Latin American and Caribbean Struggles: A Review of 2017

BY ANTICONQUISTA

Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese anti-colonial leader, once urged us to “remember that the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and stability.”

2017 was certainly a stormy year for revolutionary progress in Latin America. Venezuela, which has spearheaded the revolutionary process in the region for some years now, was rocked by right-wing violence and economic instability.

It seems that social democracy, as much as it has provided for our people, has started to show its limitations when it allows for co-existence with capitalist elites. Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina all flirted with social democratic processes and have all been reconquered by the old capitalist aristocracies.

Bolivia, which has done more than all other projects to decolonize the country’s institutions and structures, has enjoyed more stability. However, President Evo Morales’ hard work hangs on the balance if the elites manage to take the 2019 elections.

Is it perhaps time we as people reassessed our options for revolutionary change? Let’s review important struggles in 2017 that can help answer our question.

Mexico

Mexico currently holds the notorious title of the most violent country in world after Syria, with an average of 2,000 violent homicides every month. It is also the most dangerous place to work as a journalist.

Since the election of President Enrique Peña Nieto and the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s reign of conservatism in the aftermath of former President Felipe Calderon’s “War on Drugs,” Mexico is being torn apart with shocking rates of narcotrafficking, human trafficking, poverty, death and femicide.

The rampant impunity safeguarded by criollo elites in the country cements the narco state, with Mexican forces as a complicit partner in the widespread violence against the poor, Indigenous masses.

But, in the face of such incredible circumstances, the people continue to rise up — even if it costs them their lives. Mobilizations continue to sweep the country day after day calling to light the spying programs aimed at journalists, lawyers and human rights organizations by the Mexican government.

Women and their allies march calling for an end to femicide in a country where six women are killed every single day. The struggles for justice for the 43 Ayotzinapa students have not ceased. And most recently, coalitions are being formed against the new Internal Security Law.

One idea remains clear: a new insurrection must rise in defense of the masses and to demand true sovereignty for Mexico.

Central America

In Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales has proved to be yet another neoliberal stooge of the imperialists. Not only has he continued economic austerity measures at home. He’s also strengthened relations with the governments of Israel, South Korea and Taiwan — some of the most reactionary in the world. The fire that killed 41 young girls at a state-run children’s shelter in San José Pinula last March exemplified the state of capitalist corruption that exists in Guatemala’s government.

In Honduras, tensions reached a boiling point after Nov. 26, when the country’s general elections were held. Incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who has been declared the presidential winner despite rampant voter fraud and suppression, used the Armed Forces to suppress indignant protesters. Hernandez’s government continued the violent legacy of the 2009 military coup that removed former President Manuel Zelaya from power.

In El Salvador, the ruling Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, or FMLN, continues to grapple with ushering in social change. Although President Salvador Sánchez Cerén’s government has introduced progressive programs, the FMLN still has important issues to tackle. These issues include legalizing abortion and eradicating the socio-economic conditions that facilitate the rise and strengthening of gangs like MS-13 and Barrio 18.

In Belize, drug trafficking and forced displacement remain critical issues. All of these problems have been imposed by the imperialists, chiefly the United States, which is home to the highest amount of drug consumers in the hemisphere. Belize is a notorious transit point for U.S.-backed drug runners from Colombia, Honduras and Mexico who bring these destructive commodities to North America’s inner cities.

In Nicaragua, the Sandinista government has ushered in numerous progressive reforms. From hiring sex workers to mediate community conflicts to building schools and hospitals nationwide, the country continues to advance. However, one major threat continues to loom over the revolutionary government: green imperialism. Washington has teamed up with paid-off “environmental activists” in Nicaragua to oppose the construction of the Nicaraguan Canal and Development Project.

In Costa Rica, drug trafficking and murders of LGBT+ people are also on the rise. Moreover, the government of President Luis Guillermo Solís, who campaigned as a “leftist,” has supported neoliberal economic packages that are impoverishing the masses.

In Panama, President Juan Carlos Varela has strengthened relations with China and distanced itself from the reactionary regime in Taiwan. In effect, the longtime U.S. client state has moved farther away from the Washington Consensus. However, many serious issues continue to affect the country — tax havens, the suppression of unions and the displacement of Indigenous people are among the most brutal.

South America

In Colombia, the peace process has proven to be a farce. The assassinations of social leaders and activists continue. There has been no improvement in the socioeconomic conditions of the Brown and Black masses of the country.

In Brazil, people have been protesting and striking against the intensifying neoliberalism of President Michel Temer. His reforms failed when he attempted to change the definition of forced labor to the outrage of workers and activists. This and other deplorable policies were fought against with a historical strike in April that brought the country to a standstill with around 35 million taking part.

In Argentina, millions are also fighting expansive neoliberal reforms under President Mauricio Macri’s right-wing leadership, while he disgracefully pardoned his own family’s debt. The killing of activist Santiago Maldonado and the recently-announced pension reforms have sparked huge protests, often ending in violent police repression.

In Chile, the repression of the Mapuche continues and this year’s elections had one of the lowest voter participation rates in the region. This objectively demonstrated that people are fed up with electoral politics and sell-out social democrats like President Michelle Bachelet.

In Peru, citizens are on the streets by the thousands protesting against former dictator Alberto Fujimori’s pardon. The extent of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s reactionary nature was foreshadowed when he told U.S. President Donald Trump that Latin America is the “lapdog” of the United States.

In Ecuador, President Lenin Moreno, who was meant to continue the left-leaning policies of former President Rafael Correa, turned out to be yet another stooge of the country’s right-wing elites and the United States. The social changes that took 10 years to consolidate under Correa are now under serious threat.

In Bolivia, progress continues. In July of 2017, Evo declared independence from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Extreme poverty has fallen to 17 percent, more than halving from the level it was at when he got into power in 2006. More hospitals have been built this year, with a total of 1,007 being built throughout his presidency. More schools, housing and soccer fields have been built as well. The immediate future seems bright for Bolivia as well since Evo will be able to be re-elected in 2019, despite the efforts of the criollo elites and imperialist powers to put a stop to the empowerment of Bolivia’s masses.

In Venezuela, despite the ongoing economic war, President Nicolás Maduro and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela remain popular, as evidenced by the results of this year’s regional elections. However, as long as the elites are not decisively dealt with, as Cuba demonstrated, the Chavista project could end along with all its progress.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil have all given the social democratic process a chance and have arrived at a junction where the communist path seems the most viable long-term option. Whether they take it is up to those of us who fight for it.

The Caribbean

The worst hurricanes to hit the region in its history have helped to uncover the underlying reality the people in the Caribbean face.

Governments there, excluding Cuba, either do not care about their citizens and exist only to fulfill their Western masters’ interests, or they do not have the capacity to care for their own interests.

In Puerto Rico, which is under the jurisdiction of the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, is still overwhelmingly without power. That is, at least a million people in Puerto Rico have been in the dark for over three months.

The English-speaking Caribbean islands, most of which form part of the U.S. and British Commonwealth, were some of the worst affected. The breakdown of infrastructure and the poor response to the hurricanes clearly demonstrated that they are still operating as servants to foreign interests.

The British and the U.S. Virgin Islands were left pummeled. Much of Anguilla’s infrastructure was left in total ruin. Swaths of Montserrat remain destroyed.

To top it off, imperialist bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. and London have failed to provide adequate aid and reconstruction assistance, leaving these islands in complete disarray.

Meanwhile, “independent” countries in the Caribbean that were also pummeled by hurricanes have been forced to accept loans from multinational lenders that act like vultures around a dead carcass. Countries like The Bahamas, Haiti, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica have been thrust further into crippling debt owed to foreign elites.

Wealthy First World investors have also continued to use the Caribbean as a giant tax haven while profiting off of the suffering of its people.

Finally, in the Dominican Republic, the rising Green Movement has militantly opposed President Danilo Medina and his government’s complicity in the Odebrecht corruption scandal. Medina, a neoliberal who is friendly with U.S. and European imperialists, has also been opposed by the Dominican masses for cutting social programs and promoting racist immigration policies against Haitians.

At ANTICONQUISTA, we wish to be part of the revolutionary change that will no doubt take place throughout 2018. Will you join us?

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