Latin American Leftists Forge Strategies for 1994 Elections

WITH a dozen presidential elections up for grabs in Latin America during the next year, and with the demise of the socialist/communist movements, how the left campaigns for office will be significant to winning elections.

Talk of armed revolution, a centralized economy, and socialism has largely faded from the vocabulary of the region's leftists. Even in Cuba (where no elections are planned), President Fidel Castro Ruz's slogan "Socialism or Death" has a hollow ring. Everywhere there's a fresh emphasis on "pragmatism" and "democracy with a social content."

The Cuauhtemoc Cardenas strategy to build a broad coalition, including Mexico's private sector, is echoed by parties throughout the region.

"Politics is about building bridges," says Ruben Zamora, presidential candidate for the Democratic Convergence in El Salvador. "We're building bridges first with organizations in opposition, second with parties of the left, and third with the private sector to improve governability."

Luiz Inacio da Silva, president of the Brazilian Workers Party, is speaking with "sectors of the right" because "if not, their terrorism against us would be huge."

Antonio Navarro Wolf, head of Colombia's M-19 Democratic Alliance, says participatory democracy - not socialism - is the spearhead of leftist politics in the region. Speaking at a Latin American leftists conference in Havana last month, he says the new economic policies, such as grass-roots self-help projects will emerge from parallel democratic developments.

Political scientist Jorge G. Castaneda, a Cardenas confidant, argues in a soon-to-be published book on the Latin American left that the region should not throw open its doors to free trade but adopt Japanese-style government-industry agreements that target the development of market and production niches suited to each country's natural advantages.

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