Welcome to Versus, a bi-weekly section featuring two opposing opinions on the same matter. Since we know for a fact that you only read those articles that you know beforehand you are going to agree with, we have decided to spare you the trouble of sorting through massive amounts of information to find someone who shares your ideology, therefore validating your opinion and letting you sleep at night. Consider it an adult version of Choose Your Own Adventure. One in which no matter what you do, you always die in the end. Enjoy.

Cristina & Maduro: A Match Made In Heaven

By Colin Docherty

Your axis of socialist power: led by a woman who only wears black and a man who decided a giant Venezuelan flag on 90’s jumpsuit is a good idea. They’re cartoon characters on a continent that has sought a political style that incorporates both the working class, the poor, the elite and everyone in between. There’s wearing it on your sleeve – then you have this. A movement that begs to be taken seriously in everything, yet decided that tackiness is the way to go.

Doesn’t that tell us something about the transformation we’re witnessing? Make no mistake: Kirchner and Maduro are trolling the establishment and doing a damn effective job of it. No one would accuse them of having an identity crisis. They know who they are, who they appeal to, and the rules of the game. The question is not what the modern leftist movement looks like in Latin America but whether it’s effective enough at alleviating the social and economic ills that have plagued the ‘forgotten continent‘ since its discovery.

I for one welcome a geopolitical alliance that wasn’t orchestrated by either the US or Europe. This process is grassroots, through and through. But Colin, I hear you say, they’re both evil, the devil reincarnated, insatiable baby eaters who will stop at nothing to run their respective countries into the ground. ‘Some men just want to watch the world burn’. Maybe this is true, but isn’t that missing the point just a little? Latin American sovereignty, although less of a topic than 200 years ago, maintains a great relevance that goes beyond citizenry morale. With this new resource hungry world, the rise of China and the paradigm shift from established to emerging markets – coming with it, less concentrated interstate trade – Latin America must not be complacent.

From a strategic perspective, the keystone in this alliance is Brazil, nestled appropriately in the middle, and the essentialness of their support can’t be understated. Brazil is where the hype is. The dream of a more dynamic, more inclusive South America begins with the economic success of Brazil. Lula is a Kirchner fan – going as far to say: ‘Don’t let our adversaries write the history book that we created‘ – and wasn’t alien to Chavez either (evidence of this: endless photos of them putting their hands in the middle, if you do this as a group, you’re always tight).

Although Brazil is large enough to do it’s own thing it’s own way, there’s little doubt all 3 countries see themselves as having the same goal: the more of the poor that are pulled into the middle-class, the social stability and consumer-led economic boom it generates will pay for it all and then some. And if your measurement of success is in-line with that of contemporary Liberal Democracy-type thinking (economic progress by economic freedom where society moves up the ladder together), it’s hard to argue with the results so far. But it begs the question: where to go from here?

As more and more rise from poverty and plant themselves firmly in the lower-middle class, the next challenge in Latin America will be shifting away from it’s aristocratic, nepotist ways and towards a society that promotes individual economic freedom, as is enjoyed in developed Western countries. If ever there was a problem that required a deep intellectual and philosophical movement, it is this.

Unfortunately for Latin America, it only gets harder from there: balancing foreign relations and international trade policy (and enforcement) while empowering your citizens to do good will without doubt lead to mixed outcomes and (hopefully only) temporary disenfranchisement. Or worse, the door could be left open for the nefarious to exploit changing conditions for personal gain. To pull this off, Latin America needs European-level collaboration between countries in all facets. The task only gets bigger from here – the Maduro/Kirchner/Dilma understand this and more importantly, see each other as a crucial piece in the puzzle. Let’s just hope they bet right.


Cristina and Maduro: A Match Made In Hell

By Mariana Belisario-Blaksley

Nicolás Maduro and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner have more in common than you may think at first sight: the birdies’ whisperer and the black widow both inherited a political capital they did not build and they both should send good old Mr. Black a huge jar of peanut butter in thankfulness for their current positions.

As villains, both Néstor Kirchner and Chávez were much more convincing than them, with their sinister looks and props. Mr. Kichner’s gangling appearance his trousers too short, his arms too long and of course… that playful eye! And Mr. Chávez pointy ears, evil look and… aaargh, that wart! Bram Stocker would have rubbed his hands in glee! They are only missing some disfigured hunchback. I’m afraid the other two are closer to characters from El Chavo del 8 than to Dracula.

They are both rich as Croesus, but they keep preaching about leftist principles and the beauty of poverty. I am positive, though; they secretly despise President Pepe Mujica and also think he’s an idiot.What is more, a poor idiot, which is unforgivable if you are in politics.

Maduro and Cristina are both shackled to the presidency, as odd as this may sound. And the reason why they are trapped inside the golden cage of power is because they know the minute they lose it they might find themselves locked in a different kind of cage.

Of course they have also had their differences like any other match. Like that time when Cristina was invited to Caracas to make good use of her renowned skills as llorona de velatorios. She wore her strongest water proof mascara and showed up at Hugo Chávez’s funeral ready for delivering a weeping, touching speech. Well, imagine her surprise when she approached the coffin (open this time) and found inside one of Madame Tussaud’s master pieces. Was it some kind of sick, wicked joke?? She met Chávez at La Habana a couple of months before the alleged date of his demise and we all know how unforgiving cancer is on someone’s health and appearance. There was no way he looked as he did lying there and she left in offended silence as she wouldn’t shed her tears before a dummy. She didn’t give a shit they’d already paid for the gig. No artist would have accepted this infamy.

But love (for money) is never rude or selfish. And Cristina forgave Maduro. Then she came to the rescue when he shamelessly committed fraud during the elections in Venezuela and refused to recount the ballots. Her mission was to persuade the rest of the scroungers at Lima of accepting him as a legitimate president. “Does even one of you can survive this populist charade without the petrol checkbook, by any chance?” That was enough. And so The Bribery Mystery Tour started. And off Maduro went to buy supporters paying with petrol that belongs to the Venezuelan people.

Future is uncertain for these two as a Terminator film. And fear is another thing these segundones have in common. The fall of any of them will shake the other’s already fragile structure to its foundations.

So in danger and in need, Cristina and Maduro have no choice but to remain together weathering the storm. I’m pretty sure they don’t even like each other. A match made in hell if there ever was one.