Under My Presidency, Chávez’s Revolution Will Continue April 13, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Latin America, Venezuela.
Tags: Caracazo, Hugo Chavez, Jimmy Carter, Latin America, nicolas maduro, roger hollander, UNASUR, Venezuela, venezuela coup, venezuela democracy, venezuela eleccion, venezuela election, venezuela government, venezuela poverty
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Venezuela has lost an extraordinary leader, but his democratic and socialist project of transformation is more alive than ever
A month ago Venezuela lost a historic leader who spearheaded the transformation of his country, and spurred a wave of change throughout Latin America. In Sunday’s election Venezuelans will choose whether to pursue the revolution initiated under Hugo Chávez – or return to the past. I worked closely with President Chávez for many years, and am now running to succeed him. Polls indicate that most Venezuelans support our peaceful revolution
Chávez’s legacy is so profound that opposition leaders, who vilified him only months ago, now insist they will defend his achievements. But Venezuelans remember how many of these same figures supported an ill-fated coup against Chávez in 2002 and sought to reverse policies that have dramatically reduced poverty and inequality.
To grasp the scale of what has been achieved, it’s necessary to recall the state of my country when Chávez took office in 1999. In the previous 20 years Venezuela had suffered one of the sharpest economic declines in the world. As a result of neoliberal policies that favoured transnational capital at the expense of people’s basic needs, poverty soared. A draconian market-oriented agenda was imposed through massive repression, including the 1989 massacre of thousands in what is known as the Caracazo.
This disastrous trend was reversed under Chávez. Once the government was able to assert effective control over the state oil company in 2003, we began investing oil revenue in social programmes that now provide free healthcare and education throughout the country. The economic situation vastly improved. Poverty and extreme poverty have been reduced dramatically. Today Venezuela has the lowest rate of income inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean.
As a result our government has won almost every election or referendum since 1998 – 16 in all – in a democratic process the former US president Jimmy Carter called “the best in the world“. If you haven’t heard much about these accomplishments, it may have something to do with the influence of Washington and its allies on the international media. They have been trying to de-legitimise and get rid of our government for more than a decade, ever since they supported the 2002 coup.
We have also worked to transform the region: to unite the countries of Latin America and work together to address the causes and symptoms of poverty. Venezuela was central to the creation of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), aimed at promoting social and economic development and political co-operation.
The media myth that our political project would fall apart without Chávez was a fundamental misreading of Venezuela’s revolution. Chávez has left a solid edifice, its foundation a broad, united movement that supports the process of transformation. We’ve lost our extraordinary leader, but his project – built collectively by workers, farmers, women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and the young – is more alive than ever.
The media often portray Venezuela as on the brink of economic collapse – but our economy is stronger than ever. We have a low debt burden and a significant trade surplus, and have accumulated close to $30bn in international reserves.
There are of course many challenges still to overcome, as Chávez himself acknowledged. Among my primary objectives is the need to intensify our efforts to curb crime and aggressively confront inefficiency and corruption in a nationwide campaign.
Internationally, we will continue to work with our neighbours to deepen regional integration and fight poverty and social injustice. It’s a vision now shared across the region, which is why my candidacy has received strong support from figures such as the former Brazilian president Lula da Silva and many Latin American social movements. We also remain committed to promoting regional peace and stability, and this is why we will continue our energetic support of the peace talks in Colombia.
Latin America today is experiencing a profound political and social renaissance – a second independence – after decades of surrendering its sovereignty and freedom to global powers and transnational interests. Under my presidency, Venezuela will continue supporting this regional transformation and building a new form of socialism for our times. With the support of progressive people from every continent, we’re confident Venezuela can give a new impetus to the struggle for a more equitable, just and peaceful world.
South America to Slam US-Colombia Base Deal August 25, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Latin America, Venezuela.
Tags: alan garcia, Alvaro Uribe, Colombia, colombia military, hillary clinton, Hugo Chavez, Latin America, latin america politics, lula da silva, plan colombia, south america, U.S. imperialism, u.s. military bases, UNASUR, Venezuela
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SAO PAULO – South American presidents are expected to slam a US plan to use military bases in Colombia when they gather for a summit in Argentina at the end of the week specifically to discuss the issue.
The anti-US leaders of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia have already vociferously criticized the announcement that Washington wanted to expand its military presence in Colombia to access seven bases.
The more moderate presidents heading up Brazil, Chile and Argentina have likewise expressed concern at the decision, first announced last month by Bogota.
The Union of South American Nations (Unasur) summit in the Argentine ski resort of Bariloche on Friday is to examine claims by Venezuela President Hugo Chavez that the increased US deployment could be used to invade his country.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is to attend, after having snubbed the previous Unasur meeting in Ecuador early this month because of regional friction over the deal.
Ahead of that last meeting, Uribe embarked on a tour of South America to speak to leaders one-on-one about the bases deal, but failed to win any support except from Peruvian President Alan Garcia.
US officials say that, while the deal on the bases was finalized this month, the agreement with Colombia has yet been signed.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she expected to ink the accord soon.
She also insisted that the beefed-up US military presence was exclusively aimed at “narco-traffickers, terrorists, and other illegal armed groups in Colombia.”
But Chavez on Sunday charged that “they are turning all of Colombia into a (US) base.”
He said in his weekly broadcast he had a document that showed the US military intended to operate unhindered “in strategic areas” — which he interpreted as including the Orinoco Delta in eastern Venezuela and Brazil’s northern Amazon basin.
The US aim was to “dominate South America and act freely across the continent,” he alleged.
Brazil’s defense minister, Nelson Jobim, was to travel to Colombia on Tuesday to talk over the bases decision with his counterpart, Gabriel Silva Lujan.
On Monday, he met with Ecuadorian Defense Minister Javier Ponce. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim also met with Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Fander Falconi.
Falconi said Colombia had requested that several agenda items be discussed in conjunction with the bases issue at Friday’s summit, including other military deals in South America.
That latter point could touch on Venezuela’s recent purchases of billions of dollars of Russian weaponry, including sophisticated fighter jets and tanks, and Brazil’s deal with France to buy five submarines, one of which will be outfitted as a nuclear-powered vessel. Brazil is also poised to buy 36 new fighter aircraft from France, the United States or Sweden.
“There are no off-limit subjects at the meeting,” Falconi said.
“We think that all aspects linked to security in the region need to be tackled by the presidents. It’s not about accusing anybody, only holding transparent dialogue with the aim of strengthening regional unity,” he said.
Unasur groups Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guayana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Last week, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva urged US President Barack Obama to attend a Unasur summit to hear the grievances.
Obama said only he would “look at possibilities” and would next meet with Lula on September 24-25, at a G20 summit in Pittsburgh, in the US state of Pennsylvania.
Under a current cap exercised by the US Congress, the number of US citizens deployed to bases in Colombia cannot exceed 800 uniformed and 600 civilian personnel.
The US daily The Washington Post claimed in an editorial on Monday that Chavez was stirring up trouble over the bases to distract attention from his alleged support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a rebel organization deemed a “terrorist” group by Washington.
The newspaper, which has good sources in US defense and political circles, asserted that giving the US military access to seven bases in Colombia was an “unremarkable” expansion of existing US operations in the country.
© 2009 Agence France Presse
Observations on Latin America August 8, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Foreign Policy, Right Wing, Honduras.
Tags: UNASUR, roger hollander, Latin America, Lula, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela, Mexico, plan colombia, foreign policy, uribe, hillary clinton, james jones, right wing, military bases, obama administration, latin america government, latin america politics, mexico politics, zelaya, Honduras, honduras coup, u.s. military bases, miguel tinker salas, u.s. imperialsim, colombia bases, bachelet, plan merida
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The recent events in Honduras are not isolated, but rather part of a conservative counterattack taking shape in Latin America. For some time, the right has been rebuilding in Latin America; hosting conferences, sharing experiences, refining their message, working with the media, and building ties with allies in the United States. This is not the lunatic rightwing fringe, but rather the mainstream right with powerful allies in the middle class that used to consider themselves center, but have been frightened by recent left electoral victories and the rise of social movements. With Obama in the White House and Clinton in the State Department they have now decided to act. Bush/Cheney and company did not give them any coverage and had become of little use to them. A “liberal” in the White House gives conservative forces the kind of coverage they had hoped for. It is no coincidence that Venezuelan opposition commentators applauded the naming of Clinton to the State Department, claiming that they now had an ally in the administration. The old cold-warrior axiom that the best antidote against the left is a liberal government in Washington gains new meaning under Obama with Clinton at the State Department.
Coup leaders in Honduras and their allies continue to play for time. Washington’s continuing vacillation is allowing them to exhaust this option, but so are right-wing governments in Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Peru. After all, this coup is not just about Honduras but also about leftwing success in Latin America, of which Honduras was the weakest link. It is increasingly becoming obvious that there is no scenario under which elites in Honduras will accept Zelaya back. I do not think that they have a plan “B” on this matter and this speaks to the kind of advice they are getting from forces in the U.S. and the region. If Zelaya comes back, the Supreme Court, the Congress, the military and the church all lose credibility and it opens the door for the social and political movements in Honduras to push for radical change that conservative forces would find more difficult to resist.
But Honduras is only part of the equation. Colombia’s decision to accept as many as 7 new U.S. military bases (3 airbases, including Palanquero, 2 army bases, and 2 naval bases one on the Pacific and one on the Caribbean), dramatically expands the U.S. military’s role in the country and throughout the region. The Pentagon has been eyeing the airbase at Palanquero with its complex infrastructure and extensive runway for some time. This is a very troubling sign that will alter the balance of forces in the region, and speaks volumes about how the Obama administration plans to respond to change in Latin America. A possible base on the Caribbean coast of Colombia would also offer the recently reactivated U.S. Fourth Fleet, a convenient harbor on the South American mainland. In short, Venezuela would be literally encircled. However, Venezuela is not the only objective. It also places the Brazilian Amazon and all its resources within striking distance of the U.S. military, as well as the much sought after Guarani watershed. After public criticism from Bachelet of Chile, Lula of Brazil and Chávez of Venezuela, Uribe refused to attend the August 10 meeting of UNASUR, the South American Union, where he would be expected to explain the presence of the U.S. bases. The meeting of the UNASUR security council was scheduled to take up the issue of the bases and Bolivia’s suggestion for a unified South American response to drug trafficking. Instead, Uribe has launched his own personal diplomacy traveling to 7 different countries in the region to explain his actions. In addition, Obama’s National Security Advisor James Jones is in Brazil trying to justify the U.S. position on the bases.
The recent media war launched by Uribe against Ecuador and Correa, once again claiming financing of the FARC, and the more recent offensive against Venezuela concerning 30 year old Swedish missiles, that, like the Reyes computers, cannot be independently verified, have filled the airwaves in Venezuela, Colombia and the region. The current Colombian media campaign was preceded by Washington’s own efforts to condemn Venezuela for supposed non-compliance in the war against drug trafficking. In addition, Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, also traveled throughout Latin America in July claiming that Venezuela is a destabilizing force in the region and in the Middle East.
Lost in all this is the fact that Uribe is still considering a third term in office and his party has indicated it will push for a constitutional reform. So conflicts with Ecuador and Venezuela serve to silence critics in Colombia and keep Uribe’s electoral competitors at bay. All we need now is for Uribe to ask the Interpol to verify the missiles’ origins and Interpol director Ron Noble to give another press conference in Bogota. Déjà vu all over again!
The right and its allies in the U.S. are also emboldened by the electoral victory in Panama and the very real prospects of leftist defeats this year in Chile and even Uruguay. Obviously they are also encouraged by the humiliating defeat of the Fernández / Kirchners in Argentina. These developments could begin to redraw the political map of the region. Correa of Ecuador has already expressed concern about being the target of a coup and Bolivia will undoubtedly come under intense pressure as they are also preparing for an election later this year.
All this is occurring with an increased U.S. military commitment in Mexico with Plan Mérida which seeks to build on the lessons of Colombia: maintain in power a president whose economic and social policies are highly unpopular, but who relies on conflict, in this case the so-called war on the drug cartels, to maintain popularity. Parts of Mexico are literally under siege, including Michoacán, Ciudad Juarez, and Tijuana. The backdrop for this is a divided left; the PRD was the biggest loser in recent midterm elections, and social movements remains localized and unable to mount a national challenge.
None of these developments are forgone conclusions, but they nonetheless speak to the fact that conservative forces in Latin America and their allies in the U.S. are mounting a concerted counter offensive that could increase the potential for conflict in the region.
Fluent in both Spanish and English, Professor Miguel Tinker Salas is often asked by the national and international media to provide analysis on political issues confronting Mexico, Venezuela, and Latin America. He has been interviewed by CNN, CNN Spanish, ESPN, the PBS New Hour, the Associated Press, Reuters, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Univisión, Telemundo, and many other radio, television and print media outlets. His expertise includes: US-Latin American Relations, contemporary Venezuelan politics, oil policy, Mexican Politics, Mexican border issues, Immigration, and Latinos/as in the United States. He is often asked to speak on college campuses and community events on the important issue facing Latin America and Latinos/as in the US.
Bolivia a Powder Keg? September 17, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America.
Tags: Bolivia civil strife, Bolivia civil war, CIA in Bolivia, Evo Morales, Latin American politics, roger hollander, U.S. intervention in Latin America, UNASUR
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Bolivia a Powder Keg?
The news today from Bolivia appears to contradict itself. On the one hand it is reported that the government and the opposition have agreed upon a political truce that will re-open negotiations on the question of provincial autonomy. For the government’s part, President Evo Morales has committed to postponing for another month the planned referendum for the ratification of a new constitution. The opposition appears ready to re-open blocked highways and abandon occupied government offices, and cease from attacking oil lines. Just hours before the signing, talks appeared to have broken down over the government’s arrest of Leopoldo Fernández, Prefect (governor) of the separatist Province of Pando, whom the government has accused of fomenting the attacks against pro-government peasants that have left sixteen dead.
Morales’ hand has been strengthened in his confrontation with the right wing governor’s of five separatist provinces by the support of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which is meeting in Chile. This may have been what has brought the opposition, who appeared to be provoking outright civil war, back to the negotiating table.
On the other hand, ominous statements have been coming out of Washington. The Bush government is advising U.S. citizens to stay out of Bolivia and has sent two airplanes to Bolivia to evacuate those already there. It is also talking about calling back its DEA agents there who are working to limit narcotraficking as well as its Peace Corps volunteers.
These are clearly signs of expected civil strife and come on the heels of Morales having expelled the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia for activities promoting the recent spate of opposition terrorist-like attacks, and a report from the Washington D.C. based Center for Economic and Policy Research indicating that the U.S. government is refusing to publish recipients of USAID funding in Bolivia, which implies that such funding may be going to clandestine opposition terrorists.
Like it Andean nieghbors, Ecuador and Venezuela, the people of Bolivia have given strong democratic electoral support to a president and government that are committed to recovering control of the nation’s natural resources, achieving a degree of social and economic justice, alleviating poverty and hunger, and investing in social programs, education and health. Sadly, this places Bolivia directly in conflict with United States geopolitical interests, which, since the days of the infamous Monroe Doctrine, have had disastrous consequences for the people of the Latin American world.
With progressive governments in power in Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, Bolivia has regional support that would have been unthinkable even five years ago; and this will make U.S. direct intervention that much more difficult, especially given that its military is badly bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the recklessness of the Bush administration should not be underestimated. In agreeing to a temporary truce, the Bolivian right wing opposition may simply be buying time as a strategic manoeuvre. With the eyes of an entire continent upon them, their options may be limited. However, as in Venezuela and Ecuador (where a popular referendum is expected to approve a new progressive constitution in less than two weeks), the elites of the old oligarchy may be experiencing greater panic and desperation on a daily basis. For these reasons, the possibility of civil strife breaking out any day in Bolivia cannot be discounted.