US media's prescription for Ecuador: neoliberalism good, democracy bad

Doing a little research for this post, I came across a pretty extensive group of people who criticize The New York Times for being biased in favor of the Latin American left (see, e.g., the comments on this blog post - here's a taste: "bunch of bloody morons to [sic] busy enjoying chavista hospitality to see the real story. . . . you left wing liberal chardonay swilling pin head"). This is bizarre, to say the least, but I think the problem is that these over-the-top far right-wing critics just can't recognize fellow travellers who use more subtle language.

The "news analysis" on Ecuador's presidential election that The New York Times ran last week is a good example of this kind of subtle dismissal of leftist politics in Latin America. The winner, Rafael Correa, is an American-trained economist whose decisive runoff victory over the richest man in the country was based on populist condemnations of Ecuador's elites and the USA. The question for reporter Simon Romero is whether Correa will govern as he campaigned (bad) or pursue a more "pragmatic" course (good):
when Mr. Correa starts talking about his ideas, in rapid-fire Spanish interspersed with tangents in English, French and even the occasional phrase in Quechua, he conveys a more sophisticated image than the nationalists who have risen to power elsewhere in the region out of the armed forces or trade unions.
And what is it that makes him seem more sophisticated?
“Foreign investment that generates wealth and jobs and pays taxes will always be welcome,” Mr. Correa, 43, said in an interview here, sounding precisely like someone with postgraduate degrees from universities in the United States and Belgium. (His are from the University of Illinois and Catholic University of Leuven
So someone who caters to foreign capital is well-educated and sophisticated. But is this the real Correa?
Mr. Correa wears tailored suits and chats about how North American economists like John Kenneth Galbraith have influenced him. Yet before crowds, he rails against the Bush administration and the International Monetary Fund.
This is a curious formulation because John Kenneth Galbraith, before his death earlier this year, was himself strongly critical of both the Bush administration and the IMF. Yet thru the magic of journalism we are shown how the world really breaks down: on one side stand the United States, the Bush administration, all American economists, American corporations, and the "moderate leftists" like Argentina's Kirchner and Brasil's Lula. On the other side are the uneducated, irrationally nationalist Latin American poor, the opportunistic politicians who exploit their anger to come to power, and the "dogmatic" ideologues of the left.

This propaganda line, which runs steadily thru mainstream reporting on Latin America, is here destabilized by the mention of Galbraith. This is an aberration - usually reporters only quote American scholars who support US state and corporate hegemony over Latin America. Yet bringing up Galbraith - a Keynesian liberal, certainly no anticapitalist, yet still critical of the status quo - reminds us exactly how right-wing the political and media consensus on neoliberalism really is. And Romero betrays the media's habitual contempt for democracy as well, when he devotes more space to the judgment that foreign capital will pass on Correa than that of the Ecuadoran people.

Left unmentioned is what happened the last time an Ecuadoran president threw in his lot with foreign corporations and betrayed his platform of opposition to neoliberalism and corruption. Lucio Gutiérrez was overthrown by massive protests in 2005.

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