How To Win Friends And Influence People.
Oil-rich Venezuela, having recently helped Argentina to pay off its debt to the International Monetary Fund, is floating the idea of a new "Bank of the South" that would offer no-strings loans in competition to the U.S.-backed IMF.
The scheme would be the latest in a series of moves in which Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has used his country's oil revenues to expand his influence and leftist philosophy through South America.
Argentina last week repaid $9.6 billion to the IMF -- a 184-nation institution with its headquarters in Washington -- clearing away the staggering debt it incurred with a spectacular default and currency devaluation in 2001 and 2002.
America is losing influence in the world faster than Jack Abramoff is losing influence in the GOP, and that's really saying something!
(I do hate citing the Washington Times, though.)
SUPPLEMENT, JANUARY 22, 2006: To be fair, I must admit that not everything is beer-and-skittles in Venezuela. While the country is awash in oil revenue and working hard to make friends in other countries -- even offering to subsidize heating oil for poor Americans -- Venzuela's infrastructure is suffering. Chavez has work to do at home. My point above isn't that Venezuela is a better country than the U.S. -- Lordy, no! -- but that we should pay attention to the fact that other countries are moving quickly to occupy the "influence vacuum" created by our neglect of routine foreign policy, love affair with neoliberal trading policies, and unhealthy obsession with Iraq. We're losing influence to countries like Venezuela, which can't even keeps its roads open. That's a sad statement about how far we've fallen since 9/12.