René Báez: The Ambivalent Andean Chessboard
The Ambivalent Andean Chessboard
by René Báez
Published In Spanish Altercom, June 29th 2006
Translated by Toni Solo
The ascendant nationalist tendency in Latin America in the Andean region, ever more entrenched in the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez and the Bolivia of Evo Morales, has recently faced the impact of important elections.(1) Above all, there were the elections held in Ecuador's neighbours in which - as was foreseen - the stand-off between neo-liberal fundamentalism based on the Washington Consensus and postions opposed to it defined the dividing line between voters.
Colombia : triumph of narco-democracy
The re-election of Alvaro Uribe on May 28th last, confirms the power of the pro-imperialist financial right wing oligarchy, the mainstream media and the paramilitaries who currently control at least a third of the parliamentary deputies The result also confirms the continuity of policies promoted by the Washington Consensus that were consecrated irreversibly with the ratification of Colombia's Free Trade Treaty with the United States, already agreed "in its technical phase" by Uribe's team.
It means the ongoing prosecution of the hypocritical "war on drugs" under the headings "democratic security" and "Plan Patriot"; open plotting against Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution; defence of a neo-liberal oriented Community of Andean Nations; more intense pressure on Ecuador to involve itself directly in the northern civil war; a drive towards a land reform in reverse in favour of lynching, cut-throat landlords; the consequent deepening of the humanitarian tragedy of more than three million internally displaced people; the persecution and murder of the opposition; increased poverty and misery for the majority of the population.....Ultimately, everything the current scheme of domination implies for our countries based on the cruel premises of the "free market" and merely formal democracy.
However, the triumph of the former collaborator of Pablo Escobar (2) does have another aspect.
Here one can note, thanks to more than two and a half million votes won by the charismatic Carlos Gaviria, that the left wing Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA) has become the second main political force in Colombia and a real option for power in 2010 in a process that has recalled the previous development of revolutionary liberalism led by Jorge Eliecer Gaitan (3).
The PDA embodies the longing for a sovereign nation, respect for civil rights, a democratic transformation of the social economy, a dignified existence for the indigenous peoples, a rebirth of Latin Amercianism out of bolivarian roots.
For the last electoral game, this latest "Party of Hope" committed itself if it won the elections to put the Free Trade Treaty with the US to a referendum and to seek an understanding with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) so as to achieve a political end to the curse of civil war.
Given these kinds of policy proposals, the honourable defeat of Gaviria indicates that the horizon of sovereignty, dignity and democracy remains alive for the countrymen of Antonio Galan and Camilo Torres (4). More so since Uribe's regime is doomed to accelerated burn-out for its guaranteed insistence on a worn-out discourse, and its authoritarian behaviour, condemned even by the US Congress.
Peru : a pyrrhic victory for the Establishment
In Peru, the political panorama after the vote on June 4th, sealed by Alan Garcia's scant margin of victory over nationalist Ollanta Humala, looks even more contradictory and unstable than the one in Colombia. In what way?
Essentially, because Garcia Perez takes office for the second time as a hostage to the most reactionary national oligarchy, as much because his electoral success was based on the "borrowed votes" of ultra-right winger Lourdes Flores, whose candidacy was eliminated in the first round, as because his speaking qualities and ability to dance reggaeton will be of little use when taking the crucial decisions he will face.
The new presidential period of the APRA centre-"left" leader is going to mean a re-run of the performances turned in by his predecessors Fujimori and Toledo; that is to say, a mixture of neoliberalism and clientilism; deference to the dictates of the mulitlateral organizations with their old saga of recession-provoking adjustments, privatization, payment of unpayable external and internal debt, destruction of traditional agriculture, unemployment, repression migration....and, of course, opposition to any regional integration initiative not based on the profit-motive.
Already in the recent electoral campaign, Garcia, supported by virtually all the media, viscerally attacked "Venezuelan imperialism" alluding to the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA).
Under circumstances in which the theology of the market has lost its charm for the "poverty-ariado" - especially in the Altiplano and the Amazonia - the government of the candidate of Vladimir Montesinos and Mario Vargas Llosa (5) - (who had recommnded people to vote for the APR-ista "holing your noses") could result in almost anything - exccept a time of calm for the neighbouring republic.
To begin with, the confirmation of Peru's Free Trade Treaty with Washington with which Toledo and his right wing allies seek to "reward" their convert Garcia, looks like a path bristling with difficulties.
For the rest, the signs of future social convulsions are already there, not just because Humala's leadership has catapulted the Union for Peru (UPP) into the role of the main parliamentary bloc but because, for many, the country of Rimac (6) will have two leaders: Alan for the "Peru of Lima" and ex-soldier Ollanta for the millions of those cast adrift by the Religion of Progress and Growth.
According to southern analysts, this scenario of dual power will only be able to stabilise itself via a revolt of nationalist and populist ferment in which actions like the Bolivian recovery of hydrocarbon resources and land reform will have an inevitable economic and political-cultural influence
Ecuador : schizophenic nationalism
When Alfredo Palacio arrived in the Carondelet (7) astride the "Outlaw April" of 2005 that deposed the mercenary Lucio Gutierrez, a comforting nationalist wind blew through these latitudes, finding expression in partial recovery of political and economic sovereignty.
After that ephemeral first moment, the middle class Palacio, apparently pressurized by his behind-the-scenes advisors, decided to plump for stability through compromise with external forces and with the domestic establishment.
The pitcher spilt out so much in that direction that social unrest grew vertically, to the point where, by November 2005, huge indigenous-popular demonstrations called by the Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Ecuador (CONAIE) paralysed the country with a broad petition of complaints and demands, especially the Free Trade Treaty that the government was "negotiating" with the White House and the demand for the termination of the contract signed with Occidental Petroleum on account of its multiple legal and moral abuses.
The rebel masses condemned the presence of United States military in the base at Manta, Plan Colombia; the IMF-World Bank recipes; the untouched power of the national oligarchy and the Bank-ocracy; dollarization; the mafia democracy led in Congress by supporters of Leon Febres Cordero .
Equally, they demanded the calling of a Constituent Assembly; nationalization of natural and energy resources; land reform; reactivation of production; a return to monetary sovereignty; public safety and attention to the population's basic needs.
That is to say a similar platform of denunciations and proposals that sustains the current processes in Venezuela and Bolivia, as much from the perspective of replacing "savage capitalism" as for the launching of the long-discouraged integration of our countries.
Confronted by the angry insurgency, Palacio surprised everybody by resuming the nationalist line of his first months, especially on geo-politically sensitive energy policy.
Specifically, the doctor-President put through parliament a reform of the Hydrocarbons Law so as to fix an equal, fifty-fifty share of the huge profits of foreign oil companies, and a little later he announced the termination of the contract with Occidental Petroleum.
These measures in practice put a brake on the Free Trade Treaty with the US which - as was foreseeable - provoked the response from George W. Bush of suspending the final round when the colonialist treaty was almost ready .
The White House decision generated apocalyptic visions and inconsolable anguish among our ecua-gringos (the "nation-sellers" of the forthright popular saying) - and also, curiously enough, for our own president!
Soon afterwards, the tenant of the Carandolet hosted Hugo Chavez with whom he signed agreements to encourage energy cooperation between Ecuador and Venezuela and anticipated rejoining the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Simultaneously and in flagrant contradiction to its revived nationalism, the regime has persisted in undermining and financially strangling Petroecuador (8); offered the former Occidental-operated oil fields to governments little enamoured of the Caracas-Havana-La Paz bolivarian axis; taken the part of a neo-liberal Community of Andean Nations and finally continued its auto-da-fe by supporting the Washington and Wall Street crusade against "narco-terrorism".
1. Elections were held recently in Chile, Colombia and Peru.
2. Pablo Escobar led the notorious Medillín drugs cartel with Alvaro Uribe and his family had close links. He was killed in 1993.
3. Jorge Eliecer Gaitan was a progressive Colombian political leader murdered in 1948.
4. Jose Antonio Galan was a leader of the nationalist Rebelion de los Comuneros in 1781. Camilo Torres was a revolutionary priest and pioneer of "liberation theology". He was killed in 1966.
5. Montesinos, currently in jail, was the sinister strongman behind disgraced former president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori. Mario Vargas Llosa is a prominent, talented right-wing novelist-cum-politician.
6. Peru's capital Lima is located in the valley of the river Rimac where archaeological remains of earlier settlements abound.
7. Carandolet - the residence of the President of Ecuador.
8. Petroecuador is Ecuador's State petroleum company.
- Altercom - Agencia de Prensa de Ecuador.
Comunicación para la Libertad.
- René Báez Economista, investigador y escritor ecuatoriano. Profesor universitario. Premio Nacional de Economía. Pertenece a la International Writers Association.