Latin America’s Struggles are Cause for Optimism Around the World – Dr Francisco Dominguez

Dr Francisco Dominguez is the head of Latin America Studies at Middlesex University, he was speaking at a recent solidarity event – “Latin America’s Struggle: Opposing US intervention, Neoliberalism & the Far-Right.” Read his contribution in full below.

Online meeting – Opposing US Intervention, Neoliberalism & The Far-Right

This is a very timely event and thanks very much to Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America for organising it.

It has been mentioned by Bernard Regan (Cuba Solidarity Campaign) that 243 sanctions have been applied against Cuba and 431 applied on Venezuela since 2016 and 2017. Of course, the sanctions against Cuba have been devastating particularly in the last period, and there are 60 years of that.

In the case of Venezuela between the years 2017-18, 40,000 people died unnecessarily due to the sanctions alone and it is estimated that since then over 100,000 more people have died unnecessarily, with the sanctions affecting the most vulnerable, the poorest, the weakest the, chronically ill and so on.  

It’s a difficult job to talk about the overall situation in Latin America, but I want to start with a positive note:  We are winning, it’s been very tough, no question about it, but we are winning.

Starting with Nicaragua, this little, beautiful, proud Central American nation; they were able by themselves to defeat an almighty horrible, nasty, well prepared coup d’état. USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy organised the coup d’état; it took them about four years to plan it. From what we know these US bodies disbursed something like 40 million dollars to pay for organised destabilization on the ground – which is what they’ve done in Cuba (US$40 million as well) and which they’ve done in Venezuela. It’s exactly the same method. And extraordinarily they managed to win, they managed to defeat the coup and not only that, the Nicaraguan people managed to actually organise things in such a way that their defence meant that now Nicaragua is going to be able to have democratic elections on the 7th of November. This is quite an important election but I’ll come back to this later.

When I recently looked at the history of Nicaragua again, I realized the following: ever since 1838, when Nicaragua became independent, it has been intervened into by the United States almost non-stop.  So if you take from 1838 all the way to 1933 the United States invaded the country several times, and in 1933-34 it installed a dictator, the Somoza dictatorship, that lasted 43 years. So one can say that from 1838 to 1979 Nicaragua suffered from the continuous intervention of the United States against its national sovereignty. Between 1979 and 1990 Nicaragua made the revolution, had the Sandinista government, but there was the Contra War that lasted about seven eight to years, so again the United States would trample upon the national sovereignty of Nicaragua. And then in at the 1990 election the United States were able to engineer the defeat the FSLN; and from 1990 all the way to 2006 Nicaragua was under the pressure of neoliberalism with the intervention of the United States.

So it’s only in 2006 when Nicaragua actually begins to have some relief and you can see the results. There is no space to go into the details, but the level of social progress and the level of the expansion of democracy that has been taking place in this little country from 2006 all the way until 2019 is absolutely amazing. Imagine what would have happened had the United States not intervened so much for so many years – nearly 150 years – in the internal affairs of Nicaragua. So this is wonderful that they are doing this and I’m delighted to inform you that these elections are taking place on the 7th of November, that is to say, domestic differences in Nicaragua, which do exist, are going to be resolved through democracy.

 In Venezuela we’re doing even better, even though the economy is in a very poor state. Politically the Maduro government has been able to inflict defeat, after defeat, after defeat, not only to the United States but also particularly to Venezuela’s extreme right-wing, who are on the floor.

Just to give you an indication of these changes: 19 members of the US House of Representatives sent an open letter to President Biden in which they demanded: the immediate lift of all financial and sectorial sanctions against Venezuela; the to US work the United Nations and other multilateral bodies (Red Cross and so on) to help Venezuela sort out its crisis; support dialogue and engage with President Maduro directly through diplomacy; and engage in dialogue with everyone in Venezuela. In the letter they say – as though they had read the information work of our solidarity campaign – the following:

Our policy towards Venezuela promotes suffering, not democracy. [I, Representative Jesus “Chuy” García] Along with @RepRaulGrijalva & 17 members of Congress, I sent a letter to @SecBlinken calling on the Biden Administration to lift sanctions, end politicization of US assistance & engage in direct diplomatic dialogue.

This is pretty good. What it means is that it is possible for politicians around the world, certainly in Europe and certainly here in the UK to actually send similar letters to Biden and their governments with similar demands.

President Maduro’s conditions for participation in the dialogue that is taking place in Mexico are pretty much the same: lifting of all the sanctions against Venezuela; all participants to recognize all Venezuela’s state bodies, including the National Assembly; and to renounce all illegal and violent means to bring about regime change. As a result of this the dialogue is going to produce elections on the 21st of November where it looks pretty likely that Chavismo is going to win.

There is an urgent task to isolate the United States, Bolsonaro and Uribe, not only them but they are key, the reason is what the United States is doing to Latin America, what Bolsonaro is doing to the Brazilian people, and what Uribe is doing to the Colombian people, which is abhorrent and horrendous, it’s absolutely horrendous. We need to isolate them and in Latin America we have the political capacity for that.

The second task is regional integration, which is absolutely urgent: the more we work together the easier it is to actually implement these things. What we have is Lopez Obrador in Mexico, Alberto Fernandez in Argentina, Luis Arce in Bolivia, we have Pedro Castillo in Peru, we have Elisa Loncon Antileo, the indigenous Mapuche woman president of Chile’s Constitutional Convention that will bury Pinochet’s constitution and neoliberalism in that country, we have the Sao Paulo Forum, we have the Alba Group of countries, we have Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and we need Brazil.   

Brazil is an absolute must; we must ensure that we work together in order to, on the one hand support people like Castillo when he’s under pressure, on the other hand continue the pressure against the United States so that it lifts the sanctions and engages in diplomacy with Venezuela, and we help any government that is in trouble, particularly Cuba and so on. Regional integration is very important.

Finally, about a point being made by some small, insignificant currents and individuals, that the international left has a problem with some of the progressive governments in Latin America. This is not true at all: The Sao Paulo Forum is the Latin American left, they represent millions of votes, its parties have hundreds of thousands of members; the ALBA Group is the other one, and then there is the Puebla Group set up and led by Lopez Obrador from Mexico and Alberto Fernandez from Argentina; they are in support of all the progressive processes in Latin America.

We have to ensure to deploy all of our resources to intensify the pressure so that the world that we need to build, that we are building, is possible and there’s no question about it that resistance pays off. Never, ever, give up. Viva Latin America!   

  • Dr Francisco Dominguez is Head of Latin American Studies at Middlesex University.
  • You can watch this major solidarity meeting back in full here.