South America

A sustainer recently asked Noam the below question in the ZNet forum, where Noam responds to questions from sustainers:

Sustainer: Dr. Chomsky,

I am curious about the measures of integration taking place in South America.  What are real things being done in the sense of a more cooperative trade, energy integration, etc that may have an impact in the near term? What are the issues under Mercosur and the new trade bloc being introduced… How much of a divide is there really with Brazil and Venezuela, as people speculate there is a power vacuum these two countries may be struggling for.  How much of that is real in your opinion. 

Also I wanted to ask you about Colombia.  Is there something to be hopeful about in the political system in Colombia? Do you see Uribe’s popularity may be affected by the recent event when Reyes was killed, despite the full support of the media?  Do you see think the current opposition of the Colombia FTA by the democrats may be lasting? How much of that is real concern over human rights in Colombia?


Noam Chomsky: These are very serious questions, and I don’t like to evade them, but I honestly don’t think they are answerable.  The steps towards integration are real, but face great obstacles.  The countries have different interests, and there are cross-cutting conflicts of a very serious sort.  Take Ecuador.  The large indigenous population shares interests with the large indigenous population in Peru, the majority indigenous population in Bolivia, the Mapuche in southern Chile, and others in the continent, interests that run counter to others in the same country.  It’s been a major issue within Ecuador, as you know better than I.  And Bolivia may split over it, very likely with US subversion playing a role in stripping off the richer, more white, Eastern region that has most of the resources.  There are conflicts between Brazil and Venezuela, which the media leap upon with great enthusiasm.  But there are conflicts between every pair of countries, within them, and crossing their boundaries.  And there is substantial Brazilian-Venezuelan cooperation too, regularly suppressed or distorted by the media because they do not fit the required imagery.

Despite plenty of conflict, the steps are real.  Mercosur is barely functioning, but even its existence is important as a stepping stone towards the future.  Same with the other steps towards developing integrative institutions, and towards dealing with some of the horrendous internal problems.  Progress is sufficient to be of great concern in Washington, which has sharply stepped up training of Latin American officers, aimed at "radical populism" — meaning, independence and concern for social justice that gets out of control.  The reestablishment of the Fourth Fleet is another sign of the concern, and the desperate efforts of the media to toe the party line often reach the level of a comedy act. 

Colombia is a separate story.  I don’t see much to be hopeful about.  In some ways it’s a cauldron ready to explode, with a huge displaced population, terrible poverty along with great wealth and resources, a substantial political/economic role for military and paramilitary murderers, many of whom are surely up to their necks in narcotrafficking and other rackets.  A lot more to say about it.


Leave a comment