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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