People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 28, 2003
Emerging Battles Against Neo-Colonialism In Latin America
S R Bandaaru
neo-liberal economic reforms being thrust upon by the Anglo-American imperialism
on all capitalist countries, whereby the assets, resources and funds are sought
to be handed over to the monopoly transnational corporations, are facing the
stiffest resistance in Latin America. The year 2003 saw waves of mass struggles
sweeping across many countries against these policies which were resulting in
the curtailment of welfare benefits being given to people in food, health,
transport, education, electricity, water etc.
regimes which were supportive of these policies were thrown out by the people,
as was witnessed in Brazil and Bolivia. The ruling parties which were fighting
these policies, like the one led by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, were strongly
defended by the people against the imperialist machinations to overthrow them.
to the implementation of these policies for the last two decades, many Latin
American economies reeled under bankruptcies, one after another, as government
revenues dwindled with the privatisation of economic resources.
The problems of the people increased manifold. The financial markets of
Argentina, Mexico and Brazil became bankrupt.
Uruguay faced a bank closure. Paraguay
and Bolivia suffered recession. Protests
erupted on a large scale by millions of people all over against capitalist
institutionalized corruption and ineptitude.
massive popular pressure, Bolivia's president Gonzalo Sanchev de Lozada, was
forced to resign in October 2003. Lozada is a millionaire businessman and was a
close ally of US president Bush. Lozada faced increasingly massive strikes,
demonstrations and peasant roadblocks that had virtually paralysed Bolivia over
his plans to export natural gas through Chile to the US. The people demanded
that Bolivia's vast natural gas reserves should be used in Bolivia for the
is a small Latin American country of the size of Texas with 80 lakh population.
Over 70 per cent of the people are mired in extreme poverty. Bolivia’s
mineral resources, including vast natural gas reserves, crude oil, zinc,
tungsten and gold have been plundered by US mining and petrochemical companies
February 2003, Lozada tried to push through an IMF-inspired "austerity
programme" that would have drastically cut the living standards of the
workers and peasants. That plan too
sparked a major rebellion and claimed at least 32 lives before the people forced
the government to retreat. Earlier in April 2000, the Bolivian people defeated a
water privatisation project, forcing the San Francisco-based Bechtel Corporation
(the same company rewarded by the Bush cabal to plunder post-war Iraqi
resources) to leave the country. The
struggle against Bechtel was a huge victory for the Bolivian masses and the
people of Latin America.
Peru, political unrest is increasing against the sale of state-run industries.
A civic uprising in June 2003 dealt a body blow to the privatisation of a
state-owned electricity firm in Peru. President
Toledo was forced to drop several of his most important ministers.
The newly appointed prime minister Solari ruled out any further
privatisation until after elections.
2 million Peruvian workers and peasants took to the streets in May 2003 to block
president Toledo’s efforts to impose economic austerity measures.
The protests included strikes, road blockades in the countryside and
street battles pitting students and workers against the army.
The backbone of the protests has been the 2,80,000 member teachers’
American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, a centre-left party and vocal opponent
of MNCs has won 11 of the 25 regional government bodies in Peru.
Many independents who oppose the pro-MNC economic policies have won in
another 8 regions. The elections were seen as a referendum on the government’s
privatisation policies. People have vigorously opposed such policies, which they
saw as benefiting foreign-based companies at their expense.
May 2003, after large demonstrations, the government of Paraguay had to scrap
the sale of Copaco, the state-owned telecom company and repealed the
privatisation law. The privatisation process was undermined by corruption
allegations involving the president’s relatives.
In violent protests, two people were killed, dozens injured and over 200
arrested. Angry crowds blocked
frontier bridges with Brazil and Argentina.
The protestors converged on Congress and demanded the government to
resign for corruption.
at least 200,000 Salvadorans shut down the capital city San Salvador filling the
streets demanding health care and affordable electricity.
The massive demonstration demanded the scrapping of the voucher
privatisation plan. The turnout included doctors, nurses and other health care
workers, patients, students and teachers, public sector workers and women
vendors, retirees and bus drivers.
the elections held in March 2003 to the 84 seat Congress and 262 municipalities,
the Leftist FMLN gained considerably. The elections also reflected the popular
support for the strike by doctors protesting against the privatisation of
medical services. The FMLN
retained the important seat of mayor of San Salvador.
The FMLN also regained all the six seats it lost due to defections.
in Colombia’s capital Bogota elected former communist trade union leader Luis
Eduardo Garzon as their mayor in the elections held in October, 2003.
The results gave a major boost to the Left-wing politicians, who have
long been the target of intimidation and assassination attempts by right-wing
paramilitaries and pro-American Uribe government. So much so, Coca Cola is
financing the paramilitary death squads for assassinating trade unionists
prompting a huge mass movement against that company.
victory was the second of two blows to the president Uribe, following his defeat
in a referendum which he had championed as vital to fighting terrorism and
boosting the faltering economy. Bogota
is the biggest political prize ever claimed by an openly Left-wing politician in
another significant development in the struggle of the revolutionary forces of
Colombia, the FARC and National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN) have united
their forces against the reactionary regime of Uribe.
the 500-seat lower house of Congress, Democratic Revolution Party, a Leftist
political party has increased its seats from 56 to 96.
Its leader is already the mayor of Mexico City.
The ruling National Action Party got only 155 seats, down from its
earlier tally of 207 seats.
saw a determined effort by the imperialist forces to dislodge Hugo Chavez from
power. After lying low for sometime in the wake of the failed coup attempt of
April 2002, these forces renewed their efforts by resorting to terrorist
attacks. There was even a plot to murder Chavez by shooting down his plane,
which the Presidential guards foiled.
Venezuelan government has accused the CIA and the organizers of last April’s
coup of being involved in recent terrorist attacks in the country. One air base
and Army Training School were attacked during the night of October 5.
Two fuel trucks were also set ablaze.
According to the government inquiry, those responsible for the attacks
were three former generals and two former colonels of the Venezuelan Air Force.
Explosions this year have also damaged a presidential guard house, a
military airfield, an army base. President
Chavez confirmed seizure of arms and munitions, including guns, explosives and
military uniforms and stated that the explosions were the work of opponents
seeking to blame his government and justify his removal.
rich oligarchy, owing allegiance to US companies, is leading the anti-Chavez
campaign as it is frustrated and angry at the dismantling of its political power
base. The private US-controlled media is also a key part of this opposition,
which Chavez characterized as “anti-patriotic, privatising, neoliberal,
fascist, coup-plotting, depraved oligarchy.”
US is actively aiding these forces as Chavez has steered Venezuela away from its
traditional servile position to US imperialism. In fact, Chavez travelled to
visit Iraqi President Saddam Hussein; he encouraged an independent OPEC; he
entered into a deal providing Cuba with oil ignoring the threats and sanctions
of the Bush government; he refused to participate in the Pentagon's military
campaign against Columbia's Marxist insurgents.
downtrodden sections of the society rallied behind Chavez government and formed
the backbone of the fight back against imperialist-aided coup plotters. The
people are overwhelmingly supporting the new constitution introduced by Chavez.
Under this, the country’s reserves of raw materials including oil
(hydrocarbons) were declared the property of the people of Venezuela. This was
evident when nearly 5,00,000 people converged on the capital city Caracas on
January 23, 2003, to support the democratically elected government and to
protest against a shutdown by business-led coalition.
Earlier, over 20 lakh people marched through Caracas in December 2002 to
defend their country’s constitution and to stop a second coup aimed at ousting
US tried, through its ambassador Charles Shapiro in Caracas, to influence the
National Electoral Council officials over holding the referendum being pressed
for by the US-backed opposition. Shapiro
offered US technical assistance for the poll in Venezuela. (Similar tricks were
used by US administration in Georgia where it succeeded in its plans.)
assuming power on January 1, 2003, the Leftist
Workers Party leader Luiz Inacio da Silva (popularly known as Lula) began
steering Brazil away from the clutches of US imperialism. Under his leadership
the largest Latin American country and the world’s eighth-largest economy
moved away from the so-called Washington consensus of free markets and free
trade; and towards a “new economic model”.
pro-government media in US such as the Washington
Post and the New York Times attributed
Lula’s victory to popular disenchantment with “free-market reforms that have
failed to deliver promised prosperity”.
inherited a debt default of 685 billion reals ($245 billion), which is 55 per
cent of the GDP. The IMF rushed
Brazil with another $3 billion loan in an attempt to ward off financial panic
and also to infuse “feel good” factor just before the October 2002
elections. Lula government will
have to withstand the pressure of the imperialists to continue the consolidation
of capitalism under the dictates of World Bank-IMF-WTO.
the visit of president Lula to Cuba in the last week of September 2003, Brazil
and Cuba signed 12 cooperation agreements in health, education, sports, fishing,
agriculture, the environment and tourism. Similarly, a statement of intent
“the Buenos Aires Consensus” was signed between Brazil and Argentina for
their unity in regional and global trade talks. Lula described the American efforts to chip away at the
alliance of developing countries as “political blackmail”.
Kirchner has won the elections for presidentship of Argentina held in May 2003.
In his inauguration speech, Kirchner made clear his disagreement with the
IMF’s recipe for the country’s economic recovery.
(As per the agreement with IMF, Argentina is required to pay about $9
billion back to lenders by the end of 2002.)
IMF wants reforms that would allow the closure of some banks and the new
regulations that would allow privatised utility companies to raise tariffs.
However Argentina stopped honouring debts which now total $77 billion
(including subsequent unpaid interest). President Kirchner says that his
government would not make debt repayments “at the price of the hunger and
exclusion of Argentines”. Kirchner demanded that the amount, interest rates
and repayment schedule of the country’s foreign debt be significantly eased.
Kirchner has declared an end to the policy of “automatic alignment”
with the US and hostility towards Cuba.
new president has called on the Congress to reinstate impeachment proceedings
against the nation’s widely hated Supreme Court, accusing justices of
“holding the country’s governability hostage so as to obtain personal or
institutional advantages or guarantees.”
He promised to end “obscure agreements, the manipulation of political
institutions and spurious pacts behind society’s back.”
Supreme Court has been repeatedly accused of tailoring its verdicts in return
for payoffs and political favours. Menem,
who governed Argentina in the 1990s, appointed most of the judges, who are
considered to be still so loyal to him that the phrase “automatic majority”
is often used to describe their habit of voting in favour of positions and
interests favoured by Menem.
Ecuador, the IMF-dictated ‘austerity plan’ demands sweeping attacks on
labour rights, social conditions and pensions.
The country's debt burden has risen to nearly 42 per cent of its GDP. The
government of Lucio Gutierrez is facing mass protests every day.
Earlier in January 2000, thousands of Ecuadorians stormed Congress and
overthrew president Mahuad amid the worst economic crisis in decades.
Honduras, the government is planning to privatise the country's water supply,
while slashing salaries for some 10,000 public sector workers.
Nearly 80 per cent of Honduran population lives in poverty.
Thousands of people blockaded highways in October 2003 in protest against
negotiations with the IMF.
effective derailment of the WTO summit in Cancun, Mexico in September 2003, made
possible by the position taken by the Group of 21 developing countries,
including Brazil, Argentina, Mexico is a pointer of things to come. These
countries took the position that the $300 billion in subsidies paid every year
by governments of richer nations (US and Europe) to the world’s wealthiest
farmers undermined the livelihoods of millions of poor farmers around the world.
In the end, over 80 countries joined this group in rejecting the WTO
Bush administration is increasingly nervous about the mounting political turmoil
in Latin America, particularly in Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador,
Argentina and Brazil; the growing opposition to the US-backed Free Trade Area of
the Americas; and the set backs to IMF/WB/US-directed neo-colonialism.
Latin American experience of combating neo-colonialism offers much hope to the
oppressed people in the rest of the world. It has become clear that wherever the
mass struggles against these policies were complemented by the consolidation of
Left politics, the people voted for such an alternative.