Tagged: Latin America

Selected Readings from José Carlos Mariátegui

In this pdf, you will find the readings Prologue to Tempest in the Andes, The Indigenous Question in Latin America, The Latin American Socialist Revolution, and The Anti-Imperialist Point of View by José Carlos Mariátegui. They were retrieved from an anthology titled Marxism in Latin America 1909 to the Present edited by Michael Lowy. Click here to download the pdf file

José Carlos Mariátegui La Chira (14 June 1894 – 16 April 1930) was a Peruvian journalist, political philosopher, and activist. A prolific writer before his early death at age 35, he is considered one of the most influential Latin American socialists of the 20th century. Mariátegui’s most famous work, Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality (1928), is still widely read in South America. An avowed, self-taught Marxist, he insisted that a socialist revolution should evolve organically in Latin America on the basis of local conditions and practices, not the result of mechanically applying a European formula.” (Wikipedia)

Read a full biographical note on Mariátegui here. 

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Poll Shows Most Venezuelans Feel Revolution isn’t Over without Chavez

By TAMARA PEARSON

Merida, April 2nd 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The latest GISXXI poll shows that most Venezuelans want to “continue Hugo Chavez’s project”, and that 55.3% of Venezuelans will likely vote for Nicolas Maduro in the upcoming elections.

The poll, by the Venezuelan public company, was conducted between 18 and 23 March, and surveyed 1500 people on the public’s response to Chavez’s death, and their attitudes towards the candidates for the presidential elections to be held on 14 April.

Support for Maduro and Capriles

If the elections were held during the dates the survey was conducted, Nicolas Maduro would receive 55.3% of the vote, and Henrique Capriles 44.7% of the vote. However, 66% of poll respondents believe that Maduro will win the elections, compared to 17% who believe Capriles will.

52% of respondents felt Henrique Capriles’s behaviour following the news of Chavez’s passing was very bad or bad, 30% thought it was very good or good, and 13% thought it was regular. In terms of Nicolas Maduro’s behaviour after the news, 60% thought it was very good or good, 25% thought it was very bad or bad, and 12% thought it was regular.

When asked to indicate whether Capriles or Maduro would respond better to certain issues, the spread was roughly 25% believing Capriles would handle them better, and 55% believing Maduro would. Maduro got the highest results for the issue of housing (62%), then roads and transport (58.6%), while Capriles’ highest result was 26.6% believing he would handle cost of living/inflation, and the issue of food scarcity better.

In terms of Maduro’s and Capriles’ personal traits, respondents were asked to agree or disagree that each of them are nice, sincere, honest, represent change, can unify Venezuelans, are competent, have the necessary authority to govern, are capable of making difficult decisions, are brave, and are energetic.

Of those, Capriles’ least represented trait was sincerity (30% believing he is)  followed by honesty (32%), and most represented one was energetic (49%).  Maduro’s least represented trait was nice (49%), followed by sincere (53%), and most represented was also energetic (68%).

60% of respondents believe a victory by Maduro would be in the country’s interest, compared to 26% for Capriles. 74% of all respondents are following the information about the elections with a lot of interest, compared to 20% with little interest, and 6% with none.

78% also believe that the 14 April elections are more important than the presidential elections held on 7 October.

Response to Chavez’s death

When asked if they were surprised by President Chavez’s death, 56% of respondents said yes, and 42% said they did expect the news.

In terms of their immediate response to the news, 26% of respondents said they made a phone call, 25% said they cried, and 20% did “nothing in particular”. 12% told their friends or family the news, and 5% turned on the television or radio. Only 1% responded by buying things from the supermarket.

On hearing the news, 39% of respondents felt sadness or love, 16% felt worry or fear, 14% were surprised or confusion, 11% “nothing in particular”, and only 1% felt relief, tranquillity, or hope.

In response to the question “Is the opinion you have now of Chavez different to the one you held prior to his passing?”, 48% said their opinion was the same, 43% that it was higher, and 6% that it was lower.

Responding to certain phrases, 75% agreed that “Chavez will enter history as one of its greatest liberators”, 71% agreed that “now the most important thing is to continue President Chavez’s project”, 40% agreed that “without Chavez there’s noChavismo” and 20% agreed that “with the loss of President Chavez the end of the revolution has arrived”.

On whether Chavez’s passing was an important event for the country, on a scale of 1 to 10, 100% of respondents answered with a 10.

Analysis of the results

The director of GIS XXI, Jesse Chacon, analysed the results. He said, “There’s no scenario where the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles could win. In the best of cases he could get 46% of the vote, if he managed to disassociate Maduro from Chavez, demobilise Chavismo and increase opposition participation”.

“On the other hand, if Maduro manages to deepen his connection with Chavez, his politics, and the transition to socialism, he could reach 57% support and leave Capriles with 42%,” Chacon said. However, he added that it is “very difficult” to reverse tendencies in just two weeks.

Chacon also predicted slightly less participation in these elections compared to the October presidential elections, at 74-78% compared to 81% in October. He said it was likely there would be greater abstention by those supporting the opposition.

“It would be difficult for there to be a migration of votes by those who support Capriles towards Maduro, and vice versa. Abstention is more significant,” he said.

Chavismo has focused its strategy on showing that Maduro is the person who will continue the legacy of Chavez, and the opposition has tried to disconnect him [from Chavez] and bring about confrontations, in order to change the current electoral psychology which favours the candidate of the Bolivarian revolution,” Chacon said.

Further, he argued that the opposition “understands that Chavismo is the dominant political identity, and is hegemonic in Venezuela, that’s why they try to compete within the values of Chavismo in order to penetrate its social achievements, its heroes, and its symbols”.

PUBLISHED ON VENEZUELANALYSIS.COM APR 2ND 2013 AT 2.30PM

Ecuador’s Correa wins third presidential term

Leftist leader Rafael Correa, a critic of US foreign policy, defeats nearest rival by more than 30 percentage points.

Retrieved from http://www.aljazeera.com

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has been re-elected to a third term in office allowing him to deepen his socialist revolution even as he seeks to woo foreign investment in the resource-wealthy Andean nation.

“We will be present wherever we can be useful, wherever we can best serve our fellow citizens and our Latin American brothers,” Correa told supporters who gathered in front of the presidential palace in Quito on Monday.

The 49-year-old economist defeated his nearest rival by more than 30 percentage points, according to results ratified by the National Electoral Council.

Correa’s resounding victory could set him up to become Latin America’s most outspoken critic of Washington, as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is locked in a battle with cancer and may be unable to stay in power.

Correa’s closest challenger, former banker Guillermo Lasso has conceded defeat, congratulating Correa for “a victory deserving respect”.

The Leftist leaders’s social and economic programmes have made him a popular leader, with an approval rating of nearly 85 percent.

Earlier, Correa told reporters his goal is to now further reduce poverty, which the United Nations says dropped from 37 percent to 32 percent since he first took office in 2007, as he deepens what he terms his “citizens’ revolution”.

Correa has brought political stability to the oil-exporting nation of 14.6 million people that cycled through seven presidents in the decade before he first took office.

He won re-election in April 2009 after voters approved a constitutional rewrite that mandated a new ballot, and he would be legally barred from running again following a victory.

Foreign investment

The opposition’s inability to unite behind a single candidate in Sunday’s vote helped give Correa a comfortable lead. Former President Lucio Gutierrez won 5.9 percent. The rest of the vote was divided among five other candidates.

A self-declared foe of neo-liberal economics, Correa has taken on big business and media groups, imposing new contracts on oil companies and renegotiating the country’s debt.

Foreign investment will be key to boosting oil output that has been stagnant for five years and to expanding a mining industry that has barely begun to tap the country’s gold and copper reserves.

“We can’t be beggars sitting on a sack of gold,” is a catch phrase Correa has used in recent months to argue that Ecuador needs to better exploit its natural resources despite opposition from rural communities to some projects.

In that vein, Correa appears to be cautiously willing to cut deals and soften his image as an anti-capitalist crusader.

“The advantages of our country for foreign investment are political stability, a strong macroeconomic performance…and important stimulus to new private investment,” he said last week while hosting the emir of gas-rich Qatar.

Foreign direct investment has generally been less than $1bn a year since Correa took office in 2007. By comparison,
neighboring Peru and Colombia last year received $7.7bn and $13bn, respectively.

Correa’s government is also in talks with China to secure funding for the $12.5bn Pacifico refinery, which would
allow Ecuador to save up to $5b a year in fuel imports.

 

Click for James Petras’ analysis and critique of Correa’s government 

Ecuador: Left-Center Political Regimes Versus Radical Social Movements (by James Petras)

By James Petras

Retrieved from http://www.eurasiareview.com/

On February 17, 2013, national elections will take place in Ecuador in which incumbent left-center President, Rafael Correa, is likely to win with an absolute majority against opposition candidates covering the political spectrum from Right to Left. [Update: Rafael Correa won the elections, defeating his nearest rival by more than 30 percentage points.]

Since he was first elected in 2006, Correa has won a string of elections, including presidential elections (2009), a constitutional referendum, a constituent assembly and a ballot on constitutional amendments. Correa’s electoral successes occur despite the opposition from the main Indian organizations, CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) and CONFENIAE, the principle public sector teachers unions, environmental NGOs and numerous radical intellectual, academics and trade union activists. He also has routed the traditional pro-US right-wing and liberal parties, successfully defeated and prosecuted the subversive intent of the mass media moguls and survived an aborted police-military coup in 2010. Unquestionably Correa has demonstrated his capacity to win repeated elections and even increase his margin of victory.

The electoral successes of Correa raise fundamental issues which transcend the immediate context of Ecuadorean politics and reflect a general pattern throughout Latin America. These issues include: (1) the relation between mass social movements and left of center electoral parties and politicians. (2) The relation between pro-active extractive capitalist development strategies (mining, oil, agro-business), inclusionary social policies and anti-imperialist regional foreign policies. (3) The inverse relation between the growth and consolidation of a left-center regime and the decline and weakening of radical social movements. (4) The problem of the initial convergence and divergence between radical social movements and left-center political leaders; as they move from ‘opposition’ to political power. (5) The shifts in power between movements and electoral politicians, with the former exercising greater capacity to mobilize during the period of opposition to the Right and the latter dominating and dictating the political agenda subsequent to securing electoral office.

The Politics of Post Neo-Liberalism

Correa’s “citizen based” electoral movement, operates from positions in government and eschews any ‘class framework’. In fact in its broadest terms, it appeals to and directs government programs to both the urban poor and the big foreign petroleum multi-nationals; the small and medium size business people and the Guayaquil business elite; workers in the informal sector and the public sector professionals and employees, the returning immigrants from Europe (especially Spain) and the construction, real estate and communication elite.

In foreign policy Correa has supported and has the backing of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments and is a member of ALBA; it has received large scale low interest loans from China (in exchange for oil investment and trade agreements) and retains commercial ties with the US and EU. Correa has backed greater Latin American integration and signed off on major public-private petrol contracts with US and European oil companies. He claims to be a socialist but condemns the Marxist FARC and praises the Colombian regimes’ ‘neo-liberalism’; questioned the illegal foreign debt (lowering it by 60%) and at the same time retains the dollar as Ecuador’s currency and opens indigenous territories to foreign capital exploitation.

In a word Correa’s “post neo-liberal policies” combine ‘nationalist populist’ and neo-liberal policies more than a program for the 21st century socialism that he proclaims.

Perspectives on President Correa’s Government

The national-populist extractive policies and development strategy of the Correa regime has polarized opinion across the hemisphere and within Ecuador. On the extreme right Washington and its mass media acolytes view Ecuador as a radical ‘socialist regime’. They take at face value Correa’s embrace of “21st century socialism”, in large part because of his ties to Venezuela, membership in ALBA, renegotiation of the foreign debt and Ecuador’s giving political asylum (in its British embassy) to Julian Assange, the Wilkileak’s leader.

Echoing Washington’s ‘radical leftist’ label are the traditional and newly minted rightist parties (Sociedad Patriotica) who have been marginalized by Correa’s electoral successes. Their critique of Correa’s early nationalist policies, renegotiating the debt and prevailing oil contracts, is now tempered by his recent large scale, long term investment agreement with several foreign multinational petroleum companies. The Ecuadorean oligarchy while publically condemning Correa are privately busy negotiating public-private procurement agreements especially in communications, infrastructure and banking.

The Indian movement, CONAIE, peasants, the teachers union, the ecology-NGOs and some smaller leftist parties oppose Correa for his “sellout” to the big oil companies, his authoritarian centralized power, the expansion of exploitation in the Amazon region and territorial encroachment and threats to Indian lands, water and health.

In contrast to internal opposition from the social movements, the vast majority of leftist parties and center-leftist regimes in Latin America, led by Cuba and Venezuela, are staunch supporters and allies of the Correa regime based primarily on his anti-imperialist policies, support for regional integration and opposition to US interventionist and destabilization policies in the region.

Internationally Correa has widespread support among progressives in the US and Europe especially for his early policies questioning the legality of the foreign debt, his rhetorical proposal to conserve the Amazon in exchange for cash transfers from the EU/US, his renegotiations of the oil contracts and his anti-imperialist pronouncements. Most important, Correa has secured long term large scale financial aid from China in exchange for exploitation of its oil resources.

Buttressed by allies in Latin America and Asia, Correa has effectively resisted pressures from the outside from the US. Internally, Correa has built a formidable bloc of social and political forces which has effectively countered opposition from the oligarchical right as well as from the once powerful radical social movements. The sustained popular majorities backing Correa from 2006 to the present 2013 are based essentially on several factors – substantial increases in social expenditures benefiting popular constituencies and nationalist policies increasing state revenues. The entire Correa paradigm, however, is based on one singular factor – the high price for oil and the boom in commodity prices which finances his strategy of extractive capital led growth and expenditures for social inclusion.

The Social Bases of Correa’s Popularity

Correa’s electoral victories are directly related to his populist social policies financed by the substantial oil revenues resulting from the high prices and huge increase from the renegotiation of the oil contracts with the multi-nationals – an increase from a 20% to an 85% tax. Correa increased the health budget from $561 million in 2006 to $774 million in 2012, about 6.8% of the national budget. Clinics have multiplied, the price of medications has been reduced as a result of a joint venture with the Cuban firm Enfarm, and access to medical care has vastly improved. Educational spending has increased from 2.5% of GDP in 2006 to 6% in 2013, including a free lunch program for children. The regime has increased state subsidies for social housing, especially for low income classes as well as returning immigrants. To lower unemployment, Correa has allocated $140 million in micro credits to finance self-employment, a measure especially popular among workers in the “informal sector”. By effectively reducing the debt to foreign creditors by two-thirds (debt service runs to 2.24% of GDP), Correa has increased the minimum wage and pensions for low income retirees thus expanding the social security system.

Anti-poverty subsidies, payments of $35 monthly (increased to $50 two weeks before the Elections) to poor families and the disabled and low interest loans have allowed Correa to gain influence and divide the opposition movements in the countryside. Business elites especially in Guayaquil and the middle and upper echelon of the public sector especially in the petrol sector, have become important contributors and backers of Correa’s electoral machine.

As a result of State subsidies, contracts and the backing of business and banking sectors and the weakening of the opposition media elites, Correa has built a broad electoral base that transverses the class spectrum. The entire ‘popular alliance’ is, however, highly dependent on Correa’s pact with extractive multi-nationals. His electoral success is a result of a strategy based on the revenue from a narrowly based export sector. And the export sector is highly dependent on the expansion of oil exploitation in the Amazon region which adversely affects the livelihood and health of the indigenous communities, who in turn are highly organized and in a permanent ‘resistance mode”.

The Contradictions of Extractive Capitalism and Populist Politics: The Threats and Challenges to Social Movements

The oil sector accounts for over 50 percent of Ecuador’s export earnings and over one-third of all tax revenues. Production has oscillated around 500,000 barrels a day, with increasing shares sold to China and a decreasing percentage to the US. In February 2013 Ecuador signed contracts for $1.7 billion in investments to boost output in the Amazon fields with Canadian, US, Spanish and Argentine multi-nationals in association with the Ecuadorean state company Petroecuador.

The biggest oil investments in the history of Ecuador promise to increase the levels of oil spills, contamination of Indian communities and intensification of the conflicts between CONAIE and its ecological and movement allies and the Correa regime. In other words as Correa sustains and consolidates his majoritarian electoral support outside of the Amazon and adjoining regions with increased social expenditures based on rising oil revenues, he will further dispossess and alienate the movements of the interior.

Social inclusion of the urban masses and promotion of an independent foreign policy are based on an alliance with foreign extractive multi-nationals which undermine the habitation and economy of small producers and Indian communities.

The history of petroleum exploitation contamination up to the present day provides little evidence to support President Correa’s claims of environmental safeguards. Texaco/Chevron oil exploitation in the Amazon contaminated millions of acres, dispossessed scores of Indian communities and sickened thousands of inhabitants resulting in a judiciary award of $8 billion dollars in favor of the 30,000 indigenous people adversely affected.

Recently Correa’s proposed oil contracts with multi-nationals to exploit 13 blocks in the pristine Amazon region covering millions of acres and inhabited by seven Indian nationalities, without consulting the indigenous communities thus contravening his own newly written constitution. Powerful mobilizations, led by CONAIE and CONFEIAE (the Ecuadorean Confederation of Amazonian Indian Nationalities) on the 28th of November 2012 in Quito and in the regions targeted for exploitation, has caused several oil majors to delay drilling. In the face of determined Indian resistance, Correa has shown the authoritarian side of his regime: threatening to dispatch the military to occupy and forcibly impose a kind of ‘martial law’, raising the prospects of prolonged political warfare.

While Correa can and does win national elections and routs his electoral opposition in the big cities, he faces a resolute organized majority in the Amazon and adjoining regions. Correa’s dilemma is that unless he diversifies the economy and reaches a compromise via consultation with CONAIE, his dependence on new oil ventures drives him toward de facto alliance with the traditional export elites and greater dependence on the military and police.

The Latin American Context

Correa’s bet on an export strategy based on primary goods has created a potentially dynamic mega cycle of growth but it is increasingly dependent on high world prices for oil. Any significant decline in price would immediately lead to a precipitous fall in social expenditures, erode his social coalition and strengthen the opposition from the right and the radical social movements. Correa’s repeated electoral successes and his widespread support across the progressive and anti-imperialist political spectrum, has seriously weakened the radical social movements a pattern that has been repeated throughout Latin America.

In the previous decade, roughly the period of the 1990’s to the early years of the 21st century, the radical social movements took center stage in toppling rightwing, US backed neo-liberal regimes. Ecuador was no exception: CONAIE and its urban allies ousted the incumbent neo-liberal President Mahuad in January 21, 2000, and joined with Correa in driving the Lucio Gutierrez regime from power in April 2005. Similar mass struggles and social mobilizations ousted neo-liberals in Argentina and Bolivia, while movement backed center left politicians took power in Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay and Peru.

Once ensconced in power the center-left regimes adopted a commodity led export strategy, embraced partnerships with the MNC and built broad electoral conditions which marginalized the radical social movements; with the aid of increased revenues they substituted populist transfer payments for structural transformations.

Nationalist foreign policies were combined with alliances with big commodity based MNC. To the extent that class struggles emerged, the populist leaders condemned them and even accused their leaders of “conspiring with the Right” – thus questioning the legitimacy of their demands and struggles.

The post neo-liberal center-left regimes in Latin America, with their populist politics of ‘inclusion’ have been far more effective in reducing the appeal and influence of the radical mass social movements than the previous US backed repressive neo-liberal regimes.

Those social movements which opted to support and join the center-left regimes (or were co-opted) became transmission belts for extractive policies. Confined to administrating the regime’s anti-poverty programs and defending the extractive capitalist model, the co-opted leaders argued for higher tax revenues and social expenditures, and, occasionally, called for greater environmental controls. But ultimately the “insider strategy”, adopted by some social leaders, has led to bureaucratic subordination and the loss of any specific class loyalties.

Conclusion

National-populism is and will be challenged from within by its ‘allies’ among the MNC who will increasingly influence their ‘public sector partners’ and, from the ‘outside’, by the pressures from the world market. In the meantime as long as commodity prices hold and the nationalist-populist leaders continue their ‘inclusive’ social programs, Latin American politics will remain relative stable and the economy will continue to grow, but it will continue to face resistance from the alliance of eco-social and indigenous movements.

What lessons can be drawn from the past two decades of social movement – populist electoral party alliances? The message is both clear and ambiguous. Clearly movements which do not have an independent political perspective will lose out to their electoral allies. However, there is no question that because of movement action, the populist electoral class has legislated significant social expenditures benefiting the popular classes and pursued a relative independent foreign policy – an ambiguous legacy or unfinished history?

South Park and Immigration: Reserve Army of Labor and Unequal Development

South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are far from leftists. They probably coincide more with political libertarianism, agorism or Austrian economics than any other ideologies (although I’m sure they don’t wish to be forced into any label). Nevertheless, on many occasions their ideas and beliefs, as they communicate them through their comedy, coincide with many ideas usually associated with the left. Their show, although it may sound unlikely to many, has tremendous potential as an instrument of political agitation and even education. We will occasionaly share some episodes that exemplify this potential. It’s always good to sometimes think, analyze, or reflect on subjects while laughing out loud. 

In this episode, Stone and Parker create an analogy for the issues revolving around the immigration of many Latin Americans into the US. In the episode, people from future America come back to the past looking for jobs. They are willing to work for less, taking jobs away from present day Americans. The boys take on a racist (actually “timecist” because it’s discriminating toward other time people) and conservative position because they lost their jobs as well. Eventually, they recognize their wrong doings; and realize that the issue is helping the future get better. In other words, the issue is, as the “liberal aging hippie douche” says in the episode, that multinational corporations impoverish Latin American countries, creating the need for their workers to seek better jobs elsewhere. If US workers want to stop the immigration of cheaper labor, they should fight against the impoverishment of Third World countries by the hands of global capitalism (i.e, fight for world socialism!). The episode is also handy to visualize the concept of the reserve army of labor. Unemployment incentives people to work for less, lowering average wages. In other words, unemployment sometimes can actually help capitalists.

Watch South Park Episode 6 from Season 8.