Latin America: The New Neoliberalism and Popular Mobilization

The December 1989 uprising in Venezuela’s capital-city of Caracas – known as the caracazo – against the free-market reforms of then president Carlos A. Pérez marked the beginnings of a two-decade wave of militant popular mobilizations against neoliberalism across Latin America. From the streets of Buenos Aires to the highlands of Bolivia, from Peru’s provinces to the countryside in Ecuador, direct action brought down some of the regimes most committed to the “Washington Consensus.” Popular mobilizations across the region have also defeated attempts to privatize public services, kept agricultur-al lands from being taken by multinational mining companies, and overturned counter-revolutionary attempts as in Venezuela and Bolivia.1 Massive popular resistance and the firm stand taken by the ALBA countries2 galvanized public opinion and forced many Latin American governments to reject former President George W. Bush’s proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas during the November 2005 Presidential Summit of the Americas held in Mar del Plata (Argentina). Shadowed from the other side of town by a large and festive gathering known as the People’s Summit of the Americas, a majority of the Latin American leaders humiliated Bush with their resolute objections to his proposals.

Grassroots movements like Brazil’s Movimento Sem Terra (MST, Landless Peasant Movement) and the Latin-America created Via Campesina have expanded their reach to the rest of the world as key protagonists in the struggle against the World Trade Organization in defense of peasant economies and food sovereignty. Furthermore the emergence of popular organizations as alternative territorial forms of local and regional autonomous power has constituted a powerful challenge to neoliberal ideology. Many of these movements have expanded their reach beyond Latin America to inspire the global anti-capitalist struggle. These include the Juntas de Buen Gobierno (Good Government Councils) in the autonomous Zapatista-controlled municipalities in different parts of Mexico; the encampments of the MST in Brazil; worker-controlled factories in Argentina; the global campaigns of Via Campesina against genetically modified seeds and food, in defense of peasant economies against free trade, corporate monoculture, and bio-fuels; the networks woven by Peruvian and Ecuadoran Indigenous with ecologists across the world in defense of the Amazon rainforest; the Movimiento de Justicia en el Barrio, a tenant organization of Latin American immigrants in New York City that has linked up with immigrant neighborhoods in London; the Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Bi-nacionales to defend indigenous and labor rights on both sides of the US-Mexican border; and finally the general impact of Latin American immigrant workers in revitalizing labor and popular mobilization in the United States.

By breaking the spell of neoliberal triumphalist discourse that for almost a decade paralyzed broad sectors of the left, subaltern mobilization has created the conditions for the re-emergence of progressive forces. Electoral successes of these forces were the first victories against neoliberalism on a world scale. Arising out of the global turmoil triggered by neoliberalism, Latin American popular resistance against unfettered plunder of resources, intensified exploitation, environmental destruction, and the loss of all forms of sovereignty, is a transformative anti-systemic force. It is now playing a crucial role in defining what kind of world will be erected on the ruins left behind by the neoliberal onslaught. From this perspective popular movements in Latin America represent – to paraphrase Gramsci – the new that is not yet born while the old hasn’t finished dying.

The November 2005 issue of Socialism and Democracy offered a preliminary survey of these movements and their anti-systemic potential. Four years later a resurgent and heterogeneous left – dubbed the “pink tide” by the global press – has expanded from 6 to 10 presidents. Paradoxically, however, with the transition from neoliberal to progressive regimes, popular movements have lost center-stage to the state.

While popular movements acknowledge and celebrate the progressive regimes for their recognition of labor rights, their expansion of social and educational opportunities for the poor, and their defense of national sovereignty, these gains have not come without cost. State attempts to curtail hard-earned political autonomy have become a source of concern. Incorporation of popular movements into state structures, social programs, and ruling-party clientelistic networks, and the appointment of some of their leaders to public office, mark a difficult transition from the oppositional stance that up to now has shaped the movements’ organization, culture and identity. With the consolidation of the new progressive regimes, popular movements at first became more quiescent. The broad and bold actions of the previous phase of mobilization gave way to local and more limited measures. But this evolution has also stimulated healthy internal debates and reassessments of the organizations’ decision-making processes, functioning, and purpose. The partial cooptation of the movements produced fractures and splits among popular organizations, turning the initial promise of progressive regimes into a frustrating and debilitating paralysis.3

The uncertainty however did not last long. Galvanized by a second neoliberal wave aimed at expropriation of natural resources and expansion of export commodities, and by progressive governments’ loss of steam and transformative will, popular movements progressively rearticulated their organization and networks and are steadily recovering political initiative. The recent mobilizations of indigenous peoples and peasants have taken on a global significance. Three particularly militant struggles have taken place in countries whose governments have been most faithful to neoliberal orthodoxy: the 2006 Oaxaca insurgency, Colombia’s 2008 Indigenous minga, and the Amazonian Indigenous-popular April 2008 strike and May-July 2009 uprising in Peru.4 Popular mobilization has also been crucial in defending progressive regimes in Venezuela and Bolivia and, more recently, in resisting the counterrevolutionary coup in Honduras.

In Venezuela, massive grassroots demonstrations mobilized against – and reversed in less than 48 hours – the US-supported April 2002 coup. Spearheaded by the same popular barrios that ignited the 1989 caracazo, popular mobilization also defeated the 2002-03 “oil strike” led by managers and technocrats of the state-controlled Petróleos de Venezuela. In Bolivia popular mobilization broke the political paralysis of the Evo Morales administration in the face of a serious counterrevolutionary attempt. Following the same pattern as the 2000 “water war” and the 2003 and 2005 “gas wars” and acting on their own independent initiative, popular sectors rallied against the violent right-wing separatist insurrection in the Eastern provinces of the country. In Honduras, the forced exile of President Manuel Zelaya unleashed a historically unprecedented popular resistance, which helped radicalize the vacillating early stance of Zelaya. Spearheaded by labor, peasant and indigenous movements, a broad range of forces have coalesced under a Frente Nacional de Resistencia Contra el Golpe. This broad front, encompassing center as well as left parties, is a new phenomenon in Honduras.

Globally, with the convergence of capitalist crisis, renewed neoliberal offensives for control of natural resources, and right-wing attempts to dislodge progressive regimes, popular movements will likely again occupy center stage in the upcoming cycle of struggle. The crisis has made painfully evident the vulnerabilities of the Latin American economies. It has been materially devastating for the large majorities that constitute the social base of progressive regimes. The erratic behavior of commodity prices presaged hard times for economies that relied heavily on international markets for their exports and also for food-imports. Deteriorating market conditions have brought into the open deeper structural problems and deficiencies in Latin American modernization strategies from the right to the left. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates that as a whole Latin America’s regional economy will undergo by the end of 2009 a GDP contraction of 1.7%. Two cases in point are Mexico, 80% of whose exports go to the US, and Cuba, which imports approximately 70% of its food supply.

State-administered poverty programs in Brazil and Argentina have not deterred rising unemployment. In Brazil, 800,000 jobs lost in the last quarter of 2008 shattered Lula’s pronouncements that the country could withstand the financial turbulence thanks to his allegedly successful “decoupling” from the advanced capitalist world. Falling international demand is also taking its toll on Argentina (whose exports account for a quarter of its GDP) as well as on other primary export economies.5 More recently Chile, the emblematic neoliberal success in Latin America, became the first country in the region to officially declare its economy in recession. Socialist president Bachelet’s optimistic reassurances proved false after the Central Bank president announced on August 18 a negative growth of 4.5% for the second 2009 trimester.6 Rapidly falling remittances from migrant workers are creating serious problems particularly in Central America and Mexico – whose peasant economy and food sovereignty have been virtually destroyed by NAFTA. Under these gloomy circumstances, many countries – including Cuba7 – have already announced austerity measures that forecast an unfortunate further divergence between progressive regimes and subaltern interests.

As this issue goes to press, Latin America is once again rocked by massive popular mobilization. In mid-July, thousands of Kakchikeles from the eastern part of Guatemala marched against dam and mining operations that threatened the environment, indigenous territories, and community autonomy. Joined by labor, student, women’s and popular organizations from other parts of the country, indigenous protesters led a massive march to Congress. Together with the indigenous march in the capital city in January this year, this event marked the recovery of a popular movement devastated by one of Latin America’s bloodiest countersinsurgencies. In mid-August, Brazil was the scene of marches, occupations of public offices, and massive rallies in a National Journey of Struggle against firing of workers, for land reform, and in defense of social programs threatened by government austerity schemes. In a passionate speech at the closing rally of a four-day protest in São Paulo, João Stedile, a member of the MST coordinating committee, called for the unification of labor with the social movements. With the prominent participation of the labor confederation CUT (a close ally of the PT and Lula’s government), together with hundreds of peasant, student and popular organizations, the four-day mobilization marks an important turning in the revitalization of a popular movement that until now had lacked a unified position toward government policies.

In the immediate future the changing economic and political circumstances created by the crisis will enhance the centrality of popular mobilization. Only a strong and politically autonomous subaltern organization will be capable of redirecting the current course taken by most progressive governments as “managers of neoliberalism” into a post-capitalist course.

National-Democratic Modernization and Subaltern Autonomy

More than a circumstantial problem, the tension between progressive regimes and popular movements is deeply rooted in the complex relationship that since the formation of the independent nation-state has pitted mostly Creole urban, educated political elites against mostly non-white (Black, Indigenous, mestizo) subaltern classes. The recent manifestations of this tension can be traced to the turbulent decade of the 1960s.

The electoral ascendance of the “pink tide” marks the end of a cycle of struggles that began with the 1952 Bolivian Revolution and the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Driven by common animosity toward the pro-imperialist oligarchic state, varied social and political forces coalesced around a democratic and nationalist agenda: both the traditional and “new” lefts; the labor movement; progressive intellectuals, professionals, the clergy and in several cases also the military. National-democratic coalitions sometimes also encompassed those sectors of the entrepreneurial class – the so-called “national bourgeoisie” – whose accumulation was severely constrained both by the oligarchy and by imperialist capital. Although the peasantry – made up in a number of countries mostly of indigenous peoples – played a crucial role undermining oligarchic power through massive land recoveries and demands for equal opportunity and the expansion of voting rights (to those “illiterate” in Spanish), its participation in the national-democratic coalition was politically subordinated to the mostly urban, educated, “white” and mestizo labor and political elites – of both the right and the left. This condition was shared by all subaltern groups except for the organized working class, which drew strength from its place in the economy, its political trajectory, its role in developmentalist modernization schemes, and the centrality given to workers in revolutionary theories.

Ruling under different political regimes (corporative, populist, democratic-nationalist, reformist, or revolutionary) extending from Guatemala’s 1944-54 “Democratic Spring” and the 1959 Cuban Revolution to the 1979-90 Sandinista regime, and encompassing among others the Perón regime in Argentina (1943-55), Bolivia’s 1952 National Revolution, and Chile’s Allende government (1970-73), national-democratic alliances played a pivotal role in the modernization of the region. With different emphasis and degrees – varying with ideological inclinations and political commitments – these regimes reoriented the Latin American states in a “developmentalist” direction based on the strategy of modernization propounded by “dependency theory,” premised on (1) the end of oligarchic rule and imperialist domination, (2) industrial development and expansion of the internal market, (3) political, economic and financial autonomy from the United States, (4) land reform, (5) labor and democratic rights, and (6) a network of social programs and services.

The radicalism of a particular national-democratic regime could be measured by how it dealt with US domination, how thoroughly it dismantled the oligarchic state, and how well it promoted subaltern involvement and participation. Oligarchies were threatened or displaced from power by direct popular mobilization (Bolivia 1952), insurgent revolutionary forces (Cuba 1959, Nicaragua 1979), parliamentary action (Allende’s Chile), reformist military intervention (Peru under Velasco, 1968-1975), or populist nationalist intervention (Peron’s Argentina). Subaltern classes in general experienced a further loss of political autonomy, however, through incorporation into the clientelistic networks surrounding government social programs, or into the party or movement acting as the political arm of the national-democratic regime.

The relationship between national-democratic regimes and popular organization was not homogenous across the region. The degree of subaltern political autonomy was determined among other factors by the nature of the regime, the political trajectories of both subaltern and ruling classes, and the political and ideological centrality of labor. Except in Mexico (thanks to its 1910 Revolution), peasants across the region were politically marginalized and subjected to paternalistic and racist policies. Extreme cases were the populist-corporative regimes of Perón in Argentina and Vargas (1930-45, 1951-54) in Brazil, where independent unions were not allowed and Communists and leftists were repressed. In Argentina labor unions controlled the Labor Ministry; in Brazil labor leaders were paid government officials. A divided Peronist union leadership remains a key political player in Argentina. Peronist union bosses in the CGT collaborated with neoliberal president Carlos Menem (1989-99) and later with progressive presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández. In Brazil the state-controlled labor union structure remained in place through the 1964-85 dictatorship. Peasants were violently and systematically repressed. On the other hand, in a case like Allende’s Chile, which had strong party structures, labor militancy, and democratic institutions, the relationship between the state and labor was more fluid. In other situations, like Peru under Velasco, the creation of official unions and peasant organizations did not deter the expansion of the left and the creation of a strong and militant popular movement.

In the context of the Cold War, however, Latin American national-democratic modernization emerged as a threat to US imperial/geostrategic and corporate business interests in the region. Through direct military intervention, cooptation, economic and financial blackmail, or clandestine operations with support of sympathetic military, the United States led a counterrevolution that – except for Cuba – cut short the life of these regimes. The 1954 overthrow of democratically elected president Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala opened a long-term counterrevolutionary cycle characterized by heavy repression against popular, progressive and revolutionary forces. But this in turn sparked the growth of an underground resistance.

The “democratic transitions” of the 1980s arose typically from alliances between left-wing parties and popular organizations. The re-emergence of progressive forces was both stimulated and obstructed by the ascendance of neoliberalism and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In response to the demoralizing effects of “globaloney,” the “end of history,” and the fall of “really existing socialism,” many left-wing intellectuals and political parties retreated from the revolutionary aspirations they had once embraced but which they now dismissed as unrealistic. Turning instead to free markets and electoral politics, they converted to what Carlos I. Degregori recently described as “progressive neoliberalism,” taking on the impossible task of conferring a “human face” on neoliberal “savage capitalism.”8 This put a tremendous strain on the incipient rapprochement between left-wing parties and popular organizations built in the previous decades. It was rationalized, however, as a left “reformist” adaptation to neoliberalism. “Reformists” operating within this paradigm were largely responsible for the centrist reconversion that overtook a number of the recently elected progressive governments.

Most progressive governments, unless they arose out of prior massive mobilization as in Venezuela and Bolivia, tended to adopt a milder version of the national-democratic developmentalist strategy of previous decades. But they have often been more to the left in their foreign than in their domestic policies. This reflects the weakening global role of the United States relative to the growing economic importance of China, India, and other countries of the global South. Thus, under “pink tide” governments, Latin American integration and political autonomy from the United States have moved closer to realization than during the earlier wave of national-democratic regimes.

Taking back the “backyard”

From the early days of independence to the present, the solidarity and integration of Latin American countries has proved elusive. The alliances of South American Creole patriots against Spanish colonialism quickly faded. The efforts of Venezuelan-born Simón Bolívar to establish a confederation of Andean Republics failed miserably. Bolívar’s dream would not revive until the late 19th century, when Cuban patriot Jose Martí, called for a reaffirmation of sovereignty over Nuestra America (Our America) to build the unity he considered crucial to confront what he perceived as the imperialist ascendance of the United States (the “other America”) over the region. But the Latin American oligarchies, unwilling to lose favor with US capital, created the conditions for transforming their countries into the US “backyard.”

In the early 20th century an emerging left and labor movement infused the vision of a united Latin America with an unequivocal anti-imperialist content. The US Cold War offensive against the Cuban Revolution reinforced anti-imperialist feelings among broad sectors of the population that rallied against the common enemy around the idea of the Patria Grande popularized by Che Guevara. The deepening subordination of Latin America to US economic and strategic interests re-ignited the idea of Latin American integration. In the context of an increasingly internationalized popular resistance against transnational capital, solidarity and unity became relevant again. Latin American integration thus became a crucial goal. Since it could not be attained without breaking with US domination, it fell to progressive regimes to carry it out.

On June 3, 2009, in an unprecedented vote by acclamation, the General Assembly of the OAS (Organization of American States) repealed the US-imposed exclusion of Cuba from the hemispheric organization. Established in 1948, with the alleged goal of strengthening democracy and fostering continental integration, the OAS acted instead as an instrument of US imperialist hegemony. During the Cold War – and beyond – through the OAS the United States ensured its control over one of the key “spheres of influence” in its imperial scheme of power. Following the approval of the 1962 Declaration of Punta del Este, banning from its ranks all nations that adhere to Marxism, and branding all those others establishing partnership with “communist bloc” countries as “enemies of the unity and solidarity” of the continent, the OAS General Assembly proceeded to expel Cuba. Furthermore, all the Latin American countries except Mexico then broke relations with Cuba’s revolutionary regime.9

For an organization that until not so long ago condoned invasions, political assassinations, human rights abuses, and coups against democratic governments, the unanimous decision to readmit Cuba marks an epochal change. This breaking of the longstanding US stranglehold represents the most important collective accomplishment of current Latin American progressive regimes. The region’s increasingly autonomous position on the international scene is acknowledged even by the New York Times. Reporting from the Presidential Summit of the Americas held at Bahia (Brazil) in December 2008, its correspondent observed that during the meeting the United States “became a punching bag” of many of the attending leaders as they voiced unrelenting criticism of neoliberal policies and US responsibility in the global financial crisis. As if this was not enough, President Obama stood stoically as one by one the Latin American presidents saluted the presence of Cuba’s President Raúl Castro – attending a Summit for the first time – in response to US attempts to block his admission. The Times report quotes Latin America expert Riordan Roett as commenting, “the United States is no longer, and will not ever be again, the major interlocutor for the countries in the region.”10

In sharp contrast to past practice, Latin America during the last decade has assumed an increasingly independent stance on the international scene. The Unión de Naciones Sudamericanas (UNASUR) created in 2008 has recently launched the project of a South American common market. It has started construction of an ambitious network of highways crisscrossing the continent, and had also established the Banco del Sur that will finance development projects, handle the reserves of Latin American and Caribbean Central Banks, and reorient financial flows away from the transnational banking system. The establishment of a Consejo Sudamericano de Defensa, as part of the integration process, represents a significant step toward civilian oversight over a military which, together with the United States, previously stood as a the most formidable obstacle to democratic transformation. The creation of Telesur, a public television company sponsored by seven Latin American countries, has proved a valuable counterweight to the distorted views offered by corporate media conglomerates.11

While these efforts represent an important step toward the economic and political strengthening of the region, the Alianza Bolivariana de los Pueblos de las Américas (ALBA), created at the initiative of Venezuela, represents a more radical departure.12 Established in 2006 by Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba, ALBA envisions a regional economic integration geared toward the improvement of living conditions for the large majority, eradicating poverty and social inequalities. Unlike the US-sponsored free trade agreements, ALBA is based on a vision of social welfare, fair trade, and mutual economic assistance, and aims to forge a path away from free trade. With its emphasis on integration through cooperation, investments geared to meet people’s needs, environmentally friendly projects, and participation of social movements (such as the MST and Via Campesina) in its planning and administration, ALBA represents a major blow against neoliberalism. The inclusion of popular organizations not only acknowledges their importance, but also represents an epochal innovation in an area like foreign affairs which has traditionally been sheltered from broad public inquiry, let alone popular participation.13

The crucial strides taken toward an independent Latin American integration are nonetheless clouded by the lingering military presence in the region – an issue whose definitive resolution shows less progress than others. Through militarization of the anti-narcotics campaigns – such as Plan Colombia and Mexico’s Plan Mérida – the United States has granted Latin America more counterinsurgency equipment and military aid than during the heyday of the Cold War. Since 2006, almost half of this aid has been directed to Colombia to support an army fighting against both narco-traffickers and at least two guerrilla armies. Despite the human rights abuses of the Colombian armed forces and police, the United States recently signed an agreement with rightist President Uribe to build five military bases, which according to military affairs specialist Lindsay-Poland will increase US capabilities for intervention throughout Latin America. Ordered at a moment of heightened tensions with Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador in the aftermath of the coup in Honduras, these new military bases will further reinforce anti-US sentiments.14

The United States remains the most important source of military preparation, mainly through the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation – formerly School of the Americas (SOAS). Originally established in the Panama Zone in 1948, it has trained over 60,000 armed and police forces personnel in counterinsurgency techniques. SOAS graduates are among the most extreme human right violators in Latin America. Many others, as in the recent coup in Honduras, have also played prominent roles in plots, coups and conspiracies against democratic regimes. More ominous however is the desertion of SOAS-trained military personnel toward more profitable criminal activities such as kidnapping and drug trafficking. One of Mexico’s most deadly paramilitary organizations – the so-called Zetas – is made up of deserters from special units in the Army and Navy, as well as former Kaibiles (members of Guatemala’s dreaded counterinsurgent commando force). Zetas are held responsible for organizing and running the counterintelligence, surveillance, arms training, communications networks, tortures and executions of the Michoacán-based drug cartel known as La Famila – the country’s most rapidly emerging and lethal criminal organization.15 In an encouraging move, five Latin American countries so far have stopped sending military personnel for training at the SOAS.16

Latin American integration is also clouded by the hegemonic aspirations of Brazil. The largest country in South America and tenth-largest economy in the world, its territory borders all but two of the twelve South American nations. Its expansive ambitions took shape under the military regime that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985. Massive colonization projects, highway and dam construction in the Amazon, expanding military industries, development of nuclear technology, and aggressive nationalist discourse led to Brazil’s characterization as a sub-imperialist power. The current expansion of Petrobras (the state-controlled oil company) and agribusiness, as well as the construction of huge dams in neighboring countries during the last decade, reinforce these perceptions – as does its recent financial cooperation agreement with its old competitor Argentina, and also its participation in the G-20 (Group of 20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Presidents).

The remarkable reconfiguration of power relations vis-à-vis the United States and the dramatic advances toward Latin American integration, however, are not matched in most cases with successful domestic policies and social reforms. Read against this record, an examination of recent electoral reversals of left forces offers insight into the limits and possibilities for radical transformation opened by the progressive regimes in Latin America.

Progressive regimes and emergent subaltern and radical challenges

The victories of Fernando Lugo and Mauricio Funes in the November 2008 and March 2009 presidential polls in Paraguay and El Salvador represent the latest manifestations of the cycle of progressive electoral victories opened with the first 1998 election of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. Supported by the Alianza Patriótica para el Cambio – a broad coalition of centrist organizations, left-wing forces, grassroots and indigenous organizations – former Catholic bishop Lugo’s decisive triumph put an end to more than sixty years of uninterrupted hegemony of the Colorado Party representing the country’s anachronistic oligarchic interests. The success of journalist and TV personality Funes – candidate of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) – not only represents an unprecedented political vindication for a force demonized as a terrorist organization, but is also invested with extraordinary symbolic resonance for a country not long ago considered another “banana republic” in a region regarded as the US ultimate “backyard.” For nearly two decades of struggle against a repressive military regime defending the interest of a bloody and voracious elite supported by the United States, the FMLN stood at the forefront of resistance against imperialist domination in Latin America. The illegal and public participation of Republican Party politicians and public interventions of State Department functionaries on behalf of the right-wing Arena candidate spotlighted the high stakes at play with this election, and the geopolitical importance of Central America for the US imperial state.17

These electoral successes however are counterbalanced by the recent defeat of progressive forces in mid-term elections in Argentina and Mexico – reversals that have been interpreted by some analysts as foreshadowing an imminent demise of the progressive cycle and a swing back to right-wing dominance.18 But although these two cases represent unequivocal defeats for the electoral left and a comeback for right and center-right forces, a close reading of the electoral results against signs of rising popular mobilization suggests a more complex scenario.

In Argentina’s June 2009 mid-term elections, the progressive forces represented by the Frente para la Victoria lost their control of all major electoral districts – including the president’s strongholds in the province of Santa Cruz (birthplace of her husband former President Kirchner) – and the capital city of Buenos Aires. Formed in 2003 as a loose coalition of labor, progressive, and left forces, the Frente backed the left-wing Peronist husband-and-wife candidates Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández in their consecutive victories in 2003 and 2007. The defeat of Mexico’s center-left Partido de la Revolución Democrática in the July 5 midterm elections also marked a serious reversal for a force whose presidential candidate in the 2006 election was arguably robbed of victory in an extremely competitive three-way race. With its Congressional representation reduced from 127 to 72, the PRD fell from its position as the first party in the opposition to a third place and without any possibilities of effective parliamentary initiative.

While in Argentina Frente para la Victoria obtained 31% of the vote, almost 36% of the voters voided or annulled their ballots. Significantly, a third of the registered voters kept away from the polls – a record figure in a country where voting is mandatory. Considered as a “punishment vote” against the Kirchners, the results on the other hand do not represent a clear turn to the right. In Buenos Aires, the largest electoral district in the country, the vote favored popular filmmaker Pino Solanas, heading the alliance Proyecto Sur running on a platform to the left of the defeated pro-Kirchner candidate. Working-class voters – whose vote the Frente took for granted – repudiated the Kirchners’ alliance with and reliance on the old peronista clientelistic networks manipulated by corrupt mayors and labor bureaucrats of the right-wing Peronist-controlled Central General de Trabajadores (CGT). In districts with popularly endorsed candidates, the Frente obtained better results. That was the case of the elected governor of the populous Province of Buenos Aires – a former successful mayor and popular union leader affiliated with the non-legally recognized, anti-bureaucratic, and class oriented Confederación de Trabajadores de la Argentina (CTA).19

In Mexico voters also expressed their discontent with the political establishment, including progressive parties. On Election Day more than half of the registered voters stayed at home. In Mexico City, the largest concentration of voters in the country, almost 11% annulled their ballots in response to the call of a progressive citizen movement asking voters to do this as a protest against the inefficiency and corruption of both the electoral system and the political parties. An analyst in the left-wing newspaper La Jornada attributed this outcome to PRD’s estrangement from the grassroots, whose everyday struggles represent a “broader, more dynamic and more radical” programmatic alternative than the narrow and unimaginative party [PRD] platform.”20

Progressive candidates in countries that will be holding elections next year have found similar reactions. In Brazil, despite the high levels of acceptance of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) administration, its candidate Dilma Rouseef trails centrist candidate Jose Serra by more than 20%. Significantly, Heloisa Helena, the presidential candidate for the Partido Socialismo e Liberdade (PSOL) – a splinter party with positions to the left of the official PT – has shown surprising levels of acceptance despite restricted access to media and a lack of campaign funds. In the most thorough poll to date contemplating different possible electoral scenarios Heloisa Helena is placed in first or second position with 14% to 27% of the intended vote.21

In Chile the centrist Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia faces, for the first time since the country’s return to democracy, a serious challenge from the left in the December 2009 general election. Dominated by the Christian Democrat and Socialist parties, Concertación has ruled the country since 1989. High approval ratings of current Socialist president Michelle Bachelet for the handling of Chile’s economic crisis, however, are not reflected in pre-election polls. After 20 years in power, as a result of its remoteness from the lowest rungs of society and its own party base, the Concertación has stagnated into “an ossified political institution incapable of responding to social force.”22 Polls show a narrow lead by billionaire right-wing candidate Sebastian Piñera, but also indicate the surprising surge of Marco Enrique-Ominami – son of legendary MIR (Revolutionary Left Movement) leader Miguel Enríquez who was killed resisting the Pinochet dictatorship – leading the ticket supported by a left-wing split of the Socialist party and supported also by the Green and Humanist Parties. Although short on specifics of how to reverse neoliberalism, Marco’s (as he is popularly known) concerns with the environment and opposition to hydroelectric and mining megaprojects, his support to indigenous Mapuche peoples and youth, and his pledge to replace Pinochet’s authoritarian and still-in-force constitution, have won him broad support.

While hailed by the right and the global media as a signal of Hugo Chávez’s demise, the narrow defeat of his December 2007 referendum on constitutional reforms lends itself, on closer examination, to a different reading. Compared to the 2006 presidential election, the vote for the right increased by just over a quarter-million votes while support for Chávez dropped by 3 million in an election otherwise marked by a record 44% abstention rate. The abstention was significantly higher in the chavista strongholds of the poor barrios surrounding Caracas and other big cities. For analyst Raúl Zibechi these results represent “[neither] a victory for the opposition and imperialism, nor a defeat of chavista popular grassroots.” What it did express was concern about the place and role of subaltern classes – “los verdaderos motores del proceso” – in deepening and giving continuity to the ongoing revolutionary transformation.23

Bolivarian Revolution supporter Edgardo Lander opposed the proposed amendments, arguing the need for a wider public debate on the future of the revolution. He also criticized the lack of political will on the part of the state to make this happen.24 Instead of a referendum that required voters to vote no or yes on a total of 72 constitutional amendments (33 introduced by Chávez and 39 by the National Assembly, comprising a 31-page text) divided in two blocs, Lander advocated a more democratic and participatory mechanism through the election of a Constituent Assembly. Others proposed that the vote be article-by-article rather than in two blocs.25 For Heinz Dietrich the demonization of critical voices within the broad Bolivarian camp was symptomatic of several weaknesses of the Bolivarian Revolution – among other things, in the economy and in “the lack of give-and-take (falta de dialéctica) in the ruling bodies of the country.”26 He also stated that whatever the outcome of the vote, neither of the two options “empower the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist interests of the Venezuelan people and the Latin American revolution.”27

Besides disagreements on procedural aspects of the referendum, democratic left-wing criticism focused on issues of strategic importance for the Bolivarian Revolution: the autonomy of popular organization, the nature and particularities of 21st-century socialism, and the centralizing characteristics of the Partido Socialista Unificado de Venezuela (PSUV). Even though the proposed constitutional reforms were not approved, they reveal the nature of state-building envisioned by chavista leadership. The proposed territorial restructuring entailed recentralization through the reduction of municipal and regional powers, while the reconfiguration of the mechanisms of popular power suggested a state structured as a pyramid with a high concentration of power at the top – a state that, in Lander’s words, resembled more the “twentieth-century socialism” epitomized by the Soviet Union than the creative “twenty-first-century socialism” envisioned by the Venezuelan majorities. A similar trend is observable, according to critics, in the evolution of many popular organizations and communal councils into appendices of the state, in which only chavistas are allowed to participate. Under these circumstances, they argue, a broad and exhaustive public discussion of the proposed reforms would have helped clarify goals, steering the outcome more in the direction of a radical democracy.28

Chávez’s constitutional reversal nevertheless did not represent a victory for the right. Despite a scurrilous multi-million-dollar media campaign and active support from the United States as well as the global media, the right wing only marginally surpassed its previous vote. The approximately 3 million nonvoters – mostly from the poor barrios – did not migrate to the right as many pollsters predicted. It was not right-wing propaganda that cut into the revolution’s hardcore social base, nor distaste for Chávez or unhappiness with the Bolivarian Revolution. Figures from ECLAC indicate that between 2002 and 2006 poverty in Venezuela dropped by 16%. An opinion poll from Latinobarómetro months before the election estimated that 61% of Venezuelans approved Chávez policies. The same poll indicated that Venezuela ranked second in Latin America in popular satisfaction with its democracy.29

With their abstention, the chavista grassroots loudly called attention to their frustration with Chávez’s unclear definition of his proposed “21st-century Socialism” and with his excessive reliance for the administration of government programs on right-wing and opportunist Chavistas – popularly dubbed Boliburguesía (“Bolivarian Bourgeoise”). They were also signaling their uneasiness with the dissolution of popular organizations into the PSUV and state-sponsored institutions, and their lack of conviction that socialism can be built by decree or though constitutional reform. The path to socialism should respect the identity and historical trajectory of a population that has already shown its capacity for self-organization in its resistance to neoliberalism, its defense of Chávez against right-wing reaction, its communal committees, and its many other ways of giving life meaning and dignity under harsh material conditions and endemic social/racial marginalization and exploitation. The success of the Bolivarian Revolution will lie not in the halls of power or in Chávez’s entourage of advisers and functionaries, but rather in the plazas and streets of the poor barrios – the repository of transformative energies since before Chávez arrived on the scene.

As in Venezuela, so in the rest of Latin America the resurgence of the right is still tentative. Despite the unrestrained support it receives from all-powerful media conglomerates, the international technocracy, transnational interests, and agencies of the US government, its appeal to the electorate is uncertain. As the 2009 political crisis in Honduras shows, given the changing political landscape both at the grassroots and at the top, subaltern mobilization has a wide potential to enact change – or, as in this case, to deter reaction. This would have been inconceivable in much of Latin America until quite recently, as US imperialism ruled uncontested, Latin American states lacked unity, and popular resistance and mobilization were held in check by relentless and brutal repression.

Given the magnitude of the environmental, economic, political and moral crisis confronting Latin America, its resolution cannot be confined to the terms of the electoral calendar. The electoral cycle traps its protagonists in an iron cage. In order to survive until the next election, they must sacrifice strategic visions in favor of spurious concessions and political alliances. Electoral processes are overdetermined by broader political conditions informed in turn by political mobilization. Mobilization is what is decisive.

Nature, Indigenous Resistance and the Emerging New Neoliberal Consensus

By the mid-1980s indigenous organizations across Latin America described the neoliberal onslaught as a “third conquest.” Coming from a population whose existence and identity have been shaped by the legacy of a brutal European conquest and three centuries of colonial marginalization and exploitation, the indigenous assessment underlined the epoch-making nature of neoliberalism. Informed by historical memory going back more than 500 years, the indigenous appreciation of the present moment was indeed not only accurate, but also indicative of the acumen that would enable them to become major political actors.

In a similar fashion to what Marx called original or primitive accumulation, plunder stands also at the core of the process characterized by David Harvey as “appropriation by dispossession” – the defining characteristic of neoliberal modernity.30 As Marx put it, the “discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the indigenous population of that continent,” together with the colonization of Africa and India, were “pivotal to the primitive accumulation sustaining the creation of a world capitalist market.”31 In Europe primitive accumulation led to the almost total privatization of the “common goods” (land, forest, water and pastures) and the obliteration of the peasantry as an independent class. In contrast, the process in what today is Latin America was rather incomplete. Even though the original inhabitants of the region lost important resources to mines, plantations and haciendas, the loss was not total. Resistance was particularly intense in the Andean countries, southern Mexico and Central America, where indigenous peoples managed to preserve relatively autonomous communal organization and control of diminished but valuable resources. To the conquerors’ chagrin, by resisting expropriation indigenous peoples averted also their complete proletarianization. This indigenous resilience, manifested through everyday forms of resistance, accommodation, and rebellion, turned “primitive accumulation” into a recurrent and ever-present feature of Latin American capitalism until the present.

The 18th-/19th-century North Atlantic Industrial Revolution and its demands for raw materials and food crops triggered a “second conquest.” In many areas, through legal trickery, war, and genocide, the modern nation continued the dispossession and expropriation started by Spanish colonialism. But militant resistance persisted into the early 20th century. The 1910 Mexican Revolution, described by Eric Wolf as a modern “peasant war” and made up of a myriad of peasant rebellions, marked the apex of subaltern resistance to expropriation. The land reform of the post-revolutionary regime and the incorporation – albeit rhetorically – of indigenous culture and history in its cultural policies were important for the reproduction and modernization of indigenous resistance across Latin America. Some indigenous peoples nonetheless were eliminated; others retreated into inaccessible mountains and forest, others migrated to the cities, while yet others managed to preserve their autonomy defending their besieged and impoverished territories and resources. Although the “second conquest” took a heavy toll, overall indigenous peoples managed again to forestall a total defeat.

With the Cold War structure of global domination now in disarray, Latin America – together with Africa – has again become a battleground for the control of strategic resources. Following multinational capitalist pillaging of public services in the 1980s-90s, the recent frantic race for control of Latin American bio-resources underlines neoliberalism’s second stage. With the most coveted resources – water, minerals, fossil fuels, forests, bio-diversity, and land for bio-fuels – located in indigenous and public-domain territories, capitalism continually reasserts its inherently colonialist character. The defense of basic resources against such appropriation has become the rallying point of popular democratic resistance.

In response to demands from several major popular organizations including the MST, the most recent World Social Forum – held in the Brazilian city of Belem – did not invite Lula to attend the event. This broke with precedent, as the WSF had been closely associated since its creation with both the figure of Lula and the movements and organizations with which he had been identified. The organizations opposing his presence argued that it would contradict the goals of an event especially dedicated to discussing Amazonia’s devastation. In effect, Lula’s policies since 2003 have engendered deforestation in the Amazon over an area almost equal to that of Venezuela. His agricultural policies based on export-promotion, beef production, transgenic soy cultivation, and sugar cane for ethanol, are predicated upon further expansion in an already embattled Amazonia. His recently approved law (the infamous medida provisoria 458) granting property titles over 67 million hectares mostly to speculators eyeing timber and cattle-raising prospects will have devastating consequences for the land.32

Marking his centrist conversion, Lula proclaimed himself a “social-democrat” at a dinner organized in his honor by a business magazine and attended by the Brazil’s most prominent entrepreneurs. He further remarked that anyone over 60 who “remains loyal to left-wing ideas” must have “some sort of [mental] problem.”33 His popular and relatively successful poverty programs and equal-opportunity educational policies have failed to make inroads against one of the most unequal income distributions in the world. Equally glaring is the abandonment of his promises for land reform in a country that together with South Africa has the highest levels of land concentration. Contrary to the participatory democratic principles of his own party, Lula’s policies are oriented to the creation of a vast clientelistic political/electoral network. Managed through thousands of NGOs spread across the country, his social programs are essentially an expression of neostructuralism – a technocratic project involving higher spending on basic social programs and education as a means to increase the productivity of the poor. Neostructuralists oppose state interference with market forces and embrace globalization.34

Like Obama’s social and economic proposals, Lula’s neostructuralism presents itself as a “high road” to globalization, in contrast to the “low” road of the first hard-core neoliberal generation. Grounded in the belief that globalization is essentially beneficial for the world, Obama’s approach considers that effective global market integration entails the reduction of inequalities both within and across countries. It also contemplates massive North-to-South environmentally oriented aid programs aimed at promoting a “second green revolution” through the introduction of genetically modified seeds, particularly to Africa. According to Walden Bello, these two sets of measures among others – including those sketched by President Sarkozy of France in his speech declaring the death of laissez-faire capitalism – are converging in a project of “global social democracy”: a new capitalist consensus aimed at solving the current crisis through technocratic relief and equity programs of social management.35

Environmental issues have also become a testing ground for progressive governments, such as those of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Evo Morales in Bolivia, both of which are being challenged by their mostly indigenous political base over issues of the environment and natural resources.

On January 20, 2009, thousands of indigenous peoples and their supporters from the Andean highlands to the Amazonian lowlands to the coastal regions of Ecuador, took to the streets protesting the passage of a new Mining Law favorable to transnational corporations. Not since the mobilizations that brought down two consecutive governments paving the road to Correa’s election had the popular movement confronted as violent a repression as the one inflicted by Correa himself – an advocate for the “21st-century socialism.” Protesters questioned the constitutionality of the law, which had been rushed through the Congress’s Legislative Commission without an ample national debate. Popularly known as the “Little Congress,” the commission was created as a transitory body until the April general election under the new Constitution of October 2008.

The confrontation was presaged by Correa’s intense campaign in favor of open-pit mining. In public speeches he derided those opposing his schemes as “dumb leftists” and “infantile extremists,” even suggesting that they were receiving support from the right-wing opposition. In commentaries oddly closer to those of Peru’s Alan Garcia than to those of his allies Chávez and Morales, he suggested the existence of preparations for an “uprising against mining companies” promoted by “the left, the indigenous and ecological movements.” Following the approval of his Mining Law, he sternly warned that “we will not allow these abuses, we cannot allow uprisings which block roads, threaten private property, and impede the development of a legal activity: mining.”

Correa’s hostility toward environmentalists and indigenous organizations opposing mining goes back to more than a year ago, when after intense exchanges on the desirability of extractive industry for the country’s development, he broke with former President of the Constituent Assembly, Alberto Acosta. An activist of Acción Ecológica with close ties to the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE), Acosta presided over the writing of the new Constitutional text inspired by the indigenous principle of Sumak Kausay (to live well in Quichua) and the rejection of neoliberalism. Also incorporated into the new Bolivian constitution (Andean indigenous populations of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia shared a common quechua or quichua culture), this principle establishes balance and harmony with nature and with all other human beings as the guiding logic ruling both social and economic organization and development strategies. The Constitution also incorporates the right of indigenous peoples to be consulted and to veto projects considered harmful to their interests, and it prohibits activities that would infringe on the right to water and a clean environment.36

Both indigenous and ecological organizations saw Correa’s Mining Law as an alarming turn to the right. On the positive side they also remarked that the mobilization and associated public denunciations and debates were important in forging a new alliance between indigenous peoples and urban citizens around the defense and protection of the environment, a shared mistrust of multinational corporations, and insistence on the right to consultation.

From a broader historical perspective the Ecuadoran conflict raises serious concerns regarding the divide between urban Creole elites and indigenous populations underlying modern nation-states in the Andean countries. The conflict has also shown the incapacity of revolutionary populism to think beyond an anachronistic – and failed – state-centered strategy of development based on environmentally destructive mining. More disturbing is the fact that Correa was willing to override the new democratically crafted Constitution whose text contemplates public debate of environmental issues – a text whose Sumak Kawsay principle Correa is glad to quote for foreign audiences in his tirades against US imperialism and neoliberal exploitation.

Bolivia’s indigenous President Evo Morales is also facing a growing resistance to new oil and mining developments. In a widely attended meeting held in La Paz on July 7-8, 2009, delegates of peasants, women, indigenous and Afro-Bolivian peoples – all supporters of his government – demanded an immediate end to new oil and mining operations, which they denounced as threats to the environment and to the health of nearby communities. They also deplored the fact that the President had authorized the extractive operations without the prior discussion that is customary among indigenous peoples and provided for in the Constitution. Finally the delegates called upon the government to define a strategy of sustainable development in a broad national debate that would also determine the fairest way to distribute the profits of already existing gas and mining operations.37

In a detailed Public Manifesto, the delegates announced the creation of a Committee of all the attending organizations, charged with overseeing the negotiations with the government and the discussion of environmental issues. It also would establish permanent mechanisms for participation in the proposed national debate and for community supervision of state-controlled enterprises involved in the extraction of gas and oil – Bolivia’s most important economic activity. Morales dismissed his critics as “influenced and manipulated” by environmentalist NGOs and has so far not responded to the call to a national debate.

A few weeks earlier, more than 5,500 delegates from the Arctic Circle to Patagonia and the Amazon (including North Americans), gathered in the Peruvian city of Puno in the Fourth Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala.38 The event was preceded by the First Indigenous Women’s Summit and the Second Encounter of Indigenous Youth and Children. Sociologist Aníbal Quijano described the Continental Summit as “the most important political act of the year in Latin America” – significant not only for indigenous peoples but “also for the rest of humanity” since it “called into question the role of capital in its worst moment as it threatens the survival of the planet.”39

In its final declaration the Indigenous Summit agreed “to offer an alternative of life instead of the civilization of death” manifested today in the capitalist world through the overlapping environmental, cultural, food and social exclusionary crises. The proposal sketched in the Declaración de Mama Qota Titikaka aims at radically transforming the current dominant way of living through indigenous ways grounded in the Sumak Kawsay principle (also called Buen Vivir). The Declaration calls also for a “global mobilization in defense of Mother Earth and the world’s peoples” against the commodification of life, contamination of the environment, and the criminalization of social and indigenous movements.40

Among its main points the Titikaka Declarations calls for:

-– communitarian multinational states based on “self-government, self determination, and the territorial reconstitution of the first peoples”

-– the establishment of “intercultural legislative, judiciary, and electoral systems, and public policies with direct political representation as peoples without the mediation of political parties”

-– the “reconstitution of indigenous ancestral territories as a source of identity, spirituality, history and future” and the recognition that that all different “peoples and territories are only one”

-– “the rejection of all forms of privatization, concession, depredation and contamination” and the creation of an “international tribunal of climate justice” to try the transnationals and governments that deplete Mother Nature, loot natural resources and violate indigenous rights

-– rejection of free trade agreements between the United States, Europe, Canada and China and the “broken Latin American economies”

-– the strengthening of “intercultural systems of bi-lingual education and indigenous health care and the decolonization of knowledge”

Together with the Zapatista VI Declaration of the Lacandon Forest, this Declaration reflects the political maturity of indigenous peoples, challenging not only neoliberalism but also the principles of western paternalistic and elitist modernity in both their capitalist and socialist formulations. Indigenous peoples and struggles will thus be crucial to a new counterhegemonic bloc whose mobilization will affect not only the coming social struggle, but also the fate of even the most promising progressive regimes, which, with their concessions to capital, are further widening their divergence from a popular path.41 As Bolivia’s Acción Ecológica observes, a government that turns to the right will find it extremely difficult to turn back again to the left.

Notes

1. Mass mobilization, general strikes, indigenous and popular rebellions toppled corrupt, repressive and pro-US governments in Peru (2000), Argentina (2000), Ecuador (1997, 2000, 2005) and Bolivia. See my Introduction to The Reawakening of Revolution in Latin America, S&D no. 39 (November 2005).

2. Alianza Bolivariana de los Pueblos de las Américas. Details below, note 11.

3. An outstanding case is that of the once militant and innovative piquetero movement of unemployed workers in Argentina, broken by president Kirchner’s dual policy of cooptation and judicial clampdown. See, Marisela Svampa, “The End of Kirchnerism,” New Left Review, 53, September-October 2008.

4. The Oaxaca 2006 uprising was examined in S&D no. 44 (July 2007). Colombia’s minga and Peru’s indigenous uprisings are discussed below in this issue.

5. ECLAC figures from Tony Wood, “Latin America Tamed?” New Left Review 58, July-August 2009. Renaud Lambert. “Brasil: un gigante maniatado,” Le Monde Diplomatique (Mexican edition), no. 10. June 2009; Brazil de Fato, “Movimentos sociais promoven ações em todo pais,” August, 11, 2009.
http://www3.brasildefato.com.br/v01/agencia/nacional/movimentos-sociais-promovem-acoes-em-todo-pais

6. Orlando Caputo and Graciela Galance, “Economía emblemática del neoliberalismo en América Latina, la primera en entrar en recesión,” Argenpress.info 8/18/09, http://www.argenpress.info/2009/08/economia-emblematica-del-neoliberalismo.html

7. Juan Balboa, “Cuba: La eterna crisis,” Proceso, no. 1709, August 2, 2009.

8. For “globaloney” see David Harvey, Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), 1. Pablo Sandoval interviews Carlos I. Degregori, “Nuevo capítulo en la transacción entre estado, elites y sociedad,” Argumentos, vol. 3, no. 3, July 2009. http://www.revistargumentos.org.pe/index.php?fp_verpub=true&idpub=271

9. Atilio Boron “¿Que hacer con la OEA?” Rebelión. May 30, 2009,
http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=86207

10. Alexei Barrionuevo, “At Meeting in Brazil, Washington is Scorned,” New York Times, December 26, 2008.

11. Juan Francisco Rojas Penso, “Unasur en construcción,” Tinku. 10/9/08.
http://www.tinku.org/content/view/3329/96/

12. Initially called Alternativa Bolivariana de las Americas, its name was changed by June 2009 to Alianza Bolivariana de los Pueblos de las Americas. It is popularly known by its acronym ALBA meaning dawn in Spanish. Current membership: Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominica, and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines.

13. Shawn Hattingh. “ALBA: Creating a Regional Alternative to Neoliberalism? “ July 2, 2008. MR Zine.(http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/hattingh070208.html)

14. John Lindsay-Polans. “New Military Base in Colombia Would Spread Pentagon Reach Throughout Latin America” May 28, 2009. Center for International Policy-Americas Program (http://americas.irc-online.org/am/6148). See also, “Los Enviados del Pentagono” July 1, 2009 (http://www.cambio.com.co/portadacambio/835/ARTICULO-WEB-NOTA_INTERIOR_CAMBIO-5569679.html).

15. Jorge Carrasco. “‘La Familia,’ el cartel del sexenio,” Proceso, no. 1707, July 19, 2009, 14-19. See also Ginger Thompson, “Mexico Fears Its Drug Traffickers Get Help From Guatemalans,” New York Times, September 30, 2005.

16. The five countries are: Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Venezuela.

17. See CISPES 2009 Election Analysis. “The Road to Victory and Beyond,” March 7, 2009, http://cispes.org/09electionsblog/; also Marielle Palau & Guillermo Ortega.”Paraguay: el nuevo destino de disputa de los intereses populares,” Observatorio Social Latinoamericano. Vol IX, no. 24, October 2008, 103-112.

18. See Raúl Zibechi, “La irresistible decadencia del progresismo,” La Jornada, July 3, 2009 and Heinz Dietrich, “¿Quien gobernará en América Latina en 2010?” Rebelión, July 3, 2009, http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=88017

19. Guillermo Almeyra. “Argentina, abstención y derrota del gobierno,” La Jornada (Mexico), July 5, 2009.

20. Javier Flores Olea. “Que hacer para la izquierda,” La Jornada, July 20, 2009.

21. See, “PT en Brasil entre la reelección y el cáncer,” La Jornada, June 23, 2009, and Data Folha – Opinião Pública – December 8, 2008.
http://datafolha.folha.uol.com.br/po/ver_po.php?session=790

22. Jason Trockman, “Independent Candidate Challenges Chilean Political Establishment,” NACLA OnLine, July 21, 2009 (http://nacla.org/node/6010).

23. Raúl Zibechi, “La revolución bolivariana sigue adelante,” La Jornada, December 7, 2007. Certain of victory, Chavista analysts projected a win of around 60 to 70% in case of a high turnout, and a closer victory in case of a low turnout, around 50% or less. See Gregory Wilpert, “Making Sense of Venezuela’s Constitutional Reform,” December 1, 2007, http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/2943

24. Edgardo Lander, “Contribución al debate sobre la propuesta de Reforma Constitucional.,” September 19, 2007, www.aporrea.org

25. For a summary of the proposed constitutional reforms and analysis of their relevance from a state perspective see, Gregory Wilpert, “Venezuela’s Constitutional Reform: An Article-by-Article Summary” November 23, 2007.
http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/2889; Heinz Dietrich, “Chávez-Baduel, y el ‘falso remedio’ de H. Dietrich,” Kaos en la Red, November 20, 2007.
http://www.kaosenlared.net/noticia/chavez-baduel-falso-remedio-heinz-dieterich.

26. Heinz Dietrich, “La ruptura Chávez-Baudel: impedir el colapso del proyecto popular,” Rebelión, November 8, 2007. www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=58708

27. Dietrich, “Chávez-Baduel, y el ‘falso remedio’ de H. Dietrich.”

28. Lander, Dietrich, and Zibechi, “La revolución bolivariana sigue adelante.” (note 22). See also Margarita López Maya interview, “La reforma se traducirá en inestabilidad,” November 25, 2007, http://www.el-nacional.com/www/site/detalle_noticia.php?q=nodo/3602; Marc Saint-Upéry interview, “Chávez, en fuga hacia adelante,” November 12, 2007, La Insignia. http://www.lainsignia.org/2007/noviembre/ibe_005.htm; Narciso Isa Conde, “Venezuela: posibles causas del revés del SÍ,” www.aporrea.org

29. Polls quoted in Luis Hernández Navarro. “Venezuela: Remar contra la corriente,” La Jornada, December 4, 2007.

30. David Harvey, The New Imperialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

31. Karl Marx. Capital, vol. 1, Chapter XXXI, “Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist,” in Marx/Engels Collected Works, vol. 35 (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2005), 738.

32. WSF participant, political analyst and anti-capitalist activist Eric Toussaint called Lula’s stance closer to the liberal social model of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Spain’s Rodriguez Zapatero than to the democratic anti-neoliberal model favored by social movements. Pauline Imbach. “An Interview with Eric Toussaint: A New Start with the 2009 World Social Forum,” ALAI, February 3, 2009. http://alainet.org/active/29226.

33. “Lula genera malestar,” La Jornada, December 14, 2006.

34. An elite academic organization supporting this approach is the so-called Latin American Alternative group. Led by New York University professor Jorge Castañeda, a former Mexican political adviser to the center-left PRD and later Foreign Secretary for right-wing president Vicente Fox (2000-2006), it also includes the Brazilian progressive social theorist and Harvard Law School professor Roberto Mangabeira, who is currently Minister of Strategic Affairs for Lula and responsible for policies turning Amazonia into a fiefdom of multinational interests.

35. Walden Bello, “The Post-Washington Dissensus,” Foreign Policy in Focus. September 24, 2007 and “The Coming Capitalist Consensus,” Foreign Policy in Focus, December 27, 2008.

36. Rachel Godfrey Wood. “Colombia and Ecuador: Two Different Countries, Two Mining Futures,” Council of Hemispheric Affairs. August 10, 2009. http://www.coha.org/2009/08/colombia-and-ecuador-two-different-countries-two-mining-futures/; Raúl Zibechi. “Ecuador: The Logic of Development Clashes with the Movements,” Center for International Policy – Americas Program. March 17, 2009. http://americas.irc-online.org/am/5965

37. “Indígenas defienden la Amazonia y enojan a Evo,” Econoticias de Bolivia. July 13, 2009. http://www.econoticiasbolivia.com/. See also, Godfrey, “Colombia and Ecuador: Two Different Countries, Two Mining Futures,” (note 35).

38. Abya Yala is the term the Kuna people of Panama use to describe the Americas. Indigenous activists have increasingly embraced it as an alternative to Eurocentric language.

39. Quoted by Marc Becker, “Moving Forward: The Fourth Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples,” NACLA OnLine. June 12, 2009; see also “Alternativa de Buen Vivir. Ofrecimiento de la IV Cumbre Indígena,” La Jornada del Campo, no. 22, July 22, 2009.

40. See the Declaration at http://www.ivcumbrecontinentalindigena.org/?p=239.

41. See the Zapatista VI Declaration at http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/especiales/2. Both movements share a similar conceptualization of politics and power informed by the principles of self-determination and self-government, communitarian organization, and direct forms of representation without mediation of political parties. Informed by indigenous communal democratic traditions and attitudes this conceptualization entails a political praxis and the construction of forms power in which organized society takes command over politics and the state – in the manner of Chiapas indigenous zapatista rebel communities’ principle of “leading by obeying” (mandar obedeciendo). For an examination and assessment of the form of power built in Zapatista-held territories in Chiapas, see Pablo Gonzalez Casanova. “The Zapatista ‘Caracoles’: Networks of Resistance and Autonomy,” S&D no. 39 (November 2005). For a discussion of the relevance of indigenous struggle to Latin America’s fin-de-siecle crisis see, Aníbal Quijano. “The Challenge of the ‘Indigenous Movement.’” S&D no. 39.

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