Despite a world crisis and US interference, Latin America continues to advance, argues Francisco Dominguez ahead of this month’s Latin America conference
Since 1998 Latin America has undergone a dramatic transformation. It has asserted its political sovereignty and economic independence from world financial centres such as the World Bank, IMF and the US.
It has overcome its debt enslavement which for decades haemorrhaged hard-won export revenues to the north, leading to the brutal impoverishment of its people.
Its policies of income redistribution have drastically reduced the scandalous levels of inequality and poverty which, under neoliberalism, reached catastrophic proportions.
And last but not least it has embarked on a process of regional integration which has deepened the region’s transformation to unprecedented levels.
Poverty in the region has declined from well over 48 per cent in 1990, the height of neoliberalism, to less than 28 per cent in 2013, while extreme poverty has fallen from over 22 per cent to less than 12 per cent over the same period.
There is no denying that several Latin American economies are going through a rough patch as part of the recent world economic crisis, but they are far from descending into a nightmarish Greek-style crisis.
In a display of political robustness unseen in Europe or elsewhere, progressive governments in the region have not lost any appetite for “meddling in the private sector” or for expanding social expenditure.
Despite current economic difficulties, the left in Latin America continues to gain electoral victories precisely because it insists on standing on progressive policies, at the heart of which is raising the standard of living of its population, eradicating poverty, income redistribution and social inclusion.
The coming to office of Hugo Chavez in 1998 opened the floodgates to the Pink Tide which saw the left in the region win the elections of one country after another. And though there have been a few setbacks, progressive parties have continued to be electorally successful even after the onset of the world financial crisis in 2008-9.
Thus, with the exception of Honduras, Paraguay, Guatemala and perhaps Mexico, left or centre-left coalitions are in government and have been re-elected — as best illustrated by Nicaragua, El Salvador, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay and, of course, Venezuela.
Predictably the world mainstream media sided, every time, with right-wing candidates.
In Honduras and Paraguay the domestic oligarchy in alliance with the US managed to oust democratically governments in 2009 and 2012 respectively.
And although the government of Juan Manuel Santos in Colombia is by no stretch of the imagination leftwing, his election in 2010 and even more so his re-election in 2014 created a political context for initiating a peace process with incalculable positive repercussions for the whole region.
It is enthusiastically supported by the Farc but bitterly opposed by extreme right-wing former president Alvaro Uribe. The peace talks are sponsored by Venezuela and Cuba, with all the key meetings taking place in Havana.
The US role has been limited to that of a mere spectator — a situation that can only be positive for Colombia and the region.
US isolation in the region will increase with the victory of Juan Carlos Varela in Panama’s presidential elections in May.
Varela’s predecessor, Roberto Martinelli, had sponsored an anti-Venezuela resolution rejected at the Organisation of American States (OAS) which replaced it with one supporting Venezuela, in turn opposed by the US, Canada and Panama.
A consolidation of the left took place in Bolivia, where Evo Morales won the presidential election in October with 61 per cent of the vote, 37 points clear of his nearest rival, while in Brazil Dilma Rousseff was re-elected with 52 per cent of the vote.
In Uruguay, the Broad Front candidate Tabare Vasquez, won the first round with about 47 per cent of the vote and is sure to win in the second round — the party has already secured a parliamentary majority in the first round.
Most of these elections have taken place in a context dominated by destabilisation and external interference carried out mainly by US bodies such as USAid, the NED, IRI, NDI and the OTI in cahoots with domestic oligarchies and with the vigorous support of much of the national and international media.
In this regard, it is important to mention the wave of street violence unleashed by the extreme right aimed explicitly at ousting President Nicolas Maduro at the beginning of this year in Venezuela — which had the sustained and public support of US officials John Kerry and Joe Biden.
Over the last few years US destabilisation efforts have also included a coup attempt against Rafael Correa in Ecuador in 2010 where he was nearly assassinated, the violent right-wing campaign to break up Bolivia in 2008, the constant threats of every kind against Nicaragua and the ongoing blockade of Cuba.
More recently, there is the attempt at bankrupting Argentina by the vulture funds demanding repayment of grotesquely inflated debts contracted by the dictatorship in the 1980s.
The US seeks to take advantage of the world financial crisis to destabilise left governments in the region.
Bush may have gone, but Bush’s policies towards Latin America are alive and kicking.
As the US declines and becomes increasingly isolated, Latin America flexes its regional muscle by bringing Cuba out of the isolation Washington had imposed for decades by making it clear they will not participate in future inter-American summits if Cuba is not invited.
For the 23rd year in a row, the UN General Assembly voted — this time by 188 votes for, 2 against (the US and Israel) and 3 abstentions — to lift the US blockade against Cuba, and Venezuela has just been elected as a non-permanent member of the UN security council by 181 of 182 votes.
As Latin America’s forward march towards its second independence continues, Washington’s futile though dangerous destabilisation plans continue unabated.
In the period that lies ahead Latin America will play a central role in the new world it is contributing so much towards creating.
For us here in Britain it all means that our continued solidarity is as vital as ever and we must remain vigilant and loudly say: US hands off Latin America!
Dr Francisco Dominguez will be one of the speakers at the Latin America Conference 2014 at Congress House on November 29. Tickets and the full programme are available at www.latinamerica2014.org.uk or telephone (020) 7490-5715