The US and Latin America actually have little in common beyond geography and the US's long history of aggression and domination. The US has sent troops to Latin America 87 times according to Instances of Use of Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2001 and other sources. We may never know how many times the US has interfered there covertly, how many assassinations we have paid for, how many governments we've toppled.
But the tide is turning. The spirit of Che Guevara, the charismatic revolutionary leader who is still a hero and an inspiration to many Latin Americans, is gaining strength.
Go south of the border for more.
If it was Stalin that convinced Western Europe to unite, then it may be Bush that's convincing Latin America to unite, to unite in opposition to Washington. This idea was presented by ManfromMiddletown in a diary at European Tribune and it makes a lot of sense.
Of course, we all know that Latin America already has its share of anti-Bush leaders. Venezuela's populist Hugo Chavez is chief among these. Likewise there is Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva. Cuba's non-elected Castro has been a thorn not just in Bush's side, but in that of every president since Kennedy. Argentina's Nestor Kirchner may be the most dangerous to the neo-cons, because he is showing the developing world that it can, and should, reject the IMF and the neoliberal Washington consensus. And more such leaders are on the way.
Among the most charismatic of these candidates is Bolivia's Evo Morales, who the New York Times has called the new Che Guevara. Morales is a former llama herder and coca farmer who would de-penalize coca farming and force multi-national oil companies to renegotiate contracts or leave. He has a slight lead in the polls for the Dec. 18 election. His victory would be a major blow to the Bush administration.
From the New York Times Magazine (via Truthout):
How seriously to take Morales's tough talk about drug "depenalization" and nationalization of natural resources - oil, gas and the mines - is the great question in Bolivian politics today. Many Bolivian observers say they believe that MAS is nowhere near as radical as its rhetoric makes it appear. They note that conservative opponents of Brazil's current leftist president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, also predicted disaster were he to be elected, but that in office Lula has proved to be a moderate social democrat....-snip-
Morales has become almost as much of a bugbear to the Bush administration and many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle as Chávez or Castro. And for his part, Morales seems to revel in the role. At the summit meeting of the Organization of American States held in Mar del Plata, Argentina, earlier this month, he appeared with Chávez at a huge anti-American and anti-globalization rally just before the meetings began. The two men spoke in front of a huge image of Che Guevara....
For most Bolivians, globalization, or what they commonly refer to as neoliberalism, has failed so utterly to deliver the promised prosperity that some Bolivian commentators I met insisted that what is astonishing is not the radicalization of the population but rather the fact that this radicalization took as long as it did. Bolivia often seems now like a country on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Every day, peasants or housewives or the unemployed erect hundreds of makeshift roadblocks to protest shortages of fuel (a particularly galling affront in a country with vast hydrocarbon resources) or to demand increased subsidies for education or to air any of the dozens of issues that have aroused popular anger. The language of these protests is insistently, defiantly leftist, with ritual denunciations of multinational corporations, of the United States and of the old Bolivian elite, who are white, mostly descendants of Spanish and German settlers....
Bolivia has considerable oil reserves and, far more crucially, has the second-largest proved reserves of natural gas in South America after Venezuela - some 54 trillion cubic feet. Talk to ordinary Bolivians, and it often seems as if their profound rage and despair over what is taking place in their country is at least partly due to the gap between Bolivia's natural riches and the poverty of its people. "We shouldn't be poor" is the way Morales put it to me...
In Chile Michelle Bachelet, a socialist, and atheist who was tortured during Chile's 1973-1990 dictatorship won the first round of yesterday's presidential election. With 96 percent of the votes counted she has 45.9%. Sebastian Pinera, a moderate conservative,, was second with 25.5 percent. But the runoff may be tight because Joaquin Lavin, the other conservative candidate has endorsed Pinera.
Bachelet is also a medical doctor and former defense minister. She promises to overhaul Chile's private pension system and continue the liberal social programs and free-market economic policies of popular President Ricardo Lagos. Her center-left coalition has cut poverty by 50% aided Chile's economic rises.
From the Boston Globe:
Bachelet, 54, a socialist running in national elections today, has a strong chance of becoming Chile's first female head of state -- and thus the first woman in South America to be elected to the top national office without replacing a deceased or disabled husband.
As a single mother, Bachelet is a symbol of change in a country so culturally conservative that it legalized divorce only last year. As both the child of a military family and a victim of prison and torture under the former military dictatorship, she is also a symbol of healing in a country long divided by ideology, class, and competing versions of a tumultuous recent history.
In Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador the leftist mayor of Mexico City leads in the presidential race. Though he may not be as much of a leftist as many Americans believe, he seems certain to reject many neo-liberal policies.
From The Economist:
In Central America, the Sandinistas, led by Daniel Ortega, are positioning themselves to win back the Nicaraguan presidency they lost in 1990. Opinion polls suggest that Ortega may be one of the strongest candidates in the November 2006 elections. He may not be the best example of a liberal leader, but it is an indication of the trend.
Yes, that is John Kerry.
Ollanta Humala, a former army officer who compares himself to Chávez, is gaining ground and is now second in the polls in Peru.
That's Ollanta Humala in the center. From the Miami Herald:
He also shares something of the Venezuelan's background as an army lieutenant colonel who led a failed coup in 1992. A lieutenant colonel himself, Humala was arrested in 2000 after he led a small army uprising in 2000, in the waning days of President Alberto Fujimori's rule. -snip-
Like the leftist Evo Morales in neighboring Bolivia, one of two front-runners for the presidency there, Humala diametrically opposes U.S. policies in Latin America and wants to subsidize national industries and limit investments by foreign companies in key sectors.
And like Morales, Humala is the subject of widespread rumors that he receives financial assistance from the oil-rich Chávez. He denies receiving any aid, and no one has been able to prove him a liar.
In Costa Rica, the front-runner is ex-president Oscar Arias (1986-1990), on the centre-left.
Brazil's, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva may loose the presidency due to ongoing corruption scandals. Social democrat José Serra is a good bet be his successor.
In Colombia, one of Bush's few remaining allies, rightwing President Alvaro Uribe look like he'll be reelected.
In another sort of election, Venezuela has been accepted into Mercosur, a South American trading zone composed of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela, with Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador,and Peru as associate members. But Mercosur is also widely seen as a rejection of to the US dominated FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas). And Chavez, Venezuela's president, promises politicize the organization. From the Financial Times:
"We have to politicise Mercosur," he said in Montevideo, Uruguay, at a meeting of the group's leaders convened to mark Venezuela's formal entry into the trade bloc. "We cannot allow this to be purely an economic project, one for the elites and for the transnational companies."
Mr Chávez's remarks are likely to cause angst among hardliners in Washington, who already eye Venezuela's growing influence with concern. The country is one of the world's largest oil producers and it has used windfall revenues from high oil prices to assert its weight in the region.
Venezuela's entry marks the first expansion of Mercosur, which comprises Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, since it was established in 1991.
Mercosur leaders welcomed Venezuela's incorporation. President Néstor Kirchner of Argentina said it was "a milestone". President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil said the expansion of Mercosur would "open a new chapter in our integration".
Will we see most of South America opposed to the United States? Will the Monroe doctrine finally be buried? Will Latin America proclaim that it has more in common with Europe and Asia than the US? Will we in the US also elect progressives. Only time and the CIA will tell.