Oliver Stone talks about his two latest films, "South of the
Border" and "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps."
Oliver Stone is the director of some of Hollywood's most famous
films, from "Platoon" to "Wall Street" to "JFK." Last week he sat
down in the Los Angeles offices of his production company, IXTLAN,
to talk with Global Viewpoint Network editor Nathan Gardels about
his recent documentary, "South of the Border," and his upcoming
release, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps."
"South of the Border"
Nathan Gardels: As you show in your recent documentary, "South of
the Border," US diplomacy and the American media have reacted with
general hostility to the empowerment of the poor and indigenous in
Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay and, to some extent, in
Brazil. Why is that?
Oliver Stone: I suppose it comes from the old imperial impulse of
the US toward Latin America going back to the Monroe Doctrine, Teddy
Roosevelt, the protection of American business interests, and
support for military dictators throughout the cold war. The US
remains hostile to anyone on the left coming to power in their
"backyard," anyone who thinks the resources of a country belong to
As Argentine president Cristina Kirchner points out in the film,
for the first time since the Spanish Conquest, Latin America's
leaders look like the people they govern. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez
was raised in poverty. Bolivia's Evo Morales is an indigenous Indian
labor leader. [Brazil's] Lula was a labor union leader who was not
well educated. All three of these men were imprisoned at various
For the first time in modern history, much of South America is
beyond US control, with the notable exception of Colombia under
[Alvaro] Uribe, who has allowed seven US bases in the country. That
is a big deal for the rest of the countries.
It is also beyond the influence of the US-dominated IMF
[International Monetary Fund]. In 2003, the IMF had [more than] $20
billion in loans outstanding to Latin American countries. Today,
it's about $1 billion. Lula tells in the film how he resisted the
IMF's effort to get him to roll over Brazil's loans. He wanted out
of the dependence.
The US media tend to ignore the fact that so many of the poor
today are better off than under previous regimes. From 1980-2000
when neo-liberal policies reigned, growth was dismal, the gap
between rich and poor grew far larger. Yet, until the Wall Street-
induced recession, growth has been high across the region under this
new breed of leftist leaders. From 2003-2008, for example,
Venezuela's economy nearly doubled in size. After [former Argentine
President] Nestor Kirchner got rid of the IMF loans [after he came
to power], unemployment dropped from 20 to 8 percent, and the
economy grew 63 percent over 6 years.
Criticisms of Venezuela
Gardels: Yet, key figures of Latin America's left are also
critical of Chavez, Morales and the rest. Jorge Castaneda, Mexico's
former foreign minister, divides Latin America into the
"irresponsible" left of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Argentina and the
"sensible" left of Brazil and Chile.
His worry is that the "irresponsible" left's anti-globalization,
populist spending policies, in the mold of [mid-20th century
Argentine President] Juan Peron, will lead Latin American back to
the old cycle of inflation, stagnation, personalist authoritarian
rule, corruption and disillusion. Former Brazilian president
Fernando Henrique Cardoso has the same worry: "A country has to make
a living in a globally competitive environment," he says. "Building
prosperity requires caution and patience. It requires time. Populism
is a short cut that doesn't work."
Indeed, today inflation in Venezuela, at 30 percent, is the
highest in Latin America. The credit markets also rate it among the
highest risks globally to default on its debts.
Is there anything to these criticisms in your view? …