Can Duterte do a Hugo Chavez?
HUGO CHAVEZ, the late great president of Venezuela, would have been 61 years old as of this writing—still 10 years younger than Rodrigo Duterte, who turned 71 last March 28 and will be the 16th president of the Philippines.
I can’t help but compare the two tough-talking leaders as early as the election campaign period, when Duterte was consistently topping the surveys and had proclaimed himself as the first Left-leaning president this country would have. Has Latin America’s “pink tide” reached this side of the planet? Is Duterte really the Filipino-version of Hugo Chavez? I say: Not quite.
Chavez became popular among the poor and oppressed in oil-rich Venezuela when, in 1992, the then lieutenant colonel led a failed coup d’état against pro-US president Carlos Andres Perez, for which he was imprisoned for two years.
During his presidency, “El Comandante” was a prominent adversary of neoliberal globalization. He led the anti-imperialist Bolivarian movement that promoted social justice and equality. As a staunch critic of US imperialism (yes, he once called then US President George W. Bush “the devil” in a speech at the United Nations), Chavez faced economic sanctions and a CIA-backed coup in 2002, which was examined in the documentary film, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” But despite all the opposition, particularly from the local elite, the Venezuelan hero managed to win in three consecutive reelection bids and was able to enforce vast social and economic reforms. Chavez died in 2013 after succumbing to cancer.
Duterte, on the other hand, has yet to prove his commitment to uphold the interest of the Filipino people. Although the prospects for peace talks between the National Democratic Front and the incoming administration have been very promising since the outspoken Davao City mayor emerged as the overwhelming winner of the recently held election, I guess it’s too early to say if Duterte is indeed a “leftist” as he claims himself to be.
Apparently, rightists dominate his incoming Cabinet; let alone, he has been very vocal about his friendship with Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Nevertheless, it still depends on how far he would go to address the root causes of armed conflicts in the country, such as: compelling Congress to enact the genuine agrarian reform bill, pushing through with a national industrialization program, and building an independent foreign policy.
But does Duterte have the guts to oppose the International Monetary Fund’s economic guidelines? Will he even speak, in the first place, against the evils of imperialism out of his conscience, and not because he’s being criticized for his cheap jokes?
Let’s wait and see until President-elect Duterte takes oath on June 30. One thing is for sure though: A just and egalitarian society is not achieved just by eradicating petty crimes and drug use in slums. It takes much more than that to do a Chavez.
—DANIEL ALOC, [email protected]
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