Tag Archive: Latin America

Apr 19 2015

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Venezuela – A”Threat” to US Imperialism by Geminijen

In Memory of Eduardo Galeano, 1940-2015.

At the 2009 Summit of the Americas, Hugo Chavez gave Barack Obama a copy of Galeano’s book Open Veins of Latin America which details the United State’s military aggression, economic exploitation and political coups or “regime changes” in Latin America.

In the 2012 Summit of the Americas, Obama’s reception by Latin American nations was noticeably cool – primarily because the United States refused to end its 50 year boycott of Cuba.

So at the 2015 Summit of the Americas, Obama walked in with a smile on his face and a proposal for a rapprochement with Cuba in one hand, and, in the other, his newly minted Executive Order 2015 which placed sanctions for human rights abuses on several  Venezuelan military leaders and  government officials. Under his emergency powers, Obama declared Venezuela a “threat to the United State’s national security.”

What was Obama thinking? Did he think people wouldn’t notice the bait and switch as he tried to appease Cuba and the Latin American nations while at the same time he applied the same old cold war tactics to isolate Venezuela as the more recent example of a Latin American country standing up to US imperialism? (To make matters worse, these particular military officers and judicial officials are those that many Bolivarians see as the most active in preventing a highly publicized attempt to destabilize the Venezuela government in February 2014 to set it up for another coup.)

The unanimous demand from the Latin American nations to repeal the sanctions against Venezuela show how disconnected Obama and the United States government are from changes in the balance of power in the Americas in the last decade. This includes  the failure of the United States to maintain its neoliberal hegemony and the rise of a left liberal block of nations (i.e., Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil among others).

Admittedly, much of the loss of US hegemony in Latin America is due to the United States over-extending itself in brutal and unsuccessful oil wars in the Middle East and Asia, but much of the impetus of this new left leaning block is due to the influence of the Bolivarian “21st century socialist revolution” of Venezuela. Beginning with the election of Hugo Chavez in the late 1990s and the drafting of a “socialist” constitution, Venezuela has been instrumental in establishing several inter-regional support groups such as ALBA, UNISUR and CELAC which exclude the United States.  The new left liberal block of nations has also benefited by Venezuela’s generous sharing of its oil wealth with its neighbors.

So even though most will scoff at the idea that Venezuela is a real military threat to the United States (given the size and nuclear capability and the fact that Venezuela recently reduced its military by an unheard of 34%), the spread of an ideology that challenges the United States’ right to exploit and impoverish its southern neighbors could be sufficient reason to consider Venezuela a “threat” to United States’ ideology of imperialism; thus causing the US to resort to its age old practice of “regime change.”

Seems Like We’ve Heard This Tune Before

For the past 150 years, the United States has treated Latin American as its own personal backyard to exploit.  Most of the exploitation has been accomplished through economic dominance and the support of right-wing dictatorships.  However, if we look at those countries that experienced actual “regime changes” involving military coups,  we can count, just since World War II,  a minimum of 11 countries (and I’m sure I’ve missed some) where the United States was either directly or indirectly involved with military regime changes in the Americas– either to protect specific multinational corporate interests or change regimes that promoted an ideology that was more generally in conflict with Capitalist interests (communism/socialism, nationalism, liberation theology): Guatemala 1954, Cuba1959, The Dominican Republic – 1961, Brazil – 1964, Chile – 1970-73, Argentina – 1976, Nicaragua – 1981-90, Panama 1989, Venezuela 2002, Haiti – 2004, and Honduras – 2009.

To learn some more about a recently published secret report that documents the United States plans for achieving regime change in Venezuela follow the discussion below …

Aug 11 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Evo Morales, “Live Well” vs “Live Better” by UnaSpenser

It can be very disheartening to contemplate the state of the world, these days. Climate change, growing wealth inequality, civil rights erosion, violence, violence and more violence. As a practitioner of bearing witness, it all gets overwhelming and can lead to despair, unless I find beacons of light. One of the beacons I’ve found is Evo Morales of Bolivia.

If you’re not aware of him, he is the first indigenous president of Bolivia. That would be notable, in and of itself, but he has represented so much more than a demographic token. He’s now a leading voice in a worldwide coalition for a sustainable future. Something he calls “Vivir Bien.”

The concept of vivir bien (live well) defines the current climate change movement in Bolivia. The concept is usually contrasted with the capitalist entreaty to vivir mejor (live better). Proponents argue that living well means having all basic needs met while existing in harmony with the natural world; living better seeks to constantly amass materials goods at the expense of the environment.

This isn’t just a vague “feel good” philosophy. It is a set of principles to live by and guide public policy. Let’s take a look at what those principles are, how they’ve been applied in Bolivia and how they are being adopted beyond Bolivia, along with some of President Morales’ personal background.

Oct 06 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Workers, not Servants by Irene Ortiz Rosen

Today we are fortunate to have a diary describing the current condition of domestic workers in Mexico. This is an issue which has received increasing attention in the last three years. A long-time activist in the Domestic Worker Movement, Irene Ortiz Rosen,  is the Co-Founder  and Director of Collectivo Atabal,  an organization of activists and  feminists formed to defend the rights, dignity and demands of domestic workers in Mexico City. She is also the Co-Author of “Así es, Pues” a socio-economic study of domestic workers in Cuernavaca. A recent emigrant from Mexico, she approaches the subject from a global perspective which emphasizes the class and anti-imperialist aspects of the struggle as well as its patriarchal nature.

In the world of labor, a large group of women whose work is the maintenance of the homes of others is largely ignored-domestic workers. According to the ILO, there are more than 52 million domestic workers in the world.

In almost all countries, domestic workers share the following characteristics:  1) invisibility; 2) migration; 3) low levels of education; 4) gender, ethnic and racial discrimination; and 5) the informality of their labor. These are all products of poverty.

 photo f473a4db-e8ce-476c-bf85-ac82a0a43e77_zpsd35ff34d.jpg

Domestic workers make up an invisible workforce because their work is carried out in the private sphere, that is, the homes of their employers. Their contract is verbal, their work is isolated, and their mobility is common.

Generally they are migrants, usually, within their own countries. This is the case for indigenous women  and women who come from rural areas in Latin America.  And as the gap in inequality grows throughout the world, in the poorest countries the phenomenon of migration (usually without papers) is growing beyond borders.  That is how they arrive to United States and Canada, by informally working as House Cleaning Personnel, Nannies and Home Attendants. In New York alone, we are talking about more than 200 thousand people who are working under disadvantaged conditions due to their Undocumented status.



Their discrimination is shared with nearly all women, and its logic corresponds to the subordination of women in a patriarchal culture. Within the patriarchal view of the traditional role of women, their work is an extension of the reproductive role, which is considered natural for their gender.  

 photo e78e8cbb-76d4-4649-9006-b3021144a395_zpsaf7893d7.jpg

We should not forget that women in general, as housewives and mothers, perform domestic work without any pay whatever. Consequently, their work is not considered part of the national economy despite the fact that it makes up about 20% of the GDP. If a woman looks for waged work, she enters the labor market in a disadvantaged way; forty-five percent of women domestic workers receive salaries that are 10% lower than salaries received by men for the same work.

Global economic policies that have impoverished the majority of the world´s population have brought women in all countries into  the public sphere. The women working in the public sphere then need to hire a domestic worker to care for their children and home. However, because they, themselves, are not paid well, they are unable to pay a fair  wage, even if they value the services being performed by domestic help.

Apr 18 2012

Ignoring Latin America: The War on Drugs

In the failed “War on Drugs”, President Obama appears to be standing alone in his refusal to consider the alternative to the “zero tolerance” policy which has been an abject failure, that has cost thousands of lives, imprisoned millions, mostly minorities for minor offenses, and cost billions of dollars. At the recent Summit of the Americas in Colombia, demands by the leaders of Latin American countries for exploring the option of legalizing drugs and institutional regulations are being dismissed by Pres. Obama.

Is it time to end America’s ‘war on drugs’?

With demand for drugs increasing and drug-related violence worsening, we ask if it is time to reassess drug policies.

Drug addiction in the vast majority of countries is a very serious public health problem. Drug trafficking continues to be the principle financier of violence and terrorism. Colombia and many other countries in the region believe it is necessary to begin a discussion, an analysis of this issue, without judgment and without dogmas, and look at the different scenarios and the possible alternatives to confronting this challenge with the greatest effectiveness.

Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian president

John Walker at Just Say Now: Obama Dismisses Latin American Leaders’ Calls for Drug Legalization in Colombia

With the total failure of the drug war causing many Latin American political leaders to publicly question the wisdom of prohibition, President Obama was forced to repeatedly address the issue this weekend at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. Unfortunately, Obama did his best to quickly dismiss the topic with incoherent excuses. From the LA Times:

   Facing calls at a regional summit to consider decriminalization, Obama said he is open to a debate about drug policy, but he believes that legalization could lead to greater problems in countries hardest hit by drug-fueled violence.

   “Legalization is not the answer,” Obama told other hemispheric leaders at the two-day Summit of the Americas.

   “The capacity of a large-scale drug trade to dominate certain countries if they were allowed to operate legally without any constraint could be just as corrupting, if not more corrupting, than the status quo,” he said.

This is simply an absurd defense of prohibition. If drugs were legalized and regulated like any other product, the business running them would be operate like any other legal business such as beer breweries, pharmaceutical makers, car manufacturers, alcohol distillers, dairies, etc. While corporations can and sometimes do have a corrupting influence over a nation’s politics, the idea that the level of corruption and violence from a legal business would ever be on the scale that we see with the cartels in the illicit drug trade doesn’t pass the laugh test.

‘War on drugs’ has failed, say Latin American leaders

Watershed summit will admit that prohibition has failed, and call for more nuanced and liberalised tactics

Otto Pérez Molina, the president of Guatemala, who as former head of his country’s military intelligence service experienced the power of drug cartels at close hand, is pushing his fellow Latin American leaders to use the summit to endorse a new regional security plan that would see an end to prohibition. In the Observer, Pérez Molina writes: “The prohibition paradigm that inspires mainstream global drug policy today is based on a false premise: that global drug markets can be eradicated.”

Pérez Molina concedes that moving beyond prohibition is problematic. “To suggest liberalisation – allowing consumption, production and trafficking of drugs without any restriction whatsoever – would be, in my opinion, profoundly irresponsible. Even more, it is an absurd proposition. If we accept regulations for alcoholic drinks and tobacco consumption and production, why should we allow drugs to be consumed and produced without any restrictions?”

He insists, however, that prohibition has failed and an alternative system must be found. “Our proposal as the Guatemalan government is to abandon any ideological consideration regarding drug policy (whether prohibition or liberalisation) and to foster a global intergovernmental dialogue based on a realistic approach to drug regulation. Drug consumption, production and trafficking should be subject to global regulations, which means that drug consumption and production should be legalised, but within certain limits and conditions.” [..]

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil and chairman of the global commission on drug policy, has said it is time for “an open debate on more humane and efficient drug policies”, a view shared by George Shultz, the former US secretary of state, and former president Jimmy Carter.

This is a discussion that is long past due.