Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The West and Latin America
By Tortilla Con Sal
22 September 2018

Venezuela’s latest agreements with China are as epoch-making as President Putin’s remarks on the Northern Sea Route.

One of the most curious phenomena of what passes for intellectual life in North America and Western Europe is the broad ignorance and deep prejudice of otherwise politically sophisticated people. In one way this is hardly surprising, given the relentless determination of Western news media to misinform their countries’ populations about world affairs. Events in countries targeted by the United States and its NATO allies are systematically misrepresented, while events of tremendous significance are simply ignored. The most recent example of this has been the meager, biased coverage of the three-day Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok that ended September 13.

Western media managed to ignore the following historic comments of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the forum’s plenary session on September 12: “In the next six years, the volume of container traffic by rail should increase fourfold, and the shipping time from the Far East to the western border of Russia will be cut to seven days. Traffic along the Northern Sea Route should grow to 80 million tonnes per year… Right now, the first ice-class container ship the Arctic 4 is moving along the Northern Sea Route – the shortest sea route between the Far East and Europe….This voyage from Vladivostok to St Petersburg...without exaggeration, opens up a new page in the history of commercial navigation, and confirms the safety, efficiency and relevance of the Russian Arctic and the entire Northern Sea Route as an international corridor.”

So now not only has the United States lost its forlorn attempt to prevent Russia and China consolidating their economic and commercial alliances across Eurasia via Russia’s initiative of the Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Belt and Road initiative, but it has also lost the ability to threaten Chinese and Russian international trade through the menace of U.S. military control of commercial shipping passing around South East Asia and through the Suez Canal. That is why President Putin said the Northern Sea Route is epoch-making. That event has important repercussions in Latin America.

The most obvious impact of these historic changes in world affairs on Latin America has been the determined U.S. offensive to repress progressive political change in the region. Its local allies have subverted constitutional and judicial legitimacy in Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras and elsewhere; sabotaged Colombia’s peace agreement, and collaborated in diplomatic and media aggression against Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Against Venezuela the United States and its local allies have worked together to enforce economic sanctions and raise the threat of military intervention. The effects of all this have put an abrupt brake on the advance of progressive change benefiting the region’s impoverished majorities via electoral politics and Latin America and the Caribbean's full participation recognition in the new multipolar international order.

Less obvious is the effect of these components of regional intervention on Latin America’s global international relations. Many commentators paint the Pacific Alliance of Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile as simply a neoliberal integration initiative to crowd out more progressive integration processes like the Bolivarian Alliance of Our Americas. That may well be so up to a point, but it omits why the U.S. government continues to militarize, for example, Central America, Colombia and Argentina, especially its border with Bolivia, and other countries, too. The U.S. corporate elites are reacting against China’s project for the region as expressed in its support for Venezuela, for a Nicaraguan interoceanic canal and in progress towards a Chinese-inspired and -funded transcontinental railway from Peru’s southern Pacific Coast to Brazil’s southern Atlantic Coast via Bolivia.

Peru and Brazil are collaborating closely with Bolivia on that project, which points to contradictions within regional elites over how far they should subordinate their own elite interests and, perhaps to some extent, their countries’ national interests, to the wishes of U.S. and European corporate elites and those Western elites’ governments. Another level of illegitimate control is imposed via both the spurious authority of U.S.-controlled multilateral institutions and U.S.- and European-funded non-governmental organizations. The Organization of American States and the United Nations have both abused their roles so as to attack Venezuela and Nicaragua, based overwhelmingly on false witness from those countries' foreign-funded NGO sectors.

Another less obvious component of that illegitimate system of repressive control is the role of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). ECLAC regularly produces very influential reports and policy documents. Alicia Barcena, ECLAC’s executive secretary, has been a firm and outspoken headline voice insisting on the need to reduce inequality in Latin America, which remains higher than in regions like Africa and Asia. But ECLAC’s thinking and policy recommendations generally play down the kinds of economic democratization and socially inclusive policies that have dramatically reduced inequality and poverty in Bolivia, Ecuador under Rafael Correa’s administration, Nicaragua or Venezuela, never mind Cuba.

ECLAC’s recent document 'Emerging Challenges and Shifting Paradigms' was written together with the European Commission and the OECD, the club of mainly Western rich country economies. Two enormous absences dominate the report, namely U.S. imperialism and China. China figures only as a villain, responsible for slowing regional economic diversification: “Commodity price fluctuations, driven largely by China through the shifting wealth process, have influenced the reprimarization of the Latin American and Caribbean export basket”. In passing, the report mentions China’s role in the emergence of a new multipolar international order but frames it as a competitor, not a complement, to Western international development assistance.

ECLAC completely ignores the impact of U.S. economic aggression on Latin America and the Caribbean and European collaboration in it. The United States is mentioned just twice, practically as a footnote to do with productivity data. Likewise ECLAC’s report completely suppresses the policy implications of the extraordinary accomplishments of Venezuela and Nicaragua in their different contexts. ECLAC’s “new perspectives” on international development do nothing to leave behind discredited faith-based traditional macroeconomic theory. The report typifies conventional economic policymakers inability to learn from revolutionary transformative experiences of economic democratization.

For example, Nicaragua’s popular economy, despite all the disadvantages of the regional institutional framework and market realities, shows up ECLAC’s idea of economic democratization as a prisoner of international corporate interests and subsidiary local private business. In both Venezuela and, now, Nicaragua too, the U.S. government has co-opted most of those countries’ private business sectors as allies in its attempts at regime change. But ECLAC still promotes the idea of “partnership” and broad alliances for economic development, apparently wishing away wholesale privatization and savage social repression in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras and elsewhere.

The current UN system, its human rights structures, its model of international development, its structures for environmental concerns, are all subordinated to the imperatives of corporate globalization dominated by the United States and its allies. In few places is that more clear than in Latin America and the Caribbean where the reality is as distorted and suppressed by Western media as in other theaters of international competition with global rivals. President Nicolas Maduro’s recent successful negotiation of crucial trade agreements with China is a major defeat not just of U.S. economic aggression against Venezuela and its regional allies but also for the current Western corporate dominated UN system. Especially in the context of very possible U.S. military aggression, Venezuela’s latest agreements with China are as epoch-making as President Putin’s remarks on the Northern Sea Route.

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