Latin America & Twenty-First Century Socialism: Inventing to Avoid Mistakes, Chapter 1

Twenty years ago, left forces in Latin America and in the world in general were going through a difficult period. The Berlin Wall had fallen; the Soviet Union hurtled into an abyss and disappeared completely by the end of 1991. Deprived of the rearguard it needed, the Sandinista Revolution was defeated at the polls in February 1990, and Central American guerrilla movements were forced to demobilize. The only country that kept the banners of revolution flying was Cuba, although all the omens said that its days were numbered. Given that situation, it was difficult to imagine that twenty years later, left-wing leaders would govern most of the Latin American countries.


Twenty years ago, left forces in Latin America and in the world in general were going through a difficult period. The Berlin Wall had fallen; the Soviet Union hurtled into an abyss and disappeared completely by the end of 1991. Deprived of the rearguard it needed, the Sandinista Revolution was defeated at the polls in February 1990, and Central American guerrilla movements were forced to demobilize. The only country that kept the banners of revolution flying was Cuba, although all the omens said that its days were numbered. Given that situation, it was difficult to imagine that twenty years later, left-wing leaders would govern most of the Latin American countries.

The defeat of Soviet socialism created a difficult situation for the Latin American left, especially the Marxist-Leninist left. During the 1980s, the latter learned a lot from the dictatorships in the Southern Cone and from the various forms of resistance that arose to fight them. Marxist-Leninists also learned from the struggles of Central American and Colombian guerrilla movements, and were beginning to eliminate a series of deviations and errors they had made in the 1960s and ’70s because of their uncritical adoption of the Bolshevik party model. I cannot go into this subject here, but there is a thorough examination of it in my book Rebuilding the Left.

I shall limit myself here to a brief mention of some of those deviations: (a) vanguardism, verticalism, and authoritarianism [through which the direction of the movement, the duties of the leadership, the platform of struggle, were all resolved by orders from the party, thereby trickling down to the social movement in question, which was thus prevented from participating in the planning of those things in its greatest interest*]; (b) theoryism and dogmatism, which led to strategism [great strategic goals were planned, e.g., the struggle for national liberation and socialism, but without any concrete analysis of the historical conditions]; and (c) a distorted “subjectivism” [reification of the historical subject] in analyzing reality—inappropriate strategies and tactics were used, based on an inability to see the historical uniqueness of the revolutionary social subject. (This included neglecting the struggles of ethnic and cultural movements and of popular revolutionary Christianity.) Other errors included thinking of revolution as an attack on power by a militant minority, which would then use the state to solve the people’s problems, not putting a high enough value on democracy. This even reached the point where a distinction was made between revolutionary forces and democratic forces, and the adjective “democratic” was applied to social-democratic allies, as if revolutionary forces weren’t democratic.1

In the decade prior to the defeat of Soviet socialism, leftists began to overcome these mistakes. I should like to mention here two other factors that also had an influence on the left’s maturing process. The first of these was the pedagogical vision of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. This engendered an important popular education movement in several of our countries, which clashed with the classic conception of left parties as a “vanguard,” current at the time. These parties were wont to consider that they owned the truth. The second were feminist ideas that emphasized respect for difference and rejected authoritarianism.

The first to assimilate these ideas and visions were the Central American politico-military movements. The Sandinista Revolution demonstrated the freshness of this new way of looking at things by the way it operated politically on its way to victory, appointing radical priests as ministers in the new revolutionary government, and by its political pluralism. A communist Salvadoran guerrilla comandante, Jorge Schafik Handal, was the first to insist that the new Latin American revolutionary subject could not be just the working class, that there were new revolutionary social subjects, and that, therefore, the revolutionary process could not be led by communists alone—that all these new subjects had to be included. A Guatemalan guerrilla group, the Guerrilla Army of the Poor, was the first political organization to include indigenous people and to consider them to be the fundamental driving force of the revolution.

Thus, people began to understand that the new political organization had to be committed to society and to be immersed in the popular sectors. It had to overcome the tendency to homogenize the social base where it operates, by engaging in unity in diversity and respect for ethnic, cultural, gender, and other differences. They also began to understand that this respect for difference implied changing the language used, adapting the content and varying the form for different subjects, and that today, in the information and image era, audiovisual language is extremely important.

They decided to go beyond hegemonism [that is, imposing leadership from above, taking over positions and giving orders to the rest], and beyond the steamroller politics that impose lines and actions by force. They began to understand that it was a question of winning hegemony, that is, that wider and ever wider sectors of society accept as their own the policies of the given political organization.

The left matured, as well, in its relationship with the popular movements when it understood that they must not be treated simply as transmission belts for party decisions but must have increasing autonomy, so they can develop their own agendas for struggle. The left also began to understand that its role is to coordinate various agendas and not to elaborate one single agenda from above. It has come to see that its role is to give orientation, to facilitate, and to march together with, but not to replace, movements, and that a verticalist attitude that squashes people’s initiative must be eliminated. It now understands that it has to learn to listen, to make correct diagnoses of the people’s state of mind, and to listen carefully to the solutions suggested by the people. The left has also realized that, in order to help people to be, and to feel that they are, protagonists, it must move from the style of a verticalist military leader to one of a popular educator, able to release the power of all the wisdom the people have stored up.

In reaching the conclusion to abandon the workerist approach, which is only concerned with the working class, the left came to understand that the new political instrument must respect the plurality of the new subject and take on the defense of all discriminated social sectors: women, indigenous peoples, black people, young people, children, pensioners, people of diverse sexual orientations, people with disabilities, and others. The left realized that the point is not to recruit for one’s political organization. Rather than clasping to its bosom all the legitimate representatives of those who struggle for emancipation, the organization should be a body that coordinates all their different lives into a single project.

Finally, the left understood that democracy is one of the most beloved banners of the people, and that the struggle for democracy cannot be separated from the struggle for socialism because it is only under socialism that democracy can develop fully.2

If we keep this history in mind, I think we can better comprehend what has happened in Latin America in recent decades. Part one serves as an introduction to our discussion of twenty-first century socialism.

I. Latin America

Latin America was the first region in the world where neoliberal policies were introduced. Chile, my country, was used as a testing ground before Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government implemented them in the United Kingdom. But Latin America was also the first region in the world where these policies came to be rejected as policies that only served to increase poverty, aggravate social inequalities, destroy the environment, and weaken working-class and popular movements in general.

It was in our subcontinent that left and progressive forces first began to rally after the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. After more than two decades of suffering, new hope was born. At first, this took the shape of struggles to resist neoliberal policies, but after a few years, people went on the offensive, conquering arenas of power.

Candidates from Left and Center-Left Coalitions Win Elections

For the first time in the history of Latin America—with the crisis of the neoliberal model as a backdrop—candidates from left and center-left groupings managed to win elections in most of the region’s countries by raising anti-neoliberal banners.

Let us remember that in 1998, when Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez won the election, Venezuela was a lonely isle in a sea of neoliberalism covering the continent. The island of Cuba, of course, was an honorable exception. Then in 2002 Ricardo Lagos took the presidency in Chile and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (popularly known as “Lula”) was elected in Brazil. Néstor Kirchner won the presidency in Argentina in 2003, and Tabaré Vázquez won in Uruguay in 2005. In 2006 Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua were elected. In 2007 Cristina Fernández won in Argentina and Álvaro Colom won in Guatemala. In 2008 Fernando Lugo won in Paraguay, and in 2009 Mauricio Funes was elected in El Salvador, Rafael Correa won a second term in Ecuador, José Mujica won in a runoff election in Uruguay, and Evo Morales was reelected with a large majority in Bolivia.

I agree with Cuban diplomat and theoretician Roberto Regalado that these leaders are very heterogeneous: “In some countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela the collapse or the extreme debilitation of neoliberal institutions brought to power leaders who capitalized on the left’s organizational and political capital which took their candidates to the presidency. Then there were situations like that in Honduras and Argentina where, because there were no presidential candidates from popular sectors, progressive people from traditional parties stood for election.”3

Popular Movements: The Great Protagonists

Even in those countries where the role of left political parties was important, these parties were not in the vanguard of the fight against neoliberalism—the popular movements, however, were. These movements developed in the context of the neoliberal model’s legitimacy crisis and the crisis its political institutions were facing. They grew from the dynamics of resistance present in their communities or local organizations.

These were very pluralistic movements, where elements of liberation theology, revolutionary nationalism, Marxism, indigenism, and anarchism coexisted.

In this resistance struggle, new social movements, especially peasant and indigenous movements, arose alongside the old movements. Examples of these are the movements in Bolivia fighting against the privatization of water (the “Water Wars”) and to regain control over gas (the “Gas War”); the piqueteros in Argentina, whose ranks included small business owners, workers, the unemployed, professionals, and pensioners; indebted Mexican farmers; Chilean secondary school students, referred to as “the penguins” because of their dark trousers and white shirts; ecological movements; and the movements against neoliberal globalization. The middle classes also appeared on the political scene: health care workers in El Salvador, the caceroleros (protesters who bang saucepans) in Argentina, and others. The traditional workers’ movement, hit hard by the implementation of neoliberal economic measures such as labor flexibilization and contracting out, didn’t appear on the front line of the political scene, except on rare occasions.

Initially, these movements rejected politics and politicians, but, as the process of struggle progressed, they shifted from an apolitical stance of simply criticizing neoliberalism to an increasingly political one of questioning established power. In some cases, such as those of the MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo) in Bolivia, and Pachakutik, the left-wing indigenist party in Ecuador, they even built their own political instruments.

I.1. Current Balance of Forces

The map of Latin America has radically changed. A new balance of forces makes it more difficult for the United States to achieve its objectives in the region. At the same time, however, the attempts of the Empire to the North to stop the forward march of our countries have increased.

The United States no longer has the same freedom to maneuver in our continent. Now it has to deal with rebel governments that have their own agendas, which often clash with the White House’s agenda. Let us look at some of the indications of this.

Meetings without the United States: Latin American and Caribbean leaders began to meet without inviting the United States. The first South American Summit took place in Brazil in 2000; two years later, there was another meeting in Ecuador; in 2004 it was in Peru. The following year, Brazil hosted the first summit of the South American Community of Nations; in 2006 the second was held in Bolivia, during which the foundation was laid for what became the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). UNASUR adopted its name in 2007 at the energy summit held in Venezuela. In 2008, the treaty founding this organization was approved in Brazil.

Closer Economic Relations with China: Given China’s growing need for raw materials and the fact that Latin America has plenty of them, relations between the two have become closer. China has become one of the main trading partners of countries such as Peru, Chile, and Brazil. It has begun to form strategic alliances with several countries in the region, especially with Venezuela.

According to a study by Diego Sánchez Ancochea, an economics professor at Saint Anthony’s College, Oxford, between 2004 and 2005 China signed close to one hundred agreements and public commitments with several South American countries, including a free trade agreement with Chile in November 2005.4 Brazil’s exports to China increased from $382 million in 1990 to $6,830 million in 2005. Argentina and Chile experienced similar increases, going from $241 million and $34 million in 1990 to $3,100 million and $3,200 million, respectively, in 2004. China has become one of the biggest trading partners, not only of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) countries, but also of other South American countries. It is Peru’s second biggest trading partner, Chile and Brazil’s third, and Argentina and Uruguay’s fourth.5

In recent years, the Chinese presence in our continent has grown. Alicia Bárcena, the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), acknowledged this on May 27, 2009, when she said that investments in the region “had grown significantly,” especially in more measurable areas such as hydrocarbons, mining, and the automobile industry. The amount, however, is still small compared to the large amounts the United States invests.6 Let us look at just two examples.

On May 19, 2009, China and Brazil signed thirteen agreements for cooperation in the energy field. China thus became Brazil’s biggest trading partner. A few days before, Lula had suggested that the two countries should use their own currencies instead of the U.S. dollar for trading purposes. [In two succeeding “BRIC” (Brazil, Russia, India, China) conferences, plans have advanced to conduct trade among themselves without using the U.S. dollar.]

In the last few months of 2009, trade and economic relations between China and Venezuela grew closer. Agreements have been signed in agricultural, energy, and industrial areas. An agreement has also been reached to increase the capital of the China-Venezuela Development Fund, doubling, to $12 billion, the amount originally decided. This is the biggest credit given by China to any country since 1949.

Sánchez Ancochea says that this has generated new resources and new opportunities for Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries. However, they also create serious risks and threats, including a steep rise in the trade deficit with China, a reinforcement of “the traditional way Latin America, especially the Andean countries and those of the Southern Cone, participate in the world economy,” and a heavy blow to labor intensive sectors, such as textiles. Thus, these agreements put the survival of a large number of small and medium-size economies at risk of being edged out by the high relative productivity and low real wages in China.7

FTAA Turned Down; ALBA Created: The U.S. government was unable to accomplish its plan to establish the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in the whole of the American continent.8 As an alternative to the FTAA, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, better known as ALBA, was created on December 14, 2004, with an accord between Cuba and Venezuela.9 Since then, several Latin American countries have joined: Bolivia in 2006, Nicaragua in 2007, Honduras and Dominica in 2008, and Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Ecuador in 2009. Faced with this situation, the White House has chosen to sign bilateral treaties with some Latin American countries such as Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, and a group of Central American countries.10

Ecuador Gets Rid of U.S. Military Base: On November 1, 2008, the Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced that he would not renew the contract that allowed the Southern Command to have a military base in the Ecuadorian city of Manta. The treaty, signed in 1999, was due to expire in 2009. This was a hard blow for the Pentagon, since this base was the biggest U.S. center of operations in Latin America.

There were plenty of reasons to make this decision, but there is no doubt that the event was triggered by a flagrant violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty: On March 1, 2008, a Colombian army squadron crossed the Ecuadorian border and launched an attack in the Sucumbíos province, where there was a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC). Twenty-five people were killed in the attack, including the FARC commander Raúl Reyes and several Mexican and Ecuadorian civilians. Shortly before the announcement that the contract for the U.S. base would not be renewed, Quito had released an official report about CIA infiltration in the Ecuadorian armed forces.11 The report indicated that the planned Colombian attack on Ecuadorian territory could count on the support of a U.S. plane from the Manta base.

Two other examples of an independent and sovereign stance by the Ecuadorian government preceded the base closing: the expulsion on February 7, 2009, of Armando Astorga, a customs attaché at the U.S. embassy—after the government refused to continue to allow the U.S. embassy to have its final, customary say in selecting the top brass of the police intelligence unit, including the commanding officer; and the expulsion, ten days later, of Max Sullivan, the first secretary of the U.S. embassy, over unacceptable interference in internal affairs.12 As a result, the Pentagon transferred ships, weapons, and high-technology spying devices to Colombian bases.

Cuba Joins the Rio Group: The official entry of Cuba into the Rio Group was announced on December 16, 2008, during the Latin American and Caribbean Summit held in Salvador Bahía, Brazil with thirty-three heads of government in attendance.13 Cuba’s presence in the region was thus strengthened.

OAS Consensus on Lifting Sanctions Against Cuba: On June 3, 2009, the foreign ministers, who attended the Organization of American States (OAS) meeting in Honduras, agreed to repeal the decision, taken in 1962, to expel Cuba. The Ecuadorian foreign minister Fander Falconí said the decision “had been approved by all the representatives,” and added that this agreement “reflects the change of epoch which Latin America is experiencing.”14

Brazil Buys French Military Equipment: In September 2009, Lula signed an agreement with Nicolas Sarkozy that will allow Brazil to obtain strategically important military equipment: five submarines and fifty military transport helicopters, totaling $12 billion in value, in addition to thirty-six fighter planes purchased previously.15

This agreement appears “to complete the strategic shift brought about by the decline of U.S. hegemony and the rise of Brazil as a world power.” According to Aram Aharonian [a founder of the new Latin American television network TeleSur] an autonomous military-industrial complex is emerging in what was once the empire’s backyard. The aim is to form a wall around the Amazon region and the oil and gas reserves discovered just off the Brazilian coastline (fifty million barrels-worth of oil was discovered in Brazilian waters in 2008). This agreement was ratified by the Brazilian parliament with the support of the opposition.

Aharonian observes that this was not a measure taken by a government but a decision taken by a state. The military sector, with the most at stake in this agreement, is worried about its technological weaknesses if Western powers—which have been trying to “impose shared sovereignty” in the Amazon region since 1990—were to intervene. There is also information that Brazil is able to manufacture atomic weapons.16

Paraguayan President Refuses Southern Command’s Presence: In another gesture of sovereignty, and in the context of a growing rejection of U.S. military presence in the subcontinent, Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo decided, on September 17, 2009, not to allow U.S. troops to enter his country, even if they were accompanied by professionals who were to engage in humanitarian activities. The U.S. Southern Command’s program would have meant that, counting both civilian and military operatives, there would have been five hundred U.S. personnel in Paraguay.

Second Africa-South America Summit: Not only are Latin American countries coordinating more and more between themselves without the presence of U.S. representatives but, at the same time, coordination between our countries and Africa is increasing. The Second Africa–South America Summit was held on Margarita Island in September 2009. Twenty-seven presidents and heads of government attended. There was a call for the return of democracy and the constitutional government in Honduras, and a proposal was made to draw up a 2010-2020 Strategic Plan to set a framework for cooperation between the two regions.

Bank of the South:On September 28, 2009, the proposal, originally made by President Chávez in mid-2006, to set up the Bank of the South (Banco del Sur) bore fruit. This historic event took place during the Africa-South America Summit (ASA) held on Margarita Island, part of Venezuela, at the end of September 2009. Many South American leaders who were at that summit, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, and Tabaré Váquez of Uruguay, signed the Bank’s founding statutes. It was launched with $7 billion in start-up capital.17

The original plan was to create a multilateral financial entity in South America as an alternative to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other credit granting institutions controlled by the industrialized countries. This idea has evolved over the course of several meetings held to get the Bank up and running. Peruvian economist Oscar Ugarteche is impressed with the idea of the Bank of the South and thinks that, insofar as it can capture international reserves from central banks and use them intelligently to promote development in the poorest regions, above all, for ecologically and socially sustainable projects, the Bank could be the first step toward “a new kind of South American integration.”18

Neoliberalism Loses Legitimacy and Bourgeois Liberal Democracy Loses Prestige

Although most governments in the region still hold to its general tenets, very few defend the neoliberal model. It lost legitimacy once it showed itself to be incapable of solving the most pressing problems facing our countries. The era of neoliberalism’s heyday on our subcontinent has been left behind. Although the “end of history” heralded by Francis Fukuyama is not yet here, what does seem to have arrived is the end of neoliberalism. The current global economic crisis is one of the factors dealing it the coup de grâce.

According to Brazilian sociologist Emir Sader, there is a “hegemonic crisis” in Latin America, in which “the neoliberal model and the power bloc which leads it are worn down, weakened, and only manage to survive by implementing the model in a toned-down form—for example Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.”19

Given this situation, there are only two paths: either capitalism undergoes retrofitting or we move toward an alternative project not based on the logic of profit but on a humanist, solidarity-based logic that works to satisfy human needs and makes possible a kind of economic development in our region that will benefit not the elites, but the overwhelming majority of our people. The inability of the neoliberal economic model to obtain positive economic results for our peoples has also negatively affected the credibility of bourgeois democracy. People no longer have confidence in this form of government, and they are less and less willing to accept the enormous gap between those who elect and those who get elected.

According to Latinobarómetro—a poll taken every year in Latin America to measure the level of satisfaction with democracy—in 1998, when Chávez was elected, only 37 percent of those in Latin American were satisfied with the democratic system, and in Venezuela, the numbers were even lower: 35 percent. Until 2007 the average level of satisfaction in Latin America remained at 37 percent, while the level in Venezuela rose to 59 percent. In some of our countries, some people felt nostalgia for past dictatorships because there was more order and more efficiency, back then. At the same time democratic regimes were losing credibility, traditional political parties began to face a crisis. People had come to feel cynical about politics and politicians. However, the latest Latinobarómetro poll showed that, in 2008, satisfaction with democracy rose to 82 percent in Venezuela.20

Strange, isn’t it? While Venezuela is accused of being a dictatorship, an overwhelming majority of Venezuelans express satisfaction with democracy. It is interesting, moreover, to see that the average level of satisfaction in other countries has gone from 37 percent to 57 percent. It doesn’t seem out of place to conclude that when the policies implemented by left-wing governments begin to show results, people begin to have a different opinion about the democratic system.

Despite the media war—and, in fact, in reaction to the injustices caused by neoliberalism—people’s consciousness has reached a higher level. This heightened awareness has happened very rapidly and manifests itself in elections as support for those governments that apply anti-neoliberal programs.

The Empire Strikes Back: Recolonization and Discipline

Although there has been some marked change in the balance of forces favoring left-wing and progressive governments, this doesn’t mean the United States is a paper tiger. The loss of ideological and political influence, plus a reduction of its economic power in the region, has been made up for with increased influence on the media and growing military power.

Today there are twenty-three U.S. military bases across our subcontinent, and multilateral military exercises are still held every year for the purpose of training troops in the region.21 The Fourth Fleet [operating in the Caribbean and Central and South America] has been reactivated, and U.S. intelligence networks have been extended in an effort to keep watch on and control the dynamics of popular movements in the region.22

The empire is trying to prevent the emergence of national forces that could clash with U.S. policies of domination and imposed servitude. There has been, therefore, a huge increase in military aid to Colombia, its faithful ally and beach-head in the region. And, to weaken any government that it does not directly control, the United States has supported separatist movements in Bolivia (in the resource-rich eastern “Half Moon” states), Ecuador, and Venezuela (in the oil-rich state of Zulia).23

Faced with the unstoppable advance of left forces in Latin America, especially in the last two years, the Pentagon has decided to implement “a plan to recolonize and discipline the whole continent.”24 It aims to stop and, as far as possible, reverse the process of building a free and sovereign Latin America, set in motion by Chávez. The Empire cannot accept that—in spite of the enormous economic, political, military, and media power deployed in the region—Latin American countries are forging their own independent agenda that runs counter to its designs.

Attack on Ecuador Launches New Cycle: According to Ana Esther Ceceña, a Mexican researcher, the March 2008 attack on Sucumbíos province in Ecuador was the start of a “new cycle in US strategy to control its living space: the American continent.” The attack was the first step in an imperial policy that has not changed with Obama taking office, although it adapted to the new continental situation by putting the brakes on its escalation, after Ecuador—with the backing of most of the region’s countries—complained.25 The U.S. military action—which had the support of the Pentagon but was denounced by the OAS as a violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty—triggered a break in Bogotá-Quito diplomatic relations.

Attempted Civilian-Prefectural Coup in Bolivia: As a response to Bolivia’s first indigenous president Evo Morales’s overwhelming victory in the July 2008 recall referendum, the oligarchic right, entrenched in the Half Moon in eastern Bolivia, tried to mount what Morales called a civilian-prefectural coup. Using its control over the prefectures of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, and Tarija and its support by civic committees in that region, which were dominated by local elites, the right employed violence to take control of state institutions. Paramilitaries soon appeared on the street, the idea being to create a situation that would force the government either to resign or to bring out its own troops. This scenario could have resulted in death and chaos, creating a situation that would have justified foreign military intervention, in the interests of restoring “peace.”

As there was plenty of evidence that this plot had been prepared with the direct support of the U.S. embassy in Bolivia, the Bolivian government decided on September 9 to expel the U.S. ambassador. On the same date, Chávez also decided to expel the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela. Meanwhile, Bolivian social movements marched to Santa Cruz to confront the coup supporters.

Then came the massacre in Pando, where dozens of peasants were murdered. This event was so strongly condemned throughout Bolivia that the government, joined by social movements, decided to declare a state of emergency in Pando and sent in the armed forces to restore order. The coup was finally defeated, thanks to social movement members encircling Santa Cruz and to the unequivocal statement from UNASUR that member countries would only recognize the legitimate government of Evo Morales.

Institutional Coup in Honduras: On June 28, 2009, fifteen months after the attack on Ecuador and six months into the Obama presidency, the Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped and thrown out of the country. Zelaya was a liberal political leader who, radicalized during his time in office, joined ALBA and proposed holding a constituent assembly. The military operation that ousted him was ordered by the National Assembly.

This coup was almost unanimously denounced. According to Brazilian researcher Theotonio dos Santos, this was the first time in history that the United States added its voice to the condemnation of a coup d’état in Latin America.26 But what does this condemnation mean? Can we say that a change has occurred in U.S. imperial policy toward our subcontinent? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is “no.” Nothing fundamental seems to have changed.

Despite Obama’s formal condemnation, there is clear evidence of the Pentagon’s hand in preparations for this coup. This is not surprising, since Honduras had been the U.S. regional operations center for fighting Sandinista-ruled Nicaragua and the Salvadoran guerrillas in the 1980s. According to Costa Rican analyst Álvaro Montero, the Honduran army was used by Reagan and Bush to support the Contra military bases in Honduras and in the north of Nicaragua. [The army collaborated with the CIA to transport and sell drugs to finance the “dirty war” against the Sandinistas.] It is said that if even a sheet of paper rustles in the Honduran army, U.S. intelligence officers know about it.27

The big question is, How committed to this coup was President Obama? Opinions are divided on this matter. There are those who wonder if this was a coup against Obama, too.28 According to José Vicente Rangel, a Venezuelan journalist and former Deputy President, there were two levels of U.S. government policy operating in Honduras. One was the White House and the other was the machinery left in place by the Bush administration, still operating from the U.S. military base in the Honduran town of Palmarola.29

It is clear that the coup was of vital importance to the Empire of the North to stop the advance toward integration of the South, an advance initiated by Chávez and made more concrete in ALBA, which had been gaining more and more supporters. So the Pentagon decided to attack the efforts to integrate at their weakest link, Honduras, promoting a military coup with a “legal” face that was more in step with the new era. According to Ana Esther Ceceña, this would be “the first operation to relaunch the escalation” of recolonization.30 It was then followed by the decision to install new military bases in Colombia with the concomitant immunity given to U.S. troops on Colombian soil.

At present, the big winner is the Pentagon. Still, the abrupt interruption of that popular democratic process has sown seeds that, sooner or later, will lead the Honduran people to reclaim democracy and take steps toward building a fairer society, based on the principle of solidarity. Honduras today is not the same as yesterday. Never before in its history have the popular sectors been so united; the struggle to hold a constituent assembly, instead of tapering off, is stronger than ever. One day the Honduran people will give thanks for this momentary setback.

New Military Bases in Colombia: The U.S. alternative to Ecuador’s Manta base was to transfer ships, arms, and high-technology spying devices to Colombian bases per agreements signed in early March 2009 by the Colombian Ministry of Defense, the head of the Pentagon, and the CIA. These agreements increase U.S. military presence there and turn Colombia into a U.S. aircraft carrier in the heart of the region.31 It is an interesting coincidence that the bases receiving most of this military equipment are very close to Colombia’s borders with Ecuador and Venezuela.

Colombia’s decision to allow the United States to station soldiers and civilian personnel in five places in Colombia has created a domestic uproar that has extended to its neighbors, especially Venezuela and Ecuador, and has unleashed general criticism on an international level.32

The negotiations took place in secret in the United States. The accord, titled the “Complementary Agreement for Defense and Security Cooperation and Technical Assistance,” was signed on October 30, 2009, by the Colombian foreign minister Jaime Bermúdez and the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield.33 According to a State Department internal document dated August 18, this Defense Cooperation Agreement is designed to facilitate bilateral cooperation in matters concerning Colombian security.

Instead of creating U.S. bases, the agreement allows U.S. personnel access to seven Colombian military installations, two naval bases, and three air force bases located in Palanquero, Apía, and Malambo. According to the agreement: “All of these installations are, and will remain under, Colombian control,” and all of the activities performed by U.S. personnel from these installations can only be carried out “with the express, prior approval of the Colombian government.” Moreover, the agreement does not “signal, anticipate, or authorize an increase in the presence of U.S. military or civilian personnel in Colombia.” Álvaro Uribe’s government will receive up to $40 million in additional aid for having signed this military pact. According to Christopher McMullen, the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemispheric Affairs, this agreement “formalizes access that we’ve had on an ad hoc basis the whole time of Plan Colombia.”34 The Deputy Assistant Secretary naïvely believes that his declarations will calm Latin American governments.

Colombia, the black sheep of South America, is, like Mexico, an occupied country. It can be said of both countries that they have suffered a “comprehensive occupation”—to use Pablo González Casanova’s term—involving “occupation of the social, economic, administrative, cultural, media, territorial and strategic spheres.” Pentagon strategists call this phenomenon “full spectrum dominance.”

The coup in Honduras and subsequent developments in that country—the increase in the number of military bases in Colombia, the continuing economic blockade of Cuba, and keeping the base in Guantánamo open—have deeply disappointed those who hoped for consistency between Obama’s discourse and his actions. There is no longer even the slightest doubt that the aims pursued by the imperial apparatus are still the same. Previously, its gaze was fixed on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but now the Pentagon is paying more attention to Latin America.

I.2. Typology of Latin American Governments

I mentioned that, in the last ten years, progressive and left sectors have been winning more and more governments in the region. Various analysts have made an effort to classify governments by drawing up different typologies. We can initially distinguish two large blocs: right, or conservative, governments that seek to retrofit neoliberalism, and governments that define themselves as “on the left” or “center-left” and are looking for alternatives to neoliberalism.

Governments in the first group, which want to retrofit neoliberalism, endeavor to implement a series of reforms “which make it possible to take the transnationalization and denationalization of their economies a step further, by increasing the incentives to big capital and continuing to regressively redistribute income.”35 They are the governments that implement what Roberto Regalado has referred to as “neoliberal reforms.”36 The governments of Colombia, Mexico, and most of Central America fall into this first group.

Governments Seeking Alternatives to Neoliberalism

The left or center-left governments in the second group are elected because they present platforms that offer an alternative to neoliberalism. Even though they are very different from one another, these governments have at least four identical planks in their platforms: the struggle for social equality, political democratization, national sovereignty, and regional integration. The governments have, in turn, been classified into two groups.

The first subgroup contains governments that seek to balance liberalism with progressive social policies, for example, the governments of Chile, Brazil, and Uruguay. They are those that Jorge Castañeda, former Foreign Minister of Mexico, has referred to as part of the “good left.” Aram Aharonian characterizes them as governments “with post-neoliberal, developmentalist policies, which, without breaking with neoliberal developmentalist policies, place a fresh emphasis both on the social sphere and on production policies which promote productive domestic capitalism.” According to Regalado, these governments implement reforms that “try to alleviate the economic, political, and social contradictions of today’s capitalism without breaking with the system.”37

Governments Breaking with Neoliberal Policies

The second group contains governments that want to break with neoliberal policies, leading some analysts to classify them as anti-imperialist. They include the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, which adopt measures of social and economic protectionism against the United States and which Castañeda characterizes as part of the “bad left.” Aharonian describes them as “governments based on social and popular mobilization that have an express desire to change, are in favor of a break with neoliberal policies, and have a new understanding of the economy, of regional integration, and of integration of the peoples.”38 According to Regalado, these governments implement “reforms whose strategic direction and intent are anti-capitalist,” and are, therefore, reforms that might lead to revolution.39 James Petras, an American intellectual renowned for his radical views, considers these latter governments part of a “pragmatic” left,40 and contrasts them with groups he calls “the radical left,” which includes the FARC.41

I.3. “Left” Governments Facing Objective Limitations

Henceforth, to refer to that group of governments that wins elections by raising anti-neoliberal banners, we shall speak of the “left,” in quotation marks. We leave to the reader the task of classifying them according to the series of criteria which we list below.

However, before continuing, I shall specify what I mean by the left. In the 1960s, there was a tendency to define the left not so much by the goal it was pursuing, as by the means it used to reach that goal. The implicit goal was socialism, the means were the armed struggle or the institutional struggle, and the left was branded revolutionary or reformist, according to which method it used. In the 1990s, the term “new left” was sometimes used to refer to the left that had abandoned the armed struggle and joined the institutional struggle. At other times, this term was applied to the “social left,” which is made up of a large number of diverse subjects, such as indigenous peoples, women, environmentalists, and human rights activists.42

I would like to suggest a stricter definition that is derived from the goal pursued. If we adopt such a definition, we have to ask if the objective is to give capitalism a facelift by making it more humane or if the goal is to build a society to replace capitalism. So I give the label “left” to the forces that struggle to build a society that is an alternative to the exploitative capitalist system and its logic of profit, a society of workers organized by a humanist- and solidarity-based logic whose aim is to satisfy human needs; a society free from material poverty and from the spiritual poverty that capitalism engenders; and a society that does not issue decrees from above but rather builds from below, with the people as protagonists. In other words, a socialist society.43

These forces, therefore, will not be characterized solely by a struggle for equality that manifests itself in a war on poverty—although this may be one of their most distinctive features—but also by their rejection of an aberrant societal model based on exploitation and the logic of profit: the capitalist model. I should add, nevertheless, something more. I fully agree with the Uruguayan researcher Beatriz Stolowicz who maintains: “One is not left just because one says one is, but one is left because of what one does to achieve these necessary transformations and constructions. That is how one comes to be left.”44

But why is it so necessary to use the criterion of practice to decide who is on the left? Because—as I wrote in 1999 in The Left on the Threshold of the Twenty First Century: Making the Impossible Possible—the right has unscrupulously appropriated the left’s language, which is particularly obvious in the way it formulates its programs.45

Words like “reforms,” “structural changes,” “concern over poverty,” and “transition” are today part of the right’s anti-human and oppressive language. As Franz Hinkelammert says, “The key words of the opposition popular movements of the 1950s and 1960s have been transformed into the key words of those who ruthlessly destroyed them.”46 He goes on to say, “The night, when all cats are grey, falls. Everyone is against privilege; all want reforms and a structural change. Everyone is in favor of a preferential option for the poor.”47

Today—in the midst of the crisis of neoliberalism—this appropriation of the left’s language has reached the point where even capitalists have adopted the left’s criticism of neoliberalism. The role of the market has begun to be challenged; there is talk of the need for the regulatory power of the state.

We have to acknowledge that, as Beatriz Stolowicz says, “In the sphere of discourse, capitalist strategies are not dogmatic, they change their arguments, they criticize what they used to propose when the negative effects of this cannot be hidden and could generate political problems.” To win over adepts, “they show solidarity with the discontent over globalization” (as Joseph Stiglitz called it). They join in the anti-globalization zeal, using the adjective “neoliberal” to qualify it—neoliberal globalization—because of the decisive weight of finance capital as it continues to cause convulsions. Thus, “neoliberalism” is now simply speculation, and the latter is blamed on the irresponsibility of “bad executives,” thus protecting the credibility of capital. The suggestion began to be raised that neoliberalism must be overcome by counteracting financial speculation with more productive investment. Capitalism thus presents itself as a kind of “neo-developmentalism,” and is against both laissez-faire economics and populism.48

Electoral Victories, but Less Room to Move

Returning to the subject of our governments, it seems to me important to briefly examine the situation existing when they were elected—that is to say, the reality they have to deal with. In this way, we can evaluate their performance as objectively as possible. When analyzing the balance of forces in the subcontinent, I mentioned the Pentagon’s efforts to retain military control over the region by trying to reverse the process that is taking place there. I should like to point out two other elements that are important for a better understanding of the context in which these governments have to operate.

It is obvious that the new heads of government have had less room to maneuver in recent decades, than in the earlier period. Paradoxically, the fact that the population eligible to vote has increased enormously in recent decades and electoral fraud has become more and more difficult to pull off (which, therefore, makes it more possible for left candidates to be elected), has not led to an expansion of the democratic system.49 The problem is that most important decisions are not made by parliaments or elected presidents, but by bodies they cannot control: large international financial institutions (the IMF and World Bank), autonomous central banks, big transnational corporations, and national security bodies. And then there is the role played by the media, which are concentrated in the hands of large economic groups.50

Opposition-Controlled Media

I remind you of what Noam Chomsky has said about the role these media play: they are instruments to “manufacture consent,” which make it possible to “shepherd the bewildered herd.” According to Chomsky, propaganda is as necessary to bourgeois democracy as repression is to the totalitarian state.51 Therefore, bourgeois political parties can even accept a defeat at the polls as long as they continue to control most of the mass media. The media, from the moment of such a defeat, work to win back the hearts and minds of those who made the “mistake” of electing a leftist head of government. That is the reason why visceral reactions, such as those we have seen in a number of countries, follow any measure taken by left governments to censure the media’s disinformation campaigns and efforts to incite violence, or to create legal instruments that protect the people’s right to receive accurate information. The powerful international media echo these reactions. For today’s political battles are not won with atomic bombs but with “media bombs.”

An example of these media bombs is the campaign to make people think that Venezuela is engaged in an arms race that threatens the region. Allusion to Venezuela’s recent weapons purchase from Russia buttresses the allegation. However, if CIA data are consulted, it is clear that the situation is completely different. Using these data, Belgian economist Eric Toussaint reports:

Venezuelan military spending is the sixth highest in the region behind that of Brazil, Argentina, Chile (a country with a much smaller population than Venezuela’s and considered to be a “model country”), Colombia, and Mexico. In relative terms, comparing military spending to GDP, the Venezuelan military budget is the ninth largest in Latin America. Have people been able to read this in the most important international papers? Absolutely not. What was reported in August 2009 is that Sweden had asked Venezuelan officials to respond to a Colombian allegation that Venezuela was supplying arms to the FARC, and that Sweden had in effect told Colombia that SAAB missiles found in a FARC camp had been supplied by Sweden to Venezuela. However, was anyone able to find an article reporting the detailed and concise reply given by Hugo Chávez? The missiles in question had been stolen from a Venezuelan port in 1995, four years before Chávez took over the presidency.52

It would seem that today the election of left candidates is better tolerated because these have fewer and fewer real possibilities of modifying the existing situation.

Analyzing the Balance of Forces

I think that we must be careful when the time comes to judge “left” governments in the region. If we are to judge them by what they do, we must be very clear about what they cannot do, not through lack of will but because of objective limitations. And to do that, we have to begin with a correct analysis of the inherited economic structure, of the economic situation in which these governments find themselves, and of the balance of forces—national and international—facing them. This is something that the most radical left sectors, which demand that their governments take more drastic measures, often don’t take into account. They give Venezuela as an example of a government that should take more drastic measures because it has an extremely favorable economic situation; in fact, in all of human history, there has probably never been a revolutionary process with such a favorable economic situation.

Here, I share the opinion of Valter Pomar [head of international affairs for the Brazilian Workers Party (PT)]. Pomar maintains that the existing situation could oblige a revolutionary government to adopt capitalist measures, but that these measures take on a different strategic meaning if a capitalist or socialist government adopts them.53 All we have to do is look at the situation in each country and analyze the balance of forces, and then we will be able to understand what these governments can and cannot do.

Let us think for a moment about the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in Brazil. As the candidate of the PT, Lula won the presidential election in 2002 with even more support than Chávez garnered in 1998. However, we should not forget that this came about because of a policy of cultivating the kind of broad alliances needed to win at the polls and to govern the country. We must remember that his party had, and still has, a minority in both houses of the legislature. Although the PT still controls a significant number of town governments and important state governorships, it is in the minority provincially and municipally, as well at the national level. To all of this must be added the fact that Brazil depends to a much greater degree on international finance capital than does Venezuela, which has huge oil revenues. Moreover, Lula doesn’t have the same kind of support from the armed forces as Chávez. (The latter defines his revolutionary process as peaceful but armed.) This is why I agree with Pomar, that the balance of forces, institutional mechanisms, and economic circumstances that would allow the Brazilian government to operate in a manner similar to that of the Venezuelan government do not exist.54 Pomar does, however, acknowledge that Lula’s government could do more than it does.

If we keep in mind all the factors we have mentioned above, rather than classifying Latin American governments according to some kind of typology as many analysts have done, what we should do is try to evaluate their performance by keeping in mind the balance of forces with which they have to operate. Therefore, we should not look as much at the pace with which they proceed as the direction in which they are going.55 The pace, to a large extent, depends on how these governments deal with the obstacles found in their path.


* Bracket material has been added in the interests of clarity by the Monthly Review editors.

  1. Marta Harnecker, Rebuilding the Left (London: Zed Books Ltd., 2007), 45 et seq.
  2. A broader development of this idea can be found in Rebuilding the Left, 81 et seq.
  3. Roberto Regalado, América latina hoy ¿reforma o revolución? (Mexico: Ocean Sur, 2009), ix.
  4. Diego Sánchez Ancochea, “China’s Impact on Latin America,” Observatory on Chinese Society and Economy 11 (June 2009).
  5. Ibid.
  6. Xinhua, Santiago de Chile, May 27, 2009.
  7. In 2004, for example, 83 percent of Latin American exports to China were of primary products or of industrial goods based on natural resources; in contrast, 89 percent of imports from China were manufactured goods not based on natural resources. Ibid.
  8. ALCA is the Spanish acronym for Área de Libre Comercio de las Américas. It is known in English as the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA).
  9. The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América) or ALBA is a platform for the integration of Latin American and Caribbean countries which, inspired by left doctrines, emphasizes struggle against poverty and social exclusion. In 2009, “Alliance” replaced “Alternative” (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America) in the organization’s name.
  10. A free trade treaty with Central America more commonly known as CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). The Dominican Republic joined negotiations, in 2004, and the agreement was renamed DR-CAFTA.
  11. Report from the Ministry of Internal and External Security of Ecuador.
  12. Hernando Calvo Ospina, Siguen las tensiones entre Colombia y Ecuador (Continuing tension between Colombia and Ecuador), Le Monde Diplomatique Rebelión, June 29, 2009.
  13. Página/12, December 16, 2008. The Rio Group was set up in 1986 as a successor to the Contadora Group, which mediated in the civil wars in Central America at the height of the Cold War. Counting Cuba, there are twenty-three members: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Belize, and other Caricom countries.
  14. Mauricio Vicent, “La OEA levanta la sanción que excluye a Cuba desde 1962” (“OAS lifts punishment excluding Cuba in effect since 1962”), Havana/San Pedro Sula, June 4, 2009.
  15. Aram Aharonian, “Latin America Today.” Paper read at a meeting in the Centro Internacional Miranda on the International Situation and Twenty-First Century Socialism, September 30, 2009.
  16. Ibid.
  17. La Jornada,September 28, 2009.
  18. Oscar Ugarteche, “El banco del sur y la arquitectura financiera regional” (“The Bank of the South and the region’s financial architecture”), Alai, December 12, 2007.
  19. Emir Sader, “La crisis hegemónica en América Latina” in Raúl Jiménez Guillén, Elizabeth Rosa Zamora et al., El desarrollo hoy en América Latina (Mexico: 2008), 18.
  20. Latinobarómetro September-October 2008, results released in Chile, November 14, 2009.
  21. Up until June 2009, there were fourteen U.S. military bases in our region. The best known are: the Tres Esquinas base in Colombia, a country that has other bases, as well; Iquitos in Peru; Manta in Ecuador; Palmerola in Honduras; Comalapa in El Salvador; Reina Beatriz in Aruba; and Libería in Costa Rica. Nevertheless, there is more and more resistance to their existence, such as that shown by the Brazilian and Argentinean peoples to prevent a base being setup in Alcántara, Brazil and one on what is known as the Triple Frontier, the point where Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil all touch. What is more, Rafael Correa has ordered the Unites States to leave the base in Manta, Ecuador. Neither must we forget the heroic and successful struggle waged by the people of Puerto Rico against the U.S. base on the island of Vieques. Now we have to add to that seven new bases established in Colombia in open defiance of the Venezuelan government and two more new ones in Panama.
  22. April 24, 2008, the U.S. Navy announced in a press release that it had redeployed the Fourth Fleet because of the immense importance of maritime security in the southern part of the Western Hemisphere.
  23. Eric Toussaint, “La roue de l’histoire tourne au Venezuela, en Équateur et en Bolivie,” October 2009, http://ameriquelatineenlutte.blogspot.com/2009/11/la-roue-de-lhistoire-tourne-au.html.
  24. Ana Esther Ceceña, September 2009, http://movimientonuestraamerica.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/honduras-y-la-ocupacion-del-continente-ana-esther-cecena.
  25. Tenth Summit of the Rio Group in Santo Domingo, March 7, 2008.
  26. Theotonio Dos Santos, “Las lecciones de Honduras” (“The lessons of Honduras”), July 6, 2009, http://aporrea.org/internacionales/a81866.html.
  27. Álvaro Montero Mejía, “Honduras: las trampas de la mediación” (“Honduras: The Trap of Mediation”), July 10, 2009.
  28. “Honduras:¿Un golpe de estado contra Barack Obama?” (“Honduras: a coup d’état against Barack Obama?”). This is the title of an internet article by Argentinean journalist Andrés Sal Lari, July 9, 2009.
  29. His statements are based on the following information: “in the early hours of Sunday, June 28 two important State department officials, James Steimberg and Tom Shannon, contacted the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa and the U.S. military base in Palmarola to warn them of the coup and to tell them not to offer any kind of support.” Nevertheless, the head of the base, who represents the Pentagon, encouraged the coup. This information was given during Venezuelan journalist and ex-Vice President, José Vicente Rangel’s television program on July 5, 2009.
  30. Ceceña, “Honduras y la ocupación del Continente,” see note 24.
  31. Hernando Calvo Ospina, “Siguen las tensiones entre Colombia y Ecuador,” Le Monde Diplomatique Rebelión, June 29, 2009.
  32. A maximum of 800 military and 600 civilian personnel, according to the Defense Co-operation Agreement (“DCA”).
  33. DCA.
  34. Steven Kaufman, “Agreement on Colombian Bases does not increase U.S. Presence,” October 7, 2009, http://caracas.usembassy.gov/?d=6182&lang=en.
  35. Aharonian, “Latin America Today.”
  36. Roberto Regalado, “Es necesario construir una hegemonía popular,” an interview on the website of Amigos de Vive TV, October 19, 2009.
  37. Ibid.; Beatriz Stolowicz defines them as post-liberal reforms. I recommend her excellent article “El debate actual: posliberalismo o anticapitalismo,” in America Latina hoy ¿reforma or revolución?, 65-101. In this article, Stolowicz exposes what lies behind these reforms.
  38. Aharonian, “Latin America Today.”
  39. Ibid.
  40. The “pragmatic left” includes President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, and Fidel Castro in Cuba; a multitude of big electoral parties, the main unions and peasant associations in Central and South America; the left electoral parties, the PRD in Mexico, the FMLN in El Salvador, the electoral left and the workers’ confederation in Colombia, the Chilean Communist Party, a majority of Humala, a Peruvian nationalist parliamentary party, some of the leaders of the MST in Brazil, the MAS in Bolivia, the CTA in Argentina, and a minority of the Frente Amplio and the workers’ federation in Uruguay. Also included are the great majority of Latin American left-wing intellectuals. This bloc is called “pragmatic” because it has not called for the expropriation of capital nor for the rejection of the debt, nor for any kind of break in relations with the United States. See James Petras, “Latin America: Four Competing Blocs of Power,” March 2007, http://petras.lahaine.org/articulo.php?p=1700.
  41. The “radical left” includes the FARC in Colombia, some factions in the unions, peasant and neighborhood movements in Venezuela; the workers’ federation, Conlutas, and some factions of the Landless Movement in Brazil; parts of the Bolivian Workers’ Federation, the peasant movements, and the neighborhood organizations in El Alto; parts of the peasant-indigenous movement of the Conaie in Ecuador; the teachers’ and indigenous, peasant movements in Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Chiapas, Mexico; factions of the nationalist peasant left in Peru; sectors of the unions and the unemployed in Argentina. It is a heterodox political bloc, diverse and fundamentally anti-imperialist, which rejects any concessions to neoliberal policies, is against paying the foreign debt, and in general supports a socialist or radical, nationalist program. See Petras, “Latin America: Four Competing Blocs of Power.”
  42. See note 24 in Stolowicz, “El debate actual: posliberalismo o anticapitalismo,”99.
  43. Harnecker, Rebuilding the Left, paragraphs 117-21.
  44. Beatriz Stolowicz, Gobiernos de izquierda en América Latina. Un balance político (Bogotá: Ediciones Aurora, 2007), 15.
  45. We take up this idea again in Rebuilding the Left, 45.
  46. Franz Hinkelammert, La lógica de la exclusión del mercado capitalista mundial y el proyecto de liberación (Costa Rica: DEI Publishers, 1995), 145.
  47. Ibid., 147.
  48. Beatriz Stolowicz, Gobiernos de izquierda en América Latina, 89-90.
  49. The democratic regimes that arose after the dictatorships in the Southern Cone and then expanded throughout the subcontinent are what some authors have called “restricted or wardship” democracies. See Franz Hinkelammert, “Nuestro proyecto de nueva sociedad en América Latina: el papel regulador del estado y los problemas de autorregulación del mercado” (“Our Project for a New Society in Latin America: the Regulatory Role of the State and the Problems of Market Self-regulation”), PASOS, No. 33 (1991).
  50. For a broader discussion of this subject, see Marta Harnecker, La Izquierda en el umbral del Siglo XXI: Haciendo posible el imposible (Madrid: Siglo XXI de España editores, 2000), 183-90.
  51. See Noam Chomsky, Como nos venden la moto (Barcelona: Icaria Editorial, 1996), 16. The term “the manufacture of consent” was coined by Walter Lippmann in his Public Opinion (London: Allen and Unwin, 1932). Chomsky, with Edward S. Herman, has also published a book with the title Manufacturing Consent.
  52. Toussaint, “La roue de l’histoire tourne au Venezuela, en Équateur et en Bolivie.”
  53. Valter Pomar, Las diferentes estrategias de la izquierda latinoamericana (Mexico: Ocean Sur, 2009), 246.
  54. Valter Pomar, “La línea del Ecuador,” December 3, 2008, http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=77280.
  55. Michael Lebowitz, “Venezuela: a Good Example of the Bad Left,” June 1, 2009, Monthly Review 59, no. 3 (July-August, 2007) 38-54.