Articles 2017-09-08T23:48:22+00:00

Ecuador’s Moreno Wins Referendum, but Correa’s Citizens’ Revolution Retains Strong Base

By | 9/February/2018|

While the immediate electoral challenge was lost, the campaign itself has created a new organisational base for defending the gains and achievements of the previous decade of progress and change.

Ecuador’s 4 February ‘popular consultation’ resulted in a victory for the government of President Lenin Moreno, with the Yes option obtaining an average vote of 67 per cent across the seven questions included in the referendum.

Among the proposals put forward in the referendum initiated by Moreno were: a ban on indefinite re-election, changing the structure of the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control (CPCCS), and repealing the speculation superprofits tax levied on the sale of land properties and real estate introduced by previous left-wing president, Rafael Correa.

At first glance, the result is a setback for Correa, who led the No campaign alongside the newly formed Citizens’ Revolution Movement (MCR), which is made up of pro-Correa activists who split from the ruling PAIS Alliance.

Correa and a majority of former PAIS Alliance activists – view Moreno as a ‘traitor’. They say he has failed to honour his commitment to continue the policies of the pro-poor Citizens’ Revolution that was kick-started by Correa’s election in 2007.

They saw the popular consultation as a further attempt by Moreno, who served as vice-president for six years under Correa, to roll back some of the achievements and reforms of the Citizens’ Revolution.

Many also viewed it as a manoeuvre to ensure Correa could not stand in the next presidential election, scheduled for 2021.

The rightwing opposition – the vast majority of which actively campaigned for a Yes vote – have hailed the result as a victory.

Breakdown of vote

However, a closer look at the breakdown of the vote reveals some important details about the future challenges Moreno faces if he chooses to continue down his current path of attempting to dismantle the legacy and achievements of the Citizens’ Revolution.

While the No vote was primarily championed by Correa and MCR activists, the Yes campaign received the backing of almost all political parties and politicians, together with the support of the country’s private and newly-reformed public media.

Some of the key figures in the Yes campaign included: right-wing Guayaquil Mayor Jaime Nebot; Guillermo Lasso, a corporate banker who was Moreno’s main rival in last April’s presidential elections; and former presidents Abdala Bucaram and Lucio Gutierrez.

The Yes vote was also backed by some smaller left-wing parties.

When breaking down the vote, analysts have generally attributed 28 per cent of the vote to Lasso supporters, 16 per cent to Nebot backers and 4.8 per cent and 0.7 per cent to Bucaram and Gutierrez followers, respectively. Together with Moreno supporters, who are estimated to have made up 2 per cent of the vote, this right-left alliance obtained 67 per cent of the vote.

In contrast, the 33 per cent No vote can be directly attributed to the campaign run by Correa and his supporters, effectively eclipsing the vote received by any single group backing the Yes vote.

Despite a highly uneven political terrain, Correa and his MCR continue to be

UK Sold Spyware to Honduran Regime Responsible for Mass Human Rights Abuses

By | 8/February/2018|

The British government sold spying equipment worth more than £300,000 to the rightwing Honduras regime implicated in widespread human rights abuses.

The British government sold spying equipment worth more than £300,000 to the rightwing Honduras regime implicated in mass human rights abuses, including the assassination of high-profile environmental activist Berta Caceres.

The sale of the spyware came in the year preceding Honduras’s November 2017 presidential election, which widely seen as stolen by the incumbent government of Juan Orlando Hernández. Since the election the government has violently repressed protests against the fraudulent result, with at least 40 people killed, 2,000 detained and reports of a campaign of violent intimidation of activists by the country’s security forces.

In addition to the UK Conservative government licensing more than £300,000 worth of spying equipment under Standard Individual Export Licences (SIEL), in the same one year period leading up to November’s election, they have also licensed an unknown amount of other equipment including decrypting technology on two Open Export Licences (OIEL), according to UK government figures provided by the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

The British government Department of International Trade (DIT) issues OIELs to select companies so that they can sell continuously to a nation. Significantly, under these licences the government does not disclose how much equipment was sold, but it is likely to be valued at significantly more than the £300,000 revealed so far.

Lloyd Russell Moyle, a Labour Member of Parliament who sits on the Commons committee for arms export control told Alborada:

‘The British government has sold Honduras monitoring and decrypting technology expressly designed to eavesdrop on its citizens, months before the state rounded up hundreds of people in a well orchestrated surveillance operation.’

He added: ‘British law is unambiguous. It says that the government cannot licence arms to nations that repress their own people.  Before the government licensed these weapons it knew that the security services of Honduras were killing environmentalists, gay people and anyone in general who disagreed with them with impunity. It knew that the country had no independent judiciary, and it knew that Honduras’s deadly prisons are filled with people who have not faced justice, and may of whom are unfree due to their political beliefs … I am not surprised the Tories don’t give a fig for human rights abroad but, as a new MP, I’m frankly astonished that the government so flagrantly breaks its own arms export law.’

The UK government’s Department of International Trade (DIT) was approached for comment on whether the British government can confirm whether any of the spyware sold has been used or implicated in human rights abuses or illegal activity by the Honduran government. A DIT spokesperson told Alborada:

‘The Government takes its arms export responsibilities very seriously operating one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world.’

They added: ‘Risks around human rights abuses are a key part of our licensing assessment.  We do not export equipment where we assess there is a clear risk that it might be used for internal repression, or would provoke or prolong conflict within a country, or would be used aggressively against another country.’

Human rights abuses in Honduras have been endemic ever since a 2009 US-backed coup overthrew democratically-elected leftwing president Manuel

Rex Tillerson’s Historic Latin America Trip

By | 5/February/2018|

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Latin American tour may be without precedent in US diplomatic history, but it is perfectly compatible with Washington’s worldwide strategy.

Never before has a top official in the US government travelled throughout Latin America in such a well-publicised trip to gain support for measures against a nation in the region. Tillerson’s Latin American tour may be well received by reactionary and conservative heads of state (Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Brazil) but it is particularly objectionable for Latin Americans for various reasons:

First, because it follows on the heels of an obviously rigged presidential election in Honduras. The Trump government refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the electoral process in Venezuela at the same time that it validates the elections in Honduras. Tillerson said in Colombia that there is no comparison between the elections in Honduras and the to-be-held ones in Venezuela, without explaining why. Making no attempt to explain why the elections in Honduras were legitimate, in spite of the fact that even the Organisation of American States (OAS) does not recognise the results, demonstrates a glaring aspect of the Trump administration: its complete contempt for the truth.

Second, Latinos fully agree that Trump’s blatantly racist remarks about Mexicans are not just insulting to the people of that nationality, but to all Latin Americans.

Third, because Latin Americans particularly object to members of the US capitalist class telling them what to do. When Nelson Rockefeller undertook his 20-nation ‘Presidential Mission’ in 1969 organised by the government of Richard Nixon, the trip turned into what a speech writer at the time called the ‘Rocky Horror Road Show’. Anti-US protests, including violent confrontations with security forces, followed Rockefeller throughout the continent. In Argentina, 14 Rockefeller-owned supermarkets were bombed and in Venezuela, President Rafael Caldera told Rockefeller to cancel his stay in that nation. Tillerson is also a member of the capitalist class, not just a representative of it. For over three decades Tillerson worked for Exxon, which was formerly the Rockefeller-owned Standard Oil of New Jersey. For ten years of those three decades, he was Exxon’s CEO.

Fourth, neither Tillerson nor Trump has made any effort to prove that the 2018 Venezuelan presidential elections are illegitimate. Washington’s position (as well as that of the conservative governments of Spain and Great Britain) undermines the efforts at negotiations between the Maduro government and the opposition. Many believe that an agreement between the opposition and the government is Venezuela’s best hope, as both sides lack the popular support necessary to ensure stability. Trump’s position also pressures the parties of the opposition to pull out of the presidential race, even though many, if not most, of the opposition parties are intent on participating in them.

Critics can point to aspects of the Venezuelan elections that do not accord to the spirit of democracy, such as the decision to hold them anticipatively. But there is a fundamental difference between objectionable electoral practices and rigged elections, such as those held in Honduras and the 2000 US presidential elections (with

Best of the Web: January 2018

By | 1/February/2018|

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

1) The Rolling Coup: How Michel Temer is Turning Brazil into a Banana Republic (Brian Mier/New Socialist)

The unravelling of the Brazilian social welfare system and assault on human rights is an ongoing process. The coup is being enacted on Brazilian workers on a daily basis and, in fact, is only just beginning.

2) Honduras: The Never-ending Coup (Jesse Freeston/The Real News)

A special report for The Real News on the hemisphere’s most controversial inauguration.

3) Marichuy, Mexico’s Indigenous Candidate: “My Goal Goes Beyond Being President” (Angélica Almazán/Intercontinental Cry)

“We do not bring promises, we do not bring anything to give away, more than the heart, more than sweat, more than the effort of each day. It has been a difficult road because people no longer believe in anything and are tired of hearing promises. That is why we are not promising things. We are launching a call to the organization of society, to a union that goes beyond elections. This is the moment of youth, of childhood, of women. It is time for us to be aware that we can move forward together.”

4) Why is the Inter-American Human Rights System Lagging on Climate change? (Juan Auz/Open Global Rights)

The Inter-American Human Rights System is an important tool for Latin American human rights defenders, but why are the Court and the Commission lagging behind on climate change issues?

5) A Deal with the Devil: The Fujimori Pardon (Jo-Marie Burt/NACLA)

Peruvian President Kuczynski’s humanitarian pardon for Alberto Fujimori, who was serving a 25-year sentence for human rights violations, was a quid pro quo to avoid impeachment. Can it be revoked?

6) Grounding the Currents of Indigenous Resistence (Alex Wilson and Praba Pilar/Red Pepper)

Those joining the centuries-old Indigenous resistence in the Americas should discard Eurocentric narratives, epistemic violence and salvation narratives.

7) Meet the Candidates (Americas Quarterly)

A closer look at the leading candidates in this year’s presidential elections in Costa Rica, Paraguay, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela.

8) Murales Rebeldes (Paul Von Blum/Truthdig)

The artist had no intention of creating a pleasant visual appendage to capitalism. Instead, his work was a stark critique of US imperialism and its devastating effects on indigenous populations. The centerpiece of  ‘América Tropical’ featured a Mexican-Indian on a cross, capped by an intimidating US eagle.

9) El Salvador’s Worst Shitholes Are ‘Made in America’ (Roberto Lovato/Latino Rebels)

My journalist’s hiking boots still have leftover feces and dirt from the ultimate shitholes of El Salvador: its mass graves. Many of the thousands of graves that my sources there have mapped were dug by U.S.-trained and funded security forces in the 80s. Most of the rest were dug more recently by L.A.based-gangs steadily deported to El Salvador by U.S. immigration authorities since the 90s.

10) Video – Defiance of the Mapuche (Glenn Ellis and Guido Bilbao/Al Jazeera English)

Visit our Facebook and Twitter pages for other content from the internet that we have shared but that has not been selected here.

Latin America’s Grassroots and Independent Media

By | 14/January/2018|

If you’re looking for a definitive list on Latin America’s independent media, you’ve come to the right place.

Latin America’s grassroots media platforms are crucial to building social movements and resistance in the region. At Alborada, we often get asked about other grassroots and independent media outlets, of which there are many. The majority, of course, publish in Spanish or Portuguese but if you don’t speak either of those languages, there are several excellent alternative Latin America-focused media platforms that publish in English.

Below is a list of some of Latin America’s most important alternative media sites.

This is a work in progress so please feel free to get in touch with any that we have missed: info[at]alborada[at]net

In English

Alternautas

Brasil Wire

Colombia Reports

Democracia Abierta (principally in Spanish but most articles are also published in English)

Latin America Bureau

The Latin American Review of Books

NACLA

The Prisma (there is also a Spanish-language version of the website)

Sounds and Colours

Upside Down World

Venezuela Analysis

In Spanish/Portuguese

Argentina

Barricada TV

La Batalla Cultural

M.A.F.I.A.

Nuestras Voces

Red Nacional de Medios Alternativos

La Vaca

Brazil

Brasil de Fato

Nocaute

Outras Palavras

Revista Forum

Chile

El Ciudadano

The Clinic

El Desconcierto

Mafi (Mapa Fílmico de un País)

Resumen

Colombia

Colombia Plural

Contagio Radio

Pacifista

Prensa Rural

Cuba

Cartas desde Cuba

Mexico

Desinformémonos

Luchadoras

Radio Zapatista

Venezuela

Cultura Nuestra

Supuesto Negado

La Tabla

Regional

Alainet

Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales

Nodal

Prensa Latina

Tierras de América

Best of the Web: December 2017

By | 2/January/2018|

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

1) The President of Honduras is Deploying U.S.-Trained Forces Against Election Protesters (Lee Fang & Danielle Marie Mackey/The Intercept)

Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández, using the specter of rampant crime and the drug trade, won extensive support from the American government to build up highly trained state security forces. Now, those same forces are repressing democracy.

(shared on our Facebook page here)

2) Human Rights Watch, While Hawkish on Venezuela, Is Quiet on Violent Repression and Apparent Coup in Honduras (Ben Norton/Alternet)

Honduras’ incumbent right-wing government has been accused of stealing the election, but Human Right Watch’s Kenneth Roth is fixated on Venezuela.

(shared on our Facebook page here)

3) The Voice of Ocalan Resonates in Latin America (Raul Zibechi/The Region)

It has become a commonplace to say that the struggle of the Kurds of Northern Syria has resonances with the Zapatista movement. However, the thought of Abdullah Ocalan, as well as what has happened in the region of Rojava in recent years, is in line with what many Latin American social movements are doing.

(shared on our Facebook page here)

4) Marichuy could be the First Indigenous Woman President of Mexico (Barbara Sostaita/Feministing)

A 53-year-old indigenous woman is running for president of Mexico. María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, known to most as “Marichuy,” is a traditional Nahua healer from southern Jalisco, and could become the first indigenous woman elected to Mexico’s highest office.

5) Video – Pioneering Argentinian Filmmaker Fernando Birri Dies at 92 (Amy Goodman/Democracy Now!)

Pioneering Argentinian filmmaker Fernando Birri has died. He’s considered the father of the New Latin American Cinema, which challenged Hollywood and focused on the lives of the oppressed in Latin America. Along with Gabriel García Márquez and others, Birri founded the International School of Film and Television in Cuba and served as the school’s first director.

(shared on our Facebook page here)

6) Video – A Massacre of Farmers in US-Colombia ‘War On Drugs’ (Empire Files/TeleSUR English)

The Empire Files’ Abby Martin goes on-the-ground to investigate the 5 October 2017 Tumaco massacre in Colombia, interviewing witnesses and casualties.

(shared on our website here)

7) How Brazil’s Sex Workers Have Been Organized and Politically Effective for 30 Years (Amanda De Lisio/Upside Down World)

In Brazil, sex work remains politically and socially contentious. But thanks to a staunch sex worker movement in the country, the people who actually do the work have made themselves key contributors to the debate. It is a movement which has informed political policy, affected legislation in urban reform and sexual healthcare and fought tirelessly for the full recognition of sex work as a profession.

8) Best Albums of 2017 (S&C Team/Sounds and Colours)

If you’ve been following Sounds and Colours since the start you’ll know that we started off by focusing on South American music. The reason for this was simple: we wanted to show that there was an incredible amount of great music being made in South America that was distinct from the Latino music of the US

The Plot Against Honduras

By | 21/December/2017|

Amid the crisis enveloping Honduras over November’s apparently-rigged presidential election, the international groundwork is being laid to install a new rightwing government that will exacerbate ongoing social and political tensions.

The electoral crisis that has left Honduras reeling shows few signs of consensual resolution. Even in a country whose recent history is marked by social violence, political instability and external meddling, the current situation threatens to eradicate any dwindling vestige of democratic process that the country purportedly upholds. With ruling party and opposition at loggerheads and tension building over the alleged election fix, a dangerous impasse has occurred. Something must give, yet nothing suggests either side will blink first.

It is the latest blow inflicted on Honduran ‘democracy’ following the 2009 coup against elected president Manuel Zelaya, whose policies included expansive social programmes, land reform and closer relations with Venezuela and Cuba. Zelaya’s removal – with the assistance and approval of the Obama administration – opened the way for his successor, Porfirio Lobo Sosa of the conservative National Party, to implement a series of neoliberal and securitisation programmes. This exacerbated already-high levels of inequality and social violence that cemented one of the world’s highest murder rates.

With the fallout from the disputed election on 26 November, the country has again been plunged into turmoil. Supporters of opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla, of centre-left coalition the Alliance against Dictatorship, believe he won the election. To recap, with over half the votes counted Nasralla had a five per cent lead over his rival, sitting president Juan Orlando Hernández of the National Party. However, long and unexplained delays at the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), which is responsible for the election, raised suspicions of vote-rigging. These suspicions intensified once counting restarted and Hernández appeared in the lead.

With the TSE under government control, and after a TSE official had called Nasralla’s lead ‘irreversible’, the opposition demanded a recount. Nasralla supporters staged mass protests in which security forces so far have killed at least 20 people. Nonetheless, on 17 December the TSE declared Hernández the winner, a verdict immediately rejected by the opposition. The have cited an ‘electoral coup’ in progress, while Nasralla himself has even warned that the crisis could descend into civil war.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) backed calls for a recount, citing the ‘poor quality’ election. This appeared to further legitimise opposition demands and cast doubt on the ‘victory’ of the National Party. When even the OAS, a continental institution discredited in much of Latin America for its historic role in upholding US interests in the region, expresses concern over possible bias towards the pro-Washington candidate, there is surely a solid case to restage the election. As OAS secretary general Luis Almagro – no ally of the Latin American left – said, ‘facing the impossibility of determining a winner, the only way possible that the people of Honduras are the victors is a new call for general elections’.

Ongoing developments, however, suggest this is unlikely to happen and that the

2017 End of Year Musica Selection ♫

By | 20/December/2017|

A selection of 10 songs: eight from 2017 and two especially for the December holidays. Selected by the Alborada Soundsystem’s Ursula Parvex.

Listen to 8 of the 10 songs on our Youtube channel and the full selection on our Spotify channel. See here and below.

Songs:

1) ‘El Origen’ (Nicola Cruz Remix) by Rodrigo Gallardo (Chile) and Nicola Cruz (Ecuador)

2) ‘Giumbele’ by Nelda Pina y La Boa feat. Nidia Gongora (Colombia) – album: Volumen

3) ‘Receita Rapida’ by Anelis Assumpcao (Brazil) – album: Receita Rapida

4) ‘Anunciacao’ by Ubunto (Brazil) – album: Piva

5) ‘Yo Me Tomo El Ron’ by Chuito EL De Bayamon y Johnny el Bravo (Puerto Rico) – album: Musica Jibara para las Navidades

6) ‘Caldo Parao’ by Ondatropica (Colombia, United Kingdom) – album: Baile Bucanero

7) ‘No Fim’ – Thiago El Nino (Brazil) – album: A Rotina do Pombo

8) ‘Tu Luz’ – Lido Pimiento (Colombia, Canada) and Thornato (US) – album: Bennu

9) ‘Cuentos de anoche’ by Chico Mann (US) and Captain Planet (US) – album: Night Visions

10) ‘La Fiesta de Pilito’ by El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico) – album: 30th Anniversary

To listen to this and other Alborada playlists, click here.

Archives

Is There a Drugs War in Latin America?

By | 20/December/2017|

The War on Drugs has been a disastrous failure – at immense human and financial cost – since its introduction in the 1970s but the opportunities it presents are central to US strategy in Latin America.

In 1971, while still embroiled in Vietnam, President Richard Nixon announced a new war. This one was not against an ideology or regime, but a collection of inanimate substances. Nixon’s war would be one of the defining planks of domestic and foreign policy during the next 45 years, and it goes on.

By the late 1980s, seven Latin American or Caribbean countries accounted for the vast majority of all marijuana, cocaine and heroin that illegally entered the US. The region has been the centre for War on Drugs foreign policy.

Since the early 1970s, the US has spent upwards of a $1 trillion and seen thousands of people killed in the fight to eradicate production. The U.S. federal government spent over $15 billion dollars in 2010 on the War on Drugs, at a rate of about $500 per second.

In 1986, President Reagan had formalised the program with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act and even during the Cold War, the problem was more concerning to the US population than any other. In an article written in 1988, Bruce Michael Bagley notes that: ‘Control of drug trafficking ranks higher than immigration, foreign debt, and communist expansion in Central America as a priority issue in US-Latin American relations.’

A March 1988 New York Times/CBS News poll revealed that 48 per cent of those surveyed believed drug trafficking was most important foreign policy issue facing the nation. (63 per cent said stopping drug trafficking was the top priority as opposed to 21 per cent who thought stopping communism was more important.)

These attitudes, in the context of the still-ongoing Cold War, reflected decades of intense propaganda by the state and, following it loyally, the majority of the US media. But why was such effort put into promoting the War on Drugs by the political class? Was it just concern about the prevalence of drugs consumption and production? Or were there deeper causes?

Whatever the answers, after nearly 50 years of the Nixonian War on Drugs barely anyone says it has been a success. ‘Despite the increases in resources, manpower, drug seizures, and arrests, however, no one in the US government can realistically claim that the war on drugs is being won,’ notes Bagley.

In Washington, most will say privately that the policy doesn’t work and is too expensive. ‘I’ve been struck by the criticism when speaking in private conversations with members of Congress who are perceived as hardliners on the drug war,’ Michael Shiftner, an analyst in Washington DC, told me. ‘But they don’t want to be caught in position that says this is a failure when they don’t have an alternative.’

Nearly all the academic literature on the War on Drugs in Latin America has focused on analysing this failure from a shared premise: that the goal of the War on Drugs in Latin America is

Redressing the Balance? Inequality in Chile

By | 16/December/2017|

Chile’s presidential election offers a chance to tackle inequality levels among the highest in the world but will require a break from the status quo, something the country has struggled to achieve in recent decades.

As the Chilean elections reach the decisive second round, now is a good time to revisit Chile’s historical problem with inequality. The left wing coalition of Frente Amplio (Broad Front) surprised pollsters by gaining 20 per cent of the popular vote, almost beating the centre-left coalition into second place and a potential second round. Since the return of democracy in 1990, Chilean politics has been dominated by a duopoly of centre-left and centre-right coalitions. However, despite steady economic growth since the end of the dictatorship, frustration with the political establishment has grown and numerous sectors of society have questioned how this upturn in national income has, or hasn’t, been distributed across the country.

Statistical analysis shows that high levels of socioeconomic inequality have been constant throughout Chile’s history. While Chile has experienced impressive economic growth during several periods of its history, its extreme concentration of wealth has proved difficult to overcome. Of course, the military coup that overthrew Salvador Allende’s socialist government in 1973 curtailed a series of measures specifically aimed at income and wealth redistribution. However, more than 25 years after the return of democracy, Chile continues to struggle with the problem of inequality.

Socioeconomic inequality in Chile is a many-headed beast, encompassing education, healthcare, institutionalised corruption, ethnic discrimination and geography, as well as a multitude of other factors. Currently topping the list of OECD countries in terms of income inequality[1], Chile is a prime example of how economic prosperity is not always followed by the supposed ‘trickle-down’ effect. The richest ten per cent in Chile has an income seven times as large as that of the poorest ten per cent. As a point of comparison, the same ratio in the United Kingdom is around 4.2. Furthermore, the share of national wealth in the hands of the top five per cent of the population is a staggering 42 per cent.

In 2014, the incoming president Michelle Bachelet proclaimed her desire to tackle inequality. However, like her predecessors, her attempts fell short and her popularity plummeted in light of numerous corruption charges relating to her political allies and  family members. The president she replaced, and who could yet replace her again, is billionaire Sebastián Piñera, who better than anybody represents the inextricable link between the mega-rich and those who occupy the corridors of power in Santiago. According to Andrés Solimano in 2011, the wealth of four families in Chile (including that of former president Piñera) accounts for roughly 25 per cent of Chile’s national income. Piñera is the favourite to return to power after the second round of voting on 17 December, his closeness to industrial and financial lobbies failing to dissuade voters of his suitability for office.

What the likes of Piñera and Bachelet demonstrate is the entrenched nature of inequality in Chile, where an

Socrates and Football as a Tool of Anti-Dictatorial Struggle in Brazil

By | 15/December/2017|

The majestic footballer Socrates fought tirelessly for the restoration of democracy during Brazil’s dictatorship and helped pioneer a radical experiment in democratisation at his club, Corinthians.

Six years ago, on 4 December 2011, the wonderful footballer Socrates died. Besides being a player defined by talent on the pitch, he would also go down in history for his actions away from it as a tireless fighter for democracy during Brazil’s dictatorship. Not only that, he worked with friends and teammates (Zenon, Wladimir and Casagrande, among others, who were part of the Corinthians Paulista team) to promote democratisation in all social spaces, such as football. This gave rise to the so-called ‘Corinthians Democracy’, a short experiment of direct and horizontal democracy that established equal conditions for everyone at the club: footballers, directors, coaches, assistants, drivers and so on. Decisions were discussed in meetings where all participants had equal right to a voice and a vote. The reason for this was that democracy was not only something to be demanded, but also practiced, and it would remain incomplete unless established as firmly in political structures as in society’s closest confines.

Everything was therefore a matter of debate and deliberation: from what was eaten to whether to hold meetings before each match or the players’ style of passing. Each footballer was free to be at the club or to leave: ‘nobody owns anyone else’ and ‘nobody will be forced to do anything’. Players’ demands and proposals began to be considered and, probably facilitated by a technical body willing to open discussion spaces within the team, the practice soon extended throughout the club. It even set a democratic precedent, both then and today, when the players chose their coach, as well as his replacement after he failed to get good results. In little time, certain players and organised fan groups began to influence the internal politics of the club and its relationship with external political institutions.

However, Socrates and the other members of Corinthians Democracy understood that, in an authoritarian context, a democratic ‘island’was unthinkable. If we consider the context, their greatest impact was as a bastion of anti-dictatorial propaganda and a space for subversion. And, of course, this ‘democratic’ team belonged to the anti-dictatorial social struggle in a country as football-crazy as it was violated. They broke the prejudice of the football player as absorbed by his work inside the stadium, faced external and internal opposition within their own club and joined calls for direct elections (the famous ‘Diretas Já’ [Direct Elections Now]campaign of 1984-1985), mobilising to demand the restitution of universal voting rights, the election of the President of the Republic through such methods and the recovery of democratic freedoms stolen by the dictatorial regime that governed Brazil between 1964 and 1984. Corinthians thereby managed to challenge the dictatorship on and off the pitch, as social movements flooded the streets of major Brazilian cities (as was happening in Argentina and Chile) and the democratisation movement grew in strength.

There is another non-minor detail. This was also a

Alborada Best of the web