Latin America

Book Review: When Movements Become Parties: The Bolivian MAS in Comparative Perspective by Santiago Anria

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/01/2020 - 1:34am in

In When Movements Become Parties: The Bolivian MAS in Comparative Perspective,Santiago Anria argues that movement-based parties do not inevitably morph into oligarchies run by professional party elites, drawing on the example of Bolivia’s Movement towards Socialism (MAS) and its hybrid organisational structure. With the book’s ideas about to be tested in real time following the resignation of Bolivian President and MAS leader Evo Morales in 2019, Anria draws on a creative research methodology and ample evidence from extensive field research to fill a gap in the literature surrounding so-called personalist Latin American political parties, writes Sally Sharif.  

When Movements Become Parties: The Bolivian MAS in Comparative Perspective. Santiago Anria. Cambridge University Press. 2019.

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In one of his frequent meetings with the umbrella union of coca growers in Cochabamba, Bolivia, then Bolivian President Evo Morales tells union leaders and the organisation’s rank and file that he is there to inform them of what the government is doing and to ask them for proposals. At the end of the meeting, a union leader tells Anria, ‘I thank the president for that, for always coming here to talk to the rank and file. But the representatives and the ministers usually do not come.’ It’s an incredible scene where the leader of a country, considered by many as a power-hungry autocrat, welcomes input from coca growers on major policy decisions.

How did Morales’s Movement towards Socialism (MAS) manage to grow within ten years into an organic national party without falling into top-down personalist control, which has trapped most Latin American populist parties? What does it take to maintain a viable movement-based, leftist party in Latin America? MAS started as a social movement by indigenous coca growers in northern Bolivia to fight against the country’s neoliberal policies and coca eradication efforts by the United States. Santiago Anria’s When Movements Become Parties: The Bolivian MAS in Comparative Perspective (2019) presents MAS as an anomaly among left-wing movement-based parties: it managed to resist being hijacked by party elites, remaining open and accountable to its support base.

It was either Anria’s dream or nightmare that the book’s publication coincided with mass protests in Bolivia that led to the resignation of Morales, his Vice President and both heads of Congress. Anria argues that MAS has successfully avoided top-down control because of its hybrid organisational structure, a fusion of social movement and political party. The book traces the foundation of MAS as a political party to the social movement surrounding one man – Morales – that started with a narrow agenda but widened its reach to an electorate encompassing 64 per cent of the population. The book’s central contribution is the finding that movement-based parties do not inevitably morph into oligarchies run by professional party elites. There exist ways to counteract the centralising trend in a party’s evolution.

Image Credit: Evo Morales leads a May Day march, 2014 (Eneas De Troya CC BY 2.0)

Through a ‘thick’ analysis of the historical context and behaviour of MAS, Anria traces the process through which its hybrid structure was formed during the years of expansion up to 2009. MAS has the support of two distinctive social coalitions. The central coalition is based in the rural sector and consists of coca growers in the northern lowland region of Chapare as well as three national-level peasant organisations. The peripheral coalition consists of a broader set of urban-popular organisations. The party strategises differently in relation to these two coalitions: bottom-up vis-à-vis its central coalition and top-down when facing the peripheral coalition.

MAS has a loose bureaucratic structure, which provides opportunities for its core social bases to act autonomously. The party did not co-opt its core constituency; rather, it grew organically out of the coca-growing unions, which inform party policies. In the urban areas, however, MAS faced a different problem. The existing social organisations in the large cities weren’t natural allies of rural cocaleros. Anria finds a deliberate plan by the party to win over previously existing organisations at the city and neighbourhood levels by penetrating their social networks, co-opting their leaders and controlling them. ‘The MAS, therefore, was not an organic product of these cities. Rather, it inserted itself into La Paz and El Alto as something foreign’ (81). These two distinctive social coalitions determine how MAS selects candidates, what substantive issues are considered on the national agenda and how they are decided.

Unlike other laudatory and optimistic accounts of MAS as the first political party in Latin America with indigenous roots, Anria offers a realistic picture by including the party’s co-optation strategies and top-down decision-making in urban areas, thus allowing the reader to anticipate MAS’s deteriorating support in larger cities and to speculate on the party’s future. Through a creative research methodology and ample evidence from extensive field research, Anria’s book fills the gap in literature surrounding so-called personalist Latin American parties, and especially how their organisational structure evolves over time.

The book’s last chapter includes a cross-national comparative analysis of MAS with Brazil’s PT (Worker’s Party) and Uruguay’s FA (Broad Front). Anria demonstrates the mistaken trend in Latin American literature where MAS is compared to Ecuador’s PAIS (Proud and Sovereign Homeland) and Venezuela’s MVR (Fifth Republic Movement) for the similarity in leadership style of Morales to Rafael Correa and Hugo Chavez, respectively. MAS, demonstrates Anria, is most similar to Uruguay’s FA in leaving open channels for their social bases to influence decision-making in both candidate selection and the policy-making sphere.

The book sets itself the goal of explaining how ‘participation can be promoted and sustained within contemporary governing parties that have social movements, peasant associations, labor unions, and other popular organizations as their core social base’ (6-7). Measured against this ambition, however, Anria falls short of such a prescription, going only so far as describing how MAS originated from and sustained, rather than promoted or started, the substantive bottom-up participation among its core constituency.

Anria underplays the authoritarian tendencies of Morales, especially in the rural areas where he enjoys complete support. Anria mentions in passing that ‘Dirigentes [union leaders] play a key role in shielding Morales from grass-roots criticism, which helps to strengthen his leadership’ (85), but he does not attend to why such an attentive leader should shy away from taking criticism of unpopular policies among his support base. In the area of candidate selection, we also see Morales’s centralising tendencies: ‘if conflict emerges among competing organizations, the MAS tends to concentrate decision-making power in the hands of a small party elite – and even Morales himself’ (116).

An empirical question Anria raises in the book is whether Morales’s then-proposed next term in office (2020-25) would translate into growing power concentration in the party. Although Anria critically discusses Morales’s apparent intention to rule for the long term, he does not raise the obvious follow-up question: why didn’t Morales pick a successor if he trusted that the party was organisationally strong enough to run the country without him? If he trusted that MAS had enough electoral support in the core and peripheral coalitions, he could have passed on the leadership of the party to someone else after the 2016 proposed constitutional amendments to allow the President and Vice President to run for a third consecutive term were voted down.

Anria’s book is about to be tested in real time. MAS should outlast Morales, continuing representation of the traditionally under-represented classes and ethnicities in Bolivia, if it has garnered enough political support and extended its horizontal ties in the fourteen years it led the country. There are a few possible outcomes in the country’s near future, depending on how MAS manages the post-Morales political life of the country. If Anria is right in arguing that MAS, compared to similar political parties in Latin America that emerged out of social movements, has been successful in transcending a top-down control structure, it should be able to sustain itself without Morales.

Sally Sharif is an Adjunct Lecturer in Political Science at Baruch College of the City University of New York and a PhD Candidate at the Graduate Center of CUNY. Her research is focused on civil conflicts and social movements in Latin America. Find her on Twitter @sally_sharif1

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

The Federation of Teachers of Puerto Rico needs your help

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/01/2020 - 6:40am in

We are reposting this appeal from No Borders News.Read more ›

Latin America Burns between Revolt and Repression

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 04/01/2020 - 3:13am in

image/jpeg iconchile_protests_2019.jpg

For decades Latin America was the United States’ "backyard", although more recently it has also been seen as a den of "socialists". Today it is undergoing a deep crisis that spares neither the big countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela, nor the small ones such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.

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A Juarez Refugee Christmas

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 22/12/2019 - 2:36am in

As temperatures dip near or below freezing, scores of Mexican refugees huddle in their makeshift tents of layered plastic sheeting at the foot of the Santa Fe Bridge that connects Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, with El Paso, Texas. Many small children . . .

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Ousted President Evo Morales Says Transnational Corporations, US Gov’t Were Behind Bolivia Coup

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/12/2019 - 1:51am in

Ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales did not hold back on his criticism of U.S. empire in an interview with Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald in Mexico. Morales was overthrown last month in a U.S.-backed coup that has left dozens dead and a country in upheaval. While faces in the White House may change, the same imperialist policies remain in place, Morales explained. Between Obama, Bush and Trump, he said:

 I doubt that there are differences between them. Maybe in their form, but at the end of the day, there are no differences between them. They all speak of peace, but none speak of social justice or the independence of states, the dignity or identity of the people…so, as far as I see, democracy in America deceives its people into voting but neither the people nor the government rule, it is the transnational corporations who govern, whether it’s the Democrats or Republicans.”

The longtime democratically elected president of Bolivia claimed that he was under pressure from the U.S. from day one of his presidency to put Washington and American corporations before his people. The U.S. Ambassador immediately instructed him that his country could not have any relations with Iran or neighboring states Cuba and Venezuela. “We are not a colony of the United States!” Morales told Greenwald. The calm and affable president, wearing a humble local jacket, told him that one former head of state warned him to “watch out for the U.S.” joking that there are no coups in America because there are no American embassies there.


“The US would take me to Guantanamo”

The exiled president revealed that there had been multiple attempts to capture him in the weeks of violence that preceded the November 11 coup d’état. He said that members of his security team had been offered $50,000 each to betray him and that, multiple times, his presidential plane had been diverted by the military in an attempt to take him to an air force base where he could be detained. Many of the country’s military, including the leaders of the November coup, had received training at the infamous School of the Americas at Fort Benning, GA, a U.S. military institution that has trained tens of thousands of Latin America’s most notorious torturers. However, each time he had been able to contact his supporters, who came out in their thousands, storming the runway to prevent him from being captured. Morales and Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera eventually decided to resign to prevent more bloodshed. Their allies had had their houses burned down and been kidnapped, tortured or threatened by the police, military and right-wing paramilitaries. “Without the police, without the armed forces and with a mobilized right-wing,” he told Greenwald, there could have been no coup. His children have fled to Argentina and other government officials remain trapped inside the Mexican Embassy in La Paz.

The progressive president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, sent an aircraft to rescue him from the coup. Morales revealed that the Trump administration also sent a plane to pick him up, but he knew far better than to board it. “They’d take me to Guantanamo!” he exclaimed, pronouncing that there is a “new Operation Condor” afoot in Latin America, referencing Henry Kissinger’s successful strategy of overthrowing Latin American democracies (including Bolivia) and replacing them with fascist dictatorships. Since 2009, multiple elected heads of state have been deposed with U.S. backing, including in Honduras, Paraguay and Brazil.


“It’s a lithium coup d’état”

Morales pointed to the role of big business and his decision to sign deals with China and Europe to sell them his country’s prized resource, lithium. Lithium is an expensive metal crucial in the production of a myriad of electronics.

“This is not just an internal coup d’état; orchestrated by the Bolivian oligarchy, some members of the armed forces and the police. It is also an external conspiracy. My crime, my sin, is to be an Indian. And secondly, to have nationalized our natural resources and removed international corporations from the hydrocarbon sector and mining. But also that I reduced extreme poverty with social programs. Transnational corporations are behind this coup, as is the United States too, because of the lithium issue.”

Morales branded his ouster a “lithium coup d’état” as the United States could not accept that indigenous people and worker movements could liberate themselves and control an important natural resource for their country’s benefit. He also took aim at the capitalist system that breeds imperialism, and necessarily condemns the majority to poverty, claiming it cannot be the solution for life or dignity. “That’s the difference between the right and the left throughout the world” he told Greenwald, “Who is with the people and who is with the empire? Who is with the ordinary people, the poor and who sustains the economic power and puts wealth in just a few hands.”

For Morales, it was clear that new president Jeanine Añez was the face of the wealthy, oligarchic elite. “She has a racist mentality, she’s a racist person,” he said, referencing her claims about Bolivia’s indigenous majority being satanic sub-humans. Greenwald pressed him on his own errors, including the controversial move to abolish term limits in his country. “I’ve made mistakes but I am not a traitor [like Añez]” he replied, pointing to European leaders like Angela Merkel who have ruled for longer than he has and are rarely presented as dictators or elected monarchs by the press. Despite his ouster, he appeared unrepentant and undefeated: “The class struggle continues,” he concluded.

MintPress News has extensively covered the events in Bolivia. For more, click here.

Feature photo | Bolivia’s former President Evo Morales gives a press conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 17, 2019. Natacha Pisarenko | AP

Alan MacLeod is a MintPress Staff Writer as well as an academic and writer for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. His book, Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting was published in April.

The post Ousted President Evo Morales Says Transnational Corporations, US Gov’t Were Behind Bolivia Coup appeared first on MintPress News.

Trump and the coup in Bolivia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/12/2019 - 10:00am in

Bill Martin This is not about me, of course, but my leftist friends (and I mean the actual friends) often accuse me of “making excuses for Trump.” It’s true that I often argue that there are many things coming out of the White House that do not really reflect Trump’s perspective, aims, or agenda. There …

2019 Latin America in Review: Year of the Revolt of the Dispossessed

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/12/2019 - 1:58am in

Corte Madera, California — A year ago, John Bolton, Trump’s short-lived national security advisor, invoked the 1823 Monroe Doctrine making explicit what has long been painfully implicit: the dominions south of the Rio Grande are the empire’s “backyard.” Yet 2019 was a year best characterized as the revolt of the dispossessed for a better world against the barbarism of neoliberalism. As Rafael Correa points out, Latin America today is in dispute. What follows is a briefing on this crossroads.


Andean Nations

Venezuela, the leader for regional integration and 21st-century socialism, continued to be ground zero in the clash between the empire and those nations pursuing post-neoliberal alternatives and a multipolar world.

On the evening of January 22, trained US security asset and head of the suspended Venezuelan National Assembly Juan Guaidó received a call from US Vice President Pence, giving Guaidó the green light to declare himself president of Venezuela. The next day, Guaidó proclaimed his presidency on a Caracas street corner. Within minutes Trump recognized the self-appointment, later followed by some fifty US allies. Still most nations in the world did not recognize Guaidó, and the United Nations continues to recognize Maduro as the constitutional president of Venezuela.

Guaidó called for harsher US sanctions on his own people and even the US “military option.”  Gone was the pretext that sanctions targeted only the government. The former US Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield boasted that these measures “would have an impact on everyone… to accelerate the collapse.” From President Barack Obama’s sanctions in 2015, Trump progressively ratcheted up the pain to the current blockade. This illegal collective punishment had already caused over 40,000 deaths by the beginning of the year according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in a war by economic means, denying the Venezuelan people vital food and medicine.

Yet Guaidó failed to come to power. His publicity stunt on February 23 to bring “humanitarian aid” from Colombia fizzled. To make things worse, envoys of Guaidó in Colombia were caught embezzling some of the very funds slated for humanitarian assistance. Soon after this debacle, a staged coup on April 30 by Guaidó and a few military officers on an overpass in eastern Caracas aborted. In November, Guaidó made an even more pathetic coup attempt. His ability to garner support atrophied, drawing the ire even of some hardline opposition who formerly backed him, while the Maduro government continued to rally substantial popular demonstrations and signed a peaceful coexistence agreement with some moderate opposition parties in September.

Despite attempts by Washington to incite ruptures within the Venezuelan security forces, the “civic-military union” built by Chavez and continued under Maduro held firm, and the ranks of the militias continue to grow. And despite heavy lobbying by the Trump administration, Venezuela was voted onto the UN Human Rights Council on October 27.

In a bid to compensate for the diminished stature of the anti-Venezuela Lima Group,  on December 3, Colombia convened a summit for the activation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) against Venezuela, to ratchet up sanctions even further and keep the military option on the table. By the end of 2019, even the Wall Street Journal conceded, “Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, once thought ripe for ouster, looks firmly in place.”

In Washington, North American solidarity activists defended the Venezuelan embassy from being taken over by Guaidó collaborators (April – May 2019). With the permission of the Venezuelan government and pursuant to international law, the Embassy Protectors held out for 37 days until expelled by the Secret Service. The four last defenders – Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Adrienne Pine, David Paul – will go to trial, facing possible stiff penalties. On October 25, journalist Max Blumenthal was also arrested and charged (subsequently dropped), as the US government cracks down on dissent both at home and abroad.

Colombia is the chief regional US client state, distinguished by being the largest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere. Hillary Clinton called Plan Colombia a model for Latin America. Yet this model leads the world in extra-judicial killings of journalists, union leaders, and environmentalists. Meanwhile, Colombia continues to be the planet’s largest supplier of illicit cocaine.

A 2016 peace agreement saw the guerrilla FARC lay down their arms, but the government has honored the agreement mainly in the breach. Death squad activity continued in 2019, targeting former FARC militants. A faction of the FARC returned to the guerrilla path.

In a sign of growing disaffection with the hardline right-wing influence of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and his protégé and current President Iván Duque, the far-right suffered significant losses in the October regional and municipal elections. Left-leaning Claudia López became the first woman and first lesbian to be mayor of the capital city of Bogotá. By year-end, Colombia experienced massive general strikes opposed to government austerity policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Bolivia. Evo Morales was the first indigenous president of this largely indigenous country. Under the 14 years of his Movement for Socialism party (MAS), Bolivia had the highest economic growth rate and the greatest poverty reduction in the Western Hemisphere. Bolivia became a world champion for indigenous and poor people, aligning with the progressive governments of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Morales was fairly re-elected president on October 20. Because the US-backed candidate lost, the US called his election “fraudulent.” A compliant Organization of American States (OAS) disseminated misleading information on the validity of the election. Thus, the stage was set for the November 10 coup, when Morales was forced to “resign” by the military.

Thirteen US members of Congress sent a “dear colleague” letter condemning the “Administration’s support for [the] military-backed regime and silence on violent repression [which] contributes to spiraling crisis.” This letter stands in stark contrast to the close association of key figures behind the coup with allies in Washington, the OAS Secretary General’s embrace of coup leader Luis Fernando Camacho, and the endorsement of the coup by the right-wing neighbors. President Trump “applauded” the Bolivian military despite its well documented systematic violations of human rights.

The self-proclaimed President Jeanine Áñez smeared indigenous communities as “satanic” in tweets, later deleted. Morales is now in exile, and the indigenous and other poor continue to protest in the face of lethal, racist repression.  At this writing, Morales, the MAS, and most of the popular sectors have agreed to new elections but efforts are underway by backers of the de facto government to disqualify the MAS from participating in an eventual election.

Bolivia Coup Feature photo

A backer of President Evo Morales kneels in front of soldiers in downtown La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 15, 2019. Natacha Pisarenko | AP

Ecuador. Speaking of reversals, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno took the prize. Moreno had served as vice president in a previous leftist government headed by Rafael Correa, who had campaigned for Moreno. Upon assuming the presidency in 2017, Moreno inexplicably and unexpectedly betrayed the platform, the voters, and the party that put him in office. He jailed his vice president and later other leaders of his former party and put out an arrest warrant for Correa, who is now in exile. On April 11, Moreno handed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who had been in asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, to the British police.

Moreno withdrew Ecuador from ALBA, the leftist regional organization of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and some Caribbean nations. Last January, he recognized the US puppet Guaidó as president of Venezuela. By mid-year, Moreno gave the US an airbase on the Galápagos.

Moreno forgave some $4.5 billion in fines and debt by major corporations and oligarchs and then papered it over by an IMF loan. With the loan came austerity measures, el paquetazo, including removing fuel subsidies. The mass protest of the dispossessed, led by the indigenous CONAIE organization, was so overwhelming that Moreno was temporarily forced to flee the capital city of Quito and rescind some elements of the paquetazo. Moreno continues to push IMF stipulated austerity measures while repressing his former party’s elected representatives.

Peru is in crisis, wracked with corruption scandals. In April 2019, former President Alan García shot himself as the police were preparing to arrest him for corruption, while fellow former President Alberto Fujimori is in jail on corruption accusations and human rights violations.  Former President Alejandro Toledo also faces corruption accusations and is fighting against extradition from the US. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was the last directly elected president of Peru. Formerly a US citizen and an IMF and World Bank official, he was forced to resign for corruption in March 2018 shortly before he was slated to host a meeting of the anti-Venezuela Lima Group to expose Venezuela for corruption.

Ever since, the presidency of Peru has been disputed. The current moderate-right President Martín Vízcarra dissolved the congress; the congress controlled by the far-right Keiko Fujimori (free after a year in detention for corruption) impeached the executive, although Vízcarra recovered the presidency. In the context of this dog fight among the elites have been massive anti-corruption mobilizations from below.


The Southern Cone

Brazil. New Year 2019 marked the inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil. The election of hard-right Bolsonaro – called the “Trump of Brazil” by friends and foes alike – was a major reversal from the previous left-leaning Workers Party governments.

Brazil has by far the biggest economy in Latin America and the eighth in the world and is part of the BRICS bloc including Russia, India, China, and South Africa. With a sycophant of Trump heading Brazil, both hemispheric and world geopolitics suffer the loss of a countervailing element to US hegemony. Brazil voted with the US and Israel for continuing the US blockade on Cuba and against 187 other UN members.

Former left-leaning President Lula da Silva would have easily beaten Bolsonaro if the polls were any indication, but corrupt judge Sergio Moro sent Lula to prison on evidenceless charges. The judge was rewarded by ironically being made minister of justice in the new Bolsonaro government. Similarly, Dilma Rousseff, who was Lula’s left-leaning successor as president of Brazil, had been deposed on a technicality by the right-leaning congress in what amounted to a parliamentary coup in 2016.

An international campaign to free Lula finally succeeded in November, but far too late for him to run against Bolsonaro. Lula is free and fighting now, but could be incarcerated again.

Bolsonaro went about dismantling social welfare measures, firing government workers, and rewarding multinational corporations, while the Amazon burned. Predictably the popular sectors arose leading to an uncertain political situation in Brazil.

Chile. The Chilean people launched a general strike against austerity with slogans such as “neoliberalism was born in Chile and will die here.” Reacting to the “privatization of everything,” the uprising this fall has been truly from the grassroots with the established political parties sprinting to catch up with the popular revolt of the dispossessed.

Over a million protestors have taken to the streets in a country with a population of only 19 million. Many have remained there for weeks despite severe repression by the state, leaving numerous killed by live ammunition and rubber bullets. According to official state data, more than 8,000  have been jailed, almost 3,000 injured, and over 200 suffered ocular damage. Hundreds of lawsuits for police brutality have been filed, including sexual abuses. The right-wing billionaire President Sebastián Piñera suspended some constitutional rights, declaring a “state of emergency” in a country still under the constitution created by the dictator Pinochet.

A police water cannon sprays anti-government demonstrators in Valparaiso, Chile, Oct. 26, 2019. Matias Delacroix | AP

Argentina. After right-wing President Mauricio Macri imposed textbook perfect neoliberal economic reforms, the Argentine economy spectacularly and predictably failed with rampant inflation, food shortages, currency free-fall, and capital flight. Even the middle class protested in the streets in enormous uprisings of the dispossessed.

On October 27, the center-left ticket of Alberto Fernández as president and Cristina Fernández as VP won and announced Argentina will leave the regional anti-Venezuela Lima Group. They will also have to deal with Macri’s record-breaking $50.1 billion IMF loan, saddling the people with austerity measures in a country that is broke and again at the edge of default.

Uruguay. The ruling left-center Frente Amplio’s candidate, Daniel Martínez, won in the first round of Uruguay’s presidential elections on October 27, but by a too narrow margin to avoid a runoff election. He faced a united right-wing in the November 24 runoff against Luis Lacalle Pou, which ended his party’s 15-year rule.


The Caribbean

Cuba. The US embargo of Cuba, initiated by US President Kennedy and now a blockade (el bloqueo), along with covert regime-change operations and occupation of Guantánamo have continued in an unbroken policy of aggression through Democratic and Republican administrations alike. Most recently Trump resurrected Title III of the Clinton-era Helms-Burton Act to intensify the blockade. The Cuban people show no sign of capitulating.

Cubans welcomed a new president, as Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro. On April 10, they ratified a new constitution, after an extensive consultative process, engaging some 9 million people, 780,000 suggestions, 9,600 proposals, and 133,000 citizen meetings.

Puerto Rico and Cuba were the spoils of the first imperialist war, the 1898 Spanish-American War. Unlike free Cuba, Puerto Rico is still a neglected colonial possession of the US. And that political fact has never been clearer with Puerto Rico still not fully recovered from Hurricane María and still not governing itself to solve its own problems.

Puerto Rico experienced mass protests and a general strike in 2019. Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló was forced to resign on July 22. Puerto Rican liberation hero Oscar López Rivera observed: “Even before the governor announced his resignation, the fact is that he was not governing Puerto Rico.”

Haiti. After the harsh 29-year US-backed Duvalier dictatorships and the subsequent “military transition,” a brief flourishing of democracy ended in Haiti when the US brazenly kidnapped President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and flew him into exile in 2004. Since then, a series of dubiously elected presidents – some literally installed and all propped up by the US – have produced human rights and social welfare conditions worse than under the dictatorships.

Haiti | Venezuela Petro Caribe

A man holds a bowl and spoon to show his hunger during a protest against President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 7, 2019. Dieu Nalio Chery | AP

Billions in relief after the 2010 earthquake and in Petrocaribe funds from Venezuela have largely “disappeared” into the pockets of corrupt politicians. In response, the ever-restive Haitian populace has yet intensified the uprising of the dispossessed throughout the country. The newly formed Patriotic Forum united 62 social movements, who call not only for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, but a complete dismantling of the “system of exclusion” and for a new republic of justice, transparency, and participation. They demanded chavire chodyè a (overturn the cauldron).


Central America and Mexico

Honduras. The designation of Honduras as a narco-state is supported by the October 18  conviction in US federal court of President Juan Orlando Hernández’s (JOH) brother Tony for cocaine smuggling.  JOH, the latest of a line of corrupt presidents since the 2009 US-backed coup, is identified as co-conspirator by the prosecutors. Testimony in the US court revealed that the notorious Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo gave JOH $1 million to help him rig the presidential election in 2013.

The US continued to prop up the tottering JOH regime staggering in the face of huge waves of popular protests including a prolonged national strike this summer. And those not opposing the government in the streets headed for asylum in the US, fleeing from gang violence and government malfeasance.

Guatemala. Right-wing comedian Jimmy Morales became president of Guatemala in August. In response to the revolt of dispossessed against his neoliberal rule, he declared a state of siege in five departments. Tens of thousands marched on Guatemala City, including the indigenous Xinkas, while many more Guatemalans fled the violence and everyday oppression seeking asylum at the US border.

The wounds of the US-backed genocidal dirty war of the 1980s against the largely indigenous population, taking some 200,000 lives, have not been healed but continue to be reinforced by harsh neoliberal measures and a regime of impunity fueling the exodus to the north. While lamenting the plight of these migrants, the corporate press in the US failed to recognize the made-in-America causes of their evacuation.

El Salvador. Likewise, El Salvador, another former victim of the US-backed dirty wars, added to the stream of Honduran and Guatemalan migrants seeking asylum in the US from the conditions created in large part by the country of their intended refuge.

Businessman Nayib Bukele, formerly associated with the left FMLN party and now turned right, was elected under the banner of the right-wing GANA party. He assumed the presidency on June 1, replacing Salvador Sánchez Ceren of the FMLN. Bukele has fallen in line with Washington’s drive to curtail emigration from the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) and has reversed his nation’s foreign policy to accord with the Lima Group’s drive for regime change in Venezuela.

Nicaragua. 2019 was a year of hopeful recovery in Nicaragua, healing from successfully repulsing a US-backed coup the previous year. The domestic perpetrators were granted amnesty by leftist President Daniel Ortega, and social welfare indices were again on the ascent. Although the poorest country in Central America, Nicaraguans were for the most part not fleeing for the US but were rebuilding their homeland.

Mexico is the second-largest economy in Latin American and the eleventh in the world. After decades of right-wing rule, left-of-center Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) assumed the presidency last December and his new MORENA party swept local and regional offices with the expectation that corruption, inequality, and other long-festering economic injustices would be addressed. AMLO dissented from the anti-Venezuelan Lima Group and instituted a series of progressive domestic reforms.

Mexico Anti-US Feature photo

A vendor sells flags reading, “Trump out,” during an anti-imperialist protest decrying U.S. intervention in Latin America, in Mexico City. Rebecca Blackwell | AP

Trump forced AMLO to contain the Central American immigrants massing on the US southern border or face tariff increases and other measures that would wreck the Mexican economy. As nineteenth-century Mexican President Porfirio Díaz famously lamented: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”


A New Year’s message

2019 has not been an entirely bullish year for US imperialism, notwithstanding the hard turns to the right in Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador.  Powerful winds against neoliberalism are gusting in Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, and even in the US “Commonwealth” of Puerto Rico. Regime-change operations failed in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. US-preferred candidates suffered losses in Mexico, Colombia, and Bolivia (later reversed by a coup). And the hegemon is challenged in its own “backyard” by the increased influence of Russia and especially China, now the second-largest trading partner with Latin America and the Caribbean.

Recently Cuban President Díaz-Canel addressed the 120-state Non-aligned Movement (a third of which are sanctioned by Washington) with this perceptive thought for a multi-polar world: “There are more of us. Let us do more.”

Feature photo | Venezuelans raise their hands in a show of support for President Nicolas Maduro during a pro-government rally in Caracas, Venezuela, March 9, 2019. Demonstrators danced and waved flags on what organizers labeled a “day of anti-imperialism” in a show of defiance toward the United States. Ariana Cubillos | AP

Roger Harris is with the Task Force on the Americas and the Campaign to End US/Canada Sanctions Against Venezuela.

Source | This article was originally published on the Council on Hemispheric Affairs website and republished here with special permission from the author.

The post 2019 Latin America in Review: Year of the Revolt of the Dispossessed appeared first on MintPress News.

Opportunity or threat? What Plan S can contribute to Open Access in Latin America

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/12/2019 - 10:00pm in

Concerns about the threat from the Global North to Latin America’s exemplary tradition of open access publishing are understandable but ultimately misplaced. Renegotiation of subscription agreements and the stipulation that article-processing charges should be covered by funders or institutions are examples of the ways in which Plan S presents new opportunities for the region, even if there is still work […]

Buy Prints of the Comic Strips of Neoliberalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/12/2019 - 2:57am in


To celebrate the 45th anniversary of Dollars & Sense, the organization that maintains Triple Crisis blog, former D&S art director Nick Thorkelson has made full-color prints of his amazing “Comic Strip of Neoliberalism” series published in the magazine in the early 2000s.  The series was a collaboration with former D&S co-editor Alejandro Reuss.  (For more info on the series, click here.)

There are three paired sets of 13” x 17” prints: “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Neoliberalism vs. History,” and “Megadreams of Hyperdevelopment.” (Scroll down to see all three sets. Click to enlarge.)

We are offering signed prints for $45 per set or $100 for all three sets. (Prices include shipping within the United States.)  To place orders, visit this page.

You can also support Dollars & Sense and Triple Crisis with a donation.  Contact us by email (dollars at about how to contribute to our 45th-Anniversary Sustainability Fund.

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Bolivia: Post-Coup Update

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 2:00am in

Eric Zuesse With every passing day, it becomes clearer that the military coup in Bolivia on November 10th was masterminded in Washington DC. This reality will create yet a new difficulty in relations between the U.S. regime and Mexico to its direct south, because the Mexican Government, under progressive President Lopez Obrador, took the courageous …