The Guardian 28 September, 2005

"Latin America rising"

Vic Williams

The West Australian Branch of the Communist Party of Australia recently held a forum on the situation in Latin America. Reports at the forum told how Latin American countries are winning their economic, political and national independence from US domination.

WA Branch member Vinnie Molina had just returned from Cuba where he represented the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union at a rally in Havana of 1.3 million people.

Vinnie told of a new SKY network that broadcasts in Spanish with Portuguese subtitles from a satellite to all countries in North and South America, to northern Africa and Western Europe. It is a joint project, financed by Venezuela 51%, Cuba 19%, Argentina 20% and Uruguay 10%. It will give information and leadership, that will co­-ordinate and strengthen the massive people’s struggles,

Vinnie told of welcome developments in Cuba, of the doubling of pensions, big increases in wages, and women being well employed covering 65% in the highly qualified workforce, such as doctors, teachers and nurses. The Cuban economy increased by 9% in the past year and Cuba has 20,000 doctors, nurses and other health workers throughout Latin America in other countries.

With PetroCaribe, organised by Venezuela and Cuba, Venezuelan oil will go direct to a dozen Latin America countries at 40% off world prices. The project will fund assistance to the neediest, train more workers and get them work.

Miguel Tovar told the meeting that Mexico is heading for an election in July 2006. Andres Lopez is leading other possible candidates for President by at least 10% in recent polls. He was mayor of Mexico City of 30 million, and won great support by helping the unemployed, paying stipends to the elderly, and giving support to single mothers. He has opened a new university, new high schools and hospitals.

Washington has become alarmed, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice set out to block his nomination at all costs. The pliant President Fox and the government attempted to impeach him, but Mexico City responded with a million marching in support Lopez and the charge was dropped.

Lopez began his career with work on a newspaper supporting the indigenous Indians, the ten million who are the poorest in Mexico. The Zapatistas’ armed struggle won the 1996 agreement with the Mexican government, that gives them political and administrative control of 15% of the State of Chiapas in the south-west of Mexico. They have built an education and health system that puts them ahead of the rest of the country. If Mexico follows the path of Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay it will be a savage blow to the USA.

Latin America is the world’s most indebted region. The US government has ensured the IMF has control there, with hundreds of billion of dollars loaned from US international banks. It has left Latin America with an unsustainable debt burden. From 1980 to 1990 extreme poverty in Latin America increased from 19% to 22%; in Mexico 7% lived in extreme poverty in 1984, but by 2002 there were 20% begging.

But since then Venezuela, Brazil and Uruguay have given greatest priority to social improvements, rejecting the mass poverty from the IMF with massive demonstrations of defiance. Others are following. Bolivian people have thrown out two presidents, demanding retention of their valuable resources. They have won the right to an early election.

A Peruvian at the roundtable told of the struggles in Peru. In defence of their environment, a group waged armed struggle for 30 days and stopped a BHP mining project poisoning their living area.

The G7 nations hoped to buy off the worldwide movement with the token cancelling of unpayable debts of third world countries. But the cancellation of the debt is conditional on free trade and handing over control of the countries’ services and resources. Any new grants must guarantee repayment — the Catch 22.

Latin American countries are uniting for integration against the trade agreement with USA. The alternative is a Venezuelan initiative, ALBA. They are building better relations with China, Russia and EU and changing the direction of world politics.

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