US-Latin American Relations: Ruptures, Reaction and The Illusion of Times Past
By James Petras
Nov 1, 2006, 09:03
Numerous writers, journalists, public officials and academics on the Right and Left have noted changes in relations between the US and Latin America. Those on the Right bemoan the ‘end of US hegemony’, the growth of a ‘New Left’, the ‘revival of populism’ and the ‘loss of US influence’. Those on the Left herald the purported changes as a moment of progressive regional realignment. The Right speaks pessimistically of the threats to ‘national security and democracy’, and access to energy and other resources. One sector on the Left claims to perceive a new regional ‘axis of counter hegemony’ led by Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia sweeping the continent. While other prudent conservative observers argue that a broad ‘center-left’ alternative headed by ‘social democratic’ regimes like Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru and Uruguay are replacing traditional US allies and challenging both the Leftist regimes and past US policies.
Inside the US Government, policymakers focus on isolating and destabilizing the Left, downplaying the challenges from the center-left and emphasizing political continuities and economic opportunities with neo-liberal regimes.
Faced with radically different assessments of the strength and weakness of US influence in Latin America, an independent analysis of the historic context for measuring the rise or fall of US power is required. This requires a serious assessment, which avoids overblown generalizations, and examines specific issues, areas and particular conjunctures in which agreements or disagreements between the US and Latin America occur. This includes looking at how differences are resolved as well as the structural convergences and divergences.
Crisis and Collapse of US-Backed Clients: The End of the Golden Era
Embedded in the ‘good times’ and the rhetoric of ‘free elections and free markets’, neither the World Bank nor the IMF, Washington and the EU anticipated the massive popular uprisings and electoral revolts of the late nineties through to the first half of the following decade (1999-2006), which overthrew or repudiated each and every US client.
In Ecuador, three popular uprisings replaced neo-liberal presidents, blocking the privatization of gas, oil and petroleum, as well as the signing of the Latin American Free Trade Agreement. In Argentina, in December 2001, in the face of a financial collapse, the freezing of accounts of millions of bank depositors and a deep economic recession, a mass popular rebellion ousted the incumbent President De la Rua and three of his would-be ‘successors’. In Bolivia, 3 bloody mass insurrections in January 2000, October 2003 and June 2005 led to the overthrow of two of Washington’s most obedient and servile clients – Sanchez de Losado and his Vice President Carlos Mesa, both notorious privatizers and lax regulators of tax, fiscal and contraband activities by foreign MNCs. In Brazil, mass pressure led by the rural workers movement (MST) and urban discontent led to the defeat of incumbent President Cardoso’s party and the election of the apparently social democratic Lula Da Silva.
Most important of all Washington’s efforts to destabilize Venezuela’s President Chavez for objecting to the Bush Administration Middle East war policy, and its subsequent backing of a failed coup, radicalized Chavez and his supporters.
Washington’s ‘Golden Age’ led to a massive degree of hostility toward US clients and to the free market policies they pursued. The very conditions and policies, which favored US business, military and banking, were precisely the ones detonating popular uprisings.
Read all of this excellent analysis here.