Francisco Dominguez, Middlesex University
The 2008 world economic crisis has thrown the whole world into turmoil, especially commodities-exporting economies such as those in Latin America. The crisis has in many cases led to dramatic falls in revenues thus exerting huge fiscal pressures to maintain the recent years of progressive social programmes.
The region’s conservative elites and their chief external supporter, the United States, have been quick to exacerbate many Latin American nations’ current economic difficulties. They have unleashed destabilisation plans capitalising on popular discontent against progressive governments to create the conditions for conservative restoration.
Thus in Argentina, the neoliberal right wing won – by a small margin – the presidential election; in Brazil, the conservative elite using their parliamentary majority impeached democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff, in probably the most farcical legal and political process in history; and in Venezuela, the combination of an economic war – reminiscent of the one unleashed against Allende in the 1970s in Chile – and the collapse of oil prices, has led to shortages, hyperinflation, a black market, contraband and hard currency speculation. These conditions helped the conservative elite win the National Assembly elections in December 2015 and since then Venezuela’s right and its US sponsor have intensified the push to oust the legitimate government of Nicolás Maduro by violent means.
To the above negative developments we must also add the ousting of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras in June 2009 and the ‘parliamentary coup’ that overthrew democratically elected President Fernando Lugo in Paraguay in 2012. It is significant that in both cases the overthrow of progressive presidents led to right wing, hard line, pro-US, neoliberal governments. In Honduras, resistance to voracious multinational companies has already led to the assassination of internationally known indigenous leader, Berta Cáceres.
Nicaragua, Cuba, El Salvador, Ecuador and Bolivia, have been confronted with similar destabilisation plans and face similar pressures both from within and from without. Joe Biden, US vice president, has sought to persuade Caribbean nations to abandon the highly progressive and beneficial Venezuela-sponsored PetroCaribe programme, out of which these small nations obtain oil at preferential prices.
In Mexico, President PeñaNieto decided to privatise the nation’s oil, gas and energy industry, hitherto, the pride and mainstay of the country’s economy. Mexico has been engulfed by a wave of crime unleashed by the drug cartels in a context where it has become extraordinarily difficult to disentangle the forces of the state apparatus and those of organised crime. As a result, between 2007 and 2015 over 170,000 people were murdered in Mexico.
And, even though the restoration of diplomatic relations and the talk of moving towards ‘normalisation’ of relations between Cuba and the US has been welcomed by Latin America and Cuba itself, the illegal US blockade remains in full force and the US refuses to return Guantánamo to Cuba. In fact the road to ‘normalisation’ has been sold to the US establishment as a better way to confront and terminate the Cuban Revolution. Given the dynamics of the current US presidential race, there is no guarantee that even this ‘normalisation’ can be maintained. Donald Trump has already announced that if elected he will reverse all of Obama’s deal with Cuba.
Does this all mean that the forward march of progressive politics in Latin America has come to an end? Not at all. Obviously, there is a complex reality behind each one of the above developments, and only reading the mainstream media will not give you the complete story and in many ways will offer a very biased account.
This is precisely why Latin America 2016 Adelante! is so essential this year. It offers guests from the whole of Latin America who will address the conference in plenary sessions, seminars, and discussion panels. They will provide detailed information and analysis of what is really going on in their nations. This year the conference will focus on how they are organising the fightback both to defend their gains but also to defeat US efforts to reassert its hegemony over the region.
In previous Latin America Adelante! conferences we have listened to ministers, national trade union leaders, the grandson of Nicaraguan historic leader, Cesar Augusto Sandino, Aleida Guevara, Che’s daughter, the ambassadors from Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Argentina, representatives from the trade union movement, cooperatives, and much more from many Latin American countries. Besides, the conference has been addressed by figures such as Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, Tariq Ali and leading members of the trade unions in the UK as well as leading members of the various solidarity campaigns notably those of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
This year the conference comes just days after the US presidential elections and there will be key discussions exploring how the new administration may respond to the countries and movements to its South. There is no other political event that better informs and organises solidarity and understanding of the struggles of the peoples of Latin America in the UK. The conference is certainly the most important event on Latin America in the UK’s political calendar. This year, the ongoing right wing counteroffensive has made the stakes higher than ever. Thus Latin America 2016 Adelante! is also more important than ever.
The defeat of progressive struggles in Latin America would make our struggles over here considerably harder, but their victories will maintain the hope that a better world is a tangible and achievable reality.
Francisco Dominguez is Head of the Latin American Studies Research Group at Middlesex University and will be speaking at this year’s Latin America Conference. The conference will be covering the latest developments in Latin America and features speakers from across the globe including: Ivan Marquez- Colombian peace deal negotiator, Paul Oquist-Nicaraguan minister for National Policy, Teresita Vicente- Cuban Ambassador and many more. Follow this link for tickets and more info. Latin America 2016 Adelante! Saturday, 26th Nov, 10AM, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3LS
This article originally appeared on left futures at http://www.leftfutures.org/2016/11/francisco-dominguez-explains-why-this-years-latin-america-conference-is-more-important-than-ever/