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

The G20 Is Gathering. Debt Justice Is Our Demand

By |25/February/2021|

As the G20 meet to discuss the global economic recovery, the Debt Justice group calls for a radical break with extraction and austerity — and proposes a new system in its place.

A tsunami of debt has crashed over the world, and billions of people are drowning. This week, the G20 will meet to decide the direction of global economic recovery. Their power – and their responsibility – point in one direction: drop debt, drive investment and deliver justice for all peoples of the world.

The pandemic has accelerated inequalities across the planet. Workers have lost $3.7 trillion in income, while billionaires have increased their wealth by $3.9 trillion. Wealthy countries have invested trillions of dollars to inflate their economies. But poor countries have been paralysed by a $2.5 trillion financing gap that has prevented sufficient pandemic response.

Of more than $13 trillion spent on pandemic recovery worldwide, less than one per cent has gone to the Global South.

But things can get much worse. Before the pandemic, 64 lower-income countries were already spending more to service their international debts than on strengthening their local health systems. Now, the burden of their public debts has increased by around $1.9 trillion – four times the size of Sub-Saharan economy.

The ability to borrow money is critical to government capacity. The domination of imperial currencies like the US dollar, however, means that governments in the Global South must borrow in a foreign currency – and these debts come with higher interest rates than those of their foreign neighbours.

Even in good times, the global economy works to extract cash from the South to deliver to the North.

But when crises hit, southern currencies lose value against the dollar at the same time that public revenues dry up. The result is a deadly trade-off. To repay debt means shredding the social safety net – a net that stands between billions of people and severe poverty. But failure to pay may be even worse: poor countries risk losing their ability to borrow in the future – all but guaranteeing the disappearance of the safety net they have now.

As the major creditors to the world, the G20 governments have done little to address this deadly trade-off. In 2020, the G20 suspended only 1.66 per cent of the total debt payments due by lower income countries. Instead, they protected the power of vulture funds and holdout creditors to collect money that is desperately needed for response, recovery and climate action.

The G20 have now offered a ‘Common Framework’ to address the emerging debt crisis. This offer is an ultimatum. Either renew the vicious cycle – of indebtedness, austerity, and privatisation – or enter complete financial meltdown.

The G20 Common Framework is not a lifeline for the governments of the Global South. It is their debtors’ prison.

We need to break this system of neo-colonial exploitation – and replace it with a system centred on debt justice and the delivery of green and just transitions everywhere.

What, then, are our demands of the G20?

First, every creditor must participate. In

The G20 Is Gathering. Debt Justice Is Our Demand

By |25/February/2021|

As the G20 meet to discuss the global economic recovery, the Debt Justice group calls for a radical break with extraction and austerity — and proposes a new system in its place.

A tsunami of debt has crashed over the world, and billions of people are drowning. This week, the G20 will meet to decide the direction of global economic recovery. Their power – and their responsibility – point in one direction: drop debt, drive investment and deliver justice for all peoples of the world.

The pandemic has accelerated inequalities across the planet. Workers have lost $3.7 trillion in income, while billionaires have increased their wealth by $3.9 trillion. Wealthy countries have invested trillions of dollars to inflate their economies. But poor countries have been paralysed by a $2.5 trillion financing gap that has prevented sufficient pandemic response.

Of more than $13 trillion spent on pandemic recovery worldwide, less than one per cent has gone to the Global South.

But things can get much worse. Before the pandemic, 64 lower-income countries were already spending more to service their international debts than on strengthening their local health systems. Now, the burden of their public debts has increased by around $1.9 trillion – four times the size of Sub-Saharan economy.

The ability to borrow money is critical to government capacity. The domination of imperial currencies like the US dollar, however, means that governments in the Global South must borrow in a foreign currency – and these debts come with higher interest rates than those of their foreign neighbours.

Even in good times, the global economy works to extract cash from the South to deliver to the North.

But when crises hit, southern currencies lose value against the dollar at the same time that public revenues dry up. The result is a deadly trade-off. To repay debt means shredding the social safety net – a net that stands between billions of people and severe poverty. But failure to pay may be even worse: poor countries risk losing their ability to borrow in the future – all but guaranteeing the disappearance of the safety net they have now.

As the major creditors to the world, the G20 governments have done little to address this deadly trade-off. In 2020, the G20 suspended only 1.66 per cent of the total debt payments due by lower income countries. Instead, they protected the power of vulture funds and holdout creditors to collect money that is desperately needed for response, recovery and climate action.

The G20 have now offered a ‘Common Framework’ to address the emerging debt crisis. This offer is an ultimatum. Either renew the vicious cycle – of indebtedness, austerity, and privatisation – or enter complete financial meltdown.

The G20 Common Framework is not a lifeline for the governments of the Global South. It is their debtors’ prison.

We need to break this system of neo-colonial exploitation – and replace it with a system centred on debt justice and the delivery of green and just transitions everywhere.

What, then, are our demands of the G20?

First, every creditor must participate. In

Alborada Online: Reflections on the MAS’ Election Victory in Bolivia

By |4/March/2021|

Our tenth Alborada Online event looked at the MAS’ election victory in Bolivia and the significance for Latin America’s progressive movements.

Bolivia’s presidential election of 18 October 2020 resulted in a landslide victory for the Movement Towards Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS), almost one year after it was forced out in a US-backed coup d’état.

The coup installed a far-right regime which massacred indigneous protesters, criminalised the MAS and implemented neoliberal policies. Most sections of the English-language mainstream media legitimised the coup despite the absence of evidence of fraud and the widespread human rights violations being committed by security forces.

But intense resistance and organisation among the Bolivian people led to new elections which saw the MAS candidate, Luis ‘Lucho’ Arce, elected with a huge mandate. What comes next for Bolivia and the MAS? Will Jeanine Añez and the coup regime be held to account? How will Bolivia resist future destabilisation seeking to take control of its natural resources? And will there be any role for Evo Morales?

*Alborada Online event recorded on 1 November 2020*

We are joined by journalists who have reported extensively on Bolivia:

Ollie Vargas, Bolivian journalist

Olivia Arigho-Stiles, Alborada contributing editor

Denis Rogatyuk, El Ciudadano international editor

Chaired by Rachael Boothroyd, Alborada contributing editor

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Ecuador’s Election Coverage: Ignoring Repression and Dirty Tricks

By |19/February/2021|

Coverage of Ecuador’s election by Reuters and the New York Times omits the repression and skulduggery at work against the Ecuadorian Left.

Ecuadorians went to the polls on 7 February to elect a new president, vice president and National Assembly. A week before the election, a widely reposted Reuters article (1/29/21) by Alexandra Valencia and Venezuela-based reporter Brian Ellsworth explained that ‘nostalgia for better times under former leftist president Rafael Correa has pushed one of his proteges into the lead.’ The protégé in question is Andrés Arauz, a 36-year-old economist who was part of the Correa government’s economic team, including a stint as head of its central bank, during the ten years that it was in office (2007–17).

Lies of omission characterize Reuters coverage of Latin American politics (FAIR.org, 12/17/196/14/19). This article was no exception. There was no mention in the article that Arauz was almost not allowed on the ballot at all.

As I explained in August (FAIR.org, 8/17/20), over the past four years, Correa’s allies have not been allowed to register as a new political party, and have had to resort to running under the banner of already-existing parties. The election results have confirmed once again (as did regional elections in 2019) that Correa’s political allies are the largest political force in the country. How could the National Electoral Council (CNE) get away with denying them their own party? Why would Reuters fail to mention, never mind explore, that very significant fact?

By August, the CNE had effectively banned one of the parties allied with Correaists, a manoeuvre that almost succeeded in disqualifying Arauz — the candidate who just won the first round of the election by 13 percentage points over his closest rival. On 30 October, with three votes in favour and two abstentions, the CNE finally allowed Arauz’s candidacy. Still, a week before the election, one CNE member made a last-ditch attempt to have Arauz disqualified.

The CNE also banned the use of Correa’s image in Arauz’s campaign ads, on the grounds that Correa’s conviction for corruption (more about that below) voided his right to ‘participate’ in the election. (How does Correa’s image lose political rights?)

Moreover, a party that Correa strongly opposes was able to use Correa’s image in a commercial. Did the electoral council figure that this deceptive use by a party that does not actually support Corrreismo might draw some votes away from Arauz, and was therefore acceptable?

Progressive International, who had a team of observers in Ecuador during the election, will soon be publishing a report documenting serious problems with the way Ecuador’s election was carried out. Reuters, which makes headline news out of decisions by Venezuela’s CNE that displeases an insurrectionist US-backed opposition, apparently couldn’t care less about what Ecuador’s CNE does under a right-wing government.

Preposterous charges

Valencia and Ellsworth wrote that outgoing President Moreno

was elected in 2017 on expectations that he would continue Correa’s policies. But the two quickly fell out as Moreno accused his predecessor of corruption and of irresponsibly running up debt.

The article doesn’t explicitly say, but those expectations came from Moreno’s own election campaign in 2017, when he

Elections in Ecuador: The Fight against Neoliberalism

By |14/February/2021|

The recent election in Ecuador presents the country with an opportunity to return to the progressive agenda of former president Rafael Correa following four years of neoliberal austerity under Lenin Moreno.

Ecuador’s leftist candidate Andrés Arauz won the first round of the country’s presidential elections held on 7 February 2021, garnering 31.5 per cent of the vote. An economist and former minister in socialist president Rafael Correa’s government, he led the ticket for the Union for Hope coalition – which was Alianza País headed by Correa before the party split in 2017.

However, it appears that Arauz did not win by enough of a margin to avoid a second runoff, provisionally scheduled for 11 April 2021. The election was marred by allegations of voter suppression, as Ecuadorians were forced to wait for hours in uncharacteristically long polling lines, especially in areas known to support Arauz.

Political Arena

Arauz faced two politicians – Guillermo Lasso and Yaku Pérez Guartambel. According to a quick count by the National Electoral Council (CNE), Pérez and Lasso took 20.04 per cent and 19.97 per cent of the votes, respectively.

Lasso is the candidate for the conservative alliance ‘Creating Opportunities’ (CREO). He is also a member of Opus Dei, banker and businessman. A true representative of the Ecuadorian oligarchy, he served as Minister of Economy in the Jamil Mahuad government in 1999, which fell in the winter of 2000 at the hands of two million rural and urban workers who took over the streets in protest against dollarisation.

Pérez is the candidate of the indigenous Pachakutik Party. While he portrays himself as an ‘eco-socialist’, many from the Correa camp have questioned his commitment to defend indigenous communities and remember that some factions of the Pachakutik Party have, in the past, opportunistically aligned with the right against Correa’s government. Moreover, he is also known for supporting US-backed rightwing coups in Latin America and wholeheartedly backing imperialism.

Correismo

Arauz’s electoral hegemony is explained by the strength of Correismo – the ideology based on the policies of Correa’s government. Between 2007 and 2017, Correa undertook a series of post-neoliberal counter-reforms, strengthening the state, increasing its regulatory and economic planning power, as well as broadening its social influence.

Correa reconstructed Ecuador by way of a Constituent Assembly convened in 2007. In his inauguration speech on 15 January of the same year, he stated: ‘This historic moment for the country and the entire continent demands a new Constitution for the 21st century, to overcome neoliberal dogma and the plasticine democracies that subject people, lives and societies to the exigencies of the market. The fundamental instrument for such change is the National Constituent Assembly.’

The Constitution set out a social agenda whose essential axes are: (1) social protection aimed at reducing economic, social and territorial inequalities, with special attention to more vulnerable populations (children, youth, elderly); (2) the economic and social inclusion of groups at risk of poverty; (3) access to production assets; (4) universalisation of education and health. To this end, inter-sectoral cooperation was initiated among the Ministries of Education,

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Indestructible Podcast #2: Wikileaks & Latin America

By |7/February/2021|

In the second episode of Indestructible, Rodrigo interviews Julian Assange’s father John Shipton about his son’s case, and the connections his Wikileaks work has with Latin America.

Indestructible: Latin America with Rodrigo Acuña is a new podcast from Alborada bringing you monthly discussions with some of the most interesting voices working on and from Latin America.

The podcast is available on Spotify and other podcast streaming websites.

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Please consider supporting the podcast on Patreon.

::: Episode 2:

Wikileaks & Latin America: An Interview with Julian Assange’s Father John Shipton

Listen to episode 2 on Audioboom and range of other podcast streaming websites

Click here to go to the Indestructible homepage.

Presented by Alborada contributing editor Rodrigo Acuña.

Produced and edited by Pablo Navarrete.

Music by Chylez Productions.

Please consider supporting the podcast on Patreon.

Get in touch with the podcast: info [at] alborada [dot] net

Inventing Reality: Venezuela’s Parliamentary Election

By |31/January/2021|

The bare minimum that the Western mainstream media could do is report accurately on Venezuela’s recent parliamentary election. Once again they have failed.

Last month on 6 December, the multiparty coalition supporting Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro won 69 per cent of ballots cast in elections for the National Assembly. While over 100 parties took part in the contest, the majority of the opposition boycotted the vote – indeed, voter turnout was low, at 31 per cent.

Opposition moderates still accepted the election’s outcome and harshly critiqued those that called for a boycott. Speaking on the opposition network Globovisión, Bernabé Gutiérrez, general secretary for one of Venezuela’s oldest political parties, Acción Democrática, and new member for the National Assembly, said that ‘this opposition, represented in the new parliament, will not continue the ruckus of a parallel National Assembly, although I see and have heard that there are those that will pretend to legislate and direct the country from overseas.’ He added that what was missing from Juan Guaidó’s team was a ‘Minster of Defense’ – a mocking reference to that fact that, despite being recognised by the United States and its allies as the country’s legitimate head of state, Guaidó did not control Venezuela’s armed forces.

The Washington Post described the vote as ‘blatantly rigged’ – as did a similar statement by Mike Pompeo on 7 December. Yet the Post did at least concede that the election might help Maduro, potentially ‘deal[ing] a final blow to the U.S.-backed campaign to force [his] ouster through economic strangulation, a popular uprising or a military coup.’

But the election that took place can hardly be seen in separation from these threats. Indeed, while most opposition parties did publically state that they were not going to participate in the election, those that did had by September come under sanctions from the US Treasury Department. According to Ociel Alí López – a political analyst and professor at the Universidad Central de Venezuela – this included five opposition leaders who will now no longer be able to hold ‘accounts or properties in the United States’ and possibly in ‘allied countries’.

The Trump administration’s sanctions against opposition parties that were willing to participate in the election once again highlighted its commitment to overthrowing the administration in Caracas. During his recent Senate confirmation hearing, Secretary of State for the Joe Biden administration, Anthony Blinken, said that he supports Trump’s policy of endorsing Guaidó, whilst describing Maduro as a ‘brutal dictator’. A Biden official earlier this month said that the new president had no intentions to negotiate with Maduro as ‘the Biden administration will stand with the Venezuelan people and their call for a restoration of democracy through free and fair elections.’

US Interference

While the abstention of the majority of the opposition parties received highly favourable coverage in most US media, their violence – and their funding from the United States itself – was conveniently overlooked. In a break from this norm, in July 2019 the Los Angeles Times

We Are Mobilising to Ecuador. Here’s Why.

By |27/January/2021|

With the upcoming 7 February presidential elections, the people of Ecuador are fighting to recover their popular sovereignty. International solidarity will be critical to their success.

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On 7 February, the citizens of Ecuador will express their constitutional right to popular sovereignty, electing a new president and National Assembly to carry the country out of its most severe crisis in a generation. Between violent crackdowns on IMF protests in 2019 to persistent threats to cancel next month’s election, Ecuador’s democracy is on the brink. The vigilance of the world will be critical to preserve it — and help restore democracy to a region in the midst of an authoritarian backslide.

Ecuador has been hit harder by the Covid-19 pandemic than almost any country in the world. The country has recorded an excess toll of 40,000 deaths in 2020, a per capita record that is nearly double the magnitude of the United States.

The tragic consequences of Covid-19 have already damaged Ecuador’s democratic institutions: the government’s agreement with the IMF led to the dismissal of 3,680 public health workers, eroding citizens’ constitutional right to health assistance.

The concern now is that the pandemic will provide cover for further erosion. Rumors continue to circulate that Ecuador’s elections may be postponed, and the National Electoral Council (CNE) is now proposing that all representatives of political parties present negative PCR tests to be present at the polls — a stipulation that would place an insurmountable strain on the logistics of observation efforts and the personal finances of individual observers.

Tensions between Ecuador’s electoral authorities are also raising fresh fears of interference in the expression of popular sovereignty. The CNE — which is charged with administering the elections across all precincts — has come under attack by the Tribunal Contencioso Electoral (TCE), which has tried to remove four of the five leading members of the Council just days before the election.

But the conflict between the CNE and TCE is not only a question of personnel. It has also spread to the operations of the elections themselves. The two bodies have disputed the right to make final determinations on the contents of the ballot — a dispute that calls for immediate resolution now that scores of ballots have had to be reprinted following an error in the logo of the AMIGO Movement party. The destruction of these erroneous ballots to prevent ballot stuffing will be an urgent task for the CNE in order to preserve the integrity of the contest.

Ballots are, of course, the medium of democracy. The safe transport of Ecuador’s ballots and transparent transmission of their results will be the ultimate test of its democratic institutions. In Bolivia, baseless claims of ballot fraud by the Organization of American States (OAS) set the foundation of the illegal overthrow of the MAS government in November 2019, leading to street massacres and political repression for months to come. The international community — the OAS and the government of the United States, in particular — cannot fail the people of Ecuador

The Death of Democracy in Brazil

By |30/December/2020|

The dismantling of Brazil’s democracy, which culminated in the jailing of former president Lula Da Silva as he looked certain to be reelected, is the subject of a new English-language investigative podcast.

Cícero Ezequiel Filho lay beneath the sweltering sun of Brazil’s capital, Brasilia. He wore khaki shorts, John Lennon glasses and a long white beard, which stretched far below his chin and over a red long-sleeved shirt with the face of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on the front.

When I met him in August 2018, Cícero had been outside Brazil’s Supreme Court for two weeks. He refused to eat until former president Lula was free.

Lula had been jailed four months earlier, after he was convicted by a biased judge on suspect corruption charges, with no material evidence.

Now, union members and urban and rural social movements had descended on Brasilia to march to the country’s electoral court to register Lula’s candidacy for the 2018 presidential elections, despite his imprisonment.

The crowds had carried Cícero with them through the streets of Brasilia in a make-shift hammock, because he was too weak to walk.

Now, back on the hard concrete in front of the Supreme Court, a small red umbrella covered his face from the sun. Signs in red, black and white were strapped to the chair beside him, reading ‘Free Lula’ or ‘Political Prisoner.’ A security guard watched from behind a long metal fence, beside an oversized granite statue of a woman, seated, blindfolded, holding a sword.

‘I’m strong,’ he said in a voice so soft that it was hard to hear him over the din of constant traffic and occasional tourists who spoke loudly and stared at him curiously from a distance. ‘When you fight for justice. When you fight for a country, to rescue the country’s democracy, that’s what carries us on.’

In 2016, a conservative congress had impeached then-president Dilma Rousseff, in what was clearly a congressional coup. Lula represented hope for the country’s return to democratic order.

Cícero was 61. He had worked for more than three decades as a banker. Now, he had pushed that life aside. He was one of seven people on a hunger strike to demand Lula’s freedom.

‘We understand that Lula is a leader who could unite the country.’

Lula likely could have, but he was not given the chance. He was blocked from running in the 2018 presidential race due to the corruption conviction. It opened the door to far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who won the presidency on 28 October 2018, in a race marred by violence, hate crimes, fake news and an illegal direct messaging campaign over WhatsApp.

Two years later, Lula is now free, but Bolsonaro has set the country ablaze. He has stacked his government with military officials. He’s gutted environmental and indigenous agencies, rolled back labour rights, pushed privatisations and development in the Amazon, empowering large landowners and illegal land-grabbers to force their way into conservation areas and indigenous territories. Deforestation and fires have spiked to their worst rates in a decade. Like Trump,

Best of the Web: November 2020

By |15/December/2020|

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

1) Paulo Freire and Popular Struggle in South Africa (Zamalotshwa Sefatsa/The Tricontinental)

Paulo Freire was a radical educator from Brazil whose work was tied to struggles for human freedom and dignity.

2) EmpoderArte uses film to empower Peruvian women (Gianna Giordani/Latin American Bureau)

Social arts organisation EmpoderArte is run by Karoline Pelikan, LAB’s film editor and director of Cine Latino and Pelikan Pictures. Having won important funding from Peru’s Ministry of Culture, Gianna Giordani finds out more about the organisation and its plans for the future.

3) Washington Bullets w/ Vijay Prashad (Guerrilla History podcast)

In this episode of Guerrilla History, the guys run through some of the long and sordid history of US interventions abroad, whether by the military, the CIA, the IMF, or other even less thought about methods.

4) Maradona: the Bolivarian Soccer Genius (Danny Shaw and William Camacaro/CounterPunch)

The fighting peoples of the world lost a humble legend yesterday. Arguably the greatest soccer player to ever grace the pitches, the spirited striker combined unparalleled skills in his sport and an unflinching outspokenness before oppression.

5) Brazilian Organized Crime Has a Close Friend in Jair Bolsonaro (Damian Platt/Jacobin)

Brazil is governed by a president with well-documented links to Rio’s mafias. In order to understand Jair Bolsonaro’s rise, it is key to understand the link between his brutal law-and-order politics and the increasing stranglehold of organized crime over Rio.

6) Peru: The Streets Are Rising Up (Carlos Alberto Adrianzén/Progressive International)

The ongoing protests and political turmoil in Peru have exposed a deep divide in Peruvian society.

7) Demands for Land and Housing Continue After Guernica Eviction (Lucía Cholakian Herrera/NACLA)

A land occupation on the outskirts of Buenos Aires showed the cracks in an increasingly unequal system and the resilience of community organization.

8) Hurricane Eta hits the Mosquito Coast (John Perry/London Review of Books)

Central America’s ‘Mosquito Coast’, the home of the Miskito people, stretches between Honduras and Nicaragua. The border is at a point that juts out into the Caribbean: Columbus called it Cabo Gracias a Dios for the shelter it provided on his last voyage.

9) The Devil’s Backbone: Horror films highlight human rights abuses in Latin America (Deborah Shaw/The Conversation)

Recent Latin American movies have combined realism, fantasy and the supernatural to shine a light on social ills and human rights abuses.

Documentary

10) Bojaya: Colombia’s community leaders caught in the crossfire (Al Jazeera English)

Undeterred by death threats, Leyner Palacios, a community leader in Colombia, fights for peace and human rights.

Film Review: El Viaje Espacial

By |13/December/2020|

Carlos Araya Díaz’s El Viaje Espacial is a unique trip through Chile’s bus stops and society, which weaves social dilemmas, overheard conversations and beautiful tableau shots into a vital reflection on migration.

Weaving together social dilemmas, overheard conversations and well-composed tableau shots, El Viaje Espacial (Space Journey, 2020) is a unique excursion through Chilean bus stops and society. In its observational style, it uncovers an unexpected layer of authenticity, with wide-shots granting space to reflect on distant conversations that are being observed. As the viewer advances through a collection of bus stops, from the Atacama Desert, to the streets of Santiago, to the southern-most and desolate regions, the documentary uncovers a far-reaching portrait of Chile and its people, their temperament and contradictions.

In his trip through Chilean society, the film’s director Carlos Araya Díaz draws the audience into one theme in particular: immigration. Here is where the film finds its purpose as it shines a light on the issues around immigration and xenophobia within Chile’s current social-political climate. At moments there are overheard conversations demonstrating the extent of the discrimination these diverse migrant groups receive, especially the Haitian community which the film focuses on. It is estimated that since 2013 more than 100,000 Haitians have arrived to Chile escaping political turmoil and natural disasters, quickly becoming one of the country’s largest migrant communities. Even though many of those who arrive are educated and have worked professionally in their respective fields, from headmasters to doctors, in Chile they encounter a barrier of rampant discrimination.

The film attempts to confront many misplaced and ignorant misconceptions. One poignant scene explores this contradiction clearly, as the camera focuses on the tanned white skin of a group of beachside tourists discriminating against migrant workers. The following shots show a young Haitian woman cleaning a bus stop nearby, presumably the same one used by the tourists. This juxtaposition, albeit straightforward, challenges a common ignorance that populates xenophobic discourses.

Instances of solidarity are given equal weight, such as migrant and indigenous solidarity marches, highlighting the similarities rather than the differences between people who were born in Chile and those who have arrived. This theme has been explored in other recent films like Perro Bomba (2019), which mixes fiction and documentary. However, El Viaje Espacial’s message resonates beyond Chile with its clear appeal to the universal human right of migration. In this broader sense, the film asks the audience to ponder one key question: aren’t we all just trying to get somewhere?

Where to Watch: Available on Vimeo VOD in United States and Chile

Documentary: Cuba & Covid 19

By |8/December/2020|

This new documentary explores how Cuba reacted to the Covid-19 pandemic by mobilising its healthcare system and helping save lives overseas.

A global pandemic in a globalised world. Over one million people have died. What could we have done differently to save lives and livelihoods? In search of collective solutions and best practice, Dr Helen Yaffe and Dr Valia Rodriguez look to Cuba for valuable lessons. By reacting decisively, mobilising their extensive public healthcare system and state-owned biotech sector, Cuba has kept contagion and fatalities down and begun over a dozen clinical trials for Covid-19 treatments and vaccines. They have also treated Covid-19 patients and saved lives overseas. Within seven months of the pandemic, Cuba had sent nearly 4,000 medical specialists to 39 countries. This has been achieved despite the Trump administration severely tightening sanctions against Cuba, blocking revenues and generating scarcities of oil, food and medical goods.

Cuba & Covid-19: Public Health, Science and Solidarity is produced by DaniFilms in collaboration with Belly of the Beast Cuba. English subtitles embedded, select subtitles/CC for Spanish subtitles.

If you would like to donate to buy material aid for Cuba’s healthcare system, please do so here.

A New Peru, Struggling to be Born?

By |2/December/2020|

While November saw two Peruvian presidents removed in a week and the emergence of a grassroots movement to defend democracy, there are no clear answers yet as to who will benefit in the long term.

It is not the first time that Plaza San Martín, one of the major squares in Lima’s historic centre, has been surrounded by police and filled with protestors demonstrating against the country’s political elite, but this time something felt different.

The week beginning 9 November saw a series of major demonstrations pop up around Lima, and across Peru, in condemnation of the removal of President Martín Vizcarra from power by the Peruvian Congress. Despite Peru having the third highest per capita Covid-19 death toll in the world, Vizcarra had maintained a strong level of popularity due to his efforts to push through anti-corruption reforms.

Angry at this ‘parliamentary coup’, thousands of Peruvians took to the streets and were met with tear gas, kettling, arbitrary arrests and disproportionate violence from the police. At one particularly alarming point in the week, a human rights lawyer was arrested while representing detainees, and 43 protestors disappeared into the prison system without a trace. Fortunately, all have now been found and released, but it was later reported that two young people had been killed during further demonstrations.

These protests were powerful enough to make the rule of the new president, Manuel Merino, untenable, and he was forced to resign after only six days in office. With a new interim president, Francisco Sagasti – who has been deemed acceptable to most protestors because he and his party voted against Vizcarra’s removal – now in power and police reprimanded for their violence, the crisis would seem to have mostly passed. However, many of the young protestors and grassroots groups on the streets, angry at years of political stagnation, instability and the levels of police violence, have now realised their own power. With trade unions only now beginning to join the struggle, the cat may well be out of the bag, and there is talk of ‘another Chile’ as support for constitutional reform grows.

However, with presidential elections on the horizon in April 2021, no clear leader, coherent ideology or even demands – beyond the removal of Merino – is yet to emerge from those mobilised on roads and plazas across the country.

A new front in Latin American ‘lawfare’?

As many Peruvian scholars have been at pains to point out in recent weeks, Vizcarra’s removal has been incorrectly referred to as an impeachment across much of the Western media. The term impeachment implies a proven allegation of wrongful actions, which is not the case with Vizcarra’s removal. Although Peru’s anti-corruption team – which has previously brought charges against former presidents Alan García, Alejandro Toledo, Ollanta Humala and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski – has raised questions about Vizcarra’s dealings when governor of Moquegua, these have yet to be fully investigated.

What has actually happened is that Congress voted, on 9 November, to approve a presidential ‘vacancy’ on the grounds that

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

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’

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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’