Good Results from Latin American Elections (Guest Post by Paul Pugh)
Paul Pugh is a long-time progressive activist, trade unionist, and city councillor from Thuunder Bay, Ont., who has guest-written previous posts for us on economic policies in Uruguay. Here is a short report from Paul on the outcome of recent crucial elections in Latin America. Thank you Paul, and congratulations on your own re-election this week to Thunder Bay city council!
The re election of Dilma Rousseff was the most important event this past Sunday, as it enables continuation of the PT (Workers’ Party) direction within and outside of Brazil. This is very important for the region, as Brazil is by far the most important country. I’m still trying to analyze the legislative, state and municipal results. Brazil’s political parties and alliances are complex.
Uruguay also held national elections on Sunday. For the pres/vp ballot, the FA (Broad Front – left coalition) won 47.9%, just short of a majority, so there will be a second round Nov 30. The opposition Blancos (Whites) received 30.9%, and the Colorados (Reds – but not in the political sense) received 12.8%, the Independent Party 3.03%. So it looks good for Nov 30, but it’s not over until the ballots are counted Nov 30. For the legislature, the FA won 50 of the 99 Chamber of Deputies, and 15 of the 30 Senate seats – if the FA wins Nov 30, it will have a majority in the Senate, as the VP has a senate vote. The FA also enlarged its base in departmental governments (like provinces), from 11 (in 2010 election) to 14, of the 19 departments. So, Uruguay confirmed its support for the FA.
The election of Chile’s Bachelet (and majorities in both chambers of the legislature), Evo Morales’ huge win for a 3rd consecutive term in Bolivia with corresponding majorities for his party MAS (Movement for Socialism), Dilma’s re election in Brazil, and Uruguay’s re election of the 3rd consecutive FA government bodes well for the region.
I continue to be surprised and disappointed by the accolades with which Paul and other progressives in the North treat the governments of the Southern Cone – stating their re-election “bodes well for the region.”
These governments, very generally speaking, are pursuing neoliberal economic policies and racing to grow their economies in unsustainable ways – following the North rather than proposing and pursuing a genuine alternative to neoliberal globalization.
Take Uruguay, for example – throwing open its doors to international petroleum companies wishing to explore and exploit offshore reserves. The country is also importing an ecological disaster when it sells carbon offsets by planting extensive pine and eucalyptus monocultures, destined for massive foreign-owned pulp mills, which export cellulose to Asia (leaving the contamination behind). Relatively few jobs are created by such activities, and swaths of Uruguay’s population remain unemployed and insecure – in spite of consecutive terms of the FA. The cost of living is similar to Canada, but incomes are much, much lower. Given this record, we should be asking why Uruguay has become an international darling, “country of the year” by the Economist and so on. In Canada I note people giving the FA and Mujica – the country’s affable and curious former revolutionary president who quaintly donates his salary and still lives on his acreage – an uncritical thumbs up. Did he not after all make Uruguay the first country to legalize the cultivation, possession and sale of marijuana? Yet apparently that had more to do with agribusiness lobbying for future profits than with curtailing traffickers.
These countries continue to be dominated by the North, and its multinationals. In spite of a decade of rule by these so-called “left” governments, neo-colonialism is the status quo. “Neoliberalism with a human face” has been more about inserting these countries into global markets with popular consent than about eliminating poverty or curtailing ecological degradation. The indirect control extends through the culture, and is deepening. Kids this year in Montevideo went trick or treating, unheard of 30 years ago.
My partner is an Uruguayan national who used to vote for the Frente, and many of her friends today continue to do so – not because they still wholeheartedly endorse the party, but because they fear the outcome of a country governed further to the right. The FA is no longer the party their parents once supported. It has drifted to its current position in the centre.
Under Dilma, Vasquez, and possibly to a lesser degree under Cristina Kirchner and Bachelet, we should expect to see these governments to continue to emulate the North and pursue a development path with Washington’s seal of approval, rather than pursue alternatives that would actually deal heads on with the climate and jobs crisis.
Most progressives don’t seem to understand just how important this is. There is only one region in the world with a strong progressive resistance to neoliberalism and the “Washington consensus”, and Latin America is it. If anyone leads the world out of disaster, it will be countries like Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, hopefully Chile . . .