Haïti: Évacuez les troupes!

Annulez la dette !

Mercredi 20 janvier 2010, 12h 38

L'ampleur du désastre haïtien se révèle peu à peu. Le séisme du 12 janvier a causé près de 200 000 morts et la destruction de Port-au-Prince, la capitale. Les anti-impérialistes doivent maintenant dénoncer les responsables de ce désastre. Bien que personne ne puisse empêcher un tremblement de terre, les états ont les moyens de limiter l'ampleur des dégâts et de mettre en place des infrastructures permettant une réponse efficace. En Haïti, l'absence de prévention et de moyens d'action a eu des conséquences dramatiques. Cependant, la principale responsabilité de ce désastre incombe bien moins à l'état haïtien, dramatiquement appauvri, qu'aux responsables de sa paupérisation : l'impérialisme de manière générale, et plus particulièrement l'impérialisme américain. Haïti est l'exemple typique d'un état sous dépendance étrangère, constamment contrarié et mis en difficulté par ceux qui souhaitent garder son territoire et son peuple sous contrôle.

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The 1999-2000 Cochabamba Water War

On 7 December 2009, President Evo Morales was re-elected president of Bolivia by a landslide. Less than 10 days later, alongside Venezuelan President Chavez, he upset the imperialists’ hope for the Copenhagen negotiations when he stated in a plenary session that not only was capitalism responsible for climate change, but that the rich nations should make climate reparations to the poor. Ten years ago it was unthinkable that a Bolivian president should have such international influence. But that was before the 1999/2000 Cochabamba Water War, an event which together with Chavez’s election in December 1998 turned the tide against imperialism in Latin America, and led eventually to Morales’ first presidential victory in December 2005. Robert Clough reports.

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Honduran elections: setback for the resistance

In the last issue of FRFI we reported on the campaign of the Honduran resistance to boycott sham presidential elections organised by the coup regime for 29 November 2009. Three days after the election, the Honduran Supreme Election Tribunal continued to withhold the official results and claimed a turnout of 61%. Later the Tribunal had to concede that only 49% had voted, fewer than the 55% who voted in 2005 when ousted President Manuel Zelaya, then standing as a ruling class candidate, was elected. However, the turnout has been sufficient for the Honduran ruling class to reassert its authority, even if the only countries to recognise the outcome have been the US, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Costa Rica, Canada and Israel. In recognition of the situation, Zelaya left the Brazilian embassy where he had sought refuge since returning clandestinely to the country in September 2009, accepting an offer of exile in Dominica.

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Haiti – a history of oppression

In Haiti we see in microcosm the forces that threaten the species with destruction. Not the natural forces that inflicted the earthquake but the social and political forces that magnified its impact and which brought Haiti to ruin long before the fault line ruptured: the forces of capitalism, colonialism and imperialism.

When Christopher Columbus and a band of Spanish gold seekers landed on Haiti’s north coast in 1492 there were perhaps 500,000 Taino Arawak people on the island of Hispaniola. By 1548 there were fewer than 500. The Spanish colonialists enslaved them, forced them to work in gold mines and supply food. Those who refused were hunted down by dogs, mutilated, raped and killed. Others died from influenza, smallpox and typhus.

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Haiti recolonised

The earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January measured 7 on the Richter scale, releasing energy equivalent to a half-megaton nuclear bomb, 500,000 tons of TNT. By 28 January estimates of deaths reached up to 200,000 people. In Port-au-Prince there are 500,000 homeless people in 447 improvised camps. People around the world, seeing the devastation, have donated generously to help them. But on 23 January Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said that 90% of the people in camps had received no aid. US imperialism has moved quickly to recolonise the country. Trevor Rayne reports.

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UN Conference on Climate Change, Copenhagen

ALBA leads anti-imperialist call to save environment

‘If the climate was a bank, they would have saved it already.’ Graffiti in Copenhagen

Days before the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December 2009, leading climate scientist James Hansen, of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, stated that no deal would be better than the flawed deal that the talks were heading for. Calling President Obama’s policies ‘half-assed’, he compared Obama on climate change with Abraham Lincoln on slavery: ‘You can’t say let’s reduce slavery, let’s find a compromise and reduce it 50% or reduce it 40%’. In particular, he denounced carbon trading as ‘analogous to the indulgences that the Catholic Church sold in the middle ages. The bishops collected lots of money and the sinners got redemption. Both parties liked that arrangement despite its absurdity’. David Hetfield reports.

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Haiti: troops out! Cancel the debt!

En Français

US troops in Haiti

As the magnitude of the disaster in Haiti becomes apparent – perhaps 200,000 dead, the whole of the capital Port-au-Prince devastated as a consequence of the 12 January earthquake, so anti-imperialists have to hold those responsible for this calamity to account. No-one can prevent earthquakes, but states can create conditions where the scale of destruction that follows is limited, and where there is an infrastructure which can support effective relief operations. It is obvious that neither existed in Haiti so that the consequences of the earthquake were all the more horrific. But the primary responsibility for this lies not with the desperately impoverished Haitian state, but with those who caused this impoverishment: imperialism in general, and US imperialism in particular. Haiti is the epitome of a dependent state, its development deliberately obstructed by the US to keep it and its people in subjection.

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ALBA: A fight for justice and for the survival of the species

raul-alba

The 8th Summit of ALBA-TCP, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Trade Treaty of the Peoples (formally the Bolivarian Alternative), was held in mid-December in Havana, Cuba. It marked five years since ALBA was set up between Venezuela and Cuba in 2004. From Havana, Sam Mcgill reports for Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

ALBA brings a political, economic and social alliance to defend the sovereignty, self-determination, identity and unity between Latin America and the Caribbean people, practicing the principles of cooperation, solidarity, mutual assistance, social justice and complementary economic planning for sustained integration and development. There are already over 100 ALBA projects spanning health provision, telecommunication, food and fuel distribution, scientific projects and initiatives for environmental protection. The Alliance includes Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, Ecuador, St Vincent and Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and, until the coup in June 2009, Honduras. The recent election of Jose Pepe Mujica confirms the likelihood that Uruguay will join soon.

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Latin American workers sold out by trade union

Over the past three years FRFI has regularly supported the struggles by low-paid cleaning workers in London for better wages and living conditions. These battles have overwhelmingly been led and organised by the Latin American Workers Association (LAWAS), which has consistently linked this economic struggle to the fight of all workers against capitalism and of immigrants against Britain’s racist immigration laws. Now this principled stance has meant LAWAS has come under attack from the opportunists who control the union Unite.

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ALBA: New dawn for Latin America

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) was initiated in 2004 with a set of trade and cooperation agreements between Cuba and Venezuela. Its immediate origins lie in the famous barter trade between the two countries which began in 2000. Cuba sent thousands of educators and medical personnel to Venezuela, which in turn sold 53,000 barrels of oil a day at below world market prices to Cuba. This was followed in 2001 by an agricultural cooperation deal. In December that year, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez first proposed a ‘Bolivarian Alternative’, to counter the neo-liberal Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), known in Spanish as ALCA. ALBA means ‘dawn’ in Spanish.

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Interview with president Rafael Correa

President Rafael Correa in London President Rafael Correa in London President Rafael Correa in London

Building socialism for the 21st century in Ecuador

In April 2009, Rafael Correa was elected to his second term as President of Ecuador with 51% of the vote. This gave him a mandate to continue and deepen the programme of reforms and structural changes initiated since he first became president in November 2006. In three years Correa’s government has introduced an unprecedented social and economic programme of reforms – the Citizens’ Revolution – to reverse the poverty and exploitation suffered by the majority of the population in a country which has been ravaged by neo-liberalism (see FRFI 210). Correa has announced that Ecuador is building socialism for the 21st century and joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). In late October 2009, he made a brief trip to London, speaking at universities and to over 1,000 Ecuadorians living and working in London, en route to a formal state visit to Russia. HELEN YAFFE had the privilege of interviewing President Correa during a boat trip on the River Thames and a translation appears here.

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Peru – indigenous peoples fight back against imperialism

For 58 days in April, May and June, some 3,000 indigenous peoples from 356 communities in the north and central part of the Peruvian department of Amazonas peacefully occupied oil installations and blocked roads and waterways in protest at their exclusion from decisions about the use of their historic lands. On 5 June, heavily armed police attacked them at a section of the Fernando Belaunde Terry highway in Bagua province known as ‘Devil’s Bend’. By the evening of 6 June, up to 70 civilians and police had been killed and some 115 wounded in the bloodiest single attack on indigenous peoples by the state since President Fujimori’s death squads and forced sterilisation campaign in the 1990s.

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The struggle against imperialism in Latin America

The US and British invasion of Iraq, trapping US forces and helping to push up oil prices, has created a window of opportunity for Latin America’s revolutionaries and long oppressed masses. Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia are opening the road to profound social change for millions of people, and by so doing they are challenging US hegemony on the continent.

The Honduran elections in November 2005 started a year of polling throughout Latin America. With a dozen presidential contests and 13 legislative elections, the class struggles throughout the region present a new and major challenge to US and European imperialism. So far this challenge has been either superficially portrayed by the European press as an electoral swing to the left, or misrepresented as a destructive ‘populism’.

Years of long and bitter struggles have been waged by the workers and peasants of Latin America to obtain basic democratic rights. Aggressive US intervention for over a century has had severely damaging consequences throughout the region, creating mass poverty and wholesale misery. More recently, from the mid-1960s to the 1990s, the US promoted state terror against the working class and peasantry in all these countries: imposing unserviceable debt and then demanding the subsequent privatisation of state assets as repayment. The accumulation of capital is the accumulation of misery in Latin America and the Caribbean. Last year alone saw a rise in ‘official’ regional unemployment of 1.3 million – half the global increase – with 15-24 year olds three times as likely to be unemployed as adults. In Latin America 23 million workers have no jobs while 103 million work ‘informally’. Workers, a high proportion driven from the land, end up as casual labour, in petty trading, crime, prostitution and despair. A huge, poverty stricken reserve army of labour constantly grows in size. This total of 126 million is expected to grow to 153 million in ten years.

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News in brief / FRFI 194 Dec 2006 / Jan 2007

Brazilian elections
On 29 October President Lula won his second presidential election, increasing his first round vote of 48.61% to 60.83%. His supporters were the poor, from the least developed parts of the country and city slums. But this personal vote couldn ’t conceal the loss of four Senatorial and eight Chamber of Deputies seats in the 1 October legislative vote. Already a minority party, depending on the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) and a range of smaller parties for support, the Workers Party now faces more difficulties in governing. The PMDB holds 108 seats in both houses (about 20%), an increase of 14 seats, compared to the Workers Party’s 93 (about 16%). The majority of the PMDB vote for Lula in a waiting game. Lula is in no position to challenge his domestic bourgeoisie or imperialism. He has conformed to the demands of the IMF which itself, as in Chile and Argentina, is now prepared to see a minimum expenditure on the poor, the creation of a sector of state paupers, who, saved from starvation, are just that bit less likely to drive radical change. As in Nicaragua the process favours social democratic illusions whilst new formulae are concocted to increase the low rate of capital accumulation at the further expense of the workers.

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El Salvador: Presidential election victory for FMLN

On 15 March, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front’s (FMLN) Mauricio Funes won El Salvador’s presidential election by 51.3% against 48.7% for the right-wing Arena candidate, Rodri­go Avila. Whilst Funes ran on a very moderate programme, his election still spells a significant step forward for the people of El Salvador and Central America.

In the 1980s, 75,000 people died in the FMLN-led struggle for national liberation, 90% of them victims of the El Salvadorean army and its paramilitary death squad auxiliaries led by Major Roberto d’Aubuisson. It was d’Aubuisson who set up Arena in 1981, speaking of the need to kill hundreds of thousands of El Salvadoreans ‘to restore peace to El Salvador’. Arena has ruled El Salvador since peace accords were signed in 1992, and still dominates the municipalities, even if it is now the second largest party in Congress after the FMLN.

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Imperialist coup d’état in Haiti

FRFI 178 April / May 2004

On 19 February 2004 the democratically elected President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was forcibly removed from office in a coup instigated by the US and French governments. Aristide was forced to the Central African Republic were he spent several days without recourse to friends, family or lawyers before finally being able to move to Jamaica. His presence back in the Caribbean has angered the US and the Haitian interim government of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue who claim his presence in the region could raise tension in Haiti. So far Aristide has turned down an offer of asylum from Nigeria though Jamaican officials unofficially claim he will go to South Africa which has indicated it would accept the former leader. Unrest, political killings, looting and violence are now widespread across Haiti. ANDREW ALEXANDER reports.

These latest events can come as little surprise. Haiti has suffered a history of for-eign-backed coups, imperialist plunder and meddling, despite being the first Caribbean country to have had a successful slave rebellion which overthrew the yoke of colonial oppression 200 years ago. Throughout the 19th century the fledgling republic struggled under a series of tyrannical and ineffectual leaders as the elite jockeyed for power. There were 22 heads of state between 1843 and 1915 when the US deployed soldiers and marines to protect US economic interests after it had created the professional military force, the Gard d’Haiti, to rule.

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Haiti: end the UN occupation

The 7 February presidential election in Haiti took place two years after the imperialist-backed coup of 19 February 2004, which saw popularly elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide forced out of the country. The election took place under a brutal UN occupation, in place since the coup. Despite this, the imperialists’ favoured candidates failed and Aristide ally Rene Garcia Preval won. Preval’s test will be how he deals with the occupation, and subsequently the poverty and oppression faced by the Haitian masses.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and second poorest worldwide. Its Gross Domestic Product is below $12 billion – around 20% of what Tesco made last year. 80% of Haitians live in abject poverty and nearly 70% depend on the agricultural sector, made up mostly of small-scale subsistence farming, employing about two-thirds of those with jobs. Two-thirds of the population is unemployed, the average wage is $2 a day, and over half are illiterate.

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Crisis spreads to the ‘Switzerland of America’!

FRFI 169 October / November 2002

The dramatic run on the banks in Uruguay in August has put the country in nearly the same position as neighbouring Argentina.

From January to June, $5.7 billion fled Uruguay, 45% of bank deposits, much of which was Argentinean money. Central bank reserves fell $700m in the same period. In this ‘Switzerland of America’, half the 3.4 million population live in poverty and GDP has fallen since 1997 from 300m pesos to 270m in 2001. On 15 July, popular protests organised by trades unions against the privatisation of the state telephone company resulted in the death of two workers and the declaration of a state of
emergency.

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The challenge to US imperialism

FRFI 170 December 2002 / January 2003

US imperialism faces a major crisis: it cannot accumulate the profits necessary to maintain its current position in the world. These are not simply the profits generated in the USA but the total profits generated by its exploitation of workers throughout the world. In addition, European investment throughout America in recent years has pushed the USA onto the defensive; it cannot lose opportunities for its own capital. Within Latin America there is the challenge from popular movements which has resulted in the election of Presidents Chavez in Venezuela, Gutierrez in Ecuador and Lula in Brazil. ALVARO MICHAELS reports.

US strategy to resolve this problem is straightforward. It has to re-establish its imperialist monopoly within Latin America, crush the popular movements and massively intensify the rate of exploitation. How will it achieve this? Through the 34-nation Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the extension of the North American Free Trade Area. The FTAA removes all economic power from any state (except, of course, the USA): all state services have to be privatised, there has to be complete freedom of movement for capital to allow investment without restriction, state subsidies have to be ended and taxation on movements of all commodities abolished. In these circumstances the most productive and largest capitals will win, and they will be US multinationals. Through the FTAA the US hopes to restore its domination, exclude competing imperialist powers and further manipulate the continent in its interests alone.

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Latin America rises up against neo-liberalism

FRFI 170 December 2002 / January 2003

The RCG joined over 1,000 delegates from 41 countries attending the Second Hemispheric Conference of the Struggle Against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in Havana, Cuba, from 25-28 November. Representatives from social and political movements, trade unionists and analysts initiated discussion from the panel and workshops took place to establish continental exchange and unity for every sector, youth and students, rural workers, the indigenous movement, religious groups, trade unions, women’s groups, and environmental campaigners.

After in-depth discussion of the economic, political and social consequences of neo-liberalism, the conference drew up a ‘plan of action’ of immediate and concrete measures to develop the mass movement against the FTAA.

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Interview with James Petras: Neoliberalism and resistance

FRFI 172 April / May 2003

James Petras is a revolutionary, anti-imperialist activist and writer, who has worked with the Brazilian landless workers’ movement and the unemployed workers’ movement in Argentina. He gave this interview to Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! on 21 March 2003.

FRFI: What is the strategic importance of Latin America for the US, particularly in the present circumstances?


Well let’s deal with the phoney arguments that say Latin America’s percentage of world trade has been declining; its importance for the US economy as a whole, as a percentage of its world trade, has been declining, so it is not very important. These are generalised arguments with inappropriate comparisons. It is important to note that Latin America is the area where the US banks get the highest rates of return and where historically they have received the greatest part of their overseas earnings. Banks like Citibank and Bank of America have been enormously successful in transferring illegal funds from Latin America, amounting to tens of billions of dollars every year. In addition Latin America is the only region in the world where the US has favourable external accounts balance of payments, so it helps to compensate for the enormous deficits it has in Asia and even in Europe. From that vantage point, if the US did not have Latin America the dollar would be weaker and its external accounts would be in even worse shape than they are right now.

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Kirchner under pressure

FRFI 175 October / November 2003

With 60% of the population living below the poverty line, the intense squeeze on the poor and lower middle classes in Argentina leaves little room for manoeuvre by new President Kirchner who is attempting to regroup the Argentinean bourgeoisie. Since May he has sought favour with the US ruling class by releasing evidence on anti-Zionist bombings in August 1994 which killed 86 Argentineans. At the same time he has removed 58 generals in order to weaken US ‘coup capacity’. He then raised domestic support by revoking the 1986/7 laws granting immunity to 1,100 military and police for kidnap, torture, murder and other crimes committed during the dictatorship.

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Miami Anti-FTAA protests brutally suppressed

FRFI 176 December 2003 / January 2004

On 16 November the trade representatives of every country of the Americas, with the exception of Cuba, met in Miami to finalise the treaty of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The aim of the FTAA is to allow virtually unrestricted access by multinationals into Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Opposing this, thousands of demonstrators converged in the city and were met with brutal repression as the US government had provided $8.5 million for a massive paramilitary attack.

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Fifty years of struggle and repression in Guatemala

In June 1954, US planes bombed Guatemalan cities while US-funded mercenaries invaded from Honduras and the CIA bribed the Guatemalan army to turn against the democratically elected government of Colonel Jacobo Arbenz. Thus ended an unprecedented ten-year period of democracy and social reforms that began with the previous elected President Juan Jose Arevalo in 1945. HELEN BURNES reports.

The CIA coup was a response to legislation by Arbenz to expropriate the uncultivated land of the powerful US multinational the United Fruit Company (La Frutera – the predecessor of today’s Del Monte corporation) and redistribute it to landless peasants. The coup, codenamed Operation Diabolo (Devil), was ordered in January 1954 by US President Eisenhower. It was organised by CIA Director Allen Dulles and his brother John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State. The Dulles brothers both had shares in La Frutera.

Arbenz had played a key role in the civilian-military uprisings in summer and autumn of 1944 to bring down the dictator General Jorge Ubico. In December 1944 professor Arevalo won Guatemala’s first ever free election. Describing his government as ‘spiritual socialism’, he began to democratise the political system, introduce moderate legislation to redistribute uncultivated land and double the number of teachers and schools, whilst carefully distancing himself from Guatemalan communists. After his election, Arbenz took over in March 1951. He deepened and extended the reforms, recognising the Marxist Guatemalan Workers Party, which infuriated a US regime already set into the frenzied anti-communism of the McCarthy era.

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Uruguay: Trick or treat?

On Halloween, 31 October, Tabaré Vázquez and his Frente Amplio-Encuentro Progresista coalition gained an overwhelming victory in the Uruguayan general election, receiving over 50% of the vote and taking an absolute majority both in the Senate and the House of Deputies.

The victory of the Frente Amplio is partly due to the great workers’ movements that have recently staged six general strikes. It also follows a referendum victory that prevented the privatisation of the national oil company (Ancap). Many Uruguayans used the general election to punish the right wing for their negligent and corrupt capitalist policies, particularly after the August 2002 banking crisis when the economy contracted by 11%.

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A new stage in the revolutionary process

Further major victories for President Chavez’s ruling coalition were made in the regional (state and mayoral) elections on 31 October. This follows the historic rejection, in the 15 August referendum, of an opposition demand that Chavez be recalled from office. The Bolivarian movement won in 20 of the 22 states where elections were held, including the Miranda State governorship and the office of Metropolitan Mayor, both of which were active against President Chavez in the defeated 2002 coup. It took hold of an additional 50 municipalities. ALVARO MICHAELS reports.

In its bitter frustration, the opposition has again turned to violence. State Prosecutor Danilo Anderson was killed by a bomb in his jeep on 18 November. Amongst other cases, he had pressed charges against six agents of the Caracas metropolitan police for killings during the defeated coup. He was prominent in an investigation into nearly 400 activists who supported the coup, and was preparing a case against army officers – some accused of bombings in Caracas and now sheltering in the terrorist bolt-hole Florida – who had declared themselves in open rebellion against President Chavez.

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Interview: building worker-peasant unity

FRFI correspondent in Bolivia Juanjo Rivas spoke with Jaime Solares, Executive Secretary of the Central Obrera de Bolivia (COB), just after the fall of President Mesa in early June. The COB was formed in 1952, and was nearly destroyed as an organisation in the 1980s when Bolivian governments implemented IMF and World Bank-dictated structural reforms. It is a significant component of the Bolivian anti-imperialist forces, and consequently it is important to consider Solares’ views. This is an edited version of the interview.

Can you describe the COB and explain its historic development?
The COB was founded in 1952 with the overall aim of socialism. It was created as a means for workers to confront a corrupt government and above all to confront imperialism. In 1985, the government imposed structural reforms that sought to destroy the revolutionary union movement, but they did not completely succeed. The fundamental aim was to destroy any political consciousness amongst the workers. The best union movement for the neo-liberals is a ‘yellow’ one that has sold out. After 1985, almost all the COB Executive Secretaries made an art of destroying trade union life. When I joined, the COB was on the floor. Now in Latin America a united union movement exists only in Cuba, Uruguay and Bolivia. This is a threat to imperialism. In Argentina and Venezuela imperialism has been able to divide the trade union movement.

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ALBA vs ALCA

ALBA is the new Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. Initiated by President Chávez, it is a model for integration aimed at solving poverty, unemployment and debt. It is the re-initiation of Simon Bolivar’s idea of a union of republics, presented at the Congress of Panama in 1826. It is based on economic complimentarity, co-operation, solidarity and respect for sovereignty. It is a social and political project, not a commercial one.

This ‘titanic task’, the construction of an anti-imperialist project, has already seen solidarity in a new oil agreement ‘Petrocaribe’. Venezuela sells oil to 14 countries at 40% discount, paid over 25 years at 1% interest, with three years’ grace, and paid in goods and services to assist the weaker states. Co-operation has seen Brazil and Venezuela sign a new oil agreement, alongside very many agreements in place between Cuba and Venezuela, the founding nations of ALBA. Additionally, a new Latin American TV station, Telesur, has been created to combat Yankee propaganda. Outside of ALBA, but consistent with it, Venezuela has prompted the formation of the South American Community of Nations (2004), an initiative to integrate South American countries.

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Latin America round-up

Chile: student uprising
In Chile, a series of strikes and occupations by students has become the first major crisis to be faced by President Michele Bachelet’s government. Student anger at inequalities in education had been simmering for years and protesters saw the opportunity to force Bachelet to implement the ‘social justice’ she promised during the elections last December. The protests began in Santiago in late April, sparked by the announcement of an increase in the fee students pay to sit university entrance exams. Sit-ins and demonstrations
spread across the country’s schools and universities, drawing students from public and private schools into a struggle to overhaul Chile’s unjust education system. Pupils from secondary schools also joined the strikes. Demands included free bus passes, free university entrance exams, a shortening of the school day, greater student representation in the education system and a guaranteed quality education for all.

The government initially condemned the demonstrations and refused to take the students’ demands seriously. Police brutality on their demonstrations did not deter the strikers and public support for them grew in the light of the security forces’ indiscriminate violence. After a national day of action supported by teachers’ unions and involving over 700,000 students on 30 May, Bachelet was forced to announce a series of reforms and an increase in funding. Student leaders rejected the proposals and a second day of action went ahead on 5 June. The national student assembly finally called off the protests on 9 June, agreeing to take part in the president’s newly-created advisory panel on education. Round One to the students.

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The fight for a United Socialist Party

President Chavez is determined to establish a new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), dissolving the current governing party, the Movement of the Fifth Republic (MVR). He has offered open discussions on the new party’s constitution with all members of other parties presently supporting the government. In March the first groups of ‘promoters’ of the new party were sworn in; then 16,000 more activists began their task of motivating and registering members. A target of 70,000 promoters was set for 26 May; they will constitute socialist battalions. Discussions about the new party will be organised across the country. The State National Electoral Council has been asked to supervise party registration. At the end of June PSUV members will elect representatives to a Founding Congress to design its political programme: a socialism for the 21st century.

The December announcement shocked the three bigger parties that have worked with the MVR. Patria Para Todos and the Venezuelan Communist Party which won 590,000 and 340,000 votes respectively in the last elections, subsequently agreed to join the discussions which anticipate their organisations’ dissolution. However, Podemos, a ‘moderate’ left party that gained 750,000 votes, has rejected the idea. Chavez makes clear distinctions between socialists and liberal democrats so he has called on the electorate to recall two Governors, of Sucre and Aragua, leaders of Podemos now opposing the embryonic socialist party.

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Peru paralysed

On 11-12 July a national agrarian strike took place involving more than five million agricultural workers, small producers and craftsmen throughout Peru, demanding the rejection of a free trade treaty with the US. Whilst the action arose out of protests by teachers against new educational legislation, Peru has been reduced to a standstill by continuous strikes and protests against recently-elected President Garcia’s economic and political programme of handing over water, mining, and forestry resources to multinationals. The activity is without any recent precedent. 70,000 workers and students marched in Lima on 11 July, and opposition leader Ollanta Humala proposed the creation of a popular constituent assembly to agree a programme to displace Garcia. On 16 July, in Andahuaylas, 4,000 protesters clashed with police, who killed one man and injured dozens. This followed a pitched battle in Lima when 1,000 workers captured and then released nine police officers. In Puno workers overran the airport and railway station. Imperialism is facing a renewed challenge.

Alvaro Michaels

FRFI 198 August / September 2007