Sunday, May 04, 2008

The four most influentialish Latin Americans of 2008

Time Magazine has released its 2008 list of the 100 most influential people, so I couldn’t resist checking out the Latin America connection—the total is four. Either Hugo Chávez or Lula really should be vying for the first Latin American on the list, but neither makes it anywhere.

So what they really have is the “most influentialish” list. These are Latin Americans who will not offend a U.S. audience, and make us feel good that we stick them on a list.

Michelle Bachelet was 15th, and her snippet was written by Hillary Clinton (“Count me among the inspired”). She frankly just isn’t that influential, even within Chile. And really, does she want Hillary singing her praises? Anyhow, very influentialish.

Evo Morales was 18th, and his comments were written by Joseph Stiglitz (“The bureaucrats have dug in their heels, and the country's élites hate his populist rhetoric and close ties to Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez. But Morales remains popular with his people”). In terms of anti-neoliberal reform, Chávez is clearly more influential. But Morales’ anti-U.S. comments are rarely translated into English, so Time can safely put him there and no one is the wiser.

Yoani Sánchez (a Cuban blogger) is 31st and written up by novelist Oscar Hijuelos (“With a feisty dedication to the truth, Yoani Sánchez's activities bode well for the future of her country”). I am very sympathetic to ground level critics of the Castro regime, but I am not sure of her “influence.” They even list her behind Andre Agassi, whose influence escapes me completely. But c’mon, we need an anti-Castro person on the list, and Jorge Mas Canosa is dead.

Carlos Slim is 95th and heralded by Alvin Toffler (“Even a superbillionaire can love and honor his spouse, treat women with respect, pursue wide-ranging intellectual interests and, in his own quiet way, support social reform”). As we all know, we feel good when we believe that the fabulously rich really care about social reform. In terms of helping the poor, Slim is definitely influentialish.


Anonymous,  10:18 PM  

Not putting Lula on there is pure ignorance.

Greg Weeks 8:47 AM  

Yes, I have no idea why he's not on there.

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