Latin America enjoys renewed interest from public opinion in Turkey against the backdrop of Israel's most recent assault on the Palestinian people. Venezuela had broken off diplomatic ties and expelled the Israeli ambassador after the 2008-2009 Gaza War. In recent weeks, Bolivian president Evo Morales declared Israel a "terrorist state," while the governments of Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru recalled their ambassadors to protests the military operation.
In fact, most had forgotten Latin America when the leftist hype of the 1970s wore off, and the tragic images of Che Guevara's dead body and Salvador Allende holding a rifle slowly faded away. After prolonged political turmoil came a series of economic crises, and we remained uninterested. The continent became little more than a giant football field. Favelas with dark tales, magical realism in literature, cocoa fields, samba and mambo were all so far away.
Not even Hugo Chavez himself could bridge the gap as Turks did not show him the interest he surely deserved. For the left, he was an unfamiliar face and the right viewed him as hardly more than a populist and a former soldier. Turkey discovered the man around the time of his funeral, when movie stars and recording artists made the long trip to Caracas to pay their respects.
When I look around now, however, I see shopkeepers, friends and tweeps from across the political spectrum showing an interest in Latin America. Talking about Chile's latest comments about Israel, Uruguay's president Jose Mujica and the Bolivian government's reactions, they have created a brotherhood of "one minute" – to borrow from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's 2009 Davos affair. A pure and beautiful wave of passion, to say the least. With the United Nations turning a blind eye to the truth, and Arab governments, with the notable exception of Qatar, refraining from sharing the pain of Gazans, such encouraging remarks from afar restore a sense of hope among Turks.
Now that we have grown more aware of Latin America, however, this newfound interest should go beyond a mutual interest in protesting Israeli atrocities. The public opinion in Turkey should develop a better understanding of what the emerging leaders of the global left seek to accomplish, since we need sound advice in a rapidly-changing world.
After all, Turkey will need to tackle novel challenges in the future, as the AK Party will enter a period of renewal, and future governments will be compelled to revisit certain social policies. Pretentious consumption and the moral decay of everyday life have brought the country to the brink of conflict. We obviously do not oppose globalization, but merely demand that the local amounts to more than empty words. In recent years, Turks have become more aware of the fact that the income gap represents not only an economic challenge, but also a moral hazard. In Soma, we learned a tough lesson about the disastrous consequences of uncontrolled privatization. Many of us understand that urbanization was inevitable, but nonetheless question the nation's dependence on concrete. The new Latin America has vast and valuable experience regarding such crucial questions and we need to benefit from their answers. Thus, I call upon intellectuals, academics and political analysts: let us concentrate on the experiences of Latin America from Venezuela to Chile!
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