Latin Victimhood: From Depedencia to Suarez the Biter

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 6/27/2014 01:30:00 AM
Adidas takes the trophy for World Cup 2014's most horrendously prescient ad campaign.
Last year, Luis Suarez hit the headlines when he bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic and was suspended for ten Premier League matches. Aside from the horrific image it creates of one of football's most prolific strikers--he's led both the Dutch Eredivisie and English Premier League in scoring--another interesting aspect is the speed at which the Uruguayan media has sprung to his defense as he bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in Uruguay's 1-0 victory over Italy that saw the latter bounced out of the competition. He'd done so to others and wanted to chew on the Italian during the 2013 Confederations Cup. For those Latin Americans, it was another example of a wealthier country taking advantage of a poorer country. Sure Uruguay advanced, but it is harder to imagine how they will advance in the knockout stages absent their greatest offensive threat after he was suspended no thanks to spiteful Westerners. Witness the emergent narratives:
"I don't want to get into conspiracy theories, but it seems that FIFA isn't interested in letting small countries such as Uruguay advance," said 62 year-old lawyer Andres Ramirez. Local media have lashed out at a British-led 'manhunt' against him, and even leftist president Jose Mujica spoke up for Suarez to be left alone.

"What is incomprehensible is the vitriol with which the English press, in particular, have gone after the Uruguayan. Far worse things have happened on the pitch, even where English players are concerned," said Uruguayan Andreas Campomar, author of "Golazo! A History of Latin American Football". For many Latin Americans the ban will have wider repercussions. It will be construed as the usual high-handedness Europe employs in relation to Latin America. A case of one rule for them and one rule for us."

Uruguay captain Diego Lugano: "Indignation, impotence, I think that's what we all feel. We'd all like a fairer world, but that world simply does not exist. Those who rule, rule, and the strong ones are the strong ones... Keep feeling proud of him, he deserves it. Nothing will stop us. We will carry on with humility, union, determination, recognition of mistakes, and with our heads always high."
As it so happens, Latin narratives of victimhood have a very long history. In the late 1950s, dependency theory or dependencia became all the rage in Latin American countries. That is, trade with rich countries did not make poor countries better off as per neoclassical economic theory--comparative advantage and all that stuff--but worse off as they were exploited mercilessly:
Dependency Theory developed in the late 1950s under the guidance of the Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America, Raul Prebisch. Prebisch and his colleagues were troubled by the fact that economic growth in the advanced industrialized countries did not necessarily lead to growth in the poorer countries. Indeed, their studies suggested that economic activity in the richer countries often led to serious economic problems in the poorer countries. Such a possibility was not predicted by neoclassical theory, which had assumed that economic growth was beneficial to all (Pareto optimal) even if the benefits were not always equally shared.

Prebisch's initial explanation for the phenomenon was very straightforward: poor countries exported primary commodities to the rich countries who then manufactured products out of those commodities and sold them back to the poorer countries. The "Value Added" by manufacturing a usable product always cost more than the primary products used to create those products. Therefore, poorer countries would never be earning enough from their export earnings to pay for their imports.
By coming to the defense of the indefensible Luis Suarez, we see similar narratives: It's certainly not the fault of poor Luis...The Man is trying to keep us down by making false accusations that stick in rich people's clubs like FIFA, etc. Witness the lengthy defenses prompted by Suarez the Biter, Episode III. Conspiracy theories abound:
  • Chiellini is a "snitch" trying to deflect attention away from Italy's elimination.
  • Suarez's mouth inadvertently fell into Chiellini's shoulder / Chiellini thrust his shoulder into Suarez.
  • the British media have "exaggerated the incident" and are untrustworthy after celebrating the country's 1966 World Cup win with "a goal that wasn't a goal".
  • pictures of Chiellini's shoulder showing fresh bite marks are actually of an old scar.
I have trouble with arguments that lay all or most of the blame on someone else for one's shortcomings. Just as generation after generation of Latin leftists refuse to accept any responsibility for the failure of their countries to advance, so too do we have footballers like Suarez who have literally millions of apologists. You cannot lay blame on others forever; at some point you have to accept personal responsibility even if there are extenuating circumstances--whether they be rapacious foreigners or an unforgiving global media. In the end, nobody will help you but yourselves.

Some people just need to grow up.