Fiction. Fiction is a strange thing. As the ﬁrst world grew ever more comfortable and complacent over the last couple of decades, ﬁction became more powerful than fact. It dominated entertainment, as it always has, but it expanded and took over the news, politics, political parties, industries, and even stretched its tendrils into the halls of academia. Fiction is the “NEXT BIG THING!” in the 21st century.
Today, perhaps no region on earth is the subject of more ﬁctitious propaganda than Latin America. The center of a resurgent leftist movement, Latin American leaders and politicians are the subjects of incredible amounts of capitalist media fear mongering and right-wing vitriol. Pronouncing the name “Hugo Chavez” around capitalists and conservatives, even some liberals, and you would think you had brought a copy of Thus Spake Zarathustra to Sunday Mass. If Latin America is the epicenter of “21st Century Socialism,” then this is how effective its counterpart “21st Century Red Scare” has been in America. I wish to examine the successes of the Latin American Leftist movements, and to help dispel some of the myths surrounding them. It will take more than one small article to do so, so you could say this is “Part 1 in a Series,” but I look forward to continuing with this effort.
To begin to understand what’s actually happening in Latin America today, it’s best to start with the big picture. Following the death of Hugo Chavez from cancer, there is no single ﬁgure serving as the face of Latin American leftism, of Chavezʼs famous 21st Century socialism. Instead, perhaps the largest and most important ﬁgure in the South American picture today is ALBA, or the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of America. Named after famed Latin American revolutionary, Simon Bolivar, and boasting 8 member nations with a population of roughly 80 million, ALBA was founded at the very end of 2004 and has played an important role in the politics of the entire South American continent and the nations of the Caribbean.
ALBA is a multinational organization based upon cooperation of members to ﬁt the needs of people instead of attempting to make a proﬁt. Through ALBA, Venezuelan oil proﬁts are invested into social projects in other nations in the form of nearly interest-free loans, Cuban medical expertise, Nicaraguan farm and food production help, and a knowledge share of workers from a variety of industries.
Thanks to the efforts of Venezuela and Cuba, literacy is on the rise in member nations, particularly Bolivia, and many have begun to break away from the shockingly predatory practices of U.S. corporations. Perhaps the most important achievement of ALBA, and the moment when imperialist powers began to fear the Latin American left, was its defeat of George W. Bush’s attempt to force Latin America into a Free Trade Agreement during the 2005 Summit of the Americas. The attempt to force “free trade” — something that has almost reached the level of dogma in modern-day neoliberal capitalism — on Latin America is what led to the birth of ALBA. After the 2004 SotA, where Hugo Chavez was famously the only head of state to stand up to Bush’s ﬁrst attempt at enforcing free trade, Venezuela and Cuba began to collaborate on a plan to unify the Latin American-Caribbean region to oppose US imperialism. ALBA was born on December 14, 2004 as a direct response to U.S. and all capitalist imperialism and survived a baptism by ﬁre at the 2005 SotA, when Chavez, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Nestor Kirchner of Argentina and Lula de Silva of Brazil combined their efforts to successfully defeat Bush’s free trade agenda once and for all. To date, it has not resurfaced.
In the coming weeks, I hope to continue to explore the reality of Latin American leftism, its successes and its shortcomings, along with its roots in the region’s history, and the effects on the working class. I hope that my articles will prove informative, and that they spark discussion about how the struggles and victories of the Latin American left could potentially be a model of leftist change in the USA.