The “Bolivarian” left suffered two traumatic electoral defeats in recent weeks: In Argentina, right winger, pro corporate candidate Mauricio Macri won the presidential election in Argentina, and the right wing opposition captured a two thirds majority in the Venezuelan National Assembly.
But all is not gloom and doom for the Bolivarian left. On Dec. 9, the ruling left wing Unity Labor Party (ULP) of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves won re-election, for the fourth time, over the more conservative opposition. Though the margin was not huge (the ULP won eight parliamentary seats to the opposition New Democratic Party’s seven), it is solid and is seen by many as resulting from the high level of prestige of Dr. Gonsalves, who has been prime minister of this tiny Caribbean nation of (population 110,000) since 2001. Polls have shown Gonsalves to be more popular than his party.
The Unity Labor Party is friendly to Cuba and has integrated the country into the Bolivarian “pink tide” tendency in Latin America, including into ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, which groups the most socialist-oriented states in the Western Hemisphere. The New Democratic Party, on the other hand, stresses foreign investment from the wealthy capitalist countries as its strategy for development.
Gonsalves was one of the most eloquent speakers in the U.N. General Assembly debate this year, on the annual vote to condemn the U.S. blockade of Cuba. He has also been very outspoken on global warming and its impact on island nations like his own, on the rights of the Palestinian people and on the demand for the wealthy nations to pay reparations for the genocide of indigenous people of the Americas, the slave trade and slavery.
Gonsalves has also been outspoken on the situation in the Dominican Republic, where thousands of people of Haitian descent face racist discrimination and potential mass deportation to Haiti.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a poor country which depends on banana exports and tourism for most of its foreign earnings, while many necessary items have to be imported. Like other countries similarly situated, its big challenge is to diversify its economy to reduce its dependence on commodity exports. It has benefited from the PETROCARIBE program whereby it has been able to import Venezuelan oil on good terms. The country is also a powerful voice within CARICOM, the Caribbean Community of nations, and has worked to integrate that grouping with the Bolivarian bloc.
Photo: Ralph Gonsalves | AP