Category Archives: Bolivia

21st Century US Coups and Attempted Coups in Latin America

During the 21st century, the US, working with corporate elites, traditional oligarchies, military, and corporate media, has continually attempted coups against Latin American governments which place the needs of their people over US corporate interests. US organized coups in Latin American countries is hardly a 20th century phenomenon.

However, this century the US rulers have turned to a new coup strategy, relying on soft coups, a significant change from the notoriously brutal military hard coups in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and other countries in the 1970s. One central US concern in these new coups has been to maintain a legal and democratic facade as much as possible.

The US superpower recognizes successful soft coups depend on mobilizing popular forces in anti-government marches and protests. Gene Sharp style color revolutions are heavily funded by US and European NGOs, such as USAID, NED, National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, Open Society Foundations, Ford Foundation, and others. They make use of organizations professing “human rights” (such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International), local dissident organizations, and increasingly, liberal-left media (even Democracy Now) to prepare the groundwork.

US regime change operations have found three mechanisms this century that have been tremendously successful. First, economic warfare on a country, through sanctions and outright blockades, creates rising discontent against the targeted government. Second, increasing use of corporate media and social media to spread disinformation (often around “human rights,” “democracy,” “freedom,” or “corruption”) to foment mass movements against leaders that prioritize their nation’s development over US financial interests. This heavily relies on CIA social media operations to blanket a country with disinformation. Third, lawfare, using the appearance of democratic legality to bring down those defending their country’s national sovereignty. Related to lawfare are the electoral coups in countries such as Haiti, Honduras, and Brazil, where the US engineers or helps to engineer a coup by stealing the election.

Many of the attempted coups failed because the people mobilized to defend their governments, and because of crucial and timely solidarity declarations in defense of these governments by the Latin American bodies of the OAS, UNASUR, and the Rio Group. Today, the Rio Group no longer exists, UNASUR is much weakened, and the OAS is now fully under US control.

US Backed Coups and Attempted Coups

2001 Haiti. Haitian paramilitaries based in the Dominican Republic launched an attack on the National Palace, seat of the government of President Aristide. The attack failed, but until 2004, similar to the 1980s Nicaraguan contras, these paramilitaries launched numerous raids into Haiti, and played a key role leading to the 2004 coup perpetrated directly by US troops.

2002 Venezuela. The US government partially funded and backed the short-lived April 11-14 coup against Hugo Chavez.

2002-3 Venezuela. Management of the state oil company PDVSA organized an “oil strike,” actually a lockout of the oil workers, to drive Hugo Chavez out of power. This again failed in early 2003.

2003 Cuba. In the lead up to the March 2003 US invasion of Iraq, John Bolton claimed Cuba was a state sponsor of terrorism, producing biological weapons for terrorist purposes, just as Saddam’s Iraq was falsely claimed to have weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). During this period, the US increased its anti-Cuba propaganda directed at the country and increased funding to “pro-democracy” groups in Cuba, while anti-Cuban right-wing groups escalated their activities. The US paid “dissident” groups to organize protests and disruptions, including hijacking seven boats and airplanes to reach the US where they were never prosecuted. The goal was to create the appearance of disorder in Cuba, which, combined with its alleged biological WMDs, demanded an international intervention to restore order. Cuba squashed this movement in spring 2003.

2004 Haiti. In an early 20th century style US coup, US troops invaded Haiti, kidnapped President Jean Bertrande Aristide and exiled him to the Central African Republic.

2008 Bolivia. The Media Luna attempted coup involved right-wing leaders and some indigenous groups from Bolivia’s lowlands financed by the US. They sought to separate the richer Media Luna region from the rest of the country. In the process, they killed 20 supporters of President Evo Morales. Juan Ramon Quintana of the Bolivian government reported that between 2007-2015, the NED gave $10 million in funding to some 40 institutions including economic and social centers, foundations and NGOs. US embassy cables showed it sought to turn social and indigenous movements against the Evo Morales government.

2009 Honduras. Honduran military forces, under orders from the US, seized President Manuel Zelaya, brought him to the US military base at Palmerola, then exiled him to Costa Rica. This began an era of brutal neoliberal narco-trafficking regimes that ended in 2021 with the landslide election of Xiomara Castro, Zelaya’s wife.

2010 Ecuador. In September a failed coup against President Rafael Correa by military and police units backed by the indigenous organizations CONAIE and Pachakutik. The US had infiltrated the police and armed forces, while the NED and USAID funded these indigenous organizations.

2011 Haiti. Following the Haiti earthquake in 2010 that killed 200,000, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton imposed Michel Martelly as president after threatening to cut off US aid to Haiti. Clinton flew to Haiti to demand that Martelly be named one of the two runoff candidates, although Martelly was not recognized by the Electoral Council as one of the qualifiers. Despite a voter boycott, with fewer than 20% of the electorate voting, Martelly was announced the winner of the “runoff.” One reason why most Haitians boycotted was that the most popular political party in the country, Fanmi Lavalas, the party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was excluded from the ballot. The Haiti elections were funded by USAID, Canada, the OAS, the European Union and other foreign bodies.

2012 Paraguay. President Fernando Lugo was scapegoated for a land occupation confrontation between campesinos and the police, which led to 17 deaths. President Lugo was removed from office without a chance to defend himself in a lawfare coup.

2013 Venezuela. After the April election that Nicolas Maduro narrowly won, Henrique Capriles, the US-supported loser, claimed the election was stolen and called his supporters out into the streets in violent protests. Due to the strength of the UNASUR countries at the time, the US could not convince other countries to also reject Maduro’s victory.

2014 Venezuela. “La Salida”(The Exit), led by Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado, resulted in 43 deaths, and aimed to drive President Maduro from power. Again, the US could not get other Latin American governments to denounce Maduro, either in UNASUR or in the OAS.

2015 Ecuador. Between 2012-2015, $30 million from NED went to political parties, trade unions, dissident movements, and media. In 2013 alone, USAID and NED spent $24 million in Ecuador. This paid off in 2015 when CONAIE, which thanked USAID for its funding, called for an indigenous-led uprising. They began with marches in early August and concluded in Quito for an uprising and general strike on August 10.  The attempted coup failed.

2015 Haiti.  A new electoral coup for the presidency was funded by the US to the tune of $30 million. Both the US and the OAS refused Haitians’ demands to invalidate the election. The police attacked Supporters of opposition parties were shot with live and rubber bullets, killing many. President Michel Martelly’s chosen successor Jovenel Moise became president.

2015 Guatemala. The US engineered a coup against right-wing President Otto Perez Molina because he was not sufficiently subservient.

2015 Argentina. Argentine prosecutor Alber Nisman was evidently murdered days after he made bogus criminal charges against President Cristina Fernandez, claiming she was involved in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center. This was used to create a scandal, unseat her, and bring neoliberals back to power. Neoliberal forces and media used the case to disrupt the Kirchner coalition from winning another presidential election.

2015-2019 El Salvador. El Salvador’s right-wing opposition backed by the US sought to destabilize the government of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).  The conservative mass media launched a smear campaign against the administration, in concert with a surge in gang-driven homicides that the police chief said was part of a campaign to drive up body counts and remove the FMLN government. Sanchez Cerén and other former officials who were members of the FMLN later became targets of lawfare, “a strategy used in recent years by conservative groups in power to try to demobilize the organization and resistance of the peoples against neoliberalism and other forms of domination.”

2016 Brazil. US-backed right-wing movements launched a campaign against President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party for “corruption.” Aided by the corporate media, they organized a series of protests in Brazil’s largest cities throughout 2015. In March 2016, a massive political demonstration brought together more than 500,000 people in support of impeaching President Rousseff. She was finally impeached by Congress and removed from office in a successful lawfare coup.

2017 Venezuela. Violent protests (guarimbas), led by Leopoldo Lopez, sought to oust President Maduro, with 126 fatalities. The guarimbas ended after the elections for the National Constituent Assembly.

2017 Honduras. The US supported an electoral coup by President Juan Orlando Hernández involving widespread electoral fraud and government killing of dozens in protests. The US quickly recognized him as president and pressured other countries to do so also, even though the OAS itself had called for a new election.

2018 Nicaragua. US-backed violent protests, supported by anti-FSLN media and social media disinformation campaigns, sought to remove President Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas from power. After two months, public sentiment turned strongly against the violent protests and they disintegrated.

2018 Brazil. Former President Lula de Silva was the leading candidate to win the presidential election, but was imprisoned due to a lawfare operation of the US and Brazil’s right-wing, using bogus corruption charges. Bolsonario won the election, aided by a large-scale fake news operation which sent out hundreds of millions of WhatsApp messages to Brazilian voters.

2019 Venezuela. In January, Juan Guaido declared himself president of Venezuela after US Vice President Pence assured him of US recognition. On April 30, the Guaido-Leopoldo Lopez’ planned uprising outside an air force base flopped. Later, a mercenary attack from Colombia failed to seize President Maduro in the presidential palace.

2019 Bolivia. The US engineered a coup against Evo Morales, in part by using a social media campaign to make the false claim he stole the election. The OAS played a key role in legitimizing the coup. The disastrous coup government of Jeanine Anez lasted for just over one year.

2021 Cuba. The US orchestrated and funded protests against the Cuban government in July and November. The US sought to build a new generation of counter-revolutionary leadership by creating new “independent” press and social media platforms. These failed more miserably than the 2003 protests.

2021 Bolivia. In October, the right-wing tried to organize a coup and general strike, demanding the release of former President  Anez who was now imprisoned. The attempt was only successful in Santa Cruz, the center of the Media Luna. Later, mass organizations led a rally, encompassing 1.5 million, to the capital to defend the MAS government.

2021 Peru. The right-wing oligarchy used lawfare unsuccessfully to unseat new President Castillo, a leader who emerged from the popular indigenous movement, seeking to remove him for being “permanently morally incapable.” However, a new lawfare case has been brought against President Castillo concerning “corruption.”

2021 Nicaragua. The US planned to repeat the 2018 Nicaragua protests, combined with a concocted campaign that the Daniel Ortega government had imprisoned US-financed opposition “pre-candidates” before the presidential election. This coup attempt failed but the US and OAS refused to recognize the election results.

In 2022 we can expect the US to continue “regime change” operations against Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, and now Chile with the election of progressive President Boric.

This list of 27 US-backed coups and attempted coups in the first 21 years of this century may be incomplete. For instance, not included are the lawfare frame-ups directed by Ecuador’s former President Lenin Moreno, a US puppet, against former Vice President Jorge Glas, who is now imprisoned, nor against former President Rafael Correa, now in exile.

This listing of US coups and attempted coups is also misleading. As throughout the 20th century, the US daily, not periodically, interferes in what it considers its colonies to both impose neocolonial regimes and maintain those regimes which open their markets to the US without conditions and align themselves with US foreign policy.

Under the facade of “democracy promotion” Washington works to advance the exact opposite goal: foment coups against democratic and popular governments. Governments and leaders that stand up for their people and their national rights are the very targets of “democracy promotion” coups.

Present day US reliance on soft coup operations involves funding not only NGOs and right-wing groups in the targeted countries for training in Gene Sharp style “democracy promotion” programs. Many liberal and liberal-left alternative media and NGOs in the US now receive corporate funding, which pushes their political outlook in a more pro-imperialist direction. This is well-illustrated in the soft coup attempts against Evo’s Bolivia and Rafael Correa’s Ecuador. These NGOs and alternative media give a false humanitarian face to imperialist intervention.

Moreover, these regime change operations are now openly being used at home against the US people. This is seen in the confusion and political divisions in the US population, manufactured by the 2016 Hillary Clinton Russiagate disinformation campaign against Trump and the Trump 2020 stolen election disinformation campaign against the Democrats. For those of us opposed to US interventionism, we are called upon to expose these new sophisticated methods of soft coup interference, to demand the national sovereignty of other nations be respected, and to bring together the US people against this manipulation by the corporate rulers.

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2021 Latin America and the Caribbean in Review: The Pink Tide Rises Again

US policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean continued in a seamless transition from Trump to Biden, but the terrain over which it operated shifted left. The balance between the US drive to dominate its “backyard” and its counterpart, the Bolivarian cause of regional independence and integration, continued to tip portside in 2021 with major popular electoral victories in Chile, Honduras, and Peru. These follow the previous year’s reversal of the coup in Bolivia.

Central has been the struggle of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) countries – particularly Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua – against the asphyxiating US blockade and other regime-change measures. Presidential candidate Biden pledged to review Trump’s policy of US sanctions against a third of humanity. The presumptive intention of the review was to ameliorate the human suffering caused by these unilateral coercive measures, considered illegal under international law. Following the review, Biden has instead tightened the screws, more effectively weaponizing the COVID crisis.

Andean Nations

The unrelenting US regime-change campaign against Venezuela has had a corrosive effect on Venezuela’s attempt to build socialism. With the economy de facto dollarized, among those hardest hit are government workers, the informal sector, and those without access to dollar remittances from abroad.

Nonetheless, Venezuela’s resistance to the continued US “maximum pressure” hybrid warfare is a triumph in itself. Recent economic indicators have shown an upturn with significant growth in national food and oil production and an end to hyperinflation. Further, the government has built 3.7 million housing units, distributed food to 7 million through the CLAP program, and adroitly handled the COVID pandemic.

When Trump recognized Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela in 2019, the then 35-year-old US security asset had never run for a nationwide office and was unknown to over 80% of the Venezuelans. Back then some 50 of the US’s closest allies recognized Guaidó; now barely a dozen does so. Contrary to campaign trail inuendoes that Biden would enter into dialogue with the democratically elected president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, Biden has continued the embarrassing Guaidó charade.

The November 21 municipal and regional elections were a double triumph for Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution: the ruling Socialist Party (PSUV) won significantly while the extreme right opposition (including Guaidó’s party) was compelled to participate, implicitly recognizing the Maduro government.

Venezuelan special envoy Alex Saab was extradited – really kidnapped – to the US on October 16 on the vague and difficult to disprove charge of “conspiracy” to money launder. Swiss authorities, after an exhaustive 3-year investigation, had found no evidence of money laundering. Saab’s real “crime” was trying to bring humanitarian aid to Venezuela via legal international trade but circumventing the illegal US blockade. This egregious example of US extra-territorial judicial overreach is being contested by Saab’s legal defense because, as a diplomat, he has absolute immunity from arrest under the Vienna Convention. His case has become a major cause in Venezuela and internationally.

Meanwhile, Colombia, chief regional US client state, the biggest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere,  and the largest world source of cocaine, is a staging point for paramilitary attacks on Venezuela. President Iván Duque continues to disregard the 2016 peace agreement with the guerrilla FARC as Colombia endures a pandemic of rightwing violence especially against human rights defenders and former guerillas.

On April 28, Duque’s proposed neoliberal tax bill precipitated a national strike mobilizing a broad coalition of unions, members of indigenous and Afro-descendent communities, social activists, and campesinos. They carried out sustained actions across the country for nearly two months, followed by a renewed national strike wave, starting on August 26. The approaching 2022 presidential election could portend a sea change for the popular movement where leftist Senator Gustavo Petro is leading in the polls.

In Ecuador, Andrés Arauz won the first-round presidential election on February 7 with a 13-point lead over Guillermo Lasso, but short of the 40% or more needed to avoid the April 13 runoff, which he lost. A victim of a massive disinformation campaign, Arauz was a successor of former President Rafael Correa’s leftist Citizen Revolution, which still holds the largest bloc in the National Assembly. The “NGO left,” funded by the US and its European allies, contributed to the electoral reversal. Elements of the indigenous Pachakutik party have allied with the new president, a wealthy banker, to implement a neo-liberal agenda.

In Peru, Pedro Castillo, a rural school teacher and a Marxist, won the presidency in a June 6 runoff against hard-right Keiko Fujimori, daughter of now imprisoned and former president Alberto Fujimori. Castillo won by the slimmest of margins and now faces rightwing lawfare and the possibility of a coup. Just a few weeks into his presidency, he was forced to replace his leftist foreign Minister, Hector Béjar, with someone more favorable to the rightwing opposition and the military.

In Bolivia, a US-backed coup deposed leftist President Evo Morales in 2019 and temporarily installed a rightist. Evo’s Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party successor, Luis Arce, took back the presidency last year in a landslide election. With the rightwing still threatening, a massive weeklong March for the Homeland of Bolivian workers, campesinos, and indigenous rallied in support of the government in late November.

Southern Cone

Brazil has the world’s eighth largest economy world and the largest in Latin America. Rightwing President Jair Bolsonaro has been dismantling social welfare measures, rewarding multinational corporations, and presiding over wholesale illegal mining and deforestation, while the popular sectors protest. Former left leaning President Lula da Silva is strongly favored to win in the October 2, 2022 elections. He was also favored to win in the 2018 presidential election against Bolsonaro but was imprisoned on trumped up charges, preventing him from running.

In Chile, Gabriel Boric won the second round of the Chilean presidential election by a landslide on December 19 against far-right José Antonio Kast, the son of a German Nazi Party member. The 35-year-old Boric was a leader in the huge protests in 2019 and 2020 against corrupt President Sebastian Piñera, who is the richest person in the country. The slogan of the protests was: “If Chile was the birthplace of neoliberalism, then it will also be its graveyard!”

Although the victory is a repudiation of the Pinochet legacy, Boric has also been somewhat critical of Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. Boric’s libertarian socialist Frente Amplio party rode to victory with major support from the Chilean Communist Party along with center-left forces. Earlier in the year, in a plebiscite to forge a united popular campaign, Communist Daniel Jadue lost to Boric. A Constituent Assembly, where the left won the majority of the delegates in a May election, is currently rewriting the Pinochet-era constitution.

In Argentina, the center-right Together for Change coalition decisively swept the November 13 midterm elections, rebuking the Peronists who have been unable to effectively address high unemployment and inflation.  In 2019, the center-left Peronist Alberto Fernández succeeded rightwing President Mauricio Macri, whose record breaking $50.1 billion IMF loan saddled the people with austerity measures. Prospects are now dim for restructuring of the debt or suspending payments with an opposition majority more intent on discrediting Fernández than addressing the issues.

Caribbean

Candidate Biden had signaled a return to the Obama-Biden easing of restrictions on Cuba. But once in office, Biden intensified the US hybrid war against Cuba. Discontent with critically deteriorating economic conditions erupted in popular demonstrations on July 11, fanned by the US-funded opposition. A repeat effort at a regime-change demonstrations, largely orchestrated by Washington, fizzled on November 15. Biden continues the same illegal policy of regime change against Cuba  as that of the previous twelve US presidents: covert and overt destabilization, blockade, and occupation of Guantánamo.

Despite an economy severely impacted by the pandemic and the tightening of US blockade, Cuba has produced three COVID vaccines with two more in development. More than 90% percent of Cubans are vaccinated, surpassing the US.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit on August 14. Another upheaval has been the nearly continuous popular revolt against US-installed presidents. President Jovenal Moïse, who had ruled by decree after cancelling elections, was assassinated on July 7 in an apparent intra-ruling class squabble. Claude Joseph was installed as interim president for a few days and then replaced by Ariel Henry, with elections still postponed.

Biden deported thousands of emigres back to Haiti. This represented “a disappointing step backward from the Biden administration’s earlier commitments to fully break from the harmful deportation policies of both the Trump and Obama presidencies,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Central America and Mexico

In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele, formerly associated with the left FMLN party, continued his regression to the right. In response, the Popular Resistance Bloc and other civil society groups staged large protests on September 15 and October 17.

In Honduras, Xiomara Castro, wife of the former President Zelaya, was swept into the presidency by a landslide popular vote on November 28. The slogan of the now triumphant resistance front was: “They fear us because we have no fear.”

In the twelve years since the US-backed coup overthrew the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, the country had devolved into a state where the former president, Juan Orlando Hernández, was an unindicted drug smuggler, the intellectual authors who ordered the assassination of indigenous environmental leader Berta Cáceres ran free, Afro-descendent people and women were murdered with impunity, gang violence was widespread, and state protection from the pandemic was grossly deficient.

In neighboring Nicaragua, the US called the November 7 presidential election an undemocratic fraud nearly a year in advance as part of a larger regime-change campaign against left-leaning governments. The US claimed that “pre-candidates” were barred from running. However, these individuals had been arrested for illegal activities and were not credible candidates.

In fact, the US has never supported democracy in Nicaragua. US Marines occupied Nicaragua from 1912 to 1934, only leaving after installing the autocratic Somoza dynasty to do their bidding. When the Sandinistas ousted the dictatorship in 1979, the US launched the Contra War. After fomenting an unsuccessful coup in 2018, the US NICA Act then imposed sanctions. This was followed in 2020 by the RAIN plan, a multi-faceted coup strategy.

Disregarding Washington’s call to boycott, a respectable 65% of the Nicaraguan electorate went to the polls and 76% of the voters re-elected Sandinista President Daniel Ortega. The Sandinista’s landslide victory was a testament to their success in serving Nicaragua’s poor and a repudiation of the 2018 coup attempt. Immediately after the election, the US RENACER Act imposed new illegal sanctions.

In Mexico, the June 6 midterm elections pitted the ruling MORENA coalition against the traditional parties (PAN, PRI, PRD), chambers of commerce, and the US embassy. NGOs funded by USAID and NED supported the opposition, whose talking points were echoed by the Economist and the Nation. While MORENA retained is majority in Congress and two-thirds of the governors in the midterms, they suffered setbacks in Mexico City, their traditional stronghold.

Mexico is a critically important state as the second largest economy in Latin America, the eleventh in the world, and the US’s top trade partner. After decades of rightwing rule, left-of-center Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his new MORENA party have been in office for three years. Early on, AMOL earned the enmity of the US, when he proclaimed: “The global economic crisis has revealed the failure of the neoliberal model…The State should assume responsibility to lead development without foreign interference” (meaning the US).

AMLO has predictably experienced pushback from traditional elites in Mexico and from the US, particularly in his attempts to reverse the privatization of the energy sector. The Zapatistas and some leftists oppose AMLO and his national development projects, especially the Mayan train. They accuse the government of supporting violence against indigenous communities in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

Prospects for the New Year

Independence from the hegemon to the north, regional integration, and international cooperative relations are on the agenda for the new year.

China is now the second largest investor in Latin America and the Caribbean, which “reduce[s] US dominance” according to the US Congressional Research Service. Economic cooperation with China and to a lesser extent with Russia and Iran have been a lifeline for countries like Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua under regime-change siege by the US. In late December, Nicaragua broke relations with Taiwan and normalized them with the People’s Republic of China. The new government in Honduras has indicated they may soon follow suit. China intends to invest over $250 billion in the region, providing an alternative to dependence on Yankee capital for national development “south of the border.” If the inter-ocean canal project with Chinese backing in Nicaragua were resuscitated, it would be a geopolitical game-changer.

The anti-Venezuela “Lima Group,” a US-Canada initiative, is now moribund with defections of key countries. Likewise, the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) is an increasingly discredited tool of US imperialism as evidenced by its complicity in the Bolivian coup. Cuba and Venezuela are not members of the OAS, and Nicaragua recently announced its withdrawal.

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) includes all the hemisphere except the US and Canada. CELAC is being revived as an independent regional alternative by Mexican President López Obrador and others.

2022 promises continued left advances with favorable prospects for the Colombian and Brazilian presidential elections in May and October respectively. Overall, the pink tide is again rising with some 14 countries on the left side of the ledger and the revolt against neoliberalism intensifying from Haiti to Paraguay.

The post 2021 Latin America and the Caribbean in Review: The Pink Tide Rises Again first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Our Future vs. Neoliberalism

(Photo:  Tom Pennington)

In country after country around the world, people are rising up to challenge entrenched, failing neoliberal political and economic systems, with mixed but sometimes promising results.

Progressive leaders in the U.S. Congress are refusing to back down on the Democrats’ promises to American voters to reduce poverty, expand rights to healthcare, education and clean energy, and repair a shredded social safety net. After decades of tax cuts for the rich, they are also committed to raising taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations to pay for this popular agenda.

Germany has elected a ruling coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats that excludes the conservative Christian Democrats for the first time since 2000. The new government promises a $14 minimum wage, solar panels on all suitable roof space, 2% of land for wind farms and the closure of Germany’s last coal-fired power plants by 2030.

Iraqis voted in an election that was called in response to a popular protest movement launched in October 2019 to challenge the endemic corruption of the post-2003 political class and its subservience to U.S. and Iranian interests. The protest movement was split between taking part in the election and boycotting it, but its candidates still won about 35 seats and will have a voice in parliament. The party of long-time Iraqi nationalist leader Muqtada al-Sadr won 73 seats, the largest of any single party, while Iranian-backed parties whose armed militias killed hundreds of protesters in 2019 lost popular support and many of their seats.

Chile’s billionaire president, Sebastian Piñera, is being impeached after the Pandora Papers revealed details of bribery and tax evasion in his sale of a mining company, and he could face up to 5 years in prison. Mass street protests in 2019 forced Piñera to agree to a new constitution to replace the one written under the Pinochet military dictatorship, and a convention that includes representatives of indigenous and other marginalized communities has been elected to draft the constitution. Progressive parties and candidates are expected to do well in the general election in November.

Maybe the greatest success of people power has come in Bolivia. In 2020, only a year after a U.S.-backed right-wing military coup, a mass mobilization of mostly indigenous working people forced a new election, and the socialist MAS Party of Evo Morales was returned to power. Since then it has already introduced a new wealth tax and welfare payments to four million people to help eliminate hunger in Bolivia.

The Ideological Context

Since the 1970s, Western political and corporate leaders have peddled a quasi-religious belief in the power of “free” markets and unbridled capitalism to solve all the world’s problems. This new “neoliberal” orthodoxy is a thinly disguised reversion to the systematic injustice of 19th century laissez-faire capitalism, which led to gross inequality and poverty even in wealthy countries, famines that killed tens of millions of people in India and China, and horrific exploitation of the poor and vulnerable worldwide.

For most of the 20th century, Western countries gradually responded to the excesses and injustices of capitalism by using the power of government to redistribute wealth through progressive taxation and a growing public sector, and ensure broad access to public goods like education and healthcare. This led to a gradual expansion of broadly shared prosperity in the United States and Western Europe through a strong public sector that balanced the power of private corporations and their owners.

The steadily growing shared prosperity of the post-WWII years in the West was derailed by a  combination of factors, including the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, Nixon’s freeze on prices and wages, runaway inflation caused by dropping the gold standard, and then a second oil crisis after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Right-wing politicians led by Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the U.K. blamed the power of organized labor and the public sector for the economic crisis. They launched a “neoliberal” counter-revolution to bust unions, shrink and privatize the public sector, cut taxes, deregulate industries and supposedly unleash “the magic of the market.” Then they took credit for a return to economic growth that really owed more to the end of the oil crises.

The United States and United Kingdom used their economic, military and media power to spread their neoliberal gospel across the world. Chile’s experiment in neoliberalism under Pinochet’s military dictatorship became a model for U.S. efforts to roll back the “pink tide” in Latin America. When the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe opened to the West at the end of the Cold War, it was the extreme, neoliberal brand of capitalism that Western economists imposed as “shock therapy” to privatize state-owned enterprises and open countries to Western corporations.

In the United States, the mass media shy away from the word “neoliberalism” to describe the changes in society since the 1980s. They describe its effects in less systemic terms, as globalization, privatization, deregulation, consumerism and so on, without calling attention to their common ideological roots. This allows them to treat its impacts as separate, unconnected problems: poverty and inequality, mass incarceration, environmental degradation, ballooning debt, money in politics, disinvestment in public services, declines in public health, permanent war, and record military spending.

After a generation of systematic neoliberal control, it is now obvious to people all over the world that neoliberalism has utterly failed to solve the world’s problems. As many predicted all along, it has just enabled the rich to get much, much richer, while structural and even existential problems remain unsolved.

Even once people have grasped the self-serving, predatory nature of this system that has overtaken their political and economic life, many still fall victim to the demoralization and powerlessness that are among its most insidious products, as they are brainwashed to see themselves only as individuals and consumers, instead of as active and collectively powerful citizens.

In effect, confronting neoliberalism—whether as individuals, groups, communities or countries—requires a two-step process. First, we must understand the nature of the beast that has us and the world in its grip, whatever we choose to call it. Second, we must overcome our own demoralization and powerlessness, and rekindle our collective power as political and economic actors to build the better world we know is possible.

We will see that collective power in the streets and the suites at COP26 in Glasgow, when the world’s leaders will gather to confront the reality that neoliberalism has allowed corporate profits to trump a rational response to the devastating impact of fossil fuels on the Earth’s climate. Extinction Rebellion and other groups will be in the streets in Glasgow, demanding the long-delayed action that is required to solve the problem, including an end to net carbon emissions by 2025.

While scientists warned us for decades what the result would be, political and business leaders have peddled their neoliberal snake oil to keep filling their coffers at the expense of the future of life on Earth. If we fail to stop them now, living conditions will keep deteriorating for people everywhere, as the natural world our lives depend on is washed out from under our feet, goes up in smoke and, species by species, dies and disappears forever.

The Covid pandemic is another real world case study on the impact of neoliberalism. As the official death toll reaches 5 million and many more deaths go unreported, rich countries are still hoarding vaccines, drug companies are reaping a bonanza of profits from vaccines and new drugs, and the lethal, devastating injustice of the entire neoliberal “market” system is laid bare for the whole world to see. Calls for a “people’s vaccine” and “vaccine justice” have been challenging what has now been termed “vaccine apartheid.”

Conclusion

In the 1980s, U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher often told the world, “There is no alternative” to the neoliberal order she and President Reagan were unleashing. After only one or two generations, the self-serving insanity they prescribed and the crises it has caused have made it a question of survival for humanity to find alternatives.

Around the world, ordinary people are rising up to demand real change. The people of Iraq, Chile and Bolivia have overcome the incredible traumas inflicted on them to take to the streets in the thousands and demand better government. Americans should likewise demand that our government stop wasting trillions of dollars to militarize the world and destroy countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, and start solving our real problems, here and abroad.

People around the world understand the nature of the problems we face better than we did a generation or even a decade ago. Now we must overcome demoralization and powerlessness in order to act. It helps to understand that the demoralization and powerlessness we may feel are themselves products of this neoliberal system, and that simply overcoming them is a victory in itself.

As we reject the inevitability of neoliberalism and Thatcher’s lie that there is no alternative, we must also reject the lie that we are just passive, powerless consumers. As human beings, we have the same collective power that human beings have always had to build a better world for ourselves and our children – and now is the time to harness that power.

The post Our Future vs. Neoliberalism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A People’s Vaccine Against a Mutating Virus and Neoliberal Rule

Photo credit: UNICEF Teachers and students were able to return to school in Lao Cai, Viet Nam, in May 2020

A recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that worries about the COVID pandemic in the United States are at their lowest level since it began. Only half of Americans are either “very worried” (15%) or “somewhat worried” (35%) about the virus, while the other half are “not very worried” (30%) or “not worried at all” (20%).

But the news from around the world makes it clear that this pandemic is far from over, and a story from Vietnam highlights the nature of the danger.

Vietnam is a COVID success story, with one of the lowest rates of infection and death in the world. Vietnam’s excellent community-based public health system prevented the virus from spreading beyond isolated cases and localized outbreaks, without a nationwide lockdown. With a population of 98 million people, Vietnam has had only 8,883 cases and 53 deaths.

However, more than half of Vietnam’s cases and deaths have come in the last two months, and three-quarters of the new cases have been infected with a new “hybrid” variant that combines the two mutations detected separately in the Alpha (U.K.) and Delta (India) variants.

Vietnam is a canary in the pandemic coal-mine. The way this new variant has spread so quickly in a country that has defeated every previous form of the virus suggests that this one is much more infectious.

This variant must surely also be spreading in other countries, where it will be harder to detect among thousands of daily cases, and will therefore be widespread by the time public health officials and governments respond to it. There may also be other highly infectious new variants spreading undetected among the millions of cases in Latin America and other parts of the world.

A new study in The Lancet medical journal has found that the Alpha (U.K.), Beta (South Africa) and Delta (India) variants are all more resistant to existing vaccines than the original COVID virus, and the Delta variant is still spreading in countries with aggressive vaccination programs, including the U.K.

The Delta variant accounts for a two-month high in new cases in the U.K. and a new wave of infections in Portugal, just as developed countries ease restrictions before the summer vacation season, almost certainly opening the door to the next wave. The U.K., which has a slightly higher vaccination rate than the United States, had planned a further relaxation of restrictions on June 21st, but that is now in question.

China, Vietnam, New Zealand and other countries defeated the pandemic in its early stages by prioritizing public health over business interests. The United States and Western Europe instead tried to strike a balance between public health and their neoliberal economic systems, breeding a monster that has now killed millions of people. The World Health Organization believes that six to eight million people have died, about twice as many as have been counted in official figures.

Now the WHO is recommending that wealthier countries who have good supplies of vaccines postpone vaccinating healthy young people, and instead prioritize sending vaccines to poorer countries where the virus is running wild.

President Biden has announced that the United States is releasing 25 million doses from its stockpiles, most of which will be distributed through the WHO’s Covax program, with another 55 million to follow by the end of June. But this is a tiny fraction of what is needed.

Biden has also agreed to waive patent rights on vaccines under the WTO’s TRIPS rules (the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), but that has so far been held up at the WTO by Canada and right-wing governments in the U.K., Germany, Brazil, Australia, Japan and Colombia. People have taken to the streets in many countries to insist that a WTO TRIPS Council meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 8-9, must agree to waive patent monopolies.

Since all the countries blocking the TRIPS waiver are U.S. allies, this will be a critical test of the Biden administration’s promised international leadership and diplomacy, which has so far taken a back seat to dangerous saber-rattling against China and Russia, foot-dragging on the JCPOA with Iran and war-crime-fueling weapons-peddling to Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Ending international vaccine apartheid is not just a matter of altruism, or even justice. It is a question of whether we will end this pandemic before vaccine-resistant, super-spreading and deadlier variants fuel even more toxic new waves. The only way humanity can win this struggle is to act collectively in our common interest. 

Public Citizen has researched what it would take to vaccinate the world, and concluded that it would cost only $25 billion – 3% of the annual U.S. budget for weapons and war – to set up manufacturing plants and distribution hubs across the world and vaccinate all of humanity within a year. Forty-two Progressives in Congress have signed a letter to President Biden to urge him to fund such a plan.

If the world can agree to make and distribute a People’s Vaccine, it could be the silver lining in this dark cloud, because this ability to act globally and collectively in the public interest is precisely what we need to solve so many of the most serious problems facing humanity.

For example, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) is warning that we are in the midst of a triple crisis of climate change, mass extinction and pollution. Our neoliberal political and economic system has not just failed to solve these problems. It actively works to undermine efforts to do so, granting people, corporations and countries who profit from destroying the natural world the freedom to do so without constraint.

That is the very meaning of laissez-faire, to let the wealthy and powerful do whatever they want, regardless of the consequences for the rest of us, or even for life on Earth. As the economist John Maynard Keynes reputedly said in the 1930s, “Laissez-faire capitalism is the absurd idea that the worst people, for the worst reasons, will do what is best for us all.”

Neoliberalism is the reimposition of 19th century laissez-faire capitalism, with all its injustices, inequality and oppression, on the people of the 21st century, prioritizing markets, profits and wealth over the common welfare of humanity and the natural world our lives depend on.

Berkeley and Princeton political theorist Sheldon Wolin called the U.S. political system, which facilitates this neoliberal economic order, “inverted totalitarianism.” Like classical totalitarianism, it concentrates ever more wealth and power in the hands of a small ruling class, but instead of abolishing parliaments, elections and the superficial trappings of representative government as classical totalitarianism did, it simply co-opts them as tools of plutocracy, which has proved to be a more marketable and sustainable strategy.

But now that neoliberalism has wreaked its chaos for a generation, popular movements are rising up across the world to demand systemic change and to build new systems of politics and economics that can actually solve the huge problems that neoliberalism has produced.

In response to the 2019 uprising in Chile, its rulers were forced to agree to an election for a constitutional assembly, to draft a constitution to replace the one written during the Pinochet dictatorship, one of the vanguards of neoliberalism. That election has now taken place, and the ruling party of President Pinera and other traditional parties won less than a third of the seats. So the constitution will instead be written by a super-majority of citizens committed to radical reform and social, economic and political justice.

In Iraq, which was also swept by a popular uprising in 2019, a new government seated in 2020 has launched an investigation to recover $150 billion in Iraqi oil revenues stolen and smuggled out of the country by the corrupt officials of previous governments.

U.S.-backed former exiles flew into Iraq on the heels of the U.S. invasion in 2003 “with empty pockets to fill,” as a Baghdad taxi driver told a Western reporter at the time. While U.S. forces and U.S.-trained Iraqi death squads destroyed their country, they hunkered down in the Green Zone in Baghdad and controlled and looted Iraq’s oil revenues for the next seventeen years. Now maybe Iraq can recover the stolen money its people so desperately need, and start using its oil wealth to rebuild that shattered country.

In Bolivia, also in 2019, a U.S.-backed coup overthrew its popular indigenous president, Evo Morales. But the people of Bolivia rose up in a general strike to demand a new election, Morales’ MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo) Party was restored to power, and Luis Arce, Morales’ former Economy Minister, is now Bolivia’s President.

Around the world, we are witnessing what can happen when people rise up and act collectively for the common good. That is how we will solve the serious problems we face, from the COVID pandemic to the climate crisis to the terminal danger of nuclear war. Humanity’s survival into the twenty-second century and all our hopes for a bright future depend on building new political and economic systems that will simply and genuinely “do what is best for all of us.”

The post A People’s Vaccine Against a Mutating Virus and Neoliberal Rule first appeared on Dissident Voice.

2020 Latin America and the Caribbean in Review: The Pink Tide May Rise Again

The balance between the US drive to dominate Latin America and the Caribbean and its counterpart, the Bolivarian cause of regional independence and integration, tipped portside by year end 2020 with major popular victories, including reversal of the coup in Bolivia and the constitutional referendum in Chile. Central has been the persistence of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution against the asphyxiating US blockade, along with the defiance by Cuba and Nicaragua of US regime-change measures.

The grand struggle played out against the backdrop of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, impacting countries differently depending on their political economies.  As of this writing, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba had COVID death rates per million population of 35, 25, and 12, respectively. In comparison, the death rates in right-leaning neoliberal states of Peru, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Honduras, and Guatemala were respectively 1123, 888, 849, 805, 843, 306, and 263. The manifestly lower rates on the left reflected, in large part, better developed public health systems and social welfare practices.

Andean Nations

Venezuela’s continued resistance to the US “maximum pressure” hybrid warfare campaign is a triumph in itself. Hybrid warfare – a diplomatic, propaganda, and financial offensive along with a crippling illegal blockade and attack on the Venezuelan currency – kills as effectively as open warfare.  “It bleeds the country slowly and is much more devastating than direct bombardment,” observes Vijay Prashad of the Tricontinental Institute.

Venezuela featured prominently in the campaign speeches of Trump and Biden, with both promoting regime change, as they vied for the votes of the right-leaning Venezuelan émigré community in Florida, the second largest Latinx group in that critical swing state. US-anointed fake President of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, received a standing ovation at Trump’s State of the Union address in February – about the only thing the Democrats and Republicans agreed on – but received a far less friendly reception back home.

In March, the US falsely charged Venezuela of narco-terrorism, placing multi-million-dollar bounties on the heads of Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro and other officials. A naval armada was sent off the coast of Venezuela under the pretext of interdicting drugs. US government data, however, show the source of the drugs and the countries through which the illicit substances transit to the US are precisely the US client regimes in the region such as Colombia and Honduras.

In May, mercenaries launched an attack from Colombia but were captured, including two US ex-Green Berets. Initially, some Iranian oil tankers evaded the US blockade to bring critically needed fuel to Venezuela, where refining capacity has been impacted by the US sanctions. But later the US seized tankers in international waters, like pirates of yore, having a devastating impact on transport, agriculture, water treatment, and electricity generation in Venezuela.

In another victory in June, federal charges were dropped against the final four embassy protectors, who had defended the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington last year from being usurped by the illegal Guaidó forces. Kevin Zeese, one of the four and a revered progressive movement leader in the US, tragically and unexpectedly died in his sleep in September.

In October, Venezuela adopted controversial anti-blockade measures aimed at facilitating private investment and circumventing the US blockade. The unrelenting US regime-change campaign has had a corrosive effect on Venezuela’s attempt to build socialism. With the economy de facto dollarized, among those hardest hit are government workers, the informal sector, and those without access to dollar remittances from abroad who continue to be paid in the bolivar, now ever more grossly inflated.

Prior to calling the US presidential elections a fraud, Trump made the same accusation regarding the elections for the Venezuelan National Assembly and for the same reason; his preferred candidates would not win. The opposition to the leftist government in Venezuela was divided between an extremist Guaidó faction, which heeded the US directive to boycott the election, and a more moderate grouping opposed to the US blockade, open to dialogue with the Maduro administration, and in favor of US recognition of  the Maduro government. Although turnout was low for the December 6 election, the ruling Socialist Party enjoyed a landslide victory giving them a mandate.

Guaidó, who has become an embarrassment, may be dropped by the new US administration. Biden, however, is expected to “keep using [the] US sanctions weapon but with sharper aim,” as reported by Reuters.

Colombia is the chief regional US client state, distinguished by being the largest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere and the largest world source of illicit cocaine. With at least seven US military bases, Colombia is a principal staging point for paramilitary attacks on Venezuela. President Iván Duque continues to disregard the 2016 peace agreement with the guerrilla FARC as Colombia endures a pandemic of right-wing violence. In October, the largely indigenous Minga mobilization converged on the capital of Bogotá to protest rampant killings. A national strike followed, called by a broad coalition led by the teachers’ union FECODE. Colombia is the most dangerous country to be a social activist with a leader murdered every other day. The approaching 2022 presidential election could portend a sea change for the popular movement.

Ecuador achieved international notoriety with the streets of Guayaquil littered with dead bodies attributed to mismanagement of the pandemic by President Lenín Moreno. A vice president under leftist Rafael Correa, Moreno turned sharp right after his presidential election in 2017, reversing the anti-imperialist stance of his predecessor. Moreno is prosecuting his former allies and privatizing the state-owned electric and oil companies, while poverty has worsened. Moreno’s popularity rating plummeted to an abysmal 8%, and his administration has been wracked with corruption scandals and popular, anti-neoliberal revolt. Polls for the presidential election, scheduled for this coming February 7, give progressive Andrés Arauz a lead as the Pink Tide may again rise in Ecuador.

Peru. The crises in Peru last year, which saw a succession of corrupt presidents replacing former ones with some sent to prison, were repeated this year. President Martín Vízcarra was dismissed in December, followed by the Manuel Merino presidency of less than a week, followed by the appointment of President Francisco Sagasti. COVID raged in a country, where investment in public health is half that recommended by the World Health Organization, while the youth took to the streets in protest, some demanding a new constitution. A left current is building in Peru as seen with the promising candidacy of Verónika Mendoza in the upcoming April 2021 presidential contest.

Bolivia. Evo Morales returned to Bolivia less than a year after a US-backed coup forced him to escape. Morales had won his reelection bid in October 2019, but the Organization of American States (OAS) conspired with the US and the domestic ultra-right to allege that his victory was fraudulent. Although his reelection was proven fair, the intervention of the OAS gave a patina of legitimacy to the ensuing putsch. Right-wing Senator Jeanine Añez was installed as “interim-president” after Morales was forced to resign by the military and police hierarchy. She presided over two massacres and a campaign of repression against the majority indigenous population and activists of Morales’s party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). A heroic resistance based on strong grassroots organizing by social movements, unions, and the MAS, forced Añez to call a new presidential election, after she had postponed it three times.

On October 18, MAS presidential candidate Luis Arce won with a landslide 55%. The new government has returned to ALBA, CELAC, and UNASUR – regional bodies founded by Hugo Chávez – but is saddled with a $300M loan from the IMF, made by Añez though not authorized by the Senate. The year closed with the Constitution Court propitiously overruling a domestic law that banned same-sex union as inconsistent with international law, permitting the first legal same-sex marriage in Bolivia.

The Southern Cone

Brazil. Jair Bolsonaro’s second year in office was like the first: dismantling social welfare measures and rewarding multinational corporations, while the Amazon burned and the popular sectors protested. His unscientific belief in coronavirus herd immunity contributed to excessive deaths in Brazil, especially impacting indigenous peoples.

Chile has been in turmoil for most of the year with protests against their corrupt President Sebastian Piñera, incidentally the richest person in the country. Finally, on October 23, the right-wing politicians were forced to allow a plebiscite, which passed with a resounding 78% to replace the constitution imposed on the country by the dictator Pinochet. The vote was preceded by a week of massive demonstrations commemorating the first anniversary of the popular struggle against the neoliberal order. Elections for Constituent Assembly members are scheduled for April and presidential elections are scheduled for November, with Communist Eduardo Artés now leading in the polls.

Argentina. The new President Alberto Fernández and VP Cristina Fernández are slowly recovering Argentina after four years of right-wing governance. On October 17, crowds celebrated Peronist loyalty day in support of the center-left government.  Emilio Pérsico said their movement is revolutionary because “it gave power to those who had no power and incorporated the workers into politics.”

Caribbean

Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its medical missions combatting the pandemic across the world. Cuba is also producing COVID-19 vaccines and is in the process of distributing them to needy countries, all the while suffering under an intensified US blockade. While decrying foreign interference in US internal affairs, the Trump administration has funded some 54 regime-change groups in Cuba through the USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy. The economy has been severely impacted by the pandemic and tightening of US sanctions, forcing Cuba to take pragmatic economic adjustments.

Puerto Rico, a spoil that the US empire gained in the first war of imperialism, the Spanish-American War of 1898, is today one of the few outright remaining colonies in the world. Emblematic of the neglect of Puerto Rico was the physical collapse on December 1 of the Arecibo Observatory’s giant radio telescope, once the largest in the world and source of pride. Nearly 60% of the island’s children live in poverty.

Haiti has been in nearly continuous popular revolt against US-backed President Jovenal Moïse, who has ruled by decree after cancelling elections. Government repression has been violent and intense, which is ignored in the western press.

Central America and Mexico

Central America was battered by not only the pandemic but two devastating hurricanes that hit just ten days apart in October. As conditions further deteriorate, migrants, especially from the US client states of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, continue to flee to the US. Migrants and asylum seekers, who were then deported back from the US, have been killed, raped, or tortured when they were forced to return, according to human rights groups.

El Salvador. In a flagrant overreach of executive prerogative, President Nayib Bukele sent the military on February 9 into the Legislative Assembly to influence a vote on his proposed security program. Bukele, formerly associated with the left FMLN party, has now turned right, militarizing the border between El Salvador and Honduras to enforce the “safe third country agreements” and joining the pro-US interventionist Lima Group.

Guatemala. Angry citizens burned down Guatemala’s congress building on November 21, after a record high budget passed giving the legislators substantial raises and rewarding multinational corporations but cutting social welfare. A national strike followed demanding the resignation of rightist President Alejandro Giammattei, a former director of the Guatemalan penitentiary system.

Honduras. Eleven years since the US-backed coup overthrew the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, the country has devolved into a state where current President Juan Orlando Hernández is an unindicted drug smuggler, the intellectual authors who ordered the assassination of indigenous environmental leader Berta Cáceres run free, Afro-descendent people and women are murdered with impunity, gang violence is widespread, and state protection from pandemic and hurricanes is grossly deficient.

Costa Rica. Workers staged a week-long national strike in October against the neoliberal policies of President Carlos Alvarado, who then ignored the people and resumed negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), sparking more popular demonstrations. Despite intervention by the Catholic Church to diffuse the protests, the rebellion against destructive tax increases, cuts to public services, and privatizations “has changed the political dynamics in a country which was formerly seen as ‘the Switzerland of Central America,’” according to journalist Rob Lyons.

Nicaragua. Under the Sandinista government of President Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua enjoys: “reduction of poverty and extreme poverty, eradication of illiteracy, the highest economic growth in the region for a decade, free quality education, change of the energy matrix to 77% renewable energy, [and] from 90th place to number 5 worldwide…in reducing the gender inequality gap.”

Given this “threat of a good example,” US efforts to isolate Nicaragua economically to achieve regime change continued. Reports by the PBS NewsHour, the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal, and the Oakland Institute of alleged abuses to the indigenous and Afro-descendent communities provided evidence in support of boycotting the import of “conflict beef,” which would have had a major impact on the Nicaraguan economy. After the allegations were exposed as unsubstantiated, the accusers hypocritically claimed their actions resulted in the Nicaraguan government correcting itself.

The US State Department has already called the Nicaraguan presidential election a fraud even though it is not scheduled until November 2021. After Venezuela and Cuba, Nicaragua is the hardest hit country in Latin America by US sanctions.

Mexico is the second largest economy in Latin America, the eleventh in the world, and the US’s top trade partner. After decades of right-wing rule, left-of-center Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his new MORENA party have been in office for two years.

A little over a year ago, Mexico flew then President Evo Morales out of Bolivia, when his life was threatened by a rightwing coup, and gave asylum in the Mexican Embassy in La Paz to other deposed Bolivian officials. Mexico has also defied the US blockade of Venezuela, and AMLO has called for the release of whistleblower Julian Assange.

Last spring, AMLO closed factories in response to the pandemic except for those supplying essential services. Workers went on strike when some factory owners defied the government closures. The US intervened forcing border maquiladoras that produce goods for the US military to open.

With high COVID infection rates, AMLO has been criticized for what some characterize as a lax and delayed handling of the health crisis. He was also confronted by protests from the extreme right nationalist coalition FRENA, demanding that the “Bolivarian Dictator” must resign, while a rightist plan called Project BOA outlined a strategy for ousting him from office.

In July, AMLO made an official state visit to Washington. “Under Trump, Mexico has had to navigate abrupt demands to stem illegal migration or face trade tariffs.” As the nineteenth century Mexican President Porfirio Díaz famously lamented: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”

Campaign for 2021

UN Secretary General Guterres’s plea for a “global ceasefire,” ever more necessitated by “the fury of the virus,” has been ignored by the US. Meanwhile, some 30 nations worldwide, including Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, are suffering under suffocating US sanctions, which are a form of hybrid warfare. These unilateral, coercive measures, impacting a third of humanity, are illegal under the UN Charter. As the “liberator” Simón Bolívar presciently observed in 1829: “The US appears to be destined by providence to plague the Americas with misery in the name of freedom.”

The post 2020 Latin America and the Caribbean in Review: The Pink Tide May Rise Again first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Calling this “our Democracy” is like Slaves referring to “our Plantation”

While Americans are re-programmed every four years for the most important desperately crucial national emergency election since the last one, which will assure that Wall Street, the Pentagon, Israel and billionaires maintain power and control over everything that matters, most eligible voters will choose neither of the ruling power’s candidates and in a sense exercise democratic values by refusing to act as majority puppets.

Meanwhile the people of Bolivia and Chile recently went to the polls and in dramatic contrast to America actually voted on substantial issues that could radically change their country’s futures. Bolivia chose returning to the socialist government that had been overthrown by a U.S. aided capitalist -fascist coup and Chile voted to dump its U.S. influenced fascist-capitalist constitution in favor of a new one to guarantee the rights of all and not just some of their people. However things turn out for them what they did comes far closer to what America needs and democracy can create but what we’ll get is the same system with possibly slightly different actions by the crew of our national model of the Titanic. Escape lifeboats will still be available only to the upper income groups while the rest of us can drown. Sorry, we’re in the “real” world and still being convinced that having a new CEO of a petroleum firm who is a transsexual of color or a bi-polar Semite or a Picasso person with seven eyes and eight breasts is more important than ending dependence on fossil fuels and demanding alternate power sources for the future of our nation and our planet.

With manufactured fears of this multi-billion dollar electoral market being sold as democracy but allegedly threatened by Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, Mexico, Disneyland, Lower Slobovia or other fictional scapegoats, the financial fiasco that grows more criminal and psychotic every day supposedly guarantees freedom to the homeless, the poor, the debtors, the millions without health care and the rest of us to whom everything nature’s corporate capitalism offers is available provided we’ve the market force to buy it. Those of us able to buy are a group getting smaller by the minute with plastic replacing money at a faster clip than ever with debt in the trillions and the only hope of paying it off being prayer, drugs or mass murder.

The bread and circuses of a past empire has its present version in the moral pornography of a rich nation with people living on the street, under highways and bridges and being stepped over by good folks on their way to rescue a dog or cat while massive political fund raising assures the richest minority maintains control of the entire political process. All of this is sanctified by the law of the land, a constitution written by the original 1% to assure that the other 99% would never threaten their power and control, only allowing supposed revolutionary amendments that allow a greater professional servant class and guarantee that the overwhelming majority continue to react to the spectacle of a variety show that passes for an electoral process, as people are convinced that the right to vote is the essence of democracy, with little or no consideration about what there is to vote for. With fears of fascism being charged every minute and attributing that threat to the rich if honest simpleton in the white house, there is also the veneration in the minds of the people that the act of voting is the be all, end all of fictional democracy.

Pssst: the popular depiction of the archfiend fascists of Nazism and Hitler leaves out the fact that they took power through the sacred democratic process of voting, and Germany was generally considered the foremost intellectual and artistic culture of the continent.  Past American dominance of the world was never dependent on our exceeding Canada and Mexico in thought and creativity except when it came to making and using weapons to slaughter millions while proclaiming love for mankind, democracy and other good stuff. The point being that fascism is an aspect of capitalism at an extremely critical crisis during which the most repressive among the ruling class take power and make life better for some and worse for others but in a fashion beyond the usual fake manner which calls attention to poverty, war and social degeneracy as aspects of awful “other” social formations. This is currently the expression of the alleged fascist putz in the white house while his alleged liberal foes engage in the most repressive reactionary politics in the usual guise of democracy in America: Our evil is lesser than their evil. Vote for polio or you’ll get cancer!

Before we were struck by the pandemic spread by market forces, more than half a million Americans were homeless. More than 8 million have since descended into poverty while the billionaire class has expanded its wealth to even more outrageous extremes than before. And while our national situation disintegrates under the moral assault on life and nature called the free market, no less than the World Bank warns of the titanic debt threatening the globe with the poorest countries already facing hardship beyond anything previously experienced in trying to approach paying off debts they owe to richer nations which often got rich by stealing their national wealth through colonialist oppression. The bank warns against global collapse unless the world does something about the fact that the richest 2 thousand people own more wealth than four and a half billion humans combined.

These are not among the issues brought before the American public this election season when Trump’s personal tax figures and sex life take precedence over the fact that his open adoration of Israel and Netanyahu exceeds that of the entire American congress which all but publicly buried its face in his crotch when he spoke to the assembled recipients of Israeli lobby wealth for their political campaigns. Trump openly says he doesn’t need the Israeli lobby’s money so his passion is accepted as sincere where as much of congress and past white house occupants gleefully accept the much needed millions to “democratically” treat the last colonial nation in the world as some divine aspect of humanity.

The outcome of the election may not be known for hours, days or weeks after its conclusion due to the conditions brought about by the pandemic alongside other breakdowns in our political economy. Speculations about whether the post office will sell our ballots to Russia or China or Trump’s family will use them to gain more credit at Amazon or that fascism or civil war will take place are beside the point. Feverish fears or realistic panic, the fact is that Wall Street, the Pentagon, Israel and Billionaires will remain in control of the nation and future acceptance of the lie that this represents democracy will not just make things worse, but much worse than ever before. This needs to be the last vote that accepts the lie of national democracy and must lead to the creation of a new national political party to represent the majority of Americans currently having our lives bargained at a corrupt market and equally corrupt political process over which we exercise no control.

Social conditions may become more dreadful in the short term after this hopefully last exercise of fake democracy. Whatever the lesser evil outcome of the ruling class owned and controlled exercise of the present moment, we need immediate action on the part of the people being bled physically, mentally and spiritually for fictional nonsense we are always fed, never more than during this latest outburst of truly fake democracy. We need the real thing and we need it fast. That struggle has already begun and it needs to take on much greater speed after November 3, 2020.

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Resurgence of Socialism in Bolivia

In Bolivia, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) – a major leftist political force – has returned to power following a thumping victory in the 2020 elections. The MAS presidential candidate Luis Arce obtained 55.09% of the votes, decisively ahead of the neoliberal candidate Carlos Mesa and the right-wing extremist Luis Fernando Camacho who garnered 28.83% and 14% of the votes, respectively. The triumph of MAS in Bolivia is highly significant since it follows hard on the heels of the 2019 US-backed coup which violently overthrew the MAS president Evo Morales and attempted to re-institute neoliberalism through blood and bullets. Headed by the de facto president Jeanine Áñez (a religious bigot), the fascist coup government genuflected to the American empire, joined the conservative Lima Bloc — a group of 12 Latin American nations determined to subvert the Bolivarian Revolution — exited leftist regional forums, kicked out Cuban doctors and re-established ties with Israel. With the re-election of the MAS, it has been demonstrably shown that Bolivians don’t have any liking for the barbaric blueprint of imperialism and socialism still throbs through the nation’s body.

The Socialist Project

There are many reasons to explain Bolivians’ continued support for the MAS. In spite of state aggression aimed at terrorizing citizens, the oppressed masses remained steadfast in their refusal of neoliberalism and organized sustained mobilizations to resist imperialist forces. Behind this courageous anti-imperialism, we can locate a primary motivating factor: MAS’s socialist project. With the help of this socialist project, the MAS radically re-configured a turbo-capitalist economy, allowing poor people to take hold of their own lives and move beyond the existentially crippling effects of necro-political neoliberalism.

Under Morales’ administration, a new constitution was promulgated in 2009 which proclaimed: “We have left the colonial, republican and neo-liberal State in the past.” With this departure from neoliberalism, changes soon took place within the country. In the first eight years of the Morales administration, national government revenue from hydrocarbons increased nearly sevenfold from $731 million to $4.95 billion, a direct corollary of nationalization and state-led economic re-construction. Earlier, corporate interests used to take over 80% of the profits from Bolivia’s natural gas reserves. Morales effectively reversed this trend with a nationalization decree giving Bolivia more than 80% of industry profits in the form of taxes and royalties.

Increased revenues allowed the government to establish a new welfare state with Conditional Cash Transfers such as: Income Dignity that benefitted every retired Bolivian over 60 years;  Juancito Pinto Bonus given to poor families to send their children to school; and Juana Azurduy voucher that provided free medical support to pregnant and poor mothers. The MAS also established a number of public firms: the telecommunication company Entel, Bolivian Aviation (BOA), Productive Development Bank, the Bolivian Customs Deposits (DAB), the cargo airline company Bolivian Air Transport (TAB), television channel named Bolivia TV; and Quipus for information technology. In the 2006-2016 period, these public firms employed 120,793 people.

The new economic regime instituted by the MAS was clearly distinguishable from the previous system of perpetual exploitation. Under the previous economic architecture, the oppressed people of Bolivia were savagely suppressed by the bourgeoisie to boost profits. To take an example, trade as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) doubled from 10% in 1989 to 18% in 1999; foreign direct investment increased from an average of $38 billion per year from 1993-1997 to $74 billion per year between 1998- 2003. Yet, common citizens did not benefit from this neoliberal growth. They protested against this endless enrichment of the few and the utter dehumanization of the masses. Out of these protests, Morales emerged as a political leader, capable of waging a war of attrition against the ossified structures of oppression.

In 2005, the top 10% of the population had 128 times more income than the bottom 10%; by 2012 this difference decreased to 46 times. From 60% in 2006, the poverty rate has fallen below 35% and the extreme poverty rate is 15.2%, down from 37.7% in 2006. From 2005 to 2015, public investment doubled from 7% of GDP to 14%, expanding the public capital stock from 78.8% to 100.5% of GDP during the same period. Between 2005 and 2019, the gross domestic product increased from $9.574 billion to $40.885 billion. Bolivia’s real per capita GDP has grown at two times the rate for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) since 2006. The annual per capita growth across LAC economies has been 1.6% per year since 2006; Bolivia’s real per capita GDP has grown at an average of 3.2%. This growth was accompanied by a reduction in unemployment which fell from 8.1% in 2005 to 4.2% in 2018. Life expectancy increased by nine years. From 2000 to 2019, minimum national wage increased by 153%.

The MAS government undertook significant land reforms which benefitted 800,000 low-income peasants and indigenous people, enshrined women’s inheritance rights and allowed smallholders to control most of the country’s land for the first time since the Spanish conquest. As part of this agrarian revolution, ten million acres were expropriated for redistribution from expiring logging concessions and big landowners who held lands over the limit of 25,000 acres set by the new agrarian law.

In 2013, the MAS government established state-owned banks and implemented the Financial Services Law (FSL 393) which intervened in credit allocation decisions of private banks, instituted lending quotas to a list of “productive sectors” — industrial manufacturing, agriculture, agribusiness, extraction, processing of metals, minerals, and natural gas — and limited profitability by capping interest rates. FSL 393 was a radical measure taken by the socialist administration. It acted as a counter-tendency to the financial liberalization which the country had been experiencing for many years. This unbridled liberalization included the liberalization of all interest rates in 1985, opening of the capital account, and privatization and closure of state owned banks through the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in a highly dollarized and primarily privately owned financial system by the early 2000s.

The FSL 393 led to increased financial stability, de-dollarization, reserve accumulation and increased public ownership of the economy. All this was made possible due to sustained subaltern pressure from below which combined with the legitimacy of the socialist state to initiate a program of incremental reform that decreased the importance of the private sector in the economy, weakened the power of business interests and thus, reduced the importance of disinvestment threats.

The 2019 Coup and Anti-imperialist Resistance

The 2019 coup against Morales was an imperialist effort to transform Bolivia into a neo-colony and bring a halt to the country’s socialist project. In its “2019 Investment Climate Statements: Bolivia”, the US Department of State said, “U.S. companies interested in investing in Bolivia should note that in 2012 Bolivia abrogated the Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT) it signed with the U.S. and a number of other countries.”. BIT is a form of international law that creates legally enforceable rights and entitlements for foreign investors. Under the international system of investor protection created by BITs, private investors can sue for damages while citizens of host states have no way to take direct action. Therefore, BITs are legal instruments of capitalist power consolidation. When Morales came to power, he terminated the BITs. This was an initial indication of the socialist orientation of the MAS government which deeply troubled the US.

In another acknowledgement of MAS’ socialist outlook, the 2019 Investment Climate statement notes that “Environmental regulations can slow projects due to the constitutional requirement of “prior consultation” for any projects that could affect local and indigenous communities. This has affected projects related to the exploitation of natural resources, both renewable and nonrenewable, as well as public works projects.” Natural resources occupy a key position for American companies. According to the Country Commercial Guide (CCG) prepared by the US embassy in Bolivia, the following is one of the top five reasons to consider Bolivia for foreign investment: “Bolivia is rich in non-renewable natural resources. Mining and hydrocarbons are some of Bolivia’s largest export sectors, and there is still room to grow.  In addition to presently mined minerals such as zinc, silver, lead, and tin, Bolivia boasts significant lithium deposits, which remain mostly unexploited.” From this, it is evident that American businesses were salivating at the prospect of accessing lucrative natural resources and the only barrier to this was socialism.

In order to crack open Bolivia’s economy for the unrestricted entry of American corporations, the US orchestrated a capitalist coup in 2019. The coup was designed to overtly facilitate neoliberalism. The US Department of State’s “2020 Investment Climate Statements: Bolivia”– in an implicit acknowledgment of the neoliberal leanings of the coup government – said: “In November 2019, a transitional government came to power that indicated an interest in taking additional steps to attract more FDI…Bolivia does not currently have an investment promotion agency to facilitate foreign investment.  However, the transitional government is working to create such an agency in order to attract investment”.

Apart from subordinating itself to the economic exigencies of capitalism, the coup government simultaneously tried to target public companies. For instance, the new chief executive officer (CEO) of the public sector airline BOA appointed by the Áñez government declared that the airline was running on severe deficit, with no data to substantiate that claim. The new BOA manager was the chief financial officer of Amazonas, a private airline that is BOA’s main rival. Not content with destroying state companies, the new government reduced public investment by 32.5%.

Regardless of the coup government’s efforts to re-institute neoliberalism, US oligarchy’s strategy of imperialistically prying open Bolivia did not go as planned. The proletariat presented a heroic resistance to imperialist violence and continuously strategized to finally defeat it. This was bound to happen. The principal trade union federation in the country, the Bolivian Workers’ Centre (COB), actively supports Morales’s policies and economic reforms, particularly the nationalization of the hydrocarbon industry and the new labor codes and reforms implemented throughout his tenure. The coca growers’ union, known as the Tropic Federation, in the region of Chapare in the north of Cochabamba, is most loyal of all the peasants’ organizations. The Union Federation of Bolivian Mineworkers (FSTMB), an affiliate of the COB and the main union covering workers in the state-owned Bolivian Mining Corporation (COMIBOL), also supports Morales. Thinking that these workers will remain passive in the face of imperialist-fascist incursion is totally naïve.

The victory of the MAS in the 2020 elections has proven that the politico-economic fabric woven by socialist-indigenous movements can’t be torn apart by profit-seeking imperialist forces. While plutocratic putschists tried their best to fracture Bolivia’s internal social structures, the masses did not surrender to imperialism and continued to fearlessly confront the onslaught of neoliberal capitalism. In the current conjuncture, solidarity needs to be shown with the Bolivian people who have once again shown that an independent path, free from the shackles of imperialism, is possible.

The post Resurgence of Socialism in Bolivia first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ending Regime Change in Bolivia and the World

Bolivian woman votes in October 18 election

Less than a year after the United States and the U.S.-backed Organization of American States (OAS) supported a violent military coup to overthrow the government of Bolivia, the Bolivian people have reelected the Movement for Socialism (MAS) and restored it to power.

In the long history of U.S.-backed “regime changes” in countries around the world, rarely have a people and a country so firmly and democratically repudiated U.S. efforts to dictate how they will be governed. Post-coup interim president Jeanine Añez has reportedly requested 350 U.S. visas for herself and others who may face prosecution in Bolivia for their roles in the coup.

The narrative of a rigged election in 2019 that the U.S. and the OAS peddled to support the coup in Bolivia has been thoroughly debunked. MAS’s support is mainly from indigenous Bolivians in the countryside, so it takes longer for their ballots to be collected and counted than those of the better-off city dwellers who support MAS’s right-wing, neoliberal opponents.

As the votes come in from rural areas, there is a swing to MAS in the vote count. By pretending that this predictable and normal pattern in Bolivia’s election results was evidence of election fraud in 2019, the OAS bears responsibility for unleashing a wave of violence against indigenous MAS supporters that, in the end, has only delegitimized the OAS itself.

It is instructive that the failed U.S.-backed coup in Bolivia has led to a more democratic outcome than U.S. regime change operations that succeeded in removing a government from power. Domestic debates over U.S. foreign policy routinely presume that the U.S. has the right, or even an obligation, to deploy an arsenal of military, economic and political weapons to force political change in countries that resist its imperial dictates.

In practice, this means either full-scale war (as in Iraq and Afghanistan), a coup d’etat (as in Haiti in 2004, Honduras in 2009 and Ukraine in 2014), covert and proxy wars (as in Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen) or punitive economic sanctions (as against Cuba, Iran and Venezuela) — all of which violate the sovereignty of the targeted countries and are therefore illegal under international law.

No matter which instrument of regime change the U.S. has deployed, these U.S. interventions have not made life better for the people of any of those countries, nor countless others in the past. William Blum’s brilliant 1995 book, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, catalogues 55 U.S. regime change operations in 50 years between 1945 and 1995. As Blum’s detailed accounts make clear, most of these operations involved U.S. efforts to remove popularly elected governments from power, as in Bolivia, and often replaced them with U.S.-backed dictatorships: like the Shah of Iran; Mobutu in the Congo; Suharto in Indonesia; and General Pinochet in Chile.

Even when the targeted government is a violent, repressive one, U.S. intervention usually leads to even greater violence. Nineteen years after removing the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the United States has dropped 80,000 bombs and missiles on Afghan fighters and civilians, conducted tens of thousands of “kill or capture” night raids, and the war has killed hundreds of thousands of Afghans.

In December 2019, the Washington Post published a trove of Pentagon documents revealing that none of this violence is based on a real strategy to bring peace or stability to Afghanistan — it’s all just a brutal kind of “muddling along,” as U.S. General McChrystal put it. Now the U.S.-backed Afghan government is finally in peace talks with the Taliban on a political power-sharing plan to bring an end to this “endless” war, because only a political solution can provide Afghanistan and its people with the viable, peaceful future that decades of war have denied them.

In Libya, it has been nine years since the U.S. and its NATO and Arab monarchist allies launched a proxy war backed by a covert invasion and NATO bombing campaign that led to the horrific sodomy and assassination of Libya’s long time anti-colonial leader, Muammar Gaddafi. That plunged Libya into chaos and civil war between the various proxy forces that the U.S. and its allies armed, trained and worked with to overthrow Gaddafi.

A parliamentary inquiry in the U.K. found that, “a limited intervention to protect civilians drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change by military means,” which led to “political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of Isil [Islamic State] in north Africa.”

The various Libyan warring factions are now engaged in peace talks aimed at a permanent ceasefire and, according to the UN envoy “holding national elections in the shortest possible timeframe to restore Libya’s sovereignty”—the very sovereignty that the NATO intervention destroyed.

Senator Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy adviser Matthew Duss has called for the next U.S. administration to conduct a comprehensive review of the post-9/11 “War on Terror,” so that we can finally turn the page on this bloody chapter in our history.

Duss wants an independent commission to judge these two decades of war based on “the standards of international humanitarian law that the United States helped to establish after World War II,” which are spelled out in the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions. He hopes that this review will “stimulate vigorous public debate about the conditions and legal authorities under which the United States uses military violence.”

Such a review is overdue and badly needed, but it must confront the reality that, from its very beginning, the “War on Terror” was designed to provide cover for a massive escalation of U.S. “regime change” operations against a diverse range of countries, most of which were governed by secular governments that had nothing to do with the rise of Al Qaeda or the crimes of September 11th.

Notes taken by senior policy official Stephen Cambone from a meeting in the still damaged and smoking Pentagon on the afternoon of September 11, 2001 summarized Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s orders to get “…best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time – not only UBL [Osama Bin Laden]… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

At the cost of horrific military violence and mass casualties, the resulting global reign of terror has installed quasi-governments in countries around the world that have proved more corrupt, less legitimate and less able to protect their territory and their people than the governments that U.S. actions removed. Instead of consolidating and expanding U.S. imperial power as intended, these illegal and destructive uses of military, diplomatic and financial coercion have had the opposite effect, leaving the U.S. ever more isolated and impotent in an evolving multipolar world.

Today, the U.S., China and the European Union are roughly equal in the size of their economies and international trade, but even their combined activity accounts for less than half of global economic activity and external trade. No single imperial power economically dominates today’s world as overconfident American leaders hoped to do at the end of the Cold War, nor is it divided by a binary struggle between rival empires as during the Cold War. This is the multipolar world we are already living in, not one that may emerge at some point in the future.

This multipolar world has been moving forward, forging new agreements on our most critical common problems, from nuclear and conventional weapons to the climate crisis to the rights of women and children. The United States’ systematic violations of international law and rejection of multilateral treaties have made it an outlier and a problem, certainly not a leader, as American politicians claim.

Joe Biden talks about restoring American international leadership if he is elected, but that will be easier said than done. The American empire rose to international leadership by harnessing its economic and military power to a rules-based international order in the first half of the 20th century, culminating in the post-World War II rules of international law. But the United States has gradually deteriorated through the Cold War and post-Cold War triumphalism to a flailing, decadent empire that now threatens the world with a doctrine of “might makes right” and “my way or the highway.”

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, much of the world still saw Bush, Cheney and the “War on Terror” as exceptional, rather than a new normal in American policy. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize based on a few speeches and the world’s desperate hopes for a “peace president.” But eight years of Obama, Biden, Terror Tuesdays and Kill Lists followed by four years of Trump, Pence, children in cages and the New Cold War with China have confirmed the world’s worst fears that the dark side of American imperialism seen under Bush and Cheney was no aberration.

Amid America’s botched regime changes and lost wars, the most concrete evidence of its seemingly unshakeable commitment to aggression and militarism is that the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex is still outspending the ten next largest military powers in the world combined, clearly out of all proportion to America’s legitimate defense needs.

So the concrete things we must do if we want peace are to stop bombing and sanctioning our neighbors and trying to overthrow their governments; to withdraw most American troops and close military bases around the world; and to reduce our armed forces and our military budget to what we really need to defend our country, not to wage illegal wars of aggression half-way round the world.

For the sake of people around the world who are building mass movements to overthrow repressive regimes and struggling to construct new models of governing that are not replications of failed neoliberal regimes, we must stop our government — no matter who is in the White House — from trying to impose its will.

Bolivia’s triumph over U.S.-backed regime change is an affirmation of the emerging people-power of our new multipolar world, and the struggle to move the U.S. to a post-imperial future is in the interest of the American people as well. As the late Venezuela leader Hugo Chavez once told a visiting U.S. delegation, “If we work together with oppressed people inside the United States to overcome the empire, we will not only be liberating ourselves, but also the people of Martin Luther King.”

The post Ending Regime Change in Bolivia and the World first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What Can We Learn from Cuba? Medicare-for-All Is a Beginning, Not the End Point

As a coup de grâce to the Bernie Sanders campaign Joe Biden declared that he would veto Medicare-for-All.  This could drive a dedicated health care advocate to relentlessly pursue Med-4-All as a final goal.  However, it is not the final goal. It should be the first step in a complete transformation of medicine which includes combining community medicine with natural medicine and health-care-for-the-world.

Contrasting Cuban changes in medicine during the last 60 years with the US non-system of medical care gives a clear picture of why changes must be all-encompassing.  The concept of Medicare-for-All is deeply intertwined with attacks on Cuba’s global medical “missions” and the opposite responses to Covid-19 in the two countries.

Going Forward or Going Backward?

Immediately after the 1959 revolution Cubans began the task of spreading medical care to those without it.  This included a flurry of building medical clinics and sending doctors to poor parts of cities and to rural areas, both of which were predominantly black.

As the revolution spread medicine from cities to the country, it realized the need to expand medical care across the world.  This included both sending medical staff overseas and bringing others to Cuba for treatment.  Cuba spent 30 years redesigning its health care system, which resulted in the most comprehensive community-based medicine in the world.

Throughout the expansion of health care, both inside the country and internationally, Cuban doctors used “allopathic” medicine (based largely on drugging and cutting, which is the focus of US medical schools).  But they simultaneously incorporated traditional healing and preventive medicine as well as respecting practices of other cultures.

Today, the most critical parts of the Cuban health care system include (1) everyone receives health care as a human right, (2) all parts are fully integrated into a single whole which can quickly respond to crises, (3) everyone in the country has input into the system so that it enjoys their collective experiences and (4) health care is global.

In contrast, the call for Medicare-for-All by the left in Democratic Party is a demand for Allopathy-for-US-Citizens.  It would extend corporate-driven health care, but with no fundamental change towards holistic and community medicine.  Though a necessary beginning, it is a conservative demand which does not recognize that a failure to go forward will inevitably result in market forces pushing health care backward.

There is already a right-wing effort to destroy Medicare and Medicaid in any form and leave people to only receive medical treatment they can pay for.  It is part of the same movement to destroy the US Post Office and eliminate Social Security.  It is funded by the same sources trying to get rid of public education except for a few schools that will prepare the poor to go to prison or be unemployed.  These are neoliberals who believe that Black-Lives-Do-Not-Really-Matter.  They hate all the gains won during the last century-and-a-half and want to overturn any form of environmental protection, any workers’ rights, the eight-hour work day, child labor laws, and civil rights, including voting rights.

Destroying Health Care Advances of the Cuban Revolution

What does the Cuban health care have to do with Medicare-for-All in the US?  Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy than the US while spending less than 10% per person annually on health care.  It has provided medical education to so many from other countries that in 1999 it opened the Latin American School of Medicine to bring students from impoverished countries to study and become doctors.  By 2020 it had trained over 30,000 doctors.  It had also trained huge numbers of other health professionals from beyond its shores.

Even before Cuba brought in students, it sent its own professionals on “missions” to help those in other countries.  Over the past six decades more than 400,000 Cuban medical professionals have worked in 164 countries and improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

The US response to this incredible international medical revolution documents that it is not satisfied to stop medical care from improving but has an irresistable urge to reverse gains across the globe.  The US government glommed onto complaints from physicians in multipe countries who whined because Cuban doctors would go to jungles and other dangerous areas where the rich urban doctors refused to venture.  Of course, the US had its own reasons to despise Cuban medical assistance.

Cuba has long done humanitarian work in education as well as medicine which puts its northerm behemoth to shame.  Its actions expose that health care can be done vastly cheaper with better outcomes than corportate medicine, which traumatizes financiers of the sickness industry.

Republicans and Democrats are firmly united with corporate media in hiding Cuban medical accomplishments from the US population.  They defnitely do not want other poor countries to replicate Cuba’s system.  Horrifed at the prospect that Cuban health care would shine as an example, the US went to work to undermine and destroy Cuban medical internationalism in any way it could.

In August 2006 the George W. Bush administration began the “Cuban Medical Professional Parole” program to encourage Cuban medical staff on international missions to desert and move to the US, with no questions asked. Only 2-3% did so; but their departure left those poor countries with less care.

This is in line with any corporate goals to destroy local health care and replace it with profit-based health care across the globe.  Driven by the same market factors that compel extraction, transportation and food production industries to go international, the US sickness industry likely feels the urge to create and control a global market of “health care providers.”  One of its main obstacles will be community health systems, which actually work much better for poor people.

As the knowledge of the success of Cuba’s medical information spread, its detractors flew into a frenzy and clutched onto wild hallucinations.  As accurately explained by Vijay Prashad, they fantasized that Cuba was engaging in “human trafficking” by forcing its doctors to work internationally.  The accusation is blatantly absurd since Cuban doctors always have the choice of whether to broaden their medical knowledge by going abroad and treating diseases that have been eradicated in Cuba or to stay at home.

It is true that its doctors have incredibly low wages (as do all working people in Cuba) due to the destructive effects of the US embargo.  In one of the great ironies of propaganda machines, the US seeks to criminalize Cuba in the eyes of the world by screeching that medical wages are low while itself being the cause of meager pay.

Results of this attacking Cuba during Covid-19 have been murderous.  After Lenín Moreno became president of Ecuador in 2017 he abruptly veered from what he promised and ordered Cuban doctors to leave.  At the same time Venezuela and Cuba had a total of 27 Covid-19 deaths, Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, had an estimated death toll of 7,600.  Similarly, when the neoliberal Jair Bolsonaro took power in Brazil in 2019, he threw out Cuban doctors.  This left the country with rising infant mortality and so unprepared for Covid that even inviting them back was unable to undo the damage.  Following the 2019 anti-democratic coup in Bolivia, the ultra right-wing Jeanine Áñez had herself anointed as president and expelled Cuban doctors, which devastated that country’s health care system.  Although Bolivia is a physically isolated country with a population of only 8.7 million it had 2200 deaths by June 2020.

Who Coped with Covid-19?

The fact that Cuba had gone far, far beyond Medicare-for-All is what allowed it to have such spectacular control over Covid.  Its politicians unified behind the ministry of health which developed a national strategy.  That strategy was in effect before the island’s first victim had succumbed to the disease.  Social distancing, masks and contact tracing were universally accepted.  According to Susana Hurlich, medical students went door-to-door collecting data, distributing homeopathic medication (PrevengHo-Vir), and, most important, finding out what problems people needed help with.

Neighborhood doctors collected data to send to polyclinics and helped make certain that residents’ medical and other needs were met.  Clinic staff met needs that neighborhood doctors could not provide and sent patients they could not care for to hospitals.  Hospital doctors slept at hospitals for 14 day shifts before being quarantined for another 14 days so they would not infect their families or communities.

On July 18, deaths from Covid-19 numbered 140,300 in the US and 87 in Cuba.   Though its population is only 30 times that of Cuba, the US had 1,612 times as many deaths.

As US politicians conspired with corporations to see how much profit could be made from the pandemic, Cuban health care went international.  When northern Italy became the epicenter of Covid-19 cases, one of its hardest hit cities was Crema. On March 26, 2020 Cuba sent 52 doctors and nurses. A smaller and poorer Caribbean nation was one of the few aiding a major European power.

On March 12, 2020 nearly 50 crew members and passengers on the British cruise ship Braemar either had Covid-19 or were showing symptoms as the ship approached the Bahamas, a British Commonwealth nation. During the next five days, the US, the Bahamas, and several other Caribbean countries turned it away.  On March 18, Cuba became the only country to allow the Braemar’s over 1000 crew members and passengers to dock.

The incidents of Crema and the Braemar were hardly without precedent.  They resulted from 60 years of medical internationalism by Cuba.  Just as Cuba’s actions during Covid-19 reflected its development, so the horrible expansion of the disease in the US, Brazil and India showed the lack of concern under reactionary rule.

Capitalism has exterminated hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people in order to consolidate growth and power.  Whether enslaving Africans, or slaughtering native Americans to steal land, or experimenting with nuclear bombs during WWII, or destroying health systems that would prevent mass death during a pandemic, these are merely “costs of doing business” to capitalism.  Driving native peoples off of land is not unique to US in the past, but continues today throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Trump has terribly bungled coping with Covid-19, but the approach of Democrats is not essentially different.  Neither corporate party has any intention of providing Cuban-type care within the US. And they certainly do not even imagine putting protection of the world’s poor from Covid above profit potentials for US corporations.  They never had any intention of telling US public that 72 countries had requested Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2B for treating Covid-19.  They wanted people to believe that only an American or European country could discover treatment.

Is Thinking Beyond Medicare-for-All Part of the Real World?

Is the idea of a radical health care transformation even worth talking about as right-wingers seem to be on the move across much of the world?  Let’s remember our past.  During the time the reactionary Richard Nixon was president (1969-1974), despite an overwhelming pro-war victory, the following were accomplished under his reign: declaration of an end to the Vietnam War, start of the Food Stamp program, decriminalization of abortion, recognition of China, creation of Environmental Protection Agency, passage of Freedom of Information Act, formal dismantling of FBI’s COINTEL program, creation of Earned Income Tax Credits, formal ban on biological weapons, and passage of the Clean Water Act.

We have never won as many gains since then, even when there was a Democratic House, Senate and president.  The essential difference between then and now was the existence of mass movements.  Perhaps it is the time for today’s movements to ask if a fair and just payment of reparations by the US and western Europe for the pain and suffering they have caused throughout the world should include providing medical care for those billions of people who Cuba cannot afford to help.  Health care is not genuine health care if it fails to be health-care-for-the-world.

Canadian Left rejects Organization of American States

When people say “America” everyone understands they mean one country, the USA. In a similar fashion it is time for all to understand that the Organization of American States (OAS) serves the interests of that country.

In a recent webinar on “Bolivia’s fight to restore democracy and Canada’s role” organized by the Canadian Latin America Alliance and Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Matthew Green forthrightly criticized Canadian policy in that country and the hemisphere. The NDP MP said “Canada is complicit in the attack on indigeneity in Bolivia” and that “we are an imperialist, extractivist country.” He added that “we ought not be a part of a pseudo-imperialist group like the Lima Group” and criticized “Canada’s involvement in the OAS.”

Green’s statements build on a Jack Harris, the NDP foreign affairs critic, recent comment that the OAS was a “tool of the United States” with “undue influence on other members.” In a Hill Times story titled “NDP, Green MPs raise concern over Canada’s trust in OAS election monitoring in Bolivia“, Paul Manly also criticized the OAS. The Green MP said the Organization is “not a credible, impartial player when it comes to leftist governments in South America. It was established to advance U.S. interests.”

The head of the OAS, Luis Almagro, is promoting extreme pro-Donald Trump positions. Recently, the OAS released a statement condemning protesters in Bolivia calling for elections. The coup government there has repeatedly postponed elections after the country’s first ever indigenous president was ousted partly as a result of a highly politicized OAS criticism of last October’s election. As the Onion recently satirized about Bolivia, the best way to ensure there are no “electoral irregularities” is to avoid elections altogether.

In Nicaragua the OAS has backed those seeking to oust Daniel Ortega’s social democratic government. They’ve repeatedly condemned the Sandinista government, prompting Nicaragua to refuse the OAS entry to the country. At the same time the OAS has largely ignored Nicaragua’s Central American neighbour even though Juan Orlando Hernandez defied the Honduras constitution by running for a second term as president and then brazenly stole the election.

In Haiti Almagro has aggressively championed corrupt, repressive and widely despised President Jovenel Moïse. The Secretary General of the OAS recently stated that Moïse’s mandate expired in February 2022, not February 2021 as most Haitians want and constitutional experts have argued. There is also some evidence to suggest the OAS is setting up to support Moïse’s effort to rig the elections. Recently, Haiti’s entire nine person electoral council resigned in response to Moïse’s pressure and the OAS continues to engage with a process that almost all political actors in Haiti reject.

Haiti’s new foreign minister Claude Joseph (representative of a prime minister appointed extra-constitutionally) recently visited Almagro to discuss Moïse’s mandate and elections. During the trip to Washington Joseph also met with the anti-Venezuela Lima Group ambassadors.

In response Haïti Liberté’s Kim Ives noted, “what could be more ironic and ludicrous than Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse accusing Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro of being ‘illegitimate and dictatorial’ while demanding that he immediately ‘hold free, fair, and transparent general elections’? But that is exactly the position of the Lima Group, a collection of 15 Latin American states and Canada, which Haiti joined in January 2020.”

Almagro is an extremist on Venezuela. Three years ago the former Uruguayan Foreign Minister’s actions as head of the OAS prompted Almagro’s past boss, former Uruguayan president José Mujica, to condemn his bias against the Venezuelan government. In 2017 Almagro appointed long-time critic of Hugo Chavez and vicious anti-Palestinian Canadian politician, Irwin Cotler, and two others to a panel that launched the process of bringing Venezuela to the International Criminal Court. In a Real News Network interview Max Blumenthal described “the hyperbolic and propagandistic nature” of the press conference where the 400-page Canadian-backed report was released at the OAS in Washington. At the event Cotler ridiculously claimed Venezuela’s “government itself was responsible for the worst ever humanitarian crisis in the region.”

A year later Almagro mused about an invasion of Venezuela. He stated, “as for military intervention to overthrow the Nicolas Maduro regime, I think we should not rule out any option … diplomacy remains the first option but we can’t exclude any action.”

The OAS receives between 44% and 57% of its budget from Washington. While it’s now the organization’s second largest contributor, Canada was not part of the OAS for its first 42 years. For decades Canada’s foreign-policy establishment wavered on joining the US-dominated organization. Not long after signing the free-trade agreement with the US, Brian Mulroney’s government joined the OAS in 1990.

The Matthew Green, Paul Manly and Jack Harris criticism of the OAS deserves a wide airing. All opponents of US bullying in the Americas should push for Canada to withdraw from the Organization of American States.

• In an historic event on Thursday, August 20, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza will discuss “Canadian Interference in Venezuela.” You can register for the webinar here.