Important political changes are taking place in Latin America.

In Brazil, at the head of a center-left coalition led by the Workers Party and the Communist Party of Brazil, running on a program of change, Luís Inácio Lula da Silva won the presidency of the largest country in the continent, arousing a strong feeling of hope in the 170 million Brazilians who – in the phrase coined after the release of the election results Oct. 6 – overcame fear.

In Ecuador, where political and economic instability prevails – combined with a shocking deterioration of the people’s living standards – ex-colonel Lúcio Gutiérrez, who also led a broad coalition of political and social forces, won the presidential election, defeating candidates representing oligarchies and imperialists. Gutiérrez is known for his participation in the January 2000 Indian-popular rebellion, an extensive and deep civic-military movement that brought down the government, opening a perspective of revolutionary change in the Andean country.

Brazil and Ecuador, each with its own particularities, constitute eloquent signs of a strong trend that will certainly mark the political scenery in the continent for a long time. This trend points to the growth of struggles and the cry for deep changes in the social order. It was manifested in a different way and by different routes in Argentina in the thundering demise of the administration of Fernando de La Rua and the appearance of a new social movement, a distinct and progressive trait amidst the open chaos and ruined institutions; in the memorable Bolivian electoral campaign of Evo Morales, the convergence point of the national and popular will, particularly of the Indian peasantry, against the domination of the oligarchies and the country’s dependency; in Venezuela, where the coup attempts, sabotage and direct interference of the United States still were not able to stop the impetus for change aroused in the population by the Bolivarian revolution; in Uruguay, where the Broad Front became the main political force of the country with great chance of also winning the government; in Paraguay, a country lacerated by successive crises with tragic endings, where the peasant movement, the urban struggles, the regrouping of the left forces and the military all objectively join forces; in Peru, where true popular uprisings were staged against privatizations and where Toledo’s populist administration has just suffered a severe defeat in the elections; and in Colombia, where the generalized attack perpetrated by Uribe’s right-wing administration against civil liberties with the pretext of fighting the guerillas makes it even harder to find a fair and lasting solution to the conflict that has worsened over more than four decades.

Add to all that the unified movement that is being built against the Free Trade Agreement of the Area (FTAA), based on the same national consciousness that repudiates privatizations and payment of debts at the expense of famine among the people. The two referenda held in Brazil – in 2000 regarding the foreign debt and in 2002 regarding the FTAA and the Alcântara Rocket Lauch Center – paradigmatically characterize that feeling.

It is certain that the trend of changes in Latin America needs time to take root, as it is also marked by the intermediary character of the major political forces. It is variegated in its tangible forms and paths, its rhythm is uneven in different countries and its intensity still corresponds to a relation of forces conditioned by the defeat of socialism as a world system and by the exercise of hegemonism by the American superpower. But the developing phenomenon is revolutionary in its core.

Latin America is undergoing the end of a cycle that coincides with the crisis of neoliberalism and an unfair and iniquitous international order that must perish in order to open the way to social progress. The dramatic degradation of the living standards of our peoples is an expression of that fact. According to the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 210 million people live in poverty in the continent, of which 90 million are considered to be destitute. Stagnation, dependency and foreign vulnerability constitute the main characteristic of the economic situation.

The arguments of the early ‘90s, reproducing the clauses of the ‘Washington Consensus,’ are past. Demanding from Latin American countries and peoples more open markets and privatizations, permanent fiscal adjustments and strict payment of foreign debt is throwing fuel to the fire. The limit of the bearable has been reached and only non-economic measures, such as anti-democratic and interventionist incursions from the U.S., could restrain the objective trends under way. That is clear in the Venezuelan crisis and in the behavior of the Colombian administration. And that is what is suggested in the veiled threats found in the declarations of Otto Reich regarding Brazil and Ecuador: ‘Lula and Gutiérrez may be leftists, but as long as they are democratic and ready to be friends with their neighbors and the United States, we can work with them to contribute to the liberty and safety of the hemisphere.’ These are threats that we must take into account and only the struggle of the masses can curb them.

The left-wing forces are trying to tune up to the new trends. The Hemispheric Meeting of Struggle against the FTAA, taking place this week in Havana and the 11th Meeting of the São Paulo Forum in Antigua, Guatemala, may be moments and environments suitable for considering the meaning of the current changes and for gaining a better understanding of the processes of creating new political and economic alternatives to neoliberalism, now in crisis, and of resistance against the hegemonic U.S. policies, of gathering forces and formulating content and methods to give the necessary broadness and mass character to the struggle for democracy, independence and social progress in Latin America.

José Reinaldo Carvalho is a journalist and vice-president of the Communist Party of Brazil, responsible for international relations.


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more. Previously she taught English as a second language and did a variety of other jobs to pay the bills. She has lived in six states, and is all about motherhood, art, nature and apple pie.