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LATIN AMERICA: US Policies Doomed to Fail – Book Review

“Left political alternatives,” writes Regalado, “will have to include the struggle for revolution.” And “the use of some type of revolutionary violence will be inevitable, because those holding power in the world will cling to it to the very end.”


BOOK REVIEW
U.S. policies doomed to fail in Latin America
By John Catalinotto
Published Jun 12, 2007 11:01 PM

Latin America at the Crossroads—Domination, Crisis, Popular Movements & Political Alternatives, by Roberto Regalado Álvarez, 2007, Ocean Press, 263 pages, available from leftbooks.com.

The Cuban Marxist economist Roberto Regalado, in the preface to the English edition of his book, takes note of the “challenge to write a book that deals with current-day events.” The December 2005 election of Evo Morales as president of Bolivia had forced him to revise the last two chapters before publication.

It is likely Regalado would now like the chance for another revision. Since he wrote those lines the Ecuadorans have elected leftist Rafael Correa president, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega won the presidential election in Nicaragua and Hugo Chávez was re-elected by a landslide in revolutionary Venezuela. These new developments, however, only serve to establish Regalado’s main points:
• U.S. imperialism needs to exploit Latin America’s resources and labor even more mercilessly than it did in the period up to the late 1970s. It does this by imposing the policies of “neoliberalism”—essentially, using the state power to aid the banks and transnational corporations to concentrate capital while never using the state to aid poor and oppressed groups or individuals. Washington has tried to do this with minimum intervention, but this has turned out to be impossible; the U.S. is again intervening, subverting and threatening military intervention.
• Washington and the South American oligarchy have allowed the electoral arena to be open to more popular candidates with the plan of gaining a consensus of support for the system. The role of these parties is supposed to be to alternate with the right wing in administering the same neoliberal program. This has led to victories of left-leaning candidates and parties, which are unable to offer significant concessions to the workers and poor within the confines of the existing system.
• These changes, with a big impulse from the 1991 Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, are nourishing a debate in the Latin American left. The potential for a struggle for a socialist alternative is gaining credibility, even if such a struggle is not on the order of the day; Colombia is the only country where an armed struggle is under way. This socialist alternative offers the only solution to the crisis of contemporary capitalism.

Regalado is currently the section chief in the Department of International Relations of the Cuban Communist Party. A former diplomat in the U.S. and Nicaragua, he has researched and written on Latin American politics since the 1970s. He also appears to be well acquainted with U.S. politics and even with developments in the U.S. progressive movement.

The book is effective on a few different levels. It summarizes the recent economic development of the worldwide imperialist system and especially in Latin America. It goes over Latin American history and reviews in detail the change in the type of imperialist domination and exploitation from the earlier part of the 20th century to the period since the mid-1970s.

It reviews the political struggles within the Latin American left—the social movements, social-democratic parties and the broad electoral fronts that have led to the elections of “left” candidates or parties in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Venezuela. The next edition will undoubtedly include Ecuador and Nicaragua.

Regalado also makes a devastating critique of the role of European social democracy and the parties of the Second International, especially those that, like British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party, welcomed their new role as administering social cutbacks. In the immediate post-World-War-II period, these parties ran ‘’welfare states” to counter the challenge from the socialist camp, and claimed they would change capitalism. But, Regalado notes:

“It was not social democracy that reformed capitalism, but capitalism that reformed social democracy. This was clear, since by the end of the 1970s, social democracy was participating in dismantling the welfare state and functioning as the spearhead of European imperialism in the South.”

The author discusses the conflicts between socialist Cuba and the U.S., and briefly discusses the Caribbean, but focuses on Latin America. It would be interesting to see what he would write about the U.S. war on Iraq and the impact of the Iraqi resistance on Washington’s ability to intervene in South America, if that were within the scope of the book.

The dilemma the U.S. faces is that the neoliberal scenario continually narrows popular support for the system and its institutions. It wipes out the middle class and impoverishes workers. Thus imperialism is finding it necessary to intervene more directly, as in Haiti and Venezuela, in the Mexican election, etc. While at present the conditions don’t exist for a struggle for socialism, the continued deterioration of living conditions and the threat to humanity from the crisis of capitalism will soon raise this question anew.

“Left political alternatives,” writes Regalado, “will have to include the struggle for revolution.” And “the use of some type of revolutionary violence will be inevitable, because those holding power in the world will cling to it to the very end.”

This conclusion, while not new in classical Marxist literature, bears repetition in this post-Soviet period. To understand how Regalado comes to it, it’s best to read his book.


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February 3, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, EU, Haiti, Imperialism, Latin America, Mexico, Nicaragua, US, Venezuela | , , , , | Leave a comment

Haiti-Cuba-Venezuela: Nothing Recent on Global Voices Online, But Maybe That’s Best

GVO has had almost no posts on these three countries since the end of last year. So, this gives me a chance to share a substantive article on each country rather than the usual GVO fare: recipes for the holiday, having hope at Christmas time, or right-wing rants about Cuba and Venezuela. Happy New Year all.

HAITI: “Disturbing the Peace in Haiti and New Orleans,” by Brian Concannon

Excerpt:

“Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Catholic priest from Haiti, just does not know when to shut up. In the 1970s he saw his people starved and persecuted while Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier lived in opulence, so he organized for change. The Duvalier regime responded as dictatorships do, and kicked him out of the country.

When he reached Miami, Fr. Gerry saw that the safety he found there did not extend to immigrants locked up in detention centers or sent back to face torture or worse in Haiti and countries like it. So he organized there for change. He founded Florida’s Haitian Refugee Center to bring the struggle for justice to the U.S. courts, and coordinated demonstrations to bring the struggle to the streets.

The United States responded as democracies should: It let Fr. Gerry do his work, as long as he did not break the law. He did not win all the battles here that he should have – our laws and our courts are not perfect. But he was at least able to criticize and mobilize without fear of persecution, and sometimes even win.

Bill Quigley, a Catholic law professor from New Orleans, cannot stop helping people organizing for change. He has been a leading advocate for the victims of Katrina since he weathered the storm in a New Orleans hospital where his wife Debbie, a nurse, works, trying to help. The hospital patients did not need a lawyer then, but the families still without homes and the kids still without good schools need one now, so Bill is busy. In 30 years of public interest lawyering, Bill has stood up for a whole spectrum of people fighting for social justice, including peace protestors, death-row inmates and advocates for fair education, healthcare and housing.”

CUBA: “Cuban Survivor of Guernica Massacre Tells the Story”

VENEZUELA: “Venezuela: A Dictionary of Euphemisms of the Liberal Opposition”

Venezuela: A Dictionary of Euphemisms of the Liberal Opposition


January 7, 2008 Posted by | Cuba, Haiti, Imperialism, Latin America, US, Venezuela | , , , , | Leave a comment

VENEZUELA: Chavez Grants Amnesty for 2002 Coup Participants Plus Video and Interview with Fidel

If you are not familiar with the 2002 coup in Venezuela, it is a fascinating story. Below is the You Tube version of the definitive documentary about the coup, “The Revolution Will Not be Televised” in Spanish with English subtitles and about 75 minutes in length. In addition, check out an utterly incredible interview with Fidel Castro in which he reveals that, with the help of Chavez’ daughter, he negotiated President Chavez’ release from the prison he was kept in during the coup!

Further below is an article on the amnesty decree.

Venezuelan President’s Amnesty for Coup Participants is Praised and Criticised
January 3rd 2008, by Kiraz Janicke – Venezuelanalysis.com
Coup president Pedro Carmona swears himself into office on April 12, 2002 (Archive)

Caracas, January 3, 2008, (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez granted amnesty on Monday to a number of opposition leaders connected to the shortlived military coup against his government in April 2002 and a two month oil industry shutdown which caused an estimated $10 billion dollars damage to the economy and ended in January 2003.

Chavez said he hoped the amnesty decree would “send a message to the country that we can live together despite our differences.”

However, he rejected opposition claims that those charged and convicted in relation to the coup are victims of political persecution, saying, “It is false that anyone in Venezuela is imprisoned for their political ideas.”
Among the beneficiaries of the amnesty are those who wrote and signed the infamous “Carmona decree” of the 48 hour coup government which dissolved a number of democratically elected public institutions such as the Supreme Court and the National Assembly.

The measure also covers those charged with the illegal arrest and detention of former Interior Minister, Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, the forced entry of the residence of National Assembly Deputy Iris Valera and the illegal takeover of the Governorships of Merida and Tachira, and the Court of Justice in Tachira, as well as those responsible for the closure of state owned VTV, the takeover of oil tankers during the oil industry shutdown, and those accused of inciting civil rebellion up to December 2, 2007.

Chavez made clear that the decree does not cover “those persons who have committed crimes against humanity, grave violations of human rights, and crimes of war,” or “those who are fugitives from justice, those who never wanted to recognize Venezuelan institutions.”

This rules out amnesty for businessman Pedro Carmona Estanga, who illegally declared himself president during the coup; union boss Carlos Ortega, who led the oil industry shutdown, and ex-governor of Miranda, Enrique Mondoza, who closed down VTV during the coup and went into hiding rather than face charges, ex-governor of Yaracuy, Eduardo Lapi, and a number of Generals and other military officials.

Also excluded from the amnesty are eleven Metropolitan police officers facing charges relating to the coup including crimes against humanity and violation of human rights.

In an attack that triggered the coup, Metropolitan police officers aligned with the oppostion, opened fire with long-range rifles, sub-machine guns, and other weapons, on groups of pro- and anti-government protesters in Avenida Baralt and Puente Llaguno, near the presidential palace on April 11, 2002. Nineteen people were shot dead and a futher 200 were injured during the confrontation.

Former director of the Metropolitian police, Henry Vivas and officers Lázaro Forero and Iván Simonovis are accused of co-ordinating the attack and a further eight Metropolitan police officers are also charged with participating in the shootings.

The decree has sparked a debate throughout the country, with sectors of the opposition, including the heirarchy of the Catholic Church, arguing that although the amnesty is a “positive step” it is also “discriminatory” and should broadened to cover the eleven police officers as well as third parties facing charges not directly related to the coup, such as 40 year old opposition student leader Nixon Moreno, who is wanted in relation to the attempted rape of a female police officer in Merida.

Cardenal Jorge Urosa said, “I believe that it is important that Siminovis, Vivas, and Forero, who have been imprisoned for three years, with trials that have not finished, can recuperate their liberty. The crimes of which they are accused are very confusing.”

Mónica Fernández, representative lawyers group, Foro Penal Venezolano, also called for the amnesty to be broadened to include “political exiles” such as Carmona Estanga and Ortega.
Fernández herself is a beneficiary of the decree. A former judge, Fernández was charged in December 2004

with the crimes of “illegal deprivation of liberty” and “abuse of authority” for having ordered the illegal arrest of ex-Interior Minister Ramón Rodríguez Chacín during the coup.

Sectors that support Chavez have also rejected the decree, arguing that the opposition sectors that carried out the coup and oil industry shutdown have not shown any remorse or will to rectify their actions.

Manuel Rodríguez, told ABN that the president should not have signed the decree. “Where were our human rights when they [the oppostion] paralyzed the country?” he asked.

David Alvarado agreed, the amnesty decree should take into account the rights of the people affected by the coup and oil industry shutdown, he argued.

However, other sectors have manifested their support for Chavez’s decision, saying he aims to maintain peace and promote coexistance and peaceful debate with the oppostion.

Yesenia Fuentes, a Chavez supporter who was shot in the face by a Metropolitan police unit during the coup, expressed relief that those charged with crimes against humanity and violations of human rights would not be granted amnesty.

“Our slogan since 2002 is ‘Without justice there will never be peace,’ and we will carry this banner until we see these eleven criminals, including Forero, Vivas and Simonovis, in a maximum security prison like common prisoners,” she said.

Antonio Molina, a lawyer representing the Association of Victims of the April 11, 2002 coup, condemned opposition calls to extend the amnesty to cover the eleven police officers.

The opposition campaign aims to convince public opinion that the police officers are being discriminated against, Molina said. Rather, he clarified, it is the serious nature of the charges, including crimes against humanity and violations of human rights, that impedes any amnesty.

“The Venezuelan state cannot, under any circumstance, grant any type of beneficial treatment to these people, because that would imply impunity,” Molina explained.

In a second decree Chavez also pardoned 36 prisoners convicted of various crimes, a number of prisoners diagnosed with AIDS were pardoned for humanitarian reasons and others for good behaviour and having completed more than half their sentence.

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3030

http://snipurl.com/1wlad

January 4, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Cuba, Imperialism, Latin America, US, Venezuela | , , | Leave a comment