comfortable life in my village.”
Hugo Chávez is not a rich man. He hasn’t made a dime while being in power. He hasn’t been corrupted.
True, members of the Chavista movement have been involved in corruption as they moved into the system. There is mismanagement. There is a lack of competent personnel. There are shortages. Supplies of food sit there rotting for lack of efficient distribution – always an issue in socialist or quasi-socialist administrations. There are complaints about the corruption of the judiciary, just as there were before Chávez. He can’t control them.
His own zealous Chavistas are sometimes his biggest enemy. They do stupid things because they are so paranoid about the opposition. No question these problems exist. And Chávez tries to stem them when he can. Since the recession, Chávez hasn’t been as agile with a stimulus as, for example, Morales has in Bolivia. As a result, his enemies are at the gate over the last 5 quarters of poor growth. I’m sure the upcoming elections will demonstrate dissatisfaction.