On November 22, Chileans went to the polls to pick a president. At least on this day, mice's and totalitarian communist governments' best set schemes were foiled.
When Cuban dictator Fidel Castro convened Latin America's finest left-wing political leaders in Sao Paulo, Brazil, thirty years ago, the dust had just cleared from the stunning collapse of the Berlin Wall, the icon of twentieth-century communism. Castro was the only one of the guests who managed to keep political power in the region. After decades of shifting geopolitical dynamics, East-West proxy conflicts, and the not-so-coincidental creation of the narco-trade in Latin America, the United States' neoliberalism had triumphed.
Yet, in the aftermath of the West's victory over Soviet-style communism, complacency has blinded it to the development of twenty-first-century authoritarianism. As though the world's autocrats and Marxists had politely accepted defeat, abandoned their ideology, and found something else to do with their time, Western neoliberal governments moved on from the Cold War.
Instead, leftist leaders set out to create better methods to do business. From Moscow to Beijing to Havana, the left set a route to corrupt political systems in budding democracies, overwhelm Western universities with Marxist doctrine, and exploit fast growing global corporate and banking sectors to finance its dramatic rebirth from the ash heap of history.
To that purpose, Castro and other leaders of communist Latin American parties met annually in what became known as the Sao Paulo Forum to strategize their return. Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela in 1999, giving the forum its first triumph. Bolivia's Evo Morales, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, and Mexico's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador were among others who followed. The Sao Paulo Forum now includes the ruling parties in Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Peru, Saint Lucia, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Bolivia, as well as the incoming administration in Honduras.
Since 1990, when Castro's Cuba was Latin America's lone leftist dictatorship, communist-backed parties have taken control of about half of the region's governments. Only Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica are not members of the Forum in Central America, despite their proximity to the United States. El Salvador, on the other hand, and its mercurial leader, Nayib Bukele (pictured), have fallen prey to the Chinese Communist Party's seductive charms in the last year.
The United States' reaction to the spreading crimson tide to its south has been essentially indifferent. The same national security agency that once waged deadly proxy wars in Central America to halt communism's rise one inch north of Nicaragua now sits quietly by while Mexico's enormous, state-protected criminal organizations flood American streets with China-sourced fentanyl and methamphetamine. The United States' decades-long refusal to address the amount of corruption in Mexico's political system has had disastrous effects.
Farther south, in the midst of a historic immigration crisis, China has taken advantage of the Biden administration's astonishing indifference toward two historical migrant source countries, Honduras and El Salvador. El Salvador's Bukele has made considerable moves toward dictatorial control at home and China-backed unification with its Honduran neighbors as a result of the Biden administration's refusal to engage diplomatically with either nation. Honduras, which is building a quick rail line to connect the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean as an alternative to shipping through the Panama Canal, is expected to be a vital economic hub for the Chinese Communist Party's development into Central America.
However, the CCP is hardly the region's greatest danger to democracy. The Sao Paulo Forum continues to capture chess pieces, with Chile and Colombia being the most recent objectives. In the southern Chilean province of Capitan Prat, operators from Cuba and Venezuela planned a series of violent Marxist-style worker protests in 2019. After a prominent Cuban intelligence officer defected and disclosed that the riots were planned by Cuba and Venezuela to force Chile, a historically market-based country, into dictatorial socialism, the Chilean government discovered the conspiracy. Fifty Cuban and Venezuelan agents were removed from the country as a result. Colombian authorities detected widespread and comparable Cuban and Venezuelan participation in a series of disturbances in Cali in 2021. Colombia's next president will be elected in May 2022.
The use of the US border situation as a smokescreen appears to be another aspect of the Sao Paulo Forum approach. Unlike in the first half of 2021, when most migrant encounters with US border patrol involved citizens of Mexico, El Salvador, or Honduras, much larger and better organized caravans have recently been staged in Panama, a country led by a forum party, and have focused on a single port of entry in Del Rio, Texas. While the media has portrayed the caravans as being made up of Haitian refugees, the majority of the migrants are from South America and are intermingled with Cubans, Peruvians, and Venezuelans, all of whom are forum members. As the United States disintegrates from within, owing in part to immigration and border security politics, forum participants seek refuge behind the smokescreen of the border issue.
While the United States may not be paying attention, Chile's freedom-loving citizens are. More than half of Chileans voted against socialist candidates in the presidential election on November 22. The presidential election will now proceed to a runoff on Dec. 19, but the riots orchestrated by Cuba and Venezuela have so far failed to propel Chile into the ranks of Latin American communist republics.
The United States should see Chile's rejection of socialism as a chance to reengage in the never-ending battle between democracy and authoritarianism. It should wake up to the looming menace to its south and, with its friends, go back to backing nascent democracies all over the world.