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Honduras: a few deft murders

16 December 2009

As I mentioned earlier today, Matt Yglesias not only made a fool of himself mistaking Ecuador for Honduras (as Bina noted in her comment, other than both being banana exporters, they don’t have a lot in common beyond a national language) the guy  has forced me to consider exactly what is meant by his Wikipedia entry when it refers to him as a “prominent voice in the liberal blogosphere”.

I was under the assumption that Yglesias was a “liberal” in the U.S. sense of the word — which presumably includes things like support for human rights and democracy, but perhaps I’m mistaken. Either about U.S. liberalism, or about Yglisias’ liberalism. Perhaps Yglesias is thinking of “liberal” less in the sense of Benito Juarez or Valentín Gómez Farías (or even Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana) — for whom a “liberal” was free trader in favor of lowered tariffs, and — by extension — one who would tolerate foreign investors and their foreign customs and mores, and is more a “liberal” in the sense of Porfirio Díaz and the Cientificos of late 19th century Mexico.

The worthy gentlemen — all of whom considered themselves “liberals” — added Positivism and Social Darwinism to their theories of “liberalism”, allowing them, without blinking an eyelash, to engage in the persecution and murder of dissenters against the strong-man rulers that upheld that economic system.

Ygesias’ “deft” — or, “daft” support of the Obama Administration — via his claim that the Honduran (or, as he wrote, Ecuadorian) coup was “hardly a major event in the scheme of things.”  Perhaps not for a late 19th century Cientifico, or Don Porfirio, but tell that to Walter Trochez — a twenty-five year old leader of the National Front of Resistance against the Coup, and gay rights activist, kidnapped December 4, beaten, released, and gunned down last Sunday in front of his home.  Tell that to Santos Corrales Garcia, another leader of the National Front who was arrested December 5 in the Nueva Capital area, in the south of Tegucigalpa, by five people wearing uniforms of the National Criminal Investigation Department.  His headless corpse was found Sunday, showing signs of torture.

Perhaps Yglesias, being from the United States (where “liberal” has a special meaning) is also one of those who thinks we are all equal, but USAnians are more equal than others.  OK… Matt… tell Laura Carlsen — a name you should know, if you want to write on Latin America — who was physically threatened by “international observers” during the so-called “election” that the United States government so “deftly” handled.  Or, Matt, in your “liberal blogosphere, is official harassment of journalists and analysts somehow a value to be supported?

I’m kind of wondering how pissing off the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador (which didn’t have a coup), Peru, Venezuela, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico (to name a few),  or the huge erosion in good will towards Barack Obama throughout Latin America, or creating a sudden interest in cooperation among the Latin American nations to counter U.S. miliary and diplomatic initiatives in the region could be considered “deft” handling of foreign policy.  But then, Yglesias is either intellectually lazy, completely clueless about foreign policy, or speaking his own private language… or all of the above.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. otto permalink
    16 December 2009 9:26 pm

    all of the above

  2. 17 December 2009 2:19 pm

    Rich and Otto – please stop. Neither of you read Yglesias regularly, so isn’t it a little bit lazy/intellectually dishonest on your part to launch such “thorough” critiques of him on the basis a tossed-off line at the end of one post? Regular readers will know several things about Yglesias:
    1) The sense in which he is a “liberal” is that he’s a Euro-style social democrat. The use of “liberal” to describe this position is an indication of the impoverishment of U.S. political discourse, but it’s not Yglesias’ fault.
    2) He posts more than ten posts a day, and is well-known for poor spell-checking and editing.
    3) He understands U.S. politics extremely well and knows a fair bit of political philosophy.
    4) He knows almost nothing about Latin American politics or US-Latin American relations.
    Put all of these together and it’s clear what happened: he screwed up. It’s embarrassing. Those of us who read regularly about LatAm issues will agree that he’s very wrong about the Obama administration’s handling of the coup in Honduras. But this does not need to lead to a to be a major issue. Otto, I found your blog for the first time when Yglesias linked to one of your posts years ago. So be charitable for once. Yglesias is not pretending to be a LatAm expert, and he’s not one. Save your fire for those who _are_ pretending to be LatAm experts, but aren’t: that’s where it belongs.

  3. Matt Hawkins permalink
    18 December 2009 7:23 am

    “social democrat” deserves the label of centre-right these days. They hand out just as much money to big businesses, treat workers like their unruly children who are disrupting the order of things too much, and manipulate social forces to prevent any serious change. Clothed in the cloth of a do-gooder, their stance internationally is paternalist and insulting to independent countries who both have the political acumen and self-dignity to reject the unsubstantiated platitudes that social-democrats send ‘south’. An example of which is that ‘deft handling’ on the part of the US through out the coup – “we care about your issues, we are doing something about it, fall in line Latin America, oh look there was an election, have your lolly pop, stop whining” = deft? <> Latin America, its okay.

    Liberal is not an impoverishment of the discourse of political ideologies in the US, it is the impoverishment of the political ideologies in the US. The vast majority of public figures in the US, no matter if they call themselves ‘left’ go much further than JS Mill’s liberal values. Social democrats in the US, like Tony Blair and the rest, can follow them down that hole. These are people that throw themselves into the camp of ‘the left’ without representing anything truly left. What it does is co-opts the efforts of the left, diminishes them, and ultimately narrows the spectrum of public debate from the right to at best the ‘centre’. After co-opting the discourse but not the action of the left, such individuals pop-up and paint everyone in disagreeing as ‘splitting the left’ and acting irrationally.


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