It's the age of chaos in the Americas

 By William Butler Salazar

(Published August 26, 2002 by the San Juan Star)

Columbus planted the seed. A century later two noble limbs began to grow. One, South of the 30th parallel, conquistador. The other, to the North, mercantilist. Thus the Americas have continued to evolve, a single root nurturing two massive, totally different branches, grafted to each other by the unyielding forces of nature and the passage of time.

The fruit eschewed by the southern branch of the Americas lured zealots whose sole aim was to fill coffers with riches and converts. Mostly adventurers, they trampled complex cultures established millenniums earlier. Pizarro, an illiterate swineherd, cheated and tricked his way across Peru, Ecuador and Chile. Cortez, whose main resources were greed, ambition, courage, and cunning, did the same from corner to corner in Mexico.

Inept Iberian gentlemen rulers of these new colonies, with little or no previous administrative background, helped fertilize the drive within the colonies to seek independence. Add two misguided “Emperors” into the potage and we get the foundation for great tragedy.

To the North, the English government developed North America through managed corporations that gave hard working, freedom loving people a solid governing system. The organizational know-how instilled by the English colonial system led the colonists, one hundred and fifty years later, to draw upon this social, political, ethical and legal backbone to form what the world today knows as the USA.

When the independence bug bit the Spanish colonies in the early 19th century, the infant USA, imbued with overwhelming fervor, took upon itself to graft a new seed into the branch nurtured by the Iberian settlers. With the Monroe Doctrine as its guiding light, a tool used to oust the Russians from Alaska, the fledgling USA adapted it as a means to sell its own brand of mercantile democracy as the cure-all for infant Latin American republics, without realizing that little of the underlying pedestal that sustained the US democratic system existed in the area to be converted.

One hundred fifty years later chaos grips the Americas. From Patagonia to Wall Street, many of the key tenets that support democracy are no longer in place. The future is truly grim.

Voter turnout, the key indicator, is at an all time low. Voter dissatisfaction with the super-politization of politics is at a high. Massive corruption within the corporate world, enemy attacks on the mainland by vicious and amoral terrorist groups, a costly drug war, a bureaucratic governmental status quo loaded with unmotivated 9-5ers, and hysterical anti-corporate frenzy brings the USA ever closer to total chaos.

Add to that a feisty President who much too often of late takes rhetorical aim at his self echoing “Axis of Evil”.

The fruit from the conquistador branch has not done that well either. It has yielded grossly mismanaged economies throughout the Americas, incalculable economic disparity, uneducated masses, broad based dishonesty in and out of government, unworkable economic models, and deep rooted, highly motivated guerilla movements. 

Nurturing this exploding group of frustrated citizens, like those in Venezuela who watched powerless during a quarter century as their elected leaders plundered their rich nation, are the promises made by the Forum of Sao Paolo, an approach which may very well take root should “Lula” da Silva be elected President of Brazil. Lodged between an Argentina in economic meltdown and a Venezuela in hands of Lula protégé Hugo Chavez, deep-rooted changes within the hemisphere may soon sprout a new branch nurtured by the fruits of labor.

What’s happening today in Brazil is both symptomatic and critical to the future of Latin America. Brazil's president Fernando Henriquez Cardoso cannot run again due to term limits. His center-right coalition is struggling to find a corruption-free candidate. First choice Roseana Sarney stepped aside when police seized a half million dollars in cash in her residence, allegedly from a bankrupt enterprise she established with state funds. Now, replacement candidate Jose Serra is embroiled in a fund-raising scandal.

The October election in Brazil could be a turning point, not only for Brazil but all other countries in Latin America. A Brazil headed by President Lula could lead the country out of its economic quagmire, and possibly serve as a productive and exemplary economic model for other Third World countries caught in the neo-liberal trap.

Most probably Lula is a wolf in disguise, in the likes of Hitler, Fidel, and Hugo Chavez. The danger a Brazilian-Venezuelan-Cuban coalition will pose, whose goal is the democratic take over of the Americas, Puerto Rico included, is frightening.

Puerto Rico is unique. It’s the only political entity in all the Americas that has never suffered revolution. The conquistadors left a solid branch into which the mercantile seed successfully grafted making it the model democracy of the Americas. Make no mistake, Puerto Rico remains in the sites of the Forum’s sharpshooters. Years down the road, this enslaving movement of the masses, if successful, will jump into the first breach in the existing order.

Moral degradation both within and outside of the family unit soars. We cannot expect that millions upon millions of children from broken families who reach 18 years of age poorly prepared in family lore, morals, and in schooling can, without assistance, make the quantum leap to responsible citizenship. Compulsory instruction for all under-prepared 18 year olds through a hybrid US Army basic training/Peace Corp type program will fertilize these seeds, which well may have been lost for life, and cause them to grow into productive citizens.

Pope John Paul II appears to be the lone focus on the sole bright spot: the path to a brilliant future for the world is through youth. Fruit from aged limbs, spoiled, rotting, stuck in our ways, we need soon to be replaced by new seed, imbued and nurtured with the basic concepts that once made the Americas great. These young men and women of the world, honest, intelligent, hard-working, compassionate believers, new generation citizens, properly molded, are our only hope to halt the chaotic avalanche rushing towards us.

There is no other alternative. Our tree can produce nothing more.


William Butler Salazar is an engineer, author and ocean navigator.