Lessons from Latin America

By Angelos Stangos

It is impossible to know exactly what SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras hoped to gain from his recent visit to Latin America. According to his critics, he simply wanted to fulfill a childhood dream but was forced to present his trip as a political and diplomatic campaign. His supporters, on the other hand, argue that his aim was to initiate contact with governments in the region that have made radical changes and to learn from the growth models they have adopted.

Whatever the purpose of his trip, the leader of the leftist party and his close aides tried to present the foray as an attempt to forge ties with leaders and political parties outside of the European Union given that the response Tsipras has received from the bloc’s political leaders has been very limited and there is little he can gain from them. One example is the stance of Germany’s Die Linke, which is also a leftist party but has regularly expressed its objection to Greece’s European bailout.

SYRIZA likes to argue that its program is based on multidimensional economic and social policies and that the party has alliances, collaborations and partnerships on a global scale that are aimed at changing the international political system in a more leftist – if not Marxist – direction.

However, despite the huge distance and all the particular characteristics that separate Greece from the countries of Latin America, Tsipras’s decision to visit Argentina and Brazil proved rather unfortunate.

In Brazil, Tsipras met with the country’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who gave the SYRIZA chief some advice that did not suit him politically. Among other pieces of advice, Lula told Tsipras that his rhetoric should not be exclusively limited to the crisis and its disastrous consequences, but rather should be about discussing ways for the country to get out of the mess it currently finds itself in. It is a well-known fact that Lula managed to pull the massive country of Brazil out of its own crippling crisis by applying the recipe of the International Monetary Fund, which SYRIZA has vehemently opposed on every level.

Then, in long-suffering Argentina, as Tsipras talked about dignified ways to deal with the crisis, people were dying in the streets during a wave of looting. The SYRIZA leader quickly discovered that under no circumstances should Greece be allowed to turn into another Argentina.

On a realistic level, the political importance of Tsipras’s visit to Brazil and Argentina is slight at best. The only redeeming factor of his campaign would be if he has learned a thing or two about adapting his fantastical rhetoric to reality.