Recent South America Articles



Hugo Chavez: The revolution is bigger than one man

by Salman Shaheen     March 6, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Hugo Chavez took on imperialism, he stood up to George W. Bush and he fought poverty, but one battle he could not win was against cancer.

As Venezuela enters a period of mourning for their President, Chavez leaves behind a nation divided.

Reviled by the rich, revered by the poor, at times praised and scorned by the Western media, he polarised global opinion as much as he polarised his own country.

Chavez was a hero to the left, but he was a flawed one. He built a cult of personality around himself and he built questionable international alliances with the Syrian and Iranian dictatorships, too willing to buy into the idea that his enemy’s enemy was his friend.

But Chavez himself was not a dictator, despite what his conservative critics say. He won the vote of the poor majority because he spoke for them and he backed his words with actions.

Unlike many of Latin America’s loudest populists, Chavez stood fast to his programme of social reform, even when economic conditions were against him.

He redistributed the country’s wealth and he ploughed its vast oil revenues into healthcare, housing, education and food for its most destitute people. In doing so, he raised millions out of absolute poverty.

Extreme poverty fell by 72% under Chavez, while infant mortality fell by 18.2% between 1998 and 2006.

For all his faults, and for all the valid criticisms that should be raised of him, the world must never forget how one man helped make the lives of some of its poorest citizens better.

But the revolution is far bigger than one man. Chavez’s death leaves a vacuum in personality, but not in politics. The people he inspired, the people he taught to learn their constitution, the people he raised onto his shoulders so that they could see what could be achieved with their collective endeavours will not forget the progress they have made in the last 14 years. Nor will they be willing to go quietly back to
America’s yard and offer themselves up to the ravages of the failed neoliberal policies that brought them so much misery.

“Whenever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms,” another flawed left-wing icon once said.

And Chavez’s battle cry to the poor has reached millions of receptive ears, not just in Venezuela, but across Latin America as a pink tide sweeps a continent finally willing to stand up for itself.

Venezuela now stands at a crossroads, but Chavez’s death is not the end of the revolution. It was always far bigger than him.

Why Europe should learn from Latin America

by Guest     July 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm

contribution by Lee Brown

As Europe struggles to deal effectively with the economic crisis and stares a lost decade in the face radically different alternatives are urgently needed.

Attention should be turned to Latin America. The mood at the Sao Paulo Forum, a gathering of Latin American left parties and social movements that I attended last week, was in complete contrast to Europe.

Under the slogan “the people of the world against neo-liberalism and for peace” the conference was brimming with ideas, a confidence gained from successfully governing their countries and a huge level of experience in mobilising vast swathes of the population against free-market orthodoxy.
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Going to ‘enemy’ territory: how Argentinians see the Falklands conflict

by Guest     July 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm

contribution by Jasper Cox

I recently spent a month in Argentina volunteering at a local radio station. As a Briton, I was a bit anxious about going into a country where tensions over Las Malvinas are running high, particularly after seeing the warnings on the Foreign Office website.

The legacy of the war and the sovereignty of islands about 1,500 km from Buenos Aires still ignite passions.

On arrival in Argentina, the most obvious sign is from the graffiti. In Argentina street art is incredibly political.
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Viva Argentina! Why it’s right to nationalise companies for its interests

by Mary Tracy     April 19, 2012 at 9:50 am

On Monday, Argentina’s government decided to nationalise 51% of the largest oil and gas company in the country, YPF.

The company used to belong to the Argentinian State, but was privatised in the 90s, and, eventually, sold off to the Spanish company Repsol. The ‘nationalisation’ will be a forced purchase: Argentina will pay for the shares owned by Repsol.

Why is it doing so now? Because Repsol has consistently failed to invest in oil and gas production, forcing Argentina to import energy to keep with internal demand.
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Venezuela’s social transformation since Hugo Chavez cannot be ignored

by Guest     April 9, 2011 at 10:30 am

contribution by Francisco Dominguez

When the military coup against Hugo Chavez’s government was defeated nine years ago this month, it marked a victory of a popular mobilisation against attempted dictatorship. But it also marked a watershed moment against the free-market fundamentalism that had wreaked havoc in Latin America for a quarter of a century.

Chile was the test bed for unbridled neo-liberalism, a diluted version of which is now being unleashed across Europe. In Chile these policies caused such devastation they had to be violently enforced at the barrel of a gun including the military coup against President Salvador Allende.
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Venezuela: Stop Attacks on Judicial Independence

by Conor Foley     January 14, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Just before Christmas I met a Venezuelan lawyer who was in Brazil lobbying for an imprisoned colleague. The story has been written up in the Guardian and it makes extremely disturbing reading.

Since many British leftists still retain some affection for Hugo Chavez I think its point needs to be re-stressed amongst the liberal left.

Judge María Lourdes Afiuni has spent the last year in prison without trial because she granted bail to a prisoner who had himself spent three years in pre-trial detention.
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10,000 times as bad?

by Left Outside     February 28, 2010 at 1:47 pm

@AlexMassie has written a short and what should be not particularly provocative most entitled Huge Earthquake in Chile, Not Many Dead.

Perhaps it is because the carnage that is Haiti is so fresh in my mind but I guess it cannot just be him and I who will feel a little underwhelmed. Actually that is perhaps the wrong word, relieved is probably more apt.

Angry is another word which I could use.

The quake which hit Haiti had a magnitude of 7. Chile has just been hit with a quake with a magnitude of 8.8. Given that this is a logarithmic scale this means that Chile was hit with a quake nearly 100 times more powerful than that which struck Haiti.
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Britain cannot let Haiti be pushed to ‘shock capitalism’

by Darrell Goodliffe     January 18, 2010 at 10:30 am

As political leaders there is much more Barack Obama and Gordon Brown could be doing to help Haiti. Above all they must make sure that the disaster is not compiled by the cynical exploitation of the current crisis.

In an article for The Nation Richard Kim details how Haiti has been crippled by its indebtedness to Western powers.

Following Haiti’s liberation from the French in 1804 it was forced by 1825, under threat of embargo from France and other Western powers, to pay 150 million francs in reparations to French slave owners. It turned primarily to Germany and the US for help.

However, it has never escaped from this spiral of debt and also has been subjected to the imposition of ’structural adjustment policies’ by the World Bank and IMF.

All of which have contributed to Haiti being not just the poorest but also one of the most unequal societies in the Western hemisphere.
According to a report;

It is second only to Namibia in income inequality (Jadotte 2006) , and has the most millionaires per capita in the region. Margarethe Thenusla, a 34-year old factory worker and mother of two said, “When they ask for aid for the needy, you hear that they release thousands of dollars for aid in Haiti. But when it comes you can’t see anything that they did with the food aid. You see it in the market, they’re selling it. Us poor people don’t see it”.

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Supporting Yessika Hoyos Morales

by Tom Watson MP     December 15, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Yessika Hoyos Morales and Tom Watson MPIt was a very great honour to meet Yessika Hoyos Morales of the Corporacion Colectivo de Abogados for lunch today.

Yessika is a deeply inspiring character and has given me the energy to pressure the government into taking a tougher line with Colombia, particularly within EU negotiations on a possible free trade agreement with the country.

I shall be asking questions of the Foreign Office about the extra-judicial killings of dozens of trades unionists in Colombia, many of which are linked to the Colombian army.
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Swing to left in international elections

by Don Paskini     December 7, 2009 at 12:00 pm

At the weekend, elections were held in Romania and Bolivia:

In Romania, the incumbent President Traian Basescu, of the centrist Democratic Liberal Party appears to have narrowly defeated the Social Democrat candidate Mircea Geoana, earlier exit polls suggested that Geoana was leading by 51% to 49%.

In Bolivia, the socialist Evo Morales won a landslide victory, with 61% of the vote. Former army captain Manfred Reyes Villa finished second, with 23% of the vote.

The elections took place in very different economic situations:

The Romanian economy is set to contract this year by 8.8 percent. After years of record economic growth fueled by easy credit and heavy foreign investment based on a neo-liberal economic model, Romania’s economic fortunes collapsed last year in the wake of the global financial crisis. Romania has also been impacted by downturns in Spanish and Italian construction sectors. Some ten percent of Romanians live outside Romania working in construction and working as domestics or day laborers.

In 2007, Romanians abroad sent €7 billion back home; this remittances are barely expected to top €5 billion. The International Monetary Fund suspended a €20bn ($29.7bn, £18bn) rescue package for the recession-hit country until a new government is in place and ready to enact budget cuts. Mr Basescu has pledged to implement public sector job cuts, suggested by the IMF as a way of putting the budget in order. Mr Geoana has said he would not, but he too has promised to co-operate with the IMF.

Bolivia’s projected economic growth of 2.8 percent this year is the most of 32 Western hemisphere nations tracked by the International Monetary Fund in its October World Economic Outlook. This year Bolivia will shed a title it has held for nearly a century. Since the end of its tin boom, Bolivia has been South America’s poorest country. Under Morales, the macro-economic management of the economy has been handled deftly doubling the country’s foreign reserves. The mantle of South America’s poorest country now passes to Paraguay.

More info here.


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