Anger brewing against NAFTA and the TPP has changed the political debate.
By Carmelo Ruiz-MarreroA progressive wave has been sweeping Latin America for over a decade, but right-wing forces in some countries have been refusing to accept the results at the voting booth. All over the region, the left has come to power through elections, as voters have repudiated neoliberal policies and free trade ideology. In Brazil, now one of the world’s top 10 economies, the leftist Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) has won the last three presidential elections and will likely win the next. In Uruguay, the progressive Frente Amplio has won the last two presidential elections. The country’s current president, the former guerrilla Pepe Mujica, is one of the world’s most popular heads of state. In Bolivia, the people elected Evo Morales, of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), to the presidency in 2006, where he has served two terms. Morales, a campesino organizer, is the first indigenous head of state in modern Latin American history. In Ecuador, the left-leaning Alianza PAIS party’s candidate, Rafael Correa, was elected president in 2006, and he has served three terms. Under his government, a constituent assembly wrote a new constitution, one of the most progressive in the world, which was approved in a national referendum. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas, who were so reviled by President Reagan, were voted back into power in 2006 and 2011, with former rebel leader Daniel Ortega as president. In El Salvador, the FMLN, once the main guerrilla group, won the presidential elections in 2009 and again just a few days ago. But some right-wingers in Latin America have not been accepting the will of the people. There have been coups against democratically elected progressive Latin American governments in recent years. Some were foiled — in Venezuela and Ecuador. And some succeeded — in Honduras and Paraguay. Today, in Venezuela, the right-wing opposition is fomenting protests to destabilize the democratically elected government of Nicolas Maduro of the United Socialist Party. Opposition leaders are even refusing to meet with Maduro to try to end the civil strife there. Meanwhile, Washington has been funding some Venezuelan opposition groups. To many people in Latin America, what’s happening in Venezuela is all too reminiscent of what happened in Chile four decades ago. Back then, the CIA was plotting the overthrow of the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende. The agency had funded the opposition and the violent street protests in Chile and had a hand in the 1973 coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. We seem to be seeing the same script being played over again in Venezuela. And in El Salvador, the far-right ARENA party, long associated with murderous death squads, has threatened violence rather than accept defeat in the recent tight presidential election there. If left-wing groups were opposing these democratic victories, Washington would be up in arms. But when right-wing groups destabilize democracy, too often Washington turns a blind eye — or, even worse, assists them. This pattern has got to change, or the United States will continue to lose favor throughout Latin America. Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican author, journalist and environmental educator. He can be reached at email@example.com. Copyright Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero