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Latinvex creates its own Latin American Dream Team for the World Cup 2014.
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Dream Team Line Up
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Special Reports

World Cup 2014: Latin America Dream Team

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 players.

Some would 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. 

FORWARDS

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 – center striker
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 – right forward
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 tournament goal.

Rafael Correa – left forward
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 will score.


MIDFIELDERS

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 mid-field
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 midfielder
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 – right midfielder
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.


DEFENSE

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
A futbol 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 left sweeper
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 him coming.

Ollanta Humala – center right sweeper
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 – right back
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. 


KEEPER
Cristina Kirchner

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.

RESERVES

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 bus driver
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 jprice@americasmi.com. Joachim Bamrud is the editor-in-chief of Latinvex.

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