Donald Trump’s electoral defeat at the 3 November 2020 elections may offer opportunities for the Latin American Left to strengthen its slow, though visible, political recuperation.
By Francisco Domínguez
Since the 2008 world economic crisis that hit Latin America hard, US imperialism and its oligarchic allies in the region, have been able to score substantial victories against the Left and the advance of democracy and social progress in the region.
In 2009 these retrograde forces managed to oust Honduras’ president Manuel Zelaya; in 2010 they waged a near successful coup d’état against president Rafael Correa in Ecuador.
They succeeded in carrying out a ‘constitutional’ coup against president Fernando Lugo in Paraguay in 2012.
In 2015, after four years of destabilisation against president Cristina Fernandez, right wing Mauricio Macri, became president of Argentina; in 2016, through the most systematic use of lawfare, right-wing parliamentary and judicial forces impeached Dilma Rousseff, the first ever female president of Brazil; they falsely indicted former president Lula, imprisoned him and prevented him from being a presidential candidate, which would eventually lead to the election of fascist Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s president in 2018.
In Ecuador, after being elected with the votes of the Left in 2017, Lenin Moreno betrayed and joined forces with the most reactionary forces in his country; in 2018 the Left was defeated at the polls in El Salvador leading to the election of extreme right winger Nayib Bukele.
Also in 2018, Uribista Iván Duque, elected as president of Colombia, would renege on the peace process, and under his mandate hundreds of social activists are being murdered; in the same year, pro-Pinochet politician, Sebastian Piñera, was elected president of Chile; and last but not least in November 2019, with the complicity of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Secretary, Luis Almagro (1), Bolivian president, Evo Morales, was ousted in a coup d’état inaugurating a de facto racist and highly repressive government.
Furthermore, extreme right winger Donald Trump was elected to the White House, whose government launched a host of economic sanctions against Cuba, Nicaragua and especially Venezuela, setting in motion and financing violent “regime change” offensives in Venezuela in 2016 and Nicaragua in 2018. The offensive against Venezuela continues today.
Some superficial commentators have sought to explain these setbacks by what they call the end of the “progressive cycle” as though, the class struggle was a biological phenomenon.
But recent developments have demonstrated that there was more biology than class struggle in the content of their inadequate analyses.
The Covid-19 pandemic threw the right wing victories, including that of Trump in the US, into turmoil and disarray. The utter inadequacy of putting profits first when dealing with the pandemic has exposed not only how useless right-wing governments are at providing a well worked out and comprehensive plan, but also how unfair capitalism is. This incompetence has dramatically affected right wing administrations the world over, from Poland to the U.S., Latin America above all. But whereas Trump has been criminally irresponsible in disparaging all protective measures to reduce viral transmission, Bolsonaro has publicly stated people should not be afraid of Covid-19 for “Brazil is not a country of queers.”
Perhaps the first instance of progressive forces fighting back against the nasty neoliberal wave that had descended on the region since 2008-09, was the election in July 2018 of left wing politician, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (or AMLO as he is popularly known), to the presidency of Mexico, a country that had been under the grip of neoliberalism and under the thump of US imperialism at least since 1994. AMLO also won absolute majorities in Congress and Senate, and most of the governorships.
Ever since, he has implemented a slow but steady reversal of decades of brutal neoliberal policies, and is substantially contributing to the regrouping of the Latin American Left by setting up the Puebla Group (2) that opposes external (primarily US) interference in the internal affairs of the region’s nations. Key members of the Puebla Group are Lula, Rafael Correa and Evo Morales (3).
This was followed by the election of Peronista Alberto Fernández as president and Cristina Fernández (no relation) as vice president of Argentina in October 2019. They inherited a country in complete social and political mess, with a staggering external debt of US$270 bn, accumulated in barely two years thanks to Macri’s criminal irresponsibility and aggravated by the pandemic. Thus the conditions for reversing neoliberal policies are difficult but as with AMLO, Alberto is slowly steering Argentina in the right direction. It is important to stress that had it not been for both AMLO and Fernández, who offered asylum and used their influence and good offices, Evo Morales and many of his key ministers would have probably been arrested, maltreated, and possibly even assassinated. And both have publicly opposed Trump’s interference and aggression against Venezuela.
Mass resistance, especially from the poor and the indigenous population in Ecuador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Chile, Paraguay, Colombia, Brazil, the United States and so forth, followed the positive developments in Mexico and Argentina. They came onto the streets by their millions to condemn the uselessness of right wing administrations in dealing with the pandemic, reject the policies that favoured the interests of big capital over those of people, and demanded specific actions to remedy the situation.
They were thoroughly justified. In many countries the informal sector of the economy is significant and if people cannot work daily, they simply cannot eat. Furthermore, anger was fuelled by the death and criminal neglect of hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 patients who, in some cases, were not even buried. Privatisation has become very unpopular.
Mass rebellion in Chile (4) led the masses to demand and win the right to hold a referendum to change not only the constitution bequeathed by Pinochet but also the economic model: free market neoliberalism. On October 25, over 77% voted for this change, throwing into turmoil the ‘most successful’ neoliberal experiment in the world.
Even more significant, on October, the mass movement supportive of the MAS, Evo’s political party, won the general elections with 55% (larger than the vote Evo obtained in November 2019 – 47%) and absolute majorities in both Congress and Senate. Bolivia’s new president is Luis Arce, former minister of economics in Evo’s governments and architect of the country’s extraordinary economic performance for over a decade (5).
In mid-November, in Perú in reaction to the right wing controlled Congress’ decision to impeach president Martin Vizacarra, a mass movement took to the streets forcing the resignation of Congress’ appointee, president Mario Merino, who lasted only 3 days. The masses are now in the streets demanding a constituent assembly.
US hegemony moving in reverse
These developments halt the recent reassertion of US hegemony in the region; if not in tatters, it is moving rapidly in reverse. Furthermore, despite Trump’s strenuous efforts to bring about ‘regime change’ in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela, the US President has failed resoundingly, even though he has caused a great deal of harm. The OAS is to a large degree neutralised as a US weapon of intervention and the Lima Group, set up by Trump to overthrow President Maduro’s government, is crumbling.
President Luis Arce has restored full diplomatic relations with Venezuela and Cuba; these had been severed by Bolivia’s de facto racist regime. Bolivia and other Latin American governments are reinitiating UNASUR and CELAC, regional multilateral bodies central to economic integration.
Furthermore, TELESUR, cut off by Macri under orders from Pompeo and the diabolical machinery in the US State Dept., has reopened in Argentina. After 6 December, Venezuela will have a new National Assembly, politically pulverising Guaidó6, Trump’s fictional ‘president’. And soon Trump will no longer be in charge.
As we write [20 November] news broke out of mass rebellion in Guatemala against the government budget. The police are using brutal repression and live ammunition (several gravely wounded and many arrests). The parliament building has been set on fire and the country’s vice president, Guillermo Castillo, is publicly calling for himself and president Alejandro Giammatei to resign “for the good of the nation.”
Soon Trump will no longer be in charge. Nevertheless, Uncle Sam is likely to continue interference and aggression in his ‘backyard’, so solidarity will be needed more than ever. Venceremos!
1 Luis Almagro must resign https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/10/25/callsintensify-for-resignation-of-oas-secretary-general-luis-almagro/
3 There is a string of excellent articles on AMLO’s policies by David Raby in https://prruk.org , which I strongly recommend everyone to read to immunize themselves from the mainstream media.
Dr Francisco Dominguez is head of the Research Group on Latin America at Middlesex University where he is secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. Dominguez came to Britain in 1979 as a Chilean political refuge. Active on Latin American issues, he is co-author of Right Wing politics in the New Latin America.
Photo: Creative Commons/Carlos Figuero