A light hearted blend of politics and futbol.
BY JOHN PRICE AND JOACHIM BAMRUD
As the FIFA
World Cup 2014 starts in Brazil, soccer fans around the world are eagerly
preparing for another exciting tournament between the best teams and best
even envision a Dream Team of Argentina’s Lionel
Messi and Carlos Tevez, Brazil’s
Neymar da Silva Santos
Junior, Portugal’s Cristiano
Ronaldo, Great Britain’s Gareth Bale
and Wayne Rooney, Germany’s Marco Reus, Colombia’s Radamel Falcao, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, Sweden’s Zlatan
Ibrahimovic and Spain’s Iker
Casillas as keeper. Alas, that Dream Team won’t play. Tevez wasn’t even
selected for the Argentine national team this time, Bale and Ibrahimovic can’t play as Wales and
Sweden didn’t qualify and Reus and Falcao won’t be able to attend due to injuries.
Latinvex has created its own Dream Team. Our players are select presidents
of Latin American nations. Each president
was cast for a particular position based on his or her political savvy,
personality quirks and a healthy dose of tongue and cheek.
Who score most of the goals, crave the
spotlight and push the envelope? Our
selection of forwards are all brash leaders in their own mold, destined to
leave their mark, casting aside doubters in their wake.
Enrique Peña Nieto –
Mexico’s president transformed Mexico’s
global image from one of failed narco-state to reform driven emerging market. The results may fall short of the promise but
the change is visionary. His
salesmanship scored goals for Mexico during the qualifying round. Now some wonder, can the president with
movie-star looks deliver down the stretch when the play gets dirty?
Ricardo Martinelli –
He will leave office before the semi-finals
are played but Martinelli ruled over Latin America’s fastest growing economy
for the last five years and his legacy will be felt for years to come. He filled his own team with business leaders,
not politicians, delivering a much needed jolt to Panama’s coddled political
class. He spied on opposing players,
bullied naysaying fans and crushed criminal elements and voters lauded him for
it. Look for Martinelli to score a late
Rafael Correa – left
Investors dislike him but there is no
doubting the political shrewdness of Ecuador’s longest serving President in
over a century. The Caudillo mixes telegenic charm in front of the cameras with iron
fisted backroom politics and carries a muzzled press in his pocket. High oil prices have boosted his popularity
and quieted his critics. Correa will
either dazzle his opponents or draw a dubious penalty, but rest assured, he
Midfielders are blessed with vision and moxy. Their leadership can shift the momentum of
the game. Our mid-fielders are not without
their detractors but all three have displayed enormous courage by changing the
national discourse on key policy issues.
An unlikely grouping at first glance, these three share in common a
strong sense of conviction. In both
soccer and politics, it’s the mid-field that decides the direction of the game.
Michelle Bachelet – left
With a strong electoral mandate, Bachelet is
ready to move small government Chile to the left in the hopes of creating a more
inclusive country with free university, tougher environmental protection, and
stronger labor laws. Chile was a model
country during the neo-liberal phase of Latin American development. Under Bachelet, it aims to be the model of a
social-democrat styled future. A
seasoned player, Bachelet is known to tease opponents with her right foot just
long enough to put them off-balance before striking with her left.
Jose Mujica – center
Uruguay’s president is full of
surprises. Socially liberal and fiscally
conservative, he would be right at home as governor of Minnesota. He legalized both marijuana and gay marriage
while luring foreign investors, and balancing the budget. His parsimonious and incorruptible style is a
refreshing change from the lavish ways of most of his team mates. The
Economist named Uruguay “country of the year” in 2013. Mujica was a big part of that decision. His humility makes him an unselfish playmaker
on the Dream Team.
Juan Manuel Santos –
Colombia’s President took a long time to earn a spot on the Dream Team, serving
on the bench for almost 20 years in several cabinet positions. His experience has no equal among his team
mates. But his desire to build a legacy by
negotiating peace with the FARC may cut short his time on the team. Rival Oscar
Ivan Zuluaga awaits to be called
up from the junior leagues, where he has been coached by the inimitable right
wing forward, Álvaro Uribe.
On the pitch, good defenders press forward
when needed and bend, without breaking, when momentum works against them. All of our defenders have surprised critics,
proving malleable when confronted with hard truths and finding resolve when
opponents expected weakness. Two of our
defenders hail from military backgrounds while the other two are more soft
spoken by nature. All are destined to
defend their place on our team for some time to come.
Evo Morales – left back
aficionado since boyhood, Bolivia’s President Morales has travelled the
most unlikely path to the Dream Team, defying history and discrimination in his
most traditional of countries. Getting
on the team took both daring and guile.
Staying on the team required both humility and hard knuckled
tactics. Along the way, Morales perfected
the art of resource nationalism, ruffling the Brazilians and other foreign
investors while gaining political points at home and balancing the books. Opponents can protest all they want, but
getting by Evo won’t be easy.
Danilo Medina – center
In the Shakespearean world of PLD party
politics, the Dominican Republic’s President Medina played Lago, betraying his
political master Othello, i.e. former President Leonel Fernandez. A soft
spoken man with little electoral appeal, Medina came to office in 2012 sharing
the ticket with outgoing President Fernandez’s wife. Many were thus surprised when Danilo turned
on Leonel, and brought into the public sphere their simmering rivalry. Following other cunning moves during his
first 18 months in office, Danilo polls today as Dream Team’s most popular
player. Defenders beware – you won’t see
Ollanta Humala – center
When scouted as a junior player, Humala was
an erratic left forward, a hero to the underclass in the Sierra and poor suburbs of Lima.
He promised to dismantle the status quo and redistribute Peru’s mineral
wealth. Once on the team, however,
Humala discovered the power of the establishment and has carved out a more
defensive role for himself, loath to rock the boat. His conservative style has disappointed some
old fans but won him several powerful supporters.
Otto Perez Molina –
As a former military leader and intelligence
officer, Perez was cast as a traditional right wing Caudillo when campaigning to be President of Guatemala in
2011. Many feared a mano dura solution to Guatemala’s narco-violence problems. Instead, the old general has proven deft
like, surprising the UN assembly by calling for the legalization of narcotics
and condemning the failed war on drugs.
After 34 years in the military, Perez is an old hand at shutting down
left wing attacks. Messi take note.
Argentina’s president is, if nothing else, a
political survivalist whose playbook knows no limits in pursuit of political
relevancy. Rumor has it that her sudden
pro-market turnaround is designed to set the stage for a run at governorship of
the province of Buenos Aires. Her play
can be erratic but few opponents have been able to get one by her.
The following reservists earned their place on the squad because former star
players picked them as replacements.
They have enjoyed mixed success but any achievements live under the
shadow of their predecessors’ legacy
Dilma Rousseff – bench
warmer still trying to prove herself
Where would Dilma be without Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva? - counting schoolbooks in the Ministry
of Education. Picked to continue Lula’s
unique brand of centrist politics, Dilma showed initial promise with her
technocrat efficiencies and loath of corruption. But her party-crashing inflexible ways
disillusioned her own party and eventually distanced her from the electorate. If she survives the try-outs in October, she
may be able to emerge from Lula’s shadow and regain the respect she once
commanded. Then she can come off the
bench and score some goals.
Nicolas Maduro – team
When the Dream Team’s most infamous left wing
forward, Hugo Chavez, left the field
for good in 2013, Maduro was given his chance to make the team. With some controversy he was given a spot,
but soon benched after being accused of showering rowdy fans with Gatorade. The mid-field can’t stand him and his few
left field friends on the team only put up with him because he always buys the
post-match beers. He has made himself
useful of late driving the team bus, an old skill he learned before dawning his
first soccer cleats.
John Price is the
managing director of Americas Market Intelligence and a 20-year veteran of
Latin American competitive intelligence and strategy consulting. He can be
reached at email@example.com. Joachim Bamrud is the
editor-in-chief of Latinvex.