By Ken Livingstone
Im pleased to be speaking at the upcoming annual Latin America Conference. This is a highlight of the progressive calendar here in Britain, and a vital event to support socialist parties, workers, trade unions and progressive movements in Latin America who are standing up to both neoliberalism and hostility from the Trump administration, and standing together for a better world.
At the current time, US hostility to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba is increasing dramatically with Trump as president.
This hostility comes alongside his backing for the far-right governments in Brazil and Colombia, and we need to be clear that it is up to the people of Latin America to determine their own future, not Donald Trump.
Two countries in Trump’s firing line at the moment are Venezuela and Cuba.
To firstly look at Venezuela, the truth is that over the past 20 years the US has endeavoured to destabilise the country, and under Trump we are now seeing a full-on financial blockade in its attempt to bring about regime change, which is of course illegal under international law.
All progressives must condemn the US threat of military action against Venezuela.
Let’s be clear. Such US-led regime changes have been a disaster in other countries such as Iraq and Libya in recent years, and there’s no reason to believe it would help the people of Venezuela.
This is not about democracy or human rights — it’s about gaining control of the world’s largest proven oil reserves.
Nor is it about helping the people of Venezuela. Polling suggests the majority of Venezuelans — both pro- and anti-government — are against the harsh US sanctions, which damage the private sector and living standards of ordinary Venezuelans, including the poorest. Extending these further will only make things worse.
What is needed in such a situation is dialogue, but instead the Trump administration is introducing sanctions, threatening military intervention and trying for a coup.
These actions will not facilitate dialogue, but exacerbate difficulties and divisions. Backing up this reactionary agenda, the Bank of England is refusing to hand back to Venezuela $1.3 billion of its own gold.
And it’s important to note this approach aimed at illegal regime change from the Trump administration isn’t just the case with regards to Venezuela.
While Trump threatens Venezuela, he is also tightening the screws on Cuba, intensifying the illegal blockade.
Indeed, we have recently seen the increasingly hawkish Trump administration recently announce the most severe economic sanctions against Cuba since the illegal US blockade was first introduced in 1962.
Even before these new acts of aggression, the US blockade already constituted the longest economic sanctions against any country in history.
It has cost the Cuban economy more than £735 billion since 1962 and the US has continued to pursue it despite nearly unanimous opposition in the international community, as confirmed by an overwhelming UN vote every year against the blockade.
In November 2018 the UN backed a resolution for an end to the US embargo on Cuba by 189-2. Only the US and Israel voted against.
Despite the illegal blockade, in areas such as health and education, Cuba has made amazing gains in recent decades, and also shared these advances with people across the world.
Trump’s actions in tightening the blockade threaten all of these achievements, and we stand firmly with the Cuban people against Trump’s bullying. His illegal sanctions on Nicaragua must also be opposed.
The last few years have seen a worrying return of the right wing in Latin America, with the gains made by progressive leaders across the continent coming under fire, as exemplified by the far right winning the presidency in Brazil.
In light of this it’s important to keep up our solidarity and be clear that whatever problems countries like Venezuela face, neoliberalism and US intervention is not the answer.
We stand with the left and unions across Latin America, from celebrating victory and ongoing progress in Mexico, to offering solidarity to those fighting the rise of fascism in Brazil, to working together against illegal regime change and for dialogue in Venezuela, rather than Trump’s war and coup threats, and also stand together in opposing the illegal blockade of Cuba.
Let’s not let there be anymore Pinochets in Latin America. Let’s stand clearly with all those in the region fighting for social progress and self-determination, against Trump’s intervention.
Hear Ken and guests from across Latin America speak at the Latin America 2019 Conference at Friends House, Euston, London on Saturday November 23. Tickets and further info are available at bit.ly/lat19ticket