Chomsky on Cochamba

And it’s great to see Noam paying so much attention to events in Latin America.

South America: Toward an Alternative Future
Noam Chomsky
International Herald Tribune, January 5, 2007

Last month a coincidence of birth and death signaled a transition for South America and indeed for the world.

The former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet died even as leaders of South American nations concluded a two-day summit meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia, hosted by President Evo Morales, at which the participants and the agenda represented the antithesis of Pinochet and his era.

In the Cochabamba Declaration, the presidents and envoys of 12 countries agreed to study the idea of forming a continent-wide community similar to the European Union.

The declaration marks another stage toward regional integration in South America, 500 years after the European conquests. The subcontinent, from Venezuela to Argentina, may yet present an example to the world on how to create an alternative future from a legacy of empire and terror.

The United States has long dominated the region by two major methods: violence and economic strangulation. Quite generally, international affairs have more than a slight resemblance to the Mafia. The Godfather does not take it lightly when he is crossed, even by a small storekeeper.

Previous attempts at independence have been crushed, partly because of a lack of regional cooperation. Without it, threats can be handled one by one. (Central America, unfortunately, has yet to shake the fear and destruction left over from decades of U.S.-backed terror, especially during the 1980s.)

To the United States, the real enemy has always been independent nationalism, particularly when it threatens to become a “contagious example,” to borrow Henry Kissinger’s characterization of democratic socialism in Chile.

On Sept. 11, 1973, Pinochet’s forces attacked the Chilean presidential palace. Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president, died in the palace, apparently by his own hand, because he was unwilling to surrender to the assault that demolished Latin America’s oldest, most vibrant democracy and established a regime of torture and repression.

The official death toll for the coup is 3,200; the actual toll is commonly estimated at double that figure. An official inquiry 30 years after the coup found evidence of approximately 30,000 cases of torture during the Pinochet regime. Among the leaders at Cochabamba was the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet. Like Allende, she is a socialist and a physician. She also is a former exile and political prisoner. Her father was a general who died in prison after being tortured.

At Cochabamba, Morales and President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela celebrated a new joint venture, a gas separation project in Bolivia. Such cooperation strengthens the region’s role as a major player in global energy.

Venezuela is already the only Latin American member of OPEC, with by far the largest proven oil reserves outside the Middle East. Chávez envisions Petroamerica, an integrated energy system of the kind that China is trying to initiate in Asia.

Read the rest here.

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