Home2020-03-23T16:28:40+00:00

It’s Time to Abolish the Organization of American States

By |23/November/2020|

Throughout its history, the OAS has been a tool of Washington’s domination of Latin America — and an obstacle to genuine efforts at regional integration.

Progressive and centrist politicians from across Latin America are calling on Organization of American States (OAS) secretary general Luis Almagro to resign over his role in last year’s coup against Bolivian president Evo Morales.

In a letter initiated by the Puebla Group, 29 current and former presidents, ministers and parliamentarians state that subsequent events have confirmed ‘there was no fraud in the October 2019 elections and that Evo Morales would have been sworn in as legitimate president of Bolivia if the OAS, in its position as observer, had not refused to recognise the results.’

They note that when the OAS questioned the results – despite the lack of any evidence of fraud – it helped ‘unleash a situation of political and social violence that resulted in a coup and the subsequent resignation of President Evo Morales.’

In light of this, ‘it is obvious that the regional leadership of OAS secretary general Luis Almagro has come under serious scrutiny. The role he played in the destabilisation of democracy in Bolivia and the non-inclusive relations he has maintained with other countries in the region prevent him from being able to continue playing this role…’

This mention of ‘non-inclusive relations’ refers to Almagro’s role in coordinating with the United States and the Lima Group, a regional coalition of rightwing governments, to lobby for the exclusion of Venezuela’s government, headed by president Nicolás Maduro, from the OAS and other regional bodies. The Lima Group instead seeks recognition for opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who proclaimed himself the country’s ‘interim president’ in 2018. Following Venezuela’s withdrawal from the OAS in 2018, the body voted 18 to nine (with seven abstentions) to accept a Guaidó envoy as Venezuela’s delegate.

The letter is signed, among others, by former presidents Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), Ernesto Samper (Colombia), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Fernando Lugo (Paraguay); ex-ministers Jorge Taiana (Argentina), Clara López (Colombia), Ana Isabel Prera (Guatemala) and Aída García Naranjo (Peru); former senators Adriana Salvatierra (Bolivia) and Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas (Mexico); and sitting senator Alejandro Navarro (Chile).

The letter concludes that Almagro’s resignation ‘would help recover peace in the region and reactivate the regional integration that we desperately need in these times of pandemic.’ But while there is no doubt that Almagro has to go, history tells us that the OAS’ problems run much deeper than its current general secretary alone.

US Regional Hegemony

Indeed, far from seeking to bring together neighbours as equals, the OAS was established by the United States in 1948 as an instrument for asserting Washington’s geopolitical power over what it traditionally viewed as its ‘backyard.’ While OAS members include all the countries of North, South and Central America, and the Caribbean – minus Cuba – it is headquartered in Washington and receives most of its funding from the United States.

Set up in the midst of its Cold War, the OAS’s subordination to US anti-Communist interests

It’s Time to Abolish the Organization of American States

By |23/November/2020|

Throughout its history, the OAS has been a tool of Washington’s domination of Latin America — and an obstacle to genuine efforts at regional integration.

Progressive and centrist politicians from across Latin America are calling on Organization of American States (OAS) secretary general Luis Almagro to resign over his role in last year’s coup against Bolivian president Evo Morales.

In a letter initiated by the Puebla Group, 29 current and former presidents, ministers and parliamentarians state that subsequent events have confirmed ‘there was no fraud in the October 2019 elections and that Evo Morales would have been sworn in as legitimate president of Bolivia if the OAS, in its position as observer, had not refused to recognise the results.’

They note that when the OAS questioned the results – despite the lack of any evidence of fraud – it helped ‘unleash a situation of political and social violence that resulted in a coup and the subsequent resignation of President Evo Morales.’

In light of this, ‘it is obvious that the regional leadership of OAS secretary general Luis Almagro has come under serious scrutiny. The role he played in the destabilisation of democracy in Bolivia and the non-inclusive relations he has maintained with other countries in the region prevent him from being able to continue playing this role…’

This mention of ‘non-inclusive relations’ refers to Almagro’s role in coordinating with the United States and the Lima Group, a regional coalition of rightwing governments, to lobby for the exclusion of Venezuela’s government, headed by president Nicolás Maduro, from the OAS and other regional bodies. The Lima Group instead seeks recognition for opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who proclaimed himself the country’s ‘interim president’ in 2018. Following Venezuela’s withdrawal from the OAS in 2018, the body voted 18 to nine (with seven abstentions) to accept a Guaidó envoy as Venezuela’s delegate.

The letter is signed, among others, by former presidents Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), Ernesto Samper (Colombia), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Fernando Lugo (Paraguay); ex-ministers Jorge Taiana (Argentina), Clara López (Colombia), Ana Isabel Prera (Guatemala) and Aída García Naranjo (Peru); former senators Adriana Salvatierra (Bolivia) and Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas (Mexico); and sitting senator Alejandro Navarro (Chile).

The letter concludes that Almagro’s resignation ‘would help recover peace in the region and reactivate the regional integration that we desperately need in these times of pandemic.’ But while there is no doubt that Almagro has to go, history tells us that the OAS’ problems run much deeper than its current general secretary alone.

US Regional Hegemony

Indeed, far from seeking to bring together neighbours as equals, the OAS was established by the United States in 1948 as an instrument for asserting Washington’s geopolitical power over what it traditionally viewed as its ‘backyard.’ While OAS members include all the countries of North, South and Central America, and the Caribbean – minus Cuba – it is headquartered in Washington and receives most of its funding from the United States.

Set up in the midst of its Cold War, the OAS’s subordination to US anti-Communist interests

Puerto Rico, The World’s Oldest Colony, Charts a New Course

By |20/November/2020|

The time is now for progressives and socialists around the world to recognise Puerto Rico as the nation and the country that it is.

Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States. In fact, the ‘unincorporated territory’ of Puerto Rico continues to maintain the dubious distinction of being the world’s oldest existing colony.

Over 500 years since Christopher Columbus himself first claimed the island of Borikén for the Spanish crown, Puerto Ricans still have essentially no control over their economy, no control over their borders and no ability to represent themselves in important regional organisations such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Latin American Community (CELAC) or the United Nations. This colonial status has been put on full display throughout the pandemic as Puerto Rico has been forced to open its borders for US tourists who flagrantly flout local health regulations, while the island’s pandemic response has been undermined by the inability to negotiate directly with its Caribbean neighbours. Puerto Rico’s colonial challenges are centuries old, but the island is beginning to imagine new futures.

The Puerto Rico of today is radically different from the island where my father was born. My father has been separated from his island for over four decades. And yet, like most Puerto Ricans who are forced to leave, he has remained fiercely proud of his Puerto Rican roots and his Boricua identity. My father was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1959. It was not even ten years prior to his birth that, on 30 October 1950 in the neighbouring municipality of Jayuya, Puerto Rican nationalists, led by the incomparable Blanca Canales, rose up in defiance of US colonial rule and declared independence for Puerto Rico. It did not take long for the colonial government in San Juan, at the time led by liberal icon Luis Muñoz Marín, to send in aircraft with the express purpose of pummelling the town into submission. This revolt, and subsequent bombing, of civilians would become known as the Jayuya Uprising, or El Grito de Jayuya, and was one of the key events that forced the Puerto Rican independence movement underground once again. Now, almost 70 years later to the day, Puerto Rican independentistas continue to struggle for sovereignty and still dare to wave the Puerto Rican flag despite relentless efforts by the United States to repress them. It was only 15 years ago that the FBI killed Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos in a ‘shootout’ that would draw condemnation from across the island. And yet, in the last decade, Puerto Rico has undergone some of the most significant challenges of its entire history as a US colony, with that very same colonial status at the root of it all.

This colonial status has been at the centre of all of the major crises that have engulfed the island and its people within the last decade. The accumulation of staggering public debt, over $70 billion, was a direct result of the very same policies that saw US corporations thrive in

Book Review: ‘Nothing by Accident’ by Damian Platt

By |16/November/2020|

Damian Platt’s Nothing by Accident: Brazil on the Edge is not just an excellent introduction to Brazilian politics generally, but an insightful exploration of the country as a whole.

‘I hope readers will understand that Rio de Janeiro is not always the tragedy described in these pages. It is also a fantastic, exhilarating, culturally exuberant city that is home to an inspiring, imaginative and welcoming population.’

So concludes the preface to Damian Platt’s Nothing by Accident: Brazil on the Edge, a compassionate, informative and hard-hitting account of life in 21st-century Brazil. The introductory chapter is titled ‘Homicidal Times’ and, whether or not this is sardonic word play, it at once reads like both a fictional thriller and grisly reportage, recounting a web of death, drugs and corruption. In fact, as Platt has presented us with a real-time account, by the end of this first page there is an update: the victim, Gabriel – ‘the son of our beloved housekeeper’ – has disappeared. Whilst the personal connection to the disappeared brings home the pervasiveness of violence, the mention of disappearances is a chilling reminder that the country is not free from terrors that characterised its Cold War.

With 15 years of living and working in Brazil under his belt, it is no surprise that Platt writes as he does. Much like Óscar Martínez covers Central America, he covers Brazil with clarity and colour; painting, narrating and informing all in single sentences. Phrases such as ‘screaming social violence and disparity’ are followed by descriptions of his abode being ‘tucked into a hillside, virgin tropical rainforest cover[ing] the slopes above the property, which looked towards a mesmerising vista of city and sea.’ Platt writes with warmth and it is his honest, experienced tone that makes the book all the more readable, in spite of the horrors it presents.

Such is the tragic reality of a country ‘on the edge’ that residents appear to exist on a seesaw of tension. For example, Platt recollects a hot Sunday afternoon in Alemão favela, surrounded by laughter, music, paddling pools and barbecue scents, not wanting to be anywhere else – yet when gunshots sound he ‘dropped [his] beer on the tiles and lay face down in it’. On other occasions, attending baile funk parties, he might become lost in the atmosphere of ‘hypnotic music, [a] light show and [an] enthusiastic throng of dancers’, from which he is awaked by the ‘sight of a thin, ill-looking child a few steps away, eyes rolling back into his head’. Indeed, so vividly is Brazil brought to life, with adjectives assigned to music and decades of history conveyed with concision, that the brutalities of daily life are all the more affecting.

Turning to these brutalities, the second chapter’s title posits ‘waging war’ as ‘a way of life in Rio de Janeiro’. This war has many fronts: corrupt police forces who – in a disturbing echo of the Colombian ‘false positives’ scandal – register those they kill as ‘deaths in confrontation’ whilst ‘extrajudicial executions’

Life vs Profit in Honduras

By |8/November/2020|

Environmental activist Arnold Morazón Erazo was murdered in October, yet another act of violence towards communities which oppose large-scale resource extraction in Honduras.

Environmental activist Arnold Joaquín Morazán Erazo was killed in the backyard of his home in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on Tuesday 13 October. Engaged in the defence of community rights, Arnold was one of the 32 settlers of the Guapinol river sector who, in 2018, established a resistance camp demanding the immediate withdrawal of the mining company Minera Inversiones Los Pinares, which has polluted rivers such as the Ceibita and the Carlos Escaleras National Park.

Having been labelled by the Honduran government as dangerous criminals, Guapinol activists have been falsely accused of usurpation and damage to investment, arson, unjust detention, aggravated robbery and illicit association, which resulted in the arrest of twelve of them.

As reported by The Coalition Against Impunity, the mining company in question is owned by Lenir Pérez, who was been implicated in the kidnapping of two human rights defenders when he tried to install another mining operation in the community of Nueva Esperanza. On that occasion, the justice system did not hold him accountable despite the evidence.

Climate change and the persecution of environmental activists

Unfortunately, the killing of Morazán Erazo is not an isolated case in a country where private profit matters more than human life and the protection of the environment. Although the overall homicide rate decreased from 86 to 41 per 100,000 people under the Juan Orlando Hernández government, the level of violence against human rights defenders and journalists increased. Moreover, crimes against activists and human rights defenders see a 97 per cent rate of impunity.

For instance, in 2019 alone, 29 human rights activists were killed and more than 500 were victims of attacks for defending the rights of indigenous communities and access to natural resources. Indeed, climate activists and indigenous rights defenders denounce the existence of a general pattern of criminalisation and persecution for opposing mining projects. In particular,  from 1 January to 25 November 2019 the Human Rights organisation ACI Participa documented a total of 1,115 attacks on 499 human rights defenders.

During the last decade, Honduras was the second most affected country by climate change, which is not only the third highest cause of emigration after violence and hunger, but also of internal displacement and diseases such as dengue. Within this scenario, the extractivist model is a major cause of territorial conflicts.

Moreover, since the coup of 2009, specific legislative packages legalising extractivism – including a mining law, the concession of vast areas of the national territory for mining exploration and exploitation, the construction of dams and approval of deregulated economic projects (known as ZEDEs) – were approved under conservative governments.

According to the Center for Justice and International Law (Cejil), in 2019, the government granted at least 137 mining concessions and energy and hydrocarbon production licenses in indigenous territories. At the same time, the demands of indigenous communities for access to

Sign up for our e-newsletter

Get the latest on events, special offers and news from Alborada.

Alborada Films Tab

Chile: What Next?

By |8/November/2020|

Chile’s recent referendum result is a huge opportunity for progressive change, but a real struggle remains to translate mass social mobilisation into the convention that will write the new constitution.

This article has been republished on Progressive International’s Wire, of which Alborada is a member, and translated into French, German, Spanish and Portuguese.

On 25 October 2020, Chile’s people voted by a crushing margin to support the writing of a new constitution, and to do so through the election of a new constitutional convention. This was an overwhelming defeat of the Chilean government, which had initially sought to amend the existing 1980 constitution (inherited from the Pinochet dictatorship) and then to have a new constitution written by the parliament they dominate.

The Chilean left has always rejected the legitimacy of Pinochet’s 1980 constitution. In fact, the entire opposition rejected it until the mid-1980s, when US efforts to support a ‘democratic transition’ began. Pulling together regime and opposition ‘moderates’ meant pulling apart the broader opposition, and gradually the situation changed until eventually only the Communists and various smaller groups maintained their outright hostility to the constitution. Accepting the dictatorship’s constitution, and to never again attempt a Popular Unity-type government – the political coalition led by socialist president Salvador Allende from 1970 to 1973 – was the price paid for a return to power within a highly restricted democracy. ‘We have left them bound, well bound,’ noted Pinochet smugly.

But the price was paid by the people in every struggle since 1990. Students, indigenous people, workers, environmentalists and every social or political movement for change eventually met with the implacable wall of Pinochet’s constitution. It was reformed several times, removing the most egregious authoritarian elements such as designated senators, but its essence remained: no major social, political or economic reform was possible. It was a strait jacket, a pressure cooker of words and concepts. Its strength lay in the fears of a traumatised society, buttressed by a pliant media, and the shift towards a consumer society in a world in which socialism was dead.

But the model began to fragment in 2010, when Chile elected a rightwing government for the first time since the 1950s. This was an early sign that the Concertación centrist coalition had lost its allure. The coalition split over whether to compensate for this weakness by allying with the Communist Party. New political parties were founded, fed by the student protest movement. A new centre-left coalition, including the Communist Party for the first time since the Popular Unity, was set up. Called the ‘New Majority’, it governed under President Michelle Bachelet until 2015. But corruption had set in during the long years of power. Highly-paid politicians had also become involved in profit-making from education and pensions. Inequality grew, and it fed anger. In hindsight, the coming eruption was obvious, the intensity of the struggle was growing. After 2015 hardly a month went by without scandal or protest, and all of them were violently repressed by Carabineros (national police) who had hardly changed

A Historic Victory for Gender Equality in Chile

By |3/November/2020|

Having voted to overhaul the Pinochet-era Constitution, Chile will become the first country in the world to write a Constitution with gender parity.

The protests and the overall claim for Dignidad

On 18 October 2019, simmering social unrest in Chile exploded. Led by students in response to Metro ticket price rises by 30 pesos, protests spread across the country, exposing deep inequalities and systemic injustice. ‘No eran 30 pesos, eran 30 años’ (‘It wasn’t 30 pesos, it was 30 years’) became a mobilising slogan for protesters that claimed several demands to address multifold inequalities experienced by the majority of people.

The protests were framed, in broad terms, as a response to the failure of the neoliberal system. While economic and social policies have for decades led to successful macro level indicators, the model has deepened disparities in terms of distribution, political power and representation. The consequent human rights violations and police brutality that followed the protests only deepened the sense of injustice. Issues of representation of ethnic groups and women in politics played a key role, as well as demands related to pension, health and environmental issues, summarised under the overall claim for Dignidad (Dignity).

The demands for change were so fundamental, wide-reaching and varied that less than a month after the beginning of the protests the political establishment agreed on setting up a route map to write a new Constitution through a democratic process. One year and one week later, the country was finally given the chance to vote on whether or not to write a new Constitution and, if so, who would be responsible for writing it.

A new Constitution to address entrenched social inequalities

The results were overwhelming. With a large turnout across the country, 77.6 per cent voted in favour of a new Constitution. Crucially, 78.99 per cent determined that it should be written entirely by elected citizens, half of whom will be women, rather than both citizens and members of parliament.

How and why did a mobilisation driven against inequalities find an answer in a claim for a constituent process? And what do the results and the nature of the body in charge of writing the new Constitution tell us about the fight for gender equality in Chile and Latin America?

When social mobilisations and violence exploded in October 2019, many figures from the establishment claimed that they ‘didn’t see this coming’; while the statement seems to project some humility, it is hard to comprehend it in a country where the depth of inequalities and the ‘social gap’ had been widely researched and socialised by organisations from diverse sectors, as encapsulated by the report ‘Desiguales‘ (‘Unequals’) published by UNDP in 2017. Even more, mobilisations and unrest against injustices in different arenas had grown exponentially: while students’ mobilisations for public education trembled the political agenda in 2006 and 2011, the last decade witnessed the emergence of massive protests around gender and indigenous rights, environmental concerns and pension issues.

Looking back, what all these mobilisations had in common was a call for what

Best of the Web October 2020

By |2/November/2020|

Our monthly selection of the best articles on Latin America from around the internet.

1) Protests Against Greed and Inequality Are Spreading Like Wildfire Through Latin America (Alan Macleod/Mint Press News)

Historic protests are taking place across Latin America as people take to the streets to voice their displeasure at the IMF, government corruption, and the spread of fascism.

2) Argentina: Campaigning for Inclusion During the COVID-19 Lockdown (Nina Meghji/Latin American Bureau)

How Queer Tango is helping Buenos Aires’ older residents and keeping alive its LGBTQ+ campaigns

3) I Was Shot and Lost My Sight for Protesting Inequality in Chile. We Need to Keep Demanding Justice (Gustavo Gatica/Time Magazine)

Gustavo Gatica Villarroel was born in Santiago and studies psychology at the Academy of Christian Humanism University. He remains an active participant in the social demonstrations that have rocked Chile over the past year.

4) MAS’s Adriana Salvatierra: “Now We Can Continue the Revolution in Bolivia” (Interview by Denis Rogatyuk & Bruno Sommer Catalan/Jacobin)

Last weekend’s Bolivian elections saw socialist Luis Arce romp to victory with 55 percent of the vote. Former senate president Adriana Salvatierra told Jacobin how the restored MAS government can undo the damage caused by last year’s coup — and set Bolivia back on the path to social transformation.

5) The Other Americans: United States Attacks Cuban Medics During Pandemic (Jeff Abbott/ Progressive)

There are parts of Guatemala that have no access to medical services from the Guatemalan government. This void is being filled by the doctors from the Cuban medical mission, who are working in the most remote parts of the country.

6) Haiti has a Long History of Being Assaulted by its Latin American Neighbors (Lautaro Rivara/ Counterpunch)

A 15-year peacekeeping mission by the UN in Haiti that ended one year ago still has unanswered questions about how Latin American nations came to participate in the occupation against a small, unarmed and impoverished Caribbean nation.

7) Today Is Chile’s Chance to Bury Pinochet’s Legacy (Melany Cruz/Tribune Magazine)

Today’s referendum in Chile provides the opportunity to scrap the right-wing constitution introduced by the Pinochet regime – and rebuild the country on a truly democratic basis.

8) How Venezuela has held back COVID-19 in spite of the US sanctions stranglehold on its economy (Vijay Prashad/Peoples Dispatch)

María Lourdes Urbaneja Durant tells Vijay Prashad that despite sabotage by the US, Venezuela has been able to curb the spread of COVID-19 through “participation of the people”.

9) The Language of Pain (Cristina Rivera Garza/The Paris Review)
What we Mexicans have been forced to witness at the beginning of the twenty-first century—on the streets, on pedestrian bridges, on television, or in the papers—is, without a doubt, one of the most chilling spectacles of contemporary horror.

Documentary

10) The War on Cuba (Reed Lindsay, 2020)

The documentary series, The War on Cuba, gives an inside look on the effects of U.S. sanctions on Cuban people.

Bolivians Reclaim Their Democracy

By |25/October/2020|

The overwhelming MAS election victory is a repudiation of the racist coup regime as well as of the Trump administration and the OAS, which helped install it.

On Sunday 18 October, Luis Arce won the presidency of Bolivia, in a pronounced repudiation of last year’s military coup, which had put the current government in power. Arce is the former economy minister for Evo Morales, who was the first Indigenous president of the country with the largest percentage of Indigenous people in the Americas. Morales’ democratically-elected government was overthrown in November of last year.

The November coup was backed by the Trump administration, and the Organization of American States (OAS) leadership played a central role in laying the foundations for it. Sunday’s election thus has enormous potential implications not only for Bolivia, where it was a necessary step toward the restoration of democracy, but also for the region, in terms of democracy, national independence, economic and social progress, and the struggle against racism.

First, the election: unofficial quick count results show Arce winning with more than 50 per cent of the vote, and at least 20 percentage points ahead of his closest competitor, Carlos Mesa, a former president. A majority is decisive, but even if the final, official count were to put Arce below 50 per cent, his margin over Mesa is virtually certain to be large enough to win the election in the first round (to win in the first round, a contender must get more than 50 per cent of the vote, or at least 40 per cent with a 10-point margin over the runner-up). Mesa has already conceded, and the de facto president, Jeanine Áñez, congratulated Arce on his victory on Sunday night.

It’s not difficult to see why Arce would have won even if he were not up against a violently repressive, racist government installed by a coup. As minister of the economy ever since Morales took office in January 2006, Arce can claim much credit for what any economist would say was a remarkably successful economic turnaround for Bolivia. When Morales was first elected, income per person was less than it had been 26 years prior. By contrast, in the 14 years of his Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) government (2006-19), it grew by about 52 per cent. This is a sizable improvement in living standards (sixth out of 34 countries in the region), following on the heels of a stupendous long-term economic failure.

Poor Bolivians, who are disproportionately Indigenous, benefited even more than others from the MAS government’s economic successes. Poverty was reduced by 42 per cent and extreme poverty by 60 per cent. Poorer Bolivians also benefited disproportionately from a very large increase in public investment, including in schools, roads, and hospitals.

By contrast, the 11 months of coup government

Democracy Returns to Bolivia

By |24/October/2020|

After a year of rightwing political persecution, corruption and instability in Bolivia, the leftwing Movimiento al socialismo (MAS) has recaptured power in a stunning electoral victory.

In Bolivia’s election on 18 October, Luis Arce of the Movement towards Socialism (Movimiento al socialismo, MAS) won with 55 per cent of the vote, trouncing his nearest rival Carlos Mesa from the rightwing Citizen Community (Comunidad Cuidadana) party on 28 per cent.  Finishing in a lukewarm third place is Creemos (We believe), the party of far-right Santa Cruz business leader and 2019 coup ringleader Luis Fernando Camacho. On Wednesday, Camacho’s running mate Marco Pumari found himself pelted with eggs, tomatoes and orange peel when he arrived in the highlands to his hometown of Potosí.

The MAS’ victory represents a clear repudiation of the neoliberal and overtly racist political project launched by Bolivia’s elites in the wake of the coup last November.

There was a  record voter turnout of 88.4 per cent and, barring the conservative strongholds of Santa Cruz, Beni and Tarija, the MAS obtained a majority in all departments.  In the Senate, 20 out of 36 senators are women and most of these are affiliated to the MAS.

The MAS’ victory can be explained, in part, by the litany of failings and petty brutalities enacted by the coup government over the past year. It has been mired in corruption scandals, including the alleged multi-million-dollar fraudulent purchase of unsuitable ventilators at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The regime has presided over a spiralling rate of covid-19 cases, with at least 8,000 dead out of a population of 11 million, the third-highest COVID-19 death rate in the world, according to Statista. The strong economic credentials of Arce, a UK-trained economist and ex-economy minister, will undoubtedly have done much to swing votes from middle-class voters away from Mesa.

A year ago, then-president Evo Morales was forced to flee the country in a police-military coup following the mobilisation of rightwing protestors in urban centres after the October 2019 elections. Since then, political repression and the demonisation of the MAS by the unelected rightwing government generated a climate of fear. Arrest warrants have been widely issued against critical journalists and MAS-supporting trade unionists and political figures.

In a country historically structured by race, class, racial and rural-urban divisions have recently resurfaced with disturbing prominence. In the aftermath of the elections last year, 35 anti-coup protesters were killed in state massacres in Senkata, outside the city of El Alto and Sacaba, in the coca-growing region of Cochabamba. Many MAS officials had their homes burnt down. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the deaths were the result of security forces using ‘unnecessary or disproportionate use of force against protesters’.

For some, this year has also brought back memories of the dark days of the dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s. In 1980, Luis García Meza seized power in a violent military coup. His one year presidency was characterised by severe brutality and the assassination of

Chile Edges Closer to Historic Vote

By |21/October/2020|

While Chile’s upcoming plebiscite is likely to approve changing the constitution imposed under the Pinochet dictatorship, doubts about the process remain.

This 18 October marks the first anniversary of the ‘Estallido Social’ in Chile which began with student rebellion over metro fare hikes, and culminated in months of protests and socio-economic demands. These came from a wide coalition of groups, from trade unions to feminists, which came together to press for a new constitution, that is, to remove the constitution enacted by ruthless dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1980.

The Sebastián Piñera administration appears to be yielding to demands for change, in the face of increasing discontent at the levels of inequality, and has agreed to hold a plebiscite on 25 October to decide whether the current constitution should be replaced. Yet the months preceding the historic vote have been marred by allegations of brutal human rights abuses and attempts to damp down popular expectations.

Despite a general belief that the Apruebo vote will win, providing the catalyst to finally enable change in one of the world’s most unequal economies and feeble democracies, some sectors remain sceptical that the plebiscite will lead to any real change to Chile’s extreme free-market systems.

Two questions

The government has promised that two questions will be posed in the plebiscite, the first ‘that a new constitution should be drawn up’, with the option of Apruebo (I agree) or Rechazo (I disagree). The second question is to determine, if the Apruebo vote wins, the method for drawing up the new constitution, either an Asamblea Constituyente (Constituent Assembly), or a Comisión Mixta (Mixed Commission) made up of representatives of the present Congress and citizen groups.

Most groups which backed the protest support the Asamblea Constituyente option, floated in October last year as the protests got underway, adamant that a Comisión Mixta would be manipulated by politicians elected under the existing flawed system established under the dictatorship. But some campaigners fear that the process of choosing who takes part in the Asamblea will still exclude many in the popular movements.

‘This is not a plebiscite that has been called for by the people. It is one initiated by Chile’s corrupt political class that has benefited over the last 30 years,’ says Michel Saez, an activist from La Legua, a working-class area in Santiago that was a symbol of resistance and militancy during the Pinochet regime. ‘We, the people, have taken to the streets to ask for a Constituent Assembly, free, sovereign and plurinominal. The political class have twisted our demands to their advantage and to protect Piñera’s interests. We have now been presented with two options: Mixed Commission or Constituent Assembly, neither of which include us, grassroots movements.’

Minorities excluded

Michel fears that the plebiscite will not affect any real social changes, and appears to believe that the option for a Constituent Assembly will be removed. ‘We don’t want another fraud like the 1988 plebiscite [when Pinochet was forced to step down as head of state by the No

Film Review: Sur

By |13/October/2020|

Pino Solanas’ 1988 film is a microcosm of the relationship between a person and their country which tells the story of persecution in Argentina during the 1976-83 military junta.

If El Exilio de Gardel (The Exile of Gardel) is Fernando ‘Pino’ Solanas’ film about his own exile and the agony of those who had to leave their homeland following the 1976 coup which installed Argentina’s military junta, the focus of his next film, 1988’s Sur (South), is the exile of those who stayed in Argentina; those political activists, strikers and union workers, cast out from their homes and imprisoned by General Videla’s regime.

The year is 1983; the dictatorship has fallen. Banners with political slogans hang from windows, balconies and power cables in every street. A mysterious shroud of mist envelops Buenos Aires. We sense a great demonstration has taken place, where thousands have marched in the now-deserted streets. It is in this obscure atmosphere that Solanas sets the epic journey of Floreal, imprisoned for five years, and now, at last, returning home to his wife and kid – a moment he has both feared and greatly anticipated. But before returning to his estranged Penelope, Floreal takes a moment to stroll around the city he once knew so well. Sur is the story of this stroll, in which he meets the ghost of an old friend, El Negro, who died while Floreal was in prison. El Negro brings a message of hope and love, and begins to narrate Floreal’s own story. Revelations about the past are brought forth, to both Floreal and the audience, who gradually start making sense of the magnificent fresco Solanas paints before us.

The street becomes a stage where his memories, the characters of his life – some of them apparitions, some of them ghosts – come to materialise. This permeability of the street, at night, drenched in darkness, brings Sur close to the mise-en-scène of a stage play, with the emotional beats of the film guided musical intervals from the great tango partnership of Ástor Piazzolla’s and Roberto Goyeneche. A grand message for revolutionary hope, Sur belongs to a movement of relentless political cinema, but Solanas’ film is also revolutionary from a purely formal standpoint. The film presents itself like a sumptuous mosaic which ties the personal to the political.

The influence of playwright Bertolt Brecht is notable, not only for the inspiration this artist had on political art in general, but also in the formal aesthetics of Sur. Solanas takes the Brechtian ‘quotation device’, used when characters narrate and re-live an experience or an anecdote on stage (thus ‘quoting’ a moment from their own life) to an entirely new cinematic level, when El Negro tells Floreal about his own death. The scene of his death materialises before Floreal’s eyes as El Negro narrates and, at the same time, falls victim to a policeman’s gunshot. The standard flashback would have separated the different ‘time-frames’, with El Negro’s voiceover narration unifying the two, but Solanas here fuses both

Bolivia, the Left and International Solidarity

By |13/October/2020|

Labour Party MP Jeremy Corbyn discusses the upcoming elections in Bolivia with the country’s former vice-president Álvaro García Linera, as well as the future of the international left.

Following years of struggle by indigenous, peasant and working-class movements, Bolivia voted for Evo Morales’s Movement to Socialism (MAS) in 2005. By nationalising the country’s gas and utilities, expanding public investment and redistributing wealth, the MAS achieved major reductions in poverty and inequality, as well as expanding the role of indigenous people in public life.

In 2019, the country’s elite removed Evo Morales in a coup justified by baseless allegations of electoral fraud, introducing an authoritarian regime which has committed flagrant violations of human rights and reversed the progressive policies introduced previously. Since then, the social movements that brought the MAS to power have been leading resistance to the regime through a succession of strikes and blockades in protest against ongoing attempts to postpone elections, as well as corruption and its inept response to Covid-19. With elections currently scheduled for 20 October, the MAS are leading in the polls.

This unprecedented discussion between Alvaro Garcia Linera, who served as Vice-President of Bolivia under Evo Morales, and Jeremy Corbyn, until recently leader of the Labour Party, focuses on their experiences of building socialism in the face of elite resistance, and will discuss how the Left can rebuild following defeats. The discussion is chaired by Mariela Kohon, Senior International Officer at Britain’s Trades Union Congress.

This event was held as part of The World Transformed 2020.

Best of the Web: September 2020

By |7/October/2020|

Our monthly selection of the best articles on Latin America from around the internet.

1) Exclusive: Secret Cables Reveal Britain Interfered with Elections in Chile (John McEvoy/Declassified UK)

Declassified Foreign Office files show that Britain conducted a covert propaganda offensive to stop Chilean leader Salvador Allende winning two democratic presidential elections – and helped prepare the ground for General Augusto Pinochet’s brutal military regime.

2) Colombians Take On Their Militarized Police (Christina Noriega/The Nation)

The police killing of an unarmed civilian in Bogotá has brought a new scrutiny to police violence in the country.

3) Six years after the Ayotzinapa disappearances, families continue to demand justice (Tanya Wadhwa/People’s Dispatch)

This September 26 marks the sixth anniversary of the forced disappearance of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the town of Ayotzinapa, Mexico. The tragic anniversary also marks six years of the absence of justice and serves as a reminder of the impunity enjoyed by various politicians and officials of security forces involved in the case.

4) Medical Workers of Conviction: Speaking to Cuban Doctors Who Heal the World (Vijay Prashad/Monthly Review)

In 2004, Dr. José Armando Arronte Villamarín was posted to head a Cuban medical brigade in Namibia. Cuban medical personnel first came to southwest Africa in 1975 alongside Cuban soldiers; the soldiers had arrived there to assist the South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO) in the fight for the liberation of Namibia from the apartheid South African military.

5) How a Canadian Mining Company Infiltrated the Guatemalan State (Max Binks-Collier/The Intercept)

It was often when Rosa Elbira Coc Ich was cooking lunch in the communal outdoor kitchen of lote ocho, a village in Guatemala, that the helicopters would fly overhead, the gusts of air from their deafening rotor blades scattering her tomatoes, beans, herbs, and tortillas over the reddish-brown soil. the helicopters would hover just above the village huts, billowing up clouds of dust and dirt and blowing some of the iron sheets and palm-leaf thatching that served as roofs onto the ground.

6) Bolsonaro — the new Jim Jones (Jan Rocha/Latin America Bureau)

For the great denier, neither the pandemic nor the fires in the Amazon are happening. Jim Jones was an American preacher who in 1978 led thousands of his followers to move from the USA to Guyana and then commit mass suicide by drinking cyanide-laced Kool aid.

7) Paraguay’s pandemic response fails Indigenous communities (William Costa/Toward Freedom)

As the heat of another hot day of the unpredictable Paraguayan winter subsides, groups of women and girls in long, multicoloured skirts emerge into the open spaces of the Maká Indigenous community known as Nueva Colonia, in the city of Mariano Roque Alonso, just outside the Paraguayan capital Asunción.

8) The Revolutionary Life of Salvador Allende’s Daughter Beatriz Allende (Tanya Harmer/Jacobin)

Women revolutionaries are routinely obscured by the history books. But a new biography of Beatriz Allende — daughter and close confidante of Salvador Allende, and internationalist militant — helps shine a light on what it meant to be a woman

Photography

Kiev, 26 May 2018

By |27/May/2018|

Liverpool supporters attending the Champions League final carry banners in solidarity with Brazilian former president Lula Da Silva and Catalan political prisoners. Polls show that if Lula ran in this year’s presidential election, he would win by a landslide and restore the Workers’ Party to government.

Video

Chile’s Student Uprising (Documentary)

By |2/April/2020|

(Director Roberto Navarrete, 35 mins, Alborada Films, 2014)

Mass student protests took place in Chile between 2011 and 2013 demanding a free and state-funded education system and radical change in society. The documentary puts these protests in their historical context of widespread dissatisfaction with the economic model put in place under the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), but that still remains largely in place.

The film’s director travelled to Chile between 2011 and 2013 to speak to then student leaders (now Members of Congress) such as Camila Vallejo and Giorgio Jackson, and also to other students, to explore why their protests had caused such effect in Chile and inspired others in the country and beyond.

“Roberto Navarrete’s is the most complete and compelling visual account of Chile’s student uprising to date. All the lessons from Patricio Guzmán’s path-breaking style of documenting in film are there: poetic visuals, an engaged narrative, the focus on personal feelings and stories combined with subtle and accessible analysis, plus a sense of the tragic tempered by the optimism of the will. Navarrete adds to it the passion and distance of the exile’s gaze, and a Latin American Beckettian flare for celebration while thinking. This is a must see for all those interested in the current sway of global rebellions that show us all the shape of things to come. Superb!”

Dr Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Professor in Law, Birbeck, University of London and author of ‘Story of a Death Foretold: The Coup Against Salvador Allende, September 11th, 1973’

Sign up for our e-newsletter

Get the latest on events, special offers and news from Alborada.

Alborada Films Tab
Alborada Best of the web
Competition&Offers

Video

Chile’s Student Uprising (Documentary)

By |2/April/2020|

(Director Roberto Navarrete, 35 mins, Alborada Films, 2014)

Mass student protests took place in Chile between 2011 and 2013 demanding a free and state-funded education system and radical change in society. The documentary puts these protests in their historical context of widespread dissatisfaction with the economic model put in place under the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), but that still remains largely in place.

The film’s director travelled to Chile between 2011 and 2013 to speak to then student leaders (now Members of Congress) such as Camila Vallejo and Giorgio Jackson, and also to other students, to explore why their protests had caused such effect in Chile and inspired others in the country and beyond.

“Roberto Navarrete’s is the most complete and compelling visual account of Chile’s student uprising to date. All the lessons from Patricio Guzmán’s path-breaking style of documenting in film are there: poetic visuals, an engaged narrative, the focus on personal feelings and stories combined with subtle and accessible analysis, plus a sense of the tragic tempered by the optimism of the will. Navarrete adds to it the passion and distance of the exile’s gaze, and a Latin American Beckettian flare for celebration while thinking. This is a must see for all those interested in the current sway of global rebellions that show us all the shape of things to come. Superb!”

Dr Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Professor in Law, Birbeck, University of London and author of ‘Story of a Death Foretold: The Coup Against Salvador Allende, September 11th, 1973’

Chile’s Student Uprising (Documentary)

By |2/April/2020|

(Director Roberto Navarrete, 35 mins, Alborada Films, 2014)

Mass student protests took place in Chile between 2011 and 2013 demanding a free and state-funded education system and radical change in society. The documentary puts these protests in their historical context of widespread dissatisfaction with the economic model put in place under the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), but that still remains largely in place.

The film’s director travelled to Chile between 2011 and 2013 to speak to then student leaders (now Members of Congress) such as Camila Vallejo and Giorgio Jackson, and also to other students, to explore why their protests had caused such effect in Chile and inspired others in the country and beyond.

“Roberto Navarrete’s is the most complete and compelling visual account of Chile’s student uprising to date. All the lessons from Patricio Guzmán’s path-breaking style of documenting in film are there: poetic visuals, an engaged narrative, the focus on personal feelings and stories combined with subtle and accessible analysis, plus a sense of the tragic tempered by the optimism of the will. Navarrete adds to it the passion and distance of the exile’s gaze, and a Latin American Beckettian flare for celebration while thinking. This is a must see for all those interested in the current sway of global rebellions that show us all the shape of things to come. Superb!”

Dr Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Professor in Law, Birbeck, University of London and author of ‘Story of a Death Foretold: The Coup Against Salvador Allende, September 11th, 1973’