Liberation : Latin America’s history of colonial oppression began in the fifteenth century. Can you say something about its continuing legacy and the way it affects power relationships in the continent today?
Socorro Gomes : Colonial oppression in Latin America was executed through brutal violence against the indigenous peoples, who were victims of genocide, coupled with the enslavement of African peoples. This system ensured subjugation and the destruction of any attempt at rebellion against the colonizer. This bequeathed a legacy of state apparatus in the power of the nations’ exploiters – one that is essentially racist, favourable to cast social relations, an anachronic framework set against the interests of the regions’ peoples. It created the political and legal weaponry for plundering the peoples’ resources. This is the genesis of today’s oppressive states, coupled with neo-colonial relations, coups, and foreign interventions, in which we see the symbiosis between national elites and imperialism.
L: Latin America is rich in natural resources. How can these be used for the benefit of the peoples of the continent rather than as plunder for profit by global corporations?
SG: The history of colonial oppression and exploitation, as well as of imperialist domination, is reflected in today’s aggression and wars unleashed to secure the plunder of natural resources —such as Venezuela’s oil, the biggest reserve in the world; Bolivia’s natural gas and lithium; the Southern Cone’s aquifers; the Amazon’s huge biodiversity, etc. These are the real reasons for aggression and the coups promoted and supported by US imperialism. The region’s natural resources can only be used for the benefit of the peoples if the economic model is completely changed. What is needed is a project for economic and social development that is totally independent, not subordinated to monopolist and international finance capital. National development must be combined with social justice and political independence, sovereignty, and cooperation between friendly nations regionally and globally.
L: Ten years ago, the world could look at Latin America as the cradle of challenge to the old order and movement towards progressive change by and for the people. How do you assess the resurgence of the Right since then and the potential for the reassertion of the Left?
SG: The victories achieved since the end of the 20th century by the democratic, progressive, and leftist forces, committed to breaking away from imperialist domination, are the result of struggles and the accumulation of forces, the fight against military dictatorships, in the 1960s and 1970s, and against neoliberal civilian governments in the 1980s and 1990s. These were all instruments of US imperialism, in criminal partnership with local dominant classes. What happened in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1998, with the electoral victory of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and, in 2002, with the election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, was part of the peoples’ quest for a path to overcome and defeat imperialist domination. In the last 20 years, with the left’s electoral victories, the plunder logic was challenged and alignment with imperialism rejected. Progressive governments achieved significant improvements to the living conditions of the poorest. Illiteracy was eradicated in some areas. These governments made huge investments in public policy. Progressive forces that came to power in different countries strengthened bonds of cooperation through regional fora such as CELAC, ALBA and others, while working to build world peace. The imperialists reacted violently, with threats, sieges, sanctions, blockades, and coups, introducing a strategy of hybrid wars and ‘regime change’, in a political and economic offensive designed to destroy national sovereignty and social rights, and liquidate achievements. This presents us with the challenge of broadening the forces of progress, strengthening the peoples’ unity, cementing solidarity and efforts for peace. The right-wing forces are at the core of the oppressors’ political system and do everything to secure the privileges of the dominant classes. But gradually, the left is rearticulating, reorganizing, and accumulating new forces to move forward on the path of progressive transformation.
L: We have certainly witnessed a year of turbulence across Central and South America and the emergence of protest movements and generally progressive trends in several countries. How do you assess the situation? Is there cause for hope?
SG: Yes, there is reason for hope. The rise in misery, elimination of social and workers’ rights, rupture of the democratic state, intensification of violence against workers, breakage and alienation of strategic sectors for the countries’ sovereign development, as well as a culture of hate, the rise of obscurantism and prejudice, utilisation of lawfare for judicial persecution of progressive leaders – these have all been carried out by putschist governments leading to ominous retrogression. Now, with the great health crisis during this COVID-19 pandemic, which afflicts and impoverishes millions of people and brings death to hundreds of thousands, while the billionaires’ fortunes are multiplying, public discontent is mounting. This will turn into resistance and struggle which, yes, brings us hope that joint solidarity actions, unity, and victory are all possible.
L: What are the key priorities for the peace movements of Latin America in securing freedom from imperialist aggression and war – both in the short term and in building a stable, democratic, and peaceful future?
SG: The peace movements in Latin America and the Caribbean have the immediate goal of silencing the US war drums, blocking its mounting aggression against the countries of the continent. The planet’s greatest power, with the support of regional accomplices, is implementing warmongering policies aimed at destroying democratic institutions, overthrowing elected governments, and effecting regime changes in order to dominate and plunder. For the group of member organizations of the World Peace Council, our priority is overcoming and defeating the growing militarization of the region, in terms of policy and practice. The US military is installed in approximately 80 bases, not to mention the ever-present menace of the US Fourth Fleet. This is the focus of our struggle. It presents a great challenge to the anti-imperialist peace forces and it is vital that we strengthen and broaden our actions.
L: Finally, can you tell us something about the deliberations and outcomes of the World Social Forum (WSF) in January 2021? What is the basis for hope for the people of Latin America?
SG: The peoples’ cause for hope is the very reality of the struggle against oppression. The current order, based on imperialist hegemony and domination, is the main cause of wars, environmental devastation, and the degradation of natural resources. This constantly jeopardises the existence of life on Earth. Humanity cannot survive if it continues. The WSF provides space for debating and sharing projects among various movements and organizations that have a common concern with overcoming the current order – based on the appropriation of wealth by a tiny minority and the consequent impoverishment of billions of the world’s people. More than 700 activities were organized by associations from across the globe during the week-long event. We participated in many of them, including the Central Panel on Peace Day, which focused on Universal Disarmament for Social and Ecological Transformation, and sessions on struggles against enduring colonialism. The Forum sought to promote concrete proposals for action and approved a platform of struggle against war and in defence of life, democracy, justice, and social progress. The final activity was a conversation about the future, leaving the process open for further initiatives and actions.
Socorro Gomes is President of the World Peace Council and based in her native Brazil