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.

The 5 November presidential election victory of Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) over US-backed investment banker Eduardo Montealegre, represents a shift in the political agenda of the national bourgeoisie. Ortega is conciliatory towards the US, but the US, in the form of former Defence Secretary Rumsfeld, issued veiled threats to influence the election result. The criminal Oliver North visited Managua and also told people not to vote for Ortega. North was US President Reagan ’s aide in funding the ‘contras’, whose counter-revolutionary campaign between 1980 and 1990 was responsible for the deaths of 50,000 Nicaraguans. The FSLN now supports church-backed legislation outlawing all grounds for abortion. The Sandinista Renewal Movement, which accuses Ortega of opportunism, took six seats from the FSLN in the National Assembly elections. Nicaragua is the second poorest state in the Americas after Haiti, 80% of Nicaraguans live on less than $1 a day. While the FSLN holds the presidency they remain a minority in the Assembly. Close ties to the US will be maintained but the rejection of the favoured US candidate is a rejection of US bullying.
Alvaro Michaels

FRFI 194 December 2006 / January 2007

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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