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GAIAN DEMOCRACY

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In 2002/3 John Jopling and I wrote

Gaian Democracies:

Redefining Globalisation and People-Power

This site introduces its key ideas and some associated topics

LATIN AMERICAN UNITY

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Roy Madron 2005

Leading the Gaian Revolution: Commonsense for Desperate Times

INTRODUCTION

Gaian Democracies: Redefining Globalisation & People-Power by Roy Madron & John Jopling
Summary


Roy Madron: Biography

Radio Interview with Jane Taylor, from Resonance FM

Email address: rm(at)gaiandemocracy.net

WHY LATIN AMERICA IS SHOWING THE WAY FOR THE GLOBAL LEFT

By DIANA RABY

Diana Raby is Senior Fellow at the Research Institute of Latin American Studies, University of Liverpool, UK. Her most recent book was Democracy and Revolution: Latin America and Socialism Today, published by Pluto Press in 2006.


In recent years Latin America, neglected by the media for two decades as an economic and political backwater, has once again become a focus of attention because of the rise of left-wing or progressive governments in several countries. Beginning with the electoral victory of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela in 1998, and more especially after the defeat of the anti-Chávez coup in April 2002, a new tendency has emerged which is mounting a growing challenge to the neoliberal "Washington Consensus" and potentially, to the very foundations of US hegemony in the region. Dubbed "the Pink Tide" by mainstream journalists, the new nationalist, independent and socialist agenda appears to represent the first major challenge to capitalist globalisation since the collapse of the Soviet bloc after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Many observers question the real extent of the region's leftward turn, its long-term viability and the unity of the quite varied left and centre-left governments now in office. Most establishment commentators (and media organs ranging from The Economist to the New York Times, the Washington Post, El País of Spain and even The Guardian) demonise and even ridicule Chávez and other radical leaders such as Evo Morales of Bolivia or Rafael Correa of Ecuador. More sympathetic observers are concerned that Washington, despite its economic problems and military entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan, will once again intervene to overthrow Chávez or promote destabilisation against Venezuela, Bolivia or other governments it finds particularly undesirable. Finally, there are those on the left, particularly traditional Marxists such as James Petras, who question the socialist or even progressive credentials of Chávez, Evo Morales in Bolivia or indeed any of the current radical leaders and argue that the "Pink Tide" is an illusion.

 

The background

It is essential therefore to examine the background and context of the region's leftward turn, and to attempt a balanced analysis of current realities. Any such contextual assessment has to begin with the fundamental historical fact of US hegemony in Latin America since the late nineteenth century. The rise of the US as an imperial power reached a crucial turning-point in 1898 with the Spanish-American war and US occupation of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. The "Colossus of the North" thus replaced Great Britain as regional hegemon, a fact which was confirmed by the seizure of Panama in 1903 and the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which implied that the US must intervene wherever deemed necessary to maintain order and safeguard the interests of international investors.

Not much more than half a century later, the first great challenge to Washington's hegemony would emerge in the Cuban revolution, and much of subsequent US policy would hinge on the containment of Cuba. The course of Latin American history during the past fifty years is a complex cycle of insurrection, repression, intervention and reaction, followed by controlled liberalisation and renewed (but now more democratic and participatory) revolution. But throughout these different phases one element has remained constant: the regional quest for independence, unity and social justice, expressed in an alternative model of development. This is the ideal of Simón Bolívar, the greatest of the liberators in the early nineteenth-century revolutions against Spanish rule and the inspiration of the "Bolivarian" ideology of Hugo Chávez.

The guerrilla insurgencies of the 1960s and 70s were only the most obvious manifestation of a continental anti-imperialist movement which the US and the local oligarchies sought to contain by a combination of limited reforms (the Alliance for Progress) and - increasingly - repression, dramatically manifested in the military regimes in the Southern Cone and Central America. It soon became clear that attempts to replicate the Cuban insurrectionary strategy were doomed to failure (with the exception of one or two countries where favourable conditions for armed revolution did exist, notably Nicaragua). But the brutal dictatorships of the seventies and eighties, the resulting trauma and the subsequent controlled transitions to liberal polyarchy1 created the false impression that the Latin American popular revolutionary tradition was dead. After 1990 the apparently complete victory of neoliberalism, proclaimed by Francis Fukuyama as "the end of history", was also taken to be the end of popular revolt and dissent in the region, as formulated by the former Mexican leftist Jorge Castañeda in Utopia Unarmed.2

Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution

This neoliberal triumphalism soon faced a challenge from the Zapatistas in Chiapas and from new social movements throughout the region. But in terms of organised politics and especially at the level of state power there was no sign of any alternative until the unexpected victory of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela in 1998. Although Chávez' real intentions and the scope of his Bolivarian Movement were unclear to many at first, Washington distrusted him as a former military rebel and "populist". Over the next three years, as the Bolivarian revolution advanced from purely political changes (the new Constitution) to fundamental social and economic measures (reasserting national control over petroleum and initiating an agrarian reform), alarm spread in the centres of international financial and political power: all of the demons they had rashly assumed to be dead and buried (anti-imperialism, third-world nationalism and socialism) were re-emerging in Venezuela.

It was this which led to the April 2002 anti-Chávez coup, and its failure marked a turning point in which a national Venezuelan threat became a regional and potentially a global one for the US and for international capital. The threat was all the greater since the Bolivarian revolution was transparently democratic, despite all the black propaganda trying to brand Chávez as a dictator and a "Castro-Communist". In a total so far of thirteen elections and referenda, Chávez and the chavistas have won with large majorities in every case except the December 2007 constitutional reform referendum, which failed by a margin of less than one per cent.

It is important to recognise the full extent of the transformation which has already occurred in Venezuela. The 1999 Constitution is one of the most advanced in the world in terms of human rights, both individual and collective, and gives pride of place to popular participation and protagonism, i.e. active participation and empowerment. Myriad grass-roots popular organisations such as Bolivarian Circles, local water and electric power committees, urban land committees, cooperatives and above all the Community Councils, have been encouraged and given official recognition and support. The oil industry, nationalised way back in 1976 but run until 2002 by a corrupt elite which worked hand-in-glove with foreign multinationals, has been effectively renationalised, ensuring that for the first time ever the bulk of the oil revenue actually benefits the Venezuelan people. Other key industries such as water, electric power, telecommunications, cement and steel have been nationalised, in several cases reversing privatisations implemented in the nineties. The state, either alone or in association with foreign investors, has been very active as entrepreneur, building new metro lines in Caracas and new metro systems in three other cities, new inter-city rail services, modernised port facilities, a major new bridge across the River Orinoco, car and tractor plants with Iranian participation, development of satellite and computer technology with Chinese assistance, and so on. Three new state banks provide micro-credit to the poor, most notably the Women's Development Bank, and tens of thousands of cooperatives have sprung up in agriculture, industry and services. The social achievements in education, health, welfare and food distribution through the new "Missions" are also very impressive.

 

The ALBA: a real alternative?

But most relevant for this analysis is the active foreign policy of the Bolivarian Republic, promoting Latin American unity and new global alliances. It was Venezuela under Chávez which single-handedly revived OPEC in 1999, before the Bush administration's aggressive policies provoked inflationary tensions in the Middle Eastern oil-producing region. From the beginning Chávez made Latin American unity a top priority, proposing the ALBA - Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas - as a regional integration project challenging the ALCA (the Spanish acronym for the US-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas or FTAA).

At first no-one took the ALBA seriously, but today it is a reality, an economic and political bloc with five full members (Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and the Caribbean island of Dominica) and several other countries which are about to join (Ecuador) or have multiple ALBA-type bilateral agreements with Venezuela (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and several small Caribbean nations). The ALBA principles of "endogenous development" using national and local resources, equitable exchange, social justice and ecological sustainability go directly against the neoliberal values promoted by Washington, the EU and international financial agencies, but the FTAA is now dead in the water and the recent EU-Latin American summit in Lima was also marked by the refusal of the ALBA countries to accept European neoliberal priorities.

Chávez began talking about ALBA during his first year in office, but he first formally presented it as a proposal at the III Summit of Caribbean leaders in December 2001. It made little progress during the following three years because of the political turmoil in Venezuela, but in December 2004 Cuba and Venezuela signed the protocols which made them founding members of the organisation. Bolivia joined soon after the election of Evo Morales, Nicaragua after the victory of Daniel Ortega and Dominica in January 2008.

But ALBA is not limited in scope to its formal member states. Several other countries have attended ALBA summits as observers and signed specific agreements without yet becoming members. Thus the Fifth ALBA summit on 28-29 April 2007 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela was attended not only by the then four full members but by Haiti, Ecuador, Dominica, St Kitts & Nevis, St Vincent & the Grenadines and Uruguay. They agreed on the establishment of joint enterprises and programmes in education, health, energy, communications, transport, housing, food and mining. ALBA has inspired numerous bilateral agreements between Venezuela and neighbouring countries. Thus early in 2005 Caracas signed an agreement with Buenos Aires under which ships for the Venezuelan merchant marine would be built in previously idle Argentine shipyards rather than purchased from European or Asiatic multinationals, and in exchange Argentina would provide seed cattle to improve the quality of Venezuelan herds. Around the same time Uruguay arranged to supply cement (one of the few manufacturing industries in which this small agrarian country has significant capacity) in return for Venezuelan oil at favourable prices. Also in 2005 Brazil signed an agreement for a joint venture between the two state oil companies, Petrobras and PDVSA, to build a major petrochemical plant in Pernambuco (northeast Brazil) with numerous spin-offs designed to favour local welfare and peasant agriculture; this project recently came to fruition (April 2008) and was jointly inaugurated by Presidents Chávez and Lula. Yet such an important event was studiously ignored by the international media which prefer to speculate about supposed tensions between the "radical" Chávez and the "statesmanlike" Lula.

The ALBA ideal is also present in other crucial projects launched by Venezuela, such as Petrocaribe and Petrosur. Petrocaribe is a cooperation agreement under which Venezuela provides cheap oil to small Caribbean countries, and Petrosur is an association of the state oil countries of several South American countries to promote regional energy integration. Under Petrocaribe Venezuela finances 40% of the oil provided to 14 Caribbean countries, charging only 2% annual interest over 20 to 25 years. Another iconic initiative is Telesur, a joint TV news channel backed by Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina and Uruguay, sometimes described as a "Latin Al-Jazeera". More recently several countries including Brazil have signed up to the "Bank of the South", a regional development bank independent of the IMF and World Bank.

Despite the constant efforts of the North Atlantic powers to isolate Venezuela, its example proved contagious. While the rise of progressive governments in other Latin American nations is due primarily to their own domestic social and political dynamics, the Venezuelan transformation was crucial in demonstrating for the first time since 1989 that it was possible to defy the "Washington Consensus" and to use state power to promote an alternative development model. The election of Lula in Brazil in 2002, swiftly followed by those of Kirchner in Argentina and the Frente Amplio in Uruguay, showed that Chávez was no mere flash in the pan and that a broader regional trend was developing.

Even more significant was the victory of Evo Morales in Bolivia in December 2005, because it was based more directly on the mobilisation of indigenous social movements and strove, as in Venezuela, to promote a revolutionary agenda. In November-December 2006 this potentially revolutionary trend was reinforced by the victories of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua (unexpectedly reviving the hopes raised by the Sandinista revolution nearly three decades earlier) and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, plus Chávez' re-election with a large majority and a mandate for "21st-century socialism". The "Pink Tide" was also reinforced by the election of Michelle Bachelet in Chile (although constrained by powerful domestic conservative forces which rule out any radical agenda) and most recently Fernando Lugo in Paraguay.

 

Populism, democracy and social movements

Critics such as Michael Reid3 make a distinction between the "populist autocracy" of Chávez, Morales and Correa, and the "democratic reformism" of Lula and Bachelet. The former are disqualified as atavistic reactions against progressive "market reforms" which the latter, more moderate governments have embraced and which are supposedly more viable. Certainly the first group of countries (Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador) have seen more radical changes, and have followed a pattern which consists of fundamental institutional change through convening a Constituent Assembly, empowerment of popular social movements through participatory democracy, nationalisation of key resource industries and agrarian reform. Entrenched conservative interests have prevented such extensive changes in Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.

But as we have seen, both groups of countries participate in ALBA-style initiatives, and it can be argued that the difference between them is one of degree rather than kind. Significantly, at key moments Brazil has consistently taken a stand in favour of Venezuela when Chávez has been under pressure: during the opposition strike/lockout in December 2002-January 2003 (an attempted economic coup which paralysed the Venezuelan oil industry), Lula sent shipments of petrol which were crucial to Chávez' survival; and in the recent Andean crisis produced by the Colombian military incursion into Ecuador (see below), it was Bachelet and Lula who led the way in providing diplomatic support to Ecuador and Venezuela.

What Reid and other mainstream critics fail to recognise is first, the dramatic failure of neoliberalism in Latin America, and secondly, the genuine democratic renewal represented by these "populist" governments. Reid resorts to ad-hoc explanations and special pleading to explain the disastrous impact of neoliberalism in the region: Argentina's successive crises are attributed to the error of currency convertibility, the Mexican debacle of the mid-1990s was due to corruption and governmental weakness, Ecuador's repeated catastrophes resulted from "poor management" and inadequate reforms, Bolivia's slide into crisis after an initially successful stabilisation was caused by external factors, and so on: anything other than the imbalances and inequalities produced by neoliberalism as such, the one thing that all these countries had in common from the 1980s to the early years of the new millenium. It was this critical situation which led to popular disillusionment and then rejection of the neoliberal model.

Secondly, the "populism" of the new leftist leaders does not represent - as Reid and mainstream opinion would have it - a rejection of democracy. On the contrary, it was the imposition of the Washington Consensus which gave democracy a bad name, and what Chávez and others like him are doing is to reclaim democracy from the transnational liberal elites and return it to the people.

Looking to Rousseau, to Tony Negri and the theory of the Constituent Power4, they insist that democracy means nothing if it excludes the poor and exploited, and that popular empowerment is more important than formal liberal rules - or at least, that formal rules cannot be used as an excuse to prevent popular empowerment. In this they have also reconnected with Latin American traditions of popular collective struggle as the real source of political legitimacy, and with the powerful indigenous traditions of communal self-government and autonomy. These traditions are indeed very different from Anglo-American liberalism, but they are much more relevant to Latin American reality and to the lived experience of two thirds of the population.

In this respect it is essential to recognise that the region's leftward trend is not just the result of conventional party politics. Although the new governments have come to power through elections and not armed struggle or military coups, they represent much more than a conventional "swing of the pendulum" electoral trend. They are the product of a sea change in which new social movements - neighbourhood groups in the shanty towns, landless peasants' organisations, indigenous, black and women's movements - have mobilised outside party politics and on a scale rarely seen before, to demand recognition and meaningful participation. These are the movements that made possible the election of Chávez, Lula, Morales and the rest, and they will not accept a return to "business as usual"; they are waging an epic battle for social, economic and cultural emancipation which gives concrete meaning to the slogan of the World Social Forums that "Another World is Possible".

Other critics - doctrinaire Marxists and the more radical of the anti-globalisation activists - argue that the new leftist governments have so far been unable or unwilling to take very radical social measures or to challenge the power of domestic and international capital in any significant way. This is certainly the case in Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, in part at least because of the powerful interests arrayed against them

in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador it is disingenuous to deny the importance of the measures taken against international financial powers and domestic oligarchies, especially when the neoliberal and unipolar international context is taken into account.

Nationalisation, after all, had been completely taboo for twenty years before Chávez and Morales came along. Agrarian reform was taken to mean sale to private investors until the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela revived its original meaning of distributing land from latifundia to peasant cooperatives. The very notion of socialism was dismissed as an atavistic throwback which even so-called socialist parties had ditched in favour of privatisation, efficiency and competition. Any talk of an anti-capitalist alternative was confined to marginalised groups who had no access whatsoever to political power.

That this has now changed is nothing short of revolutionary, and it is due to the political vision and strategic capacity of Chávez, Morales, Correa and others like them.

This new political assertiveness has also begun to win important battles played out in first-world establishment forums. In 2007 Venezuela decided to nationalise the major new oilfields in the Orinoco basin, the one area of the industry in which foreign capital was still predominant. Most companies accepted the terms offered by PDVSA, but the US giant Exxon took PDVSA to court in Britain and won an embargo worth $12,000 million. The Venezuelans appealed, and in March they won a landmark decision against Exxon.5 Similarly, in June 2008 Brazil won a long-drawn-out battle with the US when the World Trade Organisation ruled against Washington's subsidies for cotton production, a ruling potentially worth $1,000 million a year.

 

Obstacles, domestic and global

It remains true that these new regimes face powerful obstacles and that the long-term outcome is far from clear. Evo Morales in Bolivia has seen his agenda blocked by militant oligarchic opposition in the Constitutional Assembly and in the streets, culminating recently in illegal autonomist referenda in five of the country's nine departments and violent disturbances directly promoted by these regional authorities. In Ecuador conservative interests centred in the country's main port and largest city, Guayaquil, have also begun to talk about separatism, and in Venezuela the State of Zulia with its capital in Maracaibo, the country's second city and centre of the oil industry, is one of only two state governments still in opposition hands and might also play the separatist card.

Separatism appears to be one of Washington's main tactics for undermining unfriendly governments, reflected in a new organisation founded in 2006 with the Spanish acronym CONFILAR (International Confederation for Regional Liberty and Autonomy).

In addition to powerful conservative opposition groups in all of these countries, the US can still count on the allegiance of three key right-wing governments in Mexico, Colombia and Peru, and retains strong influence in Chile as well as several of the smaller Central American and Caribbean nations.

Colombia under President Alvaro Uribe is the lynchpin of US hegemony; its internal armed conflict dating back over 50 years has provided the pretext for intervention on the basis of the "War on Drugs" and now the "War on Terror". Uribe's "democratic security" policy, supposedly justified by the need to fight the FARC and ELN guerrilla insurgencies, entails the arbitrary arrest, persecution and often assassination of thousands of trade unionists, peasant and indigenous leaders, teachers, journalists and human rights workers, both directly by the security forces and by sinister right-wing paramilitaries. Opposition politicians and social movement activists are routinely accused of guerrilla sympathies, a charge also levelled by Uribe and the Colombian establishment at the Venezuelan and Ecuadorean governments.

This regional cold war recently threatened to break out into open hostilities when on 1 March 2008, without consultation or warning, Colombia launched a military assault on a FARC camp some two kilometres across the border in Ecuador, killing the guerrilla organisation's second-in-command Raúl Reyes and 24 others including an Ecuadorean citizen and two Mexicans. The Colombians claimed to have evidence of both Ecuadorean and Venezuelan support for the FARC and clearly expected most of its regional neighbours to support it, further discrediting both Correa and Chávez. But in a surprising twist, the outcome was quite the opposite: at meetings of the Rio Group of Latin American countries and the Organisation of American States (OAS), the overwhelming majority of countries backed Ecuador and Venezuela, leaving Colombia and its US sponsor isolated and reaffirming the inviolability of national borders.

This in itself was a remarkable development given the history of the OAS, traditionally regarded by its critics as "the US Ministry of Colonies". But more was to come. The Colombian government also distributed a photograph which it claimed showed Ecuadorean Defence Minister Gustavo Larrea in the jungle with Raúl Reyes. It was subsequently demonstrated that the person with Reyes was actually an Argentine Communist Party leader and that the photo was in any case six years old.

Not content with this, Bogotá claims to have captured three laptops which somehow survived the bombing raid on the FARC camp, and alleges that they contain numerous files incriminating Chávez, Correa and their governments in funding and assisting the guerrillas.These allegations have been widely reported in the Colombian and international media, with claims that Chávez (especially) has now been caught red-handed. However, although the computers have been examined by Interpol, it has been pointed out that this examination only verified the integrity of the computers and their files while in the hands of the Colombian police; it did not confirm whether or not they really came from the FARC camp or the reliability of the information contained in the files.6

What this ongoing propaganda war demonstrates is just how important it is for Colombia (and through Colombia, the US) to discredit Chávez, Correa and Evo Morales and to isolate them internationally. The Bush administration has recently publicly revealed its desire to have Venezuela designated a terrorist state. But while such allegations have gained wide currency in the media and have won substantial backing from largely supine European governments, in Latin America they have found little support even among supposed US allies such as Peru and Chile.

Time magazine pointed out that "Even the Republican staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a report issued last month headed up by the office of Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, advised the Bush administration not to give Chávez the kind of anti-U.S. tool he uses so well to his favor", and that "the U.S. would be wise to allow for the regional dynamic to take its course".7

Indeed, signs of the region's growing spirit of independence are multiplying.

In April the Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim publicly announced his country's support for the idea - originally floated by Venezuela - of a South American Defence Council, and when Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice indicated Washington's interest in being involved, Amorim diplomatically suggested that the US could best show its support by watching from the sidelines.

It may well be that the US can to some extent save its tattered reputation and influence in the region under a new Democratic administration, particularly under Barack Obama. But the Bush administration is increasing desperate, and the possibility of some rash aggressive intervention in the next seven months cannot be ruled out. The Pentagon recently announced the re-establishment of the Fourth Fleet to patrol Caribbean and South American waters, something which has not been seen since the Second World War. Any direct intervention would be catastrophic for hemispheric relations, but similar considerations in relation to the Arab and Muslim world did not prevent the invasion of Iraq. The best hope for Latin America lies in its increasing spirit of unity and independence, and in the profound domestic discredit of the Bush administration which would have great difficulty rallying political support for any new adventure.

 

The Cuban factor

Throughout the fascinating Latin American developments of the past decade, there is another element which is like the proverbial "elephant in the room": Cuba. It is no accident that the historic assertion of US domination began in Cuba, Spain's "ever-faithful isle" and the site of a belated but profound anti-colonial revolution from 1868 to 1898; and neither was it accidental that the first great revolutionary challenge to US hegemony would also emerge in Cuba, not much more than half a century later. The importance of the Cuban revolution for the region cannot be overstated: that this island nation only ninety miles from Florida should successfully defy the greatest power on earth and should implement a totally unanticipated socialist transformation of remarkable scope and profundity, was a seismic shock for the entire region.

Despite the distortions caused by the subsequent incorporation of the island into the Soviet bloc, the Cuban revolution always retained elements of its originality and creativity, and this alone explains why it has survived the immense crisis caused by the collapse of the Soviet system and the intensification of the US blockade. For these reasons also, Cuba remains a thorn in Washington's side and has greater relevance than is commonly recognised for the new wave of leftist and anti-imperialist governments. Because Cuba was identified with armed insurrection and with the Soviet model, its true significance - as the prime example of Latin American anti-imperialism and pioneer of a distinct Latin form of socialism - has been overlooked. Although Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa and their peers in other countries have made it clear that they are pursuing their own independent policies and are not trying to copy Cuba, they freely admit their admiration for its achievements and accept Cuban collaboration in health, education and other fields. Inevitably also, opposition forces in all of these countries, along with the US and the international media, accuse them of "Castro-Communism" and of trying to "Cubanise" their societies, failing to recognise that what is actually going on may be much more interesting.

It is commonly assumed that with the retirement of Fidel Castro, Cuba is "in transition", meaning transition to a "market economy" and liberal polyarchy; but the Cubans may well surprise the world with a much more interesting and creative transition, to a new form of socialism for the 21st century. The close ties between Havana and Caracas should not be taken as proof of Washington's nightmare (that Chávez is going to Cubanise Venezuela); the influence works both ways, and what may well emerge is a new, more open and flexible socialism shared by both Cuba and Venezuela and by several other countries in the region.

Conclusion

Despite the very real obstacles faced by the new progressive governments, there are a number of reasons for guarded optimism. The failure of Chávez' constitutional reform referendum in December 2007 led to a much-needed internal debate in which it was recognised that the reform proposals were badly drafted and that the government needed to revitalise its links with the popular mass movement. The process of formation of the PSUV, the new chavista United Socialist Party of Venezuela, has advanced in the past several months in a profoundly democratic and participatory manner, and this together with new economic and diplomatic initiatives has restored the government's popularity. In Ecuador Correa has successfully faced down challenges to his authority from dissident military officers and from more radical elements in the CONAIE indigenous movement. Most significant of all are the two unprecedented diplomatic defeats for the US in the Andean crisis provoked by its Colombian client and its exclusion from the proposed South American Defence Council.

Finally, the April 2008 election in Paraguay of Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic bishop identified with Liberation Theology and representing a new movement called the Popular Alliance for Change, demonstrates that the so-called Pink Tide continues to advance despite all the efforts of global imperialist elites to discredit and sabotage it. Lugo faces enormous obstacles, but so did Chávez and all the others when they were first elected, and thus far they have all survived. Lugo, like Chávez and the rest, talks of the need for a structural change, for a new social model, for the social movements to have real access to power, for agrarian reform, food security and universal health care, for self-determination of the native peoples, and for natural resources (hydro-electric power in this case) to be reclaimed for the nation.8 Nothing could be further from the Washington Consensus or more promising for those who seek a real alternative.

 

 

1 I prefer the term "polyarchy" to "democracy", as it corresponds more closely to the limited and controlled political opening which occurred in most countries. See William I. Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

2 Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1992); Jorge Castañeda, Utopia Unarmed: The Latin American Left after the Cold War (New York: Vintage, 1994).

3 Michael Reid, Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America's Soul (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2007).

4 Antonio Negri, The Politics of Subversion (Oxford: Polity Press, 1989); also (with Michael Hardt), Empire (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000).

5 Hugh O'Shaughnessy, Venezuela 1: ExxonMobil 0 (New Statesman, 18 March 2008).

6 Andy Higginbottom, Response: It is not only Chavez who has links to guerrillas (The Guardian, 3 June 2008). The author's original title for this piece, changed by the newspaper, was What happened to the other computers? The ones linking Uribe to the paramilitaries.

7 Tim Padgett, The US Dilemma Over Chavez (Time magazine, 16 May 2008).

8 Interview with Fernando Lugo by José David Carracedo, 02/05/08, www.aporrea.org/imprime/n113445.html, accessed 4 June 2008.


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