Latin America: A tale of two tours

Bush and Chávez vie for influence

You could never find have a bigger contrast than the recent tours around Latin America by President Bush’s and President Chávez. ‘Son como el día y la noch’,” as Latin Americans’ say (‘As different as night and day’).

Bush, head of the world’s superpower that spends over half of the total world budget on arms, planned the tour to repair his tattered, bloodied image at home and abroad. Venezuelan President Chávez knows how much Bush is hated, particularly in Latin America, and planned his trip simultaneously with Bush’s, so Bush’s humiliation would be multiplied ten-fold.

Despite tmassive resources and power at his disposal, Bush failed miserably in his visit aims for Latin America. In doing so, the US president handed President Chávez an ideal opportunity to boost his support amongst workers and poor peasants, even further, in the countries he visited.

Bush only visited the capitals of the few Latin American countries that have right-wing leaders or those who feel they are secure enough in power to at least talk to the US president.

Colombia was one of the most important stops for Bush. Álvaro Uribe, its President, is one of Bush’s biggest fans internationally. Incredibly, despite being the guest of a friendly regime, Bush had to be surrounded by a wall of iron – 20, 000 Colombian soldiers and seven thousand police – on top of the usual US protection force of thousands of secret service agents.

Despite all Bush’s propaganda nonsense about “democracy” and “freedom”, he gives unconditional support to Uribe who is renowned internationally for being completely corrupt and for brutal repression against trade unionists and opposition activists. Colombia is the main recipient of military aid from the US, outside the Middle East.

Bush has given over $3.9 billion, in the last six years, in the so-called ‘Plan Colombia II’. This is mainly military aid, supposedly to use against the drug trade and the drug “terrorists” of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC – Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) that controls parts of Colombia.

There has been no sign of a halt to this aid despite the scandal known as the ‘parapolitica’ that gripped Colombia over the last few years. This involved MPs linked to right-wing paramilitaries, and uncovered “assassinations, kidnappings, extortion and buying of votes.” (El Pais, 12 March 2007)

Tupac Katari

What of Chávez? His first port of call was to the poorest sections of society in Bolivia. He was greeted by thunderous applause from thousands of workers and poor peasants in the remote flood affected Amazonian province of Beni. Chávez, accompanied by Bolivian President Evo Morales and the president of the Cuban Popular Assembly (parliament), brought two helicopters, forty tractors, thousands of blankets and a large team of Cuban doctors.

To a massive cheering, Chávez quoted Tupac Katari, a famous leader of the indigenous people in Latin America. He said just before he died “I will return and I will be millions”. These words thundered down the generations. Over the last decade, millions across Latin America rose up against the neo-liberal economic madness visited upon them by imperialism. Echoing the hatred of the masses over the poverty and destitution caused by neo-liberalism, Chávez said, “We are millions and we are Tupac Katari made millions and we will struggle for our future. This struggle will not end.”

Anti-imperialists presidents like Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales, owe everything to the millions that moved into struggle in Latin America and who brought these figures to power in elections. The only guarantee of a decent future for the workers and peasants of the continent is the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with a democratic socialist federation of Latin American states. Workers’ control and management of a planned economy would provide the basis of giving land to the peasantry and ending centuries-long oppression of the indigenous people. This would be a fitting tribute to the struggle of Tupac Katari, and the nameless many thousands who fought against feudal and imperialist oppression.

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March 2007