People disappeared, false dossiers, secret services in action, electoral fraud, the battle in the UN, an imminent coup d’etat in Bolivia, the lives of militants and political leaders threatened. For the Latin American Spring it is time to prove itself against reaction.
To more than a few the Latin American Spring had seemed like a party. Social movements turned into governments so easily that it made one wonder why it had not happened before. Presidents elected by chance like the Argentine Nestor Kirchner showed themselves capable of gathering consensus and wiping out impunity. Radical movements – children of ancestral sacrifices – like the Brazilian landless take part carefully in politics.
Even a coup d’etat organized with all the regular components, on April 11th 2002 in Caracas, was swept out by the participative democracy of the Bolivarian revolution. In Mar de Plata, at the end of 2005, popular movements and new classes of leaders have shouted out an unheard-of “No!” to the Free Trade Area of the Americas and to George Bush. Argentina and Brazil have settled their accounts with the IMF : they want no more partial advice. Regional integration is designing a continent that finally puts social inclusion first.
In contests steadily more meaningful, the timeless Right wing has taken blows to its privilege and its impunity. But 2006, a fundamental election year, is showing signs of systematic reaction in the form of a new dirty war. One cannot talk of a new Plan Condor, perhaps that would be impossible now, but the sinister signs are numerous, and while varied are nonetheless homogenous and not to be underestimated.
The most serious case is that of Bolivia. Rumours of military sabres and foreign interference – like that of the “friends” in Petrobras and enemies like Tony Blair who, as the political agent of British Petroleum, openly canvass a boycott of Bolivia – limit President Morales’ room for manoeuvre, although the treaty on the sale of gas signed this week with Argentina, reduces the tension. It is not just the government’s mistakes – like that on mining policy – that make one fear a reverse in the Bolivian experience.
Rafael Puente, for eight months Evo Morales Vice-Minister of the Interior, wrote “the President’s very life is in the hands of the enemy. Bolivia in fact has no information of its own, but the secret services of various countries, starting with the Chilean, are active. The President might be assassinated at any time by a sniper or poisoned by the treachery of someone closer to home. His life is at risk all the time. We receive continual reports from the Venezuelan and Cuban security services on that score, but they cannot make good our own deficiencies.” Bolivia’s drama is that a fragile State can hardly produce a government less fragile than itself. Absorbed in his concerns Rafael Puente concludes, “Our Spring could be very brief.”
From Bolivia to Argentina, the sittuation is different. But for a month now the search has been on for the first person disappeared in this new era, number 30,001. He is Jorge Lopez, 77 years old, a key witness in the trial “for genocide” that handed a life sentence to Miguel Etchecolatz, a living symbol of sadism, perversion and especially wicked cruelty in torturing pregnant women, in burning people alive or throwing bound men into the sea. With the Lopez kidnapping, tens of thousands of people and all the witnesses of the hundreds of trials under way in Argentina have seen their lives taken back thirty years, to watching their backs, to changing street routes as they make their way home, returning to live in fear.
That kidnapping of Lopez is key because it is not some desperate vengeance by Etchecolatz and his kind, but a direct challenge thrown down to the human rights policy of President Kirchner by a parallel state that continues to exist amid democracy More than 2000 torturers, their relatives and political-economic patrons, marched in Buenos Aires seeking an end to the trials. Parliamentarian and writer Miguel Bonasso tells us, “Physical threats, plausible and disturbing have been made even against President Kirchner. This shows that mafia and fascist bodies of state exist in Argentina and are still active, ready for anything.” Likewise in wavering Tabare Vasquez’s Uruguay similar signs are noticeable.
In Brazil, Lula da Silva will be president for a second term. He’ll win the ballot against Gerardo Alckmin, the candidate of Opus Dei and the economic ultra-right who, perhaps for that reason, the European Press insist on describing as social democrat. But against that 49.85 per cent won by Lula, a minimal margin from victory in the first round and with the 8% taken by candidates further to his left, a dossier falsely attributed to the President’s PT political party has weighed in a decisive way. With every sign that it is an operation of foreign services working beyond the pale, most probably Bolivian, with the complicity of the system of mass media, to damage the image of Lula, himself paradoxically strengthened rather than weakened by four years of scandals, some genuine some manipulated.
The Right, who are unable right now to overthrow Lula – who provides vital detail to the whole progressive project in Latin America – do have the power to expose his weakness and render him less credible. No longer in control of the State machinery, and therefore themselves hindered from large-scale fraud, they still manage to oblige him into a ballot that should not have happened, by means of an unwonted use of State apparatus that remains at the disposal of the ancien regime.
Still more solid than the position of Lula is that of Hugo Chavez. However the fight for the Latin American seat on the UN Security Council finally pans out, it is very clear that the candidacy of Guatemala, not a State based on the rule of law and one where the authors of a genocide costing more than 200,000 lives live in complete impunity, is transparently a neo-colonialist operation: with this the US ambassador to the UN John Bolton is saying “It is we who will decide who represents Latin America in the Security Council”. As usual.
Whether Guatemala (read the United States) defeats Venezuela or not, the reasons for a multi-polar world come out very clearly and are all on Chavez’s side. They show the contempt of the United States for the whole of Latin America and its readiness to use whatever weapon comes to hand in the most important contest, that of December 3rd, the Venezuelan elections that will reconfirm the presidency of Hugo Chavez. Francisco Sesto, Venezuela’s Minister for Culture reveals, “According to all the calculations and independent polls, the candidate of the united opposition Manuel Rosales will do well to get half the votes that Chavez can count on.” Rosales may reach a third of the votes cast, maybe a point more, but he still loses.
And what use is a losing candidate to the Venezuelan Right and those forces, the United States and the IMF at their head, who together brought about the coup d’etat of April 11th 2002? In Latin America, it might be useful for many reasons. Luis Donaldo Colosio for example was very useful as losing candidate of the Mexican PRI, murdered by his own people in Tijuana in 1994 and so making way for Ernesto Zedillo, who managed in the end to avoid the arrival to the presidency of left wing candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas. More than a Rosales alive and a sure loser against Chavez, various confidential sources have warned for weeks that Rosales might be assassinated – with the extreme unction of fictitious opinion polls awarding him victory – an ideal stratagem to weaken Chavez, launch a world wide campaign llinking him definitively to the world’s pariahs and opening the way for a Balkanization of Venezuela with help from Colombia.
From the Mexico of the neo-falangist Felipe Calderon (of a wholly different kind from the Coca Cola executive, Vicente Fox) comes a classic lesson : the control of the State apparatus is vital to avoid the demonstrated fraud of the Right that have prevented Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from becoming President and probably also Ollanta Humala in Peru and Rafael Correa in Ecuador. But also in Mexico, the State apparatus is a mutating entity. Carmen Lira, director of the daily La Jornada, recounts the key moment of two months of protests by millions of Mexicans, scientifically ingored by the international Press which – in identical but opposite circumstances – had so wrung its hands for the orangy ones in Kiev : “when Vicente Fox gave the order to the army to use repression – it would have been another Tlatelolco – it is proven that the army high command demanded the President put the order in writing. When he did not, the army, for the first time in its history, refused to obey.”
It already happened in Venezuela in the 2002 coup, that the army split and upheld the Constitution : multiple indications of loyalty of other armed forces in the continent are to hand, profoundly changed through the neoliberal winter by their social background. Reaction is on its way in Latin America and will be heavy. But perhaps the Latin American Spring still has more flowers than a late winter can freeze.
Translated from Spanish into English by toni solo, a member of Tlaxcala (www.tlaxcala.es), the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation is Copyleft.
2. Tlatelolco â€“ scene of an armed onslaught by the army against demonstrating students in 1968 which left hundreds of students dead.
Translated by toni solo