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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Beatrice Rangel: On the Perils of Being a Reformist Leader
Former Venezuela Presidential Chief of Staff Beatrice Rangel looks at why change is so difficult in Latin America.

By Beatrice E. Rangel

It is quiet disheartening to discuss Mexican politics with Mexicans.

People from all political persuasions, economic strata and educational level seem to agree to give very low performance grades to President Enrique Pena Nieto. When one attempts to determine the underlying arguments for this huge discontent the first charge against President Pena Nieto is corruption.

And while indeed corruption has run rampant in Mexico for many centuries, I would truly doubt that President Pena Nieto is the only leader who has engaged in this practice. When people are pressed to give further explanation for the discontent, pessimism about the future of Latin America sets in.

Teachers indicate that an educational reform demanding them to regularly validate their capability to deliver knowledge and give appropriate contours to student moral fabric is something to be rejected as exclusionary and sided towards the interest of dominant classes.

Owners of Television or telecom assets think that a reform geared towards opening the Mexican market to FDI and competition is profoundly wrong as only Mexicans should be allowed to thrive in this economically “strategic” activity.

Party leaders from left to right believe that foreigners have no business exploiting Mexican oil and gas and that ownership of energy assets should be reserved to the Mexican state for it to give away the spoils to those that buy their way in and are close to the ruling clique.

In short, President Pena Nieto is not highly regarded because he attempted to modernize Mexico and to liberate its institutional framework from corporativism and mercantilism.

As a result, rent seeking elites whether bureaucratic or from the business world experience a reduction on their extraction margins and have thus decided to crucify the offender. Consequently, they have organized to guarantee that the Pena Nieto reforms never leave the conceptual dimension and turn into a platitude with the passage of time.

In the process, they are going after Pena Nieto and his party but also against all those political movements that supported reform. And in the realm of the verbal battle the whole political edifice in Mexico is being delegitimized. This is opening a door to a contesting leader and that seems to be Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Somehow this Mexican drama is a remake of yet another undertaken thirty years ago in Venezuela when Carlos Andres Perez was elected in 1988 for a five-year period and decided to execute a very ambitious reform program aiming at diversifying the economy, controlling corruption and enhancing competitiveness.

He recruited the best and the brightest for his cabinet, including Moises Naim and Ricardo Hausmann.

And while he and his cabinet were busy undoing the most unproductive bureaucratic edifice ever created by any country, Venezuelan elites were also quite busy conspiring to bring that government down. And they succeeded!!

The call to war was corruption. Perez was imprisoned and tried only to be found innocent of embezzlement several years down the road and after he had been impeached.

Meanwhile elites rallied around Colonel Hugo Chavez, who had attempted a coup d’état against Perez with their support. Needless to recount what the consequences have been for Venezuela and the region, as the Chavez-led revolution has given birth to the first unencumbered narco-state en South America.

Were it not because a whole generation of young Venezuelans are raffling their lives on the streets to protest this narco-government, one could laugh at the contention that Perez was brought down because of corruption.

Further, those same business leaders that led the charge against the Perez administration have in many instances partnered with the current government of Venezuela whose leaders are deemed by U.S. and International anti-money laundering squads as liable for taking bribes to the tune of US$35 billion.

Reflecting upon these geographically and temporally distant reform plans in Latin America, one draws the conclusion that reformist agendas are lethal to their creators -- mainly because rent-seeking interests in the region will see to it that the culprits end up in oblivion so that no other political leader ever has a similar idea.

And as rent extraction continues to be the source of economic growth, individual freedom will never thrive. Because one of the conditions for a smooth rent extraction to take place is the establishment of effective corporativist ties among the diverse factions of the elite.

These links end up creating a an impenetrable cocoon that protects the leadership from the effects of globalization -- which usually breaks corporativism, as it favors wealth creation and competition.

In the end, it seems as if the region is doomed to continue operating under the same political and economic model created by Phillip II of Spain back in the 16th century.

Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.

For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.

You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.

Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet series

Beatrice Rangel: Rio -- Demystifying the Olympic Games

Beatrice Rangel: The Luddite Syndrome in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: Venezuela's Unexpected Transition

Beatrice Rangel: We Now Have a Wider Canal But Has Our Wisdom Expanded???

Beatrice Rangel: From Brexit to Tesla, Progress is Made by Leaders!!!

Beatrice Rangel: As the World Goes Latin, Latin America Gets Logical

Beatrice Rangel: On the Difficulties of Fighting Barbarism in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: The Impending Age of Housekeeping!!!!

Beatrice Rangel: What Happened to All Those Rosy Forecasts for Latin America?

Beatrice Rangel: On Dialogue and the Rules of Geopolitics in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: The Ides of Wisdom in Venezuela

Beatrice Rangel: On the Discreet Charm of Populism

Beatrice Rangel: Three Ladies in Distress

Beatrice Rangel: Trump, Lula, Kirchner and the Last Tupi-Guaranis

Beatrice Rangel: Time for Departures in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: A Contrarian View on the Panama Papers

Beatrice Rangel: Brazil's Lady in Her Labyrinth

Beatrice Rangel: Back to a Divided Home!!!

Beatrice Rangel: A Historical Take-Off in the Americas??

Beatrice Rangel: A Skipped Journey, a Reaffirmation and a Clearing of Path in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: The Demise of Civility in the Americas!!

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Beatrice Rangel: The Pope's Difficult Stopover in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: Farewell to The “Diplomacy of Reason”

Beatrice Rangel: 2 Diseases in Latin America -- Different Prescriptions, Very Different Outcomes

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Beatrice Rangel: When Crime Meets Glory

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Beatrice Rangel: Good News/Bad News Starts The Monkey Leap Year

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Beatrice Rangel: Are the Americas Ready for President Trump?

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Beatrice Rangel: Marijuana & Latin America's Next Trade Corridor

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Beatrice Rangel: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the Americas!!

Beatrice Rangel: Buena Vista's Magic Covers the Americas

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Beatrice Rangel: The Economic Consequences of Peace in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: Colombia, the FARC & the Makings of Gangland in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: When Extreme Weather Meets Extreme Politics Calamities are Bound to Happen

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Beatrice Rangel: About Uninformed Elites and Gullible Leaders

Beatrice Rangel: On US-Engineered Soft Landings in Cuba and Venezuela

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Beatrice Rangel: Blue Moons Lead to Extraordinary Happenings in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: On Why Embassy Openings Do Not Necessarily Herald Different Policies

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Beatrice Rangel: An Infuriated God & An Environmental Crusader Mark the Summer Solstice

Beatrice Rangel: Between Ionesco & the Falklands Syndrome

Beatrice Rangel: The Ugly Americas

Beatrice Rangel: How FIFA Corrupted the Beautiful Game in the Americas and World

Beatrice Rangel: Could the US RICO Act Be Applied to Latin America?

Beatrice Rangel: On the Discreet Charm of Commodities for Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: The End of the Chinese Free Lunch in the Americas!!

Beatrice Rangel: The Crooked Twig of Democracy in the Americas

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Beatrice Rangel: Killing Me Softly -- the Obama Administration’s Legacy in Latin America

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Beatrice Rangel: Of Thunderous Silences, Quiet Noises and Flash Backs in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: Latin America's Dangerous Exports to Europe & the Demise of an Old Fox

Beatrice Rangel: Of Sweet Deals, Sugar Daddies, Direct Mail & Obama’s Care

Beatrice Rangel: Of Latin American Singing Birds, Femme Fatales & Empty Shelves

Beatrice Rangel: When Flying Dragons & Rage Infusions Turn Against Their Latin American Masters

Beatrice Rangel: Holy Haberdashery!!! Is Fire Building Under the Surface in the Americas??

Beatrice Rangel: 2015 -- A Year for Balance in the Americas???

Beatrice Rangel: Pope Francis Looks at the Americas In His Christmas Remarks

Beatrice Rangel: The Paint Brush Hanging from the Wall in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: A Future for the Americas??

Beatrice Rangel: Going Forward, Going Backward -- It's the Americas!!

Beatrice Rangel: An Eerily Familiar Week in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: Tale of Two Walls

Beatrice Rangel: Across the Americas, We the PEOPLE

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Beatrice Rangel: Oh My, The Patron of the Eternal Feminine Has Left Us!!!

Beatrice Rangel: Communism from China to Cuba Finds Corruption!!!

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Beatrice Rangel: Will Latin America Miss the Broadband Development Target?

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