Major events stir Latin America & Caribbean

Three major events have been taking place almost simultaneously in the Latin American region that have long lasting and international repercussions. These are the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil, the “G77+China” in Bolivia and the presidential elections in Colombia. But the Caribbean region had its own important events too, particularly in Haiti and Puerto Rico.

This article will review and comment on each of these developments, and will illustrate the incredible dynamism of this region that is so close geographically, yet so far politically from the United States.

Brazilian miracle?

Much has been written in the capitalist media about Brazil’s economic “miracle.” Brazil is a major player in world trade, particularly in the agribusiness sector. According to Brazil’s Department of Agriculture, it is the largest producer and exporter of coffee, sugar, ethanol and orange juice on the planet.

What this also means is that large land areas dedicated to this agribusiness serve mostly to benefit a few wealthy landowners and transnational corporations.

Even though the government of the Workers Party [Partido de los Trabajadores, PT] — under Ignacio “Lula” da Silva from 2003 to 2010 and now under Dilma Rousseff — has established some programs that benefit the poor, they have not been sufficient. There are still many deficiencies in the areas of education, health care and public transportation. Over the years these deficiencies provided the motive for many demonstrations, which intensified in 2013.

In a separate category, land and agrarian reform has been a main demand for many organizations, including the important Landless Movement [Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, MST], and now in a more forceful way, the Indigenous movement.

That several social movements held many protests at the June 12 opening of the World Cup shows what challenges the current Brazilian government faces.

Isabel Rauber, an Argentine Ph.D. well versed in the popular movements in Latin America, often says the governments that are popularly elected have a choice: They can just administer the (capitalist) state, or they can be part of the change by embracing and facilitating the peoples’ movements.

Brazil has taken some steps internationally that defied U.S. imperialism. Rousseff herself is in favor of Cuba, including cooperation in building a high-tech megaport in the Cuban port of Mariel.

But while some concessions have been made to the progressive movement, the balance has tilted towards cooperation with the powerful business sector and the imperialists. Unfortunately, under the current PT administration, there has been brutal repression of a renewed Indigenous movement that demands fair rights to their land.

There is also the corruption within FIFA — the World Cup management — itself and the negative effects of the tournament on the people. Some have been displaced by the private construction companies, while these companies built the infrastructure for the games.

The Indigenous peoples, unions, students and a vast social movement are exposing these conditions to the world during this month of World Cup. The PT government and the Brazilian capitalist media are trying to hide all the faults.

Effort to build a multipolar world

At a summit held under the theme “Towards a New World Order to Live Well,” delegates from 104 countries met in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on June 14-15, the 50th anniversary of the G77, the United Nation’s largest group. This time, China was also part of the group, which is now called G77+China.

There is an important difference between the G77 and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), both of which are part of the U.N. Originally, the NAM was a more progressive political formation, whereas the G77 was mostly about trade and economies. But the ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America] countries’ influence has pushed the G77 to take up crucial issues.

The presence of President Raúl Castro of Cuba, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador, José Mujica of Uruguay and of course, the host, Evo Morales of Bolivia, gave this summit a serious and committed political agenda that will have an international impact.

The “Final Statement of Santa Cruz,” with 242 items, includes among other topics, South-South cooperation, world challenges and the specific needs of each country. The realignment of the world is amply discussed.

A recent development, the China-Russia agreement, points in the direction of new alliances in a changing world.

Some concrete points were the work towards sustainable growth and protection of the environment. Also addressed were respect for sovereignty and rejection of imperialism and colonialism from Argentina’s Islas Malvinas to Puerto Rico, the end of the U.S. blockade of Cuba and the reform of the international financial institutions so that they reflect the realities of the 21st century. Another main point was the defense of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution, now being attacked by the U.S.-supported fascist opposition.

The social, peasant and Indigenous movements in Bolivia were supportive of the summit, some even helping with security along with the national armed forces.

Road to peace being built in Colombia

Another development that will have enormous impact in the region is the peace negotiations that are advancing now in Cuba between the FARC-EP revolutionary movement [Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo] and the Colombian government.

The recent presidential election showed the commitment of the Colombian people to finally have peace in their country. Current President Juan Manuel Santos won re-election in a second round on June 15 over Oscar Zuluaga, who is the candidate of former President Álvaro Uribe, who is pro-paramilitary and opposed to the negotiations.

The election was more a referendum on peace than on support for Santos. A large part of the left movement voted for Santos in the runoff to opt for continued negotiations.

Now the long road to peace really begins with the demand by the FARC-EP to hold a Constitutional Assembly in order to build the basis for a new country. Already many points have been agreed on that will help build that road. The latest has been the inclusion of the victims of the conflict at the negotiating table.

It was also announced several days ago that the ELN [Ejército de Liberación Nacional], another armed revolutionary movement, and the government have started exploratory conversations towards the possibility of peace negotiations between them.

The Caribbean moves

In Haiti, social groups are organizing for the end of the Minustah [United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti] U.N.-mandated military occupation that replaced the U.S.-France-Canada coup-occupation of 2004.

In Puerto Rico, public sector unions are increasingly resisting the colonial government’s attack.

As part of the austerity measures, a response to the acute economic crisis in the island, a new privatizing law is being discussed in the legislature. The lower body approved it on June 13. This law of “Fiscal Sustainability” is a criminal attack against public workers that will also affect workers in the private sector. It eliminates rights fought for and won during decades.

Although the complete version has not been published, it contains many other anti-union and anti-people provisions, including the government’s authority to contract nonunion workers.

Public sector unions are fighting back while the government tries the divide- and-conquer tactic. It has invited several unions to “negotiate,” while ignoring the most militant unions like UTIER [Unión de Trabajadores de la Industria Eléctrica y Riego], which represents workers of the national energy agency AEE [Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica]. UTIER has been demonized in the capitalist media.

Workers have already held many demonstrations and work stoppages across the island. Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, UTIER president, defying the ruling, stated that the fight is just starting and his union will hold an assembly on June 17 to discuss the possibility of a strike. Figueroa recently stated in an interview: “Regardless what happens to the project, the fight will not end. While the project is on or is approved, there will not be labor peace in the country.” (Inter News Service Agency)

The situation in Puerto Rico has similarities to the bankruptcy struggle of the city of Detroit. Some of the same actors are involved in both cases, like the Jones Day law firm and the UBS bank. This raises the possibility of a joint struggle.