The fight against destabilization in Venezuela and against the Trans Pacific Partnership


After the collapse of Soviet and Eastern European socialism, it appeared as though capitalists had invented a way to maintain power forever.  Some even wrote about the "End of History"

But in 1998, the election of Hugo Chavez as president of Venezuela showed these ideas to be fallacious, because the peoples of the Western Hemisphere, at least, were not about to give up the dream of living a life not restricted to making profits for others while watching their families sink deeper and deeper into poverty.

Chavez survived a coup attempt in 2002 and was able to gain effective control of Venezuela's oil production.  This gave his government the means to transform the lives of Venezuelan workers, small farmers and other previously marginalized people.  This led to sharp improvements in the living standards for the Venezuelan people, with great increases in the level of education and amazing reductions in the rates of poverty and extreme poverty  , .

Subsequent to Chavez' election, left wing or left-center governments were elected in Argentina (Nestor Kirchner, in 2003), Brazil ( Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, in 2003), Uruguay (Tabare Vazquez, in 2005), Honduras (Manuel Zelaya, in 2005), Bolivia (Evo Morales, in 2006), Ecuador ( Rafael Correa, in 2007), Paraguay ( Fernando Lugo, in2008).  A social democratic president, Michelle Bachelet, was elected for a second term in Chile in 2014, on a more left wing platform than her previous term in office in 2010-2013.   The Sandinista party, which had briefly ruled Nicaragua in the 1980s after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship, saw its candidate, Daniel Ortega, elected president once more in 2007.

Many of the small English speaking  Caribbean states find themselves aligned with the group of progressive governments in Latin America, with whom they are developing increasingly close economic and political ties-a dynamic in which access to Venezuelan oil on easy credit terms through PETROCARIBE has played a major role.  These include, so far, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St.Lucia, and St.Vincent and the Grenadines.  El Salvador has a left-wing president, and Guyana has been governed by the left for quite a long time.

Countries with right wing governments closely allied with the United States include Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru and Haiti.   The government of Panama is conservative but President Juan Carlos Varela is not as far to the right as his predecessor, Ricardo Martinelli, a reactionary ideologue.   The government in the Dominican Republic, embroiled in controversy because of mistreatment of Dominicans of Haitian descent, could best be described as centrist.

Two of the left wing presidents elected in the 2000s were removed from power by coups carried out with U.S. connivance:   Manuel Zelaya of Honduras by a military coup in 2009, and Fernando Lugo by a "constitutional" coup in 2012; both were replaced by right-wing governments, closely allied with U.S. corporate and political interests.   But both of these regimes are strongly challenged by mass movements of the working class and allies which take inspiration from Venezuela and its allies.

The central group of left wing governments is described by outsiders as Latin America's "pink tide", not a red one, because, with the exception of Cuba, these are countries governed by socialists but cannot as yet be described as completely socialist state formations.  They refer to themselves as the "Bolivarians" because they consider themselves to be carrying out Simon Bolivar's program of uniting Latin America and taking it out from domination by external powers, today meaning specifically the United States. 

The hard core of Bolivarian states are grouped into the Bolivarian Alliance for Our America (ALBA in Spanish):  These are the most radical governments, of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua,  Antigua, Dominica, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Venezuela.   Other important alliances and trade blocs of the "pink tide" include UNASUR, which includes all the countries of South America, MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, with Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru as observers), and CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) which includes every single independent state in the Western Hemisphere except the United States and Canada.

Accomplishments of the Left governments in Latin America

The accomplishments of the left wing governments and the alliances they have built are of a world - changing nature.   In addition to increasing the living standards of their countries, without exception they have:

*Put an end to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the pet project of the administration of George W. Bush, whereby all of the countries in the region would be subordinated to the United States and to international monopoly capital by means of vertically organized neo-liberal "free" trade provisions featuring austerity, privatization, deregulation and repression.  These things have been replaced by tailor made trade agreements among the countries of the Bolivarian bloc, designed in terms of "international solidarity" beneficial to workers, small farmers and other previously marginalized groups.

*Reduced the influence of the old Organization of American States (OAS) which the Bolivarians see as having frequently played the role of enforcing U.S. interests to the exclusion of those of other nations, for example by keeping Cuba out of regional decision making and economic activity.  The OAS has only been able to avoid being completely supplanted by CELAC by making  concessions to the Bolivarians , for example to permit Cuban participation in the coming Summit of the Americas April 10-12.

*Greatly increased trade and cooperation with the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), and especially China, to the competitive trade disadvantage of the United States and Western Europe.

*Created new models of governance that are more democratic than the elitist "democracy" of the Latin American past, in which wealthy families used to group themselves into political parties based on their own economic interests, alternating in power as a form of "repartir al pastel" (divvying up the cake) to the exclusion and detriment of the vast majority.  These new models have included mass participation forms including constituent assemblies to radically rewrite constitutions, greatly improved labor laws and new levels and mechanisms of mass participation in daily decision making on a host of topics heretofore the exclusive realm of the economic elites. 

*Established a new platform for the left-socialist and communist parties and movements to advance toward achievement of socialism, by ending the marginalization of the left.  Almost all the communist parties in Latin America strongly support the Bolivarian governments.

*Increasing the educational level and health conditions of millions, which also allow greater participation in decision making for all.

*Many experiments in sustainable agriculture and environmental protection, and a strong effort to tame the often negative actions of foreign extractive corporations, especially in mining and agribusiness (genetically modified seeds).

*Enlightened egalitarian social policies on the treatment of national minorities, including indigenous people and people of African descent, the elderly, youth, and in some countries gay, lesbian and transgendered people.

*Outreach to the poor countries of Africa for possible "Bolivarian" cooperative projects in the future.

Problems and difficulties

There are strong limitations to these achievements, and the process has not been free of conflicts and difficulties:

*The effort to move away from reliance of export of commodities (oil, natural gas, agricultural products) to a more balanced technological and economic mixture is not very far along.  Venezuela still relies hugely on oil sales, Bolivia on natural gas and other countries on other products.  It has not yet been possible to move away from  extractive industries, and this has led to frictions with some indigenous groups and environmentalists.   The reliance on oil exports also makes Venezuela a target for U.S. political leaders, who are frightened by the prospect of not controlling that vital resource.

*As the leaders are socialists, but the economic systems, except in Cuba, are not yet fully socialist, internal class struggle continues with certain bourgeois sectors still able to set disruptive political movements into motion.  We are seeing this now in Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina.  In Venezuela, wealthy families who own, or formerly owned, a variety of economic entities including steel mills and wholesale and retail distributions systems, have shown an ability to make serious economic and political trouble for the Bolivarian state, in alliance with the United States, Spain and other foreign powers.

*Economic democracy has involved a better distribution of nations' wealth, but has not yet translated into new, democratized forms of production.  This presents a danger of a degeneration into a clientalist "welfare state".

*Not all conflicts between left-led governments have been ended.  There is an ongoing territorial dispute between Guyana and Venezuela, and a dispute between Bolivia and Chile over the former country's access to the Pacific Ocean, blocked off since the War of the Pacific in 1878-1883. 

Meanwhile, what has been happening in the countries of Latin America that are not part of this Bolivarian "pink tide"?  Here are a few examples:

*In Mexico, the push to privatize the economy has hit the crucial, but faltering, petroleum industry full blast, and now the threat of privatization of access to water is becoming very real .  Since the beginning in 1994 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the general economic  situation of the urban and rural laboring population, and particularly of the indigenous and afro-descendent communities in the South of the Country, goes from bad to worse. And it would be hard to imagine a worse personal security situation:  There are demonstrations all over Mexico and beyond about the disappearance, on September 26 last year, of 43 students from the Raul Isidro Burgos "normalista" teachers college at Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero, with increasing indications of national government involvement .  At least 100,000 people, many of them innocent civilians, have lost their lives since former President Felipe Calderon assigned the military the task of carrying out a "war on drugs" in 2006, with 23,000 or more missing, including many Central American migrants kidnapped while trying to cross Mexico to get to the United States.  There is a massive corruption scandal that has involved President Enrique Peña Nieto and his wife. 

*In Haiti, existing poverty was made worse by the massive earthquake of January 2010 followed by a cholera epidemic set off by poor management of human waste on the part of U.N. "peacekeepers".   Promised developmental aid, conceptualized on the basis of a model which requires wages to be kept rock bottom low to attract foreign investors and thus "create jobs", has for the most part not materialized.   Outside interference, especially by the United States, has blocked all democratic and participatory decision making and excluded political groups most supported by the mass of the Haitian people, such as those associated with former President Jean Bertrand Aristide, with the result that President Mickey Martelly is close to establishing himself as a dictator.

*In Honduras, the regime ultimately established by the coup of June 2009 has led to a security situation  featuring the highest murder rate in the world, with even small children risking their lives to get out of the country and migrate to the United States.  The economy is on the ropes, and the solution that right wing President Juan Orlando Hernandez and his predecessor Pepe Lobos have come up with is one featuring "free trade zones" that will effectively be governed by foreign corporations outside the framework of the Honduran constitution.    

*In Colombia, things are actually looking up as negotiations between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the left with FARC-EP guerrillas, meeting in Havana, have been making real progress toward ending the country's decades old civil war.  However, this progress could easily be negated by outside interference such as a demand for the jailing of FARC rebels, and the country is still extremely violent because of the activities of drug cartels and of armed right wing militias instigated by people around former President Alvaro Uribe.  Venezuela and Cuba have played important roles in promoting a negotiated settlement.

In this vast, complex and ever changing panorama, where do the interests of workers in the United States lie?

The better the situation of workers in countries like Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and also Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, the better it is for U.S. workers, because the international 1 per cent is less able to play off workers in poor countries against those in relatively wealthy countries like the United States.

So U.S. trade and foreign policies that keep workers in poor countries poor and getting poorer also hurt workers in the United States.  The "Neo-liberal" trade pacts:  NAFTA, CAFTA-DR and the rest have shown this clearly, by driving down the wages of workers in Mexico and Central America and even driving some of those workers clean out of their home countries and into the migrant stream into the United States.

Starting many years ago with Cuba and intensified since the election of the late Hugo Chavez,  the basis of neo liberal hemispheric order envisioned in the Free Trade Area has been so seriously challenged that the FTAA had been virtually pronounced dead.

In response to this challenge, the United States and international monopoly capital have worked to create a firewall against the "Pink tide" of left-wing Latin American governments.  This has been  done through support for conservative regimes in power, destabilization of left wing governments, and the promotion of a  a trade group called the Pacific Alliance, based on neo-liberal principles, and designed to dovetail with the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP). 

At the moment the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is severely challenged by multiple economic problems, including especially a very high rate of inflation (annualized at over 65%), scarcities of some goods, and a sharp drop in petroleum revenue because of low oil prices worldwide.  For over a year, this has encouraged the old Venezuelan ruling class and its right-wing political leaders to try to restore their waning power.  They have not eschewed the use of violence to do this.

The right in Venezuela, and also in Argentina and Brazil, is abetted, encouraged and even financed by the governments and reactionary private political circles in the United States, Spain and other countries. The Obama administration's imposition of sanctions on Venezuelan officials, and the propaganda war in such "respectable" publications as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Economist are part of an effort to destabilize Venezuela with a view to removal from power of President Maduro. 

Now the Republican controlled U.S. Congress is raising the possibility of even more sanctions and other destabilizing actions.  The situation is becoming increasingly urgent. 

If the people of Venezuela and of the other Bolivarian countries are defeated, it will be a big boost to the effort to impose, not just on the United States but on the world, a newer and more dangerous version of the neo-liberal package contained in NAFTA and projected for the defunct FTAA.  As the TPP is being negotiated behind closed doors without the participation of workers, small farmers or even the elected representatives of the people in all the countries involved, this will amount to a severe loss to freedom and democracy.  

So it behooves workers and progressive people in the United States to join hands with the Latin American Bolivarians to oppose this immense corporate power grab.  Their fight is our fight.  If the Bolivarian countries  thrive by means of economic and trade relationships which privilege human solidarity instead of corporate greed, it will be a giant step forward for all of humanity.

We  must do this not only for the sake of people in those countries, but for our own sakes, for in fact the most effective opposition to things like the TPP has come from leaders like Fidel and Raul Castro in Cuba, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Pepe Mujica and Tabare Vazuez in Uruguay and, to a huge extent, Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.  These leaders and their millions of followers, grouped into the various components of the Bolivarian movement, have stopped the FTAA and can help stop the TPP too.

This is why these leaders are Satanized, slandered in our corporate controlled press, and subjected to efforts of destabilization and regime change.

That's why we, too, must say "hands off Venezuela" and "no U.S. interference in Latin America"..

Photo: President Evo Morales of Bolivia in 2008     Wikipedia

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  • Thanks for this very informative article. It is clear to me that the United States government cannot effectively continue in the old fashioned way of corrupt and disrupt. Its tentacles can only stretch so far. World domination is not possible without a hugh battle. The contradictions are showing themselves. Workers here and around the world are tired of being tired. With the growth of internet, information is within reach within seconds.

    As an African American who is continually engaged in the struggles for social, political and economic justice, I know from the inner fibres of my soul and heart, that We Are ALL ONE Fight!

    Posted by Mama Cassie, 04/08/2015 9:15pm (7 years ago)

  • Great article! It gives a much needed clarification of the true situation in the Western Hemisphere and the direction we, as workers in the U.S., must take.

    Posted by John Milam, 04/04/2015 7:59am (7 years ago)

  • An excellent and concise article that names the oppressors and the oppressed. The 99 percent are too busy being net and vidiots to even notice their economic slavery. Workers of the world despair!

    Posted by Len Shatkus , 04/03/2015 2:49pm (7 years ago)

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