It’s not all doom and gloom, as Pablo Navarrete explains, Latin America offers the left hope and inspiration.
While the political horizon in the UK looks bleak with little real choice beyond business as usual, there is hope if we look further afield.
In Latin America, 2021 saw presidential election victories for progressive candidates in Peru, Honduras, and Chile. This has come on top of a wave of recent advances in the region that have reinvigorated those fighting for a better world internationally.
Latin America is showing us that the right can be defeated and is providing us with much needed hope and inspiration.
In Bolivia, a November 2019 US and UK-backed coup that overthrew left-wing president Evo Morales was overturned in less than a year. Relentless grassroots mobilisations against the coup were key to its eventual defeat. People hit the streets even in the face of brutal repression by the security forces of the far-right Jeanine Añez coup regime that ousted Morales.
Añez was forced to offer new elections and Luis Arce, a key minister for most of Morales’s presidency, won a landslide victory and became president in November 2020. Bolivia is now making great strides to recover from the economic and social devastation caused by the coup regime.
In the UK it’s only the non-stop protesting and campaigning by the Kill The Bill movement over the last ten months that has seen some of the worst aspects of the draconian Police Bill put on hold for now.
Whether it’s in Bolivia or the UK, people protesting on the streets can make a massive difference to overcoming the forces of reaction.
In Chile, defeating the right and the violent imposition of neoliberal economics associated with them is taking much longer but some key recent wins have excited many around the world.
Left-winger Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old former student leader and member of parliament, trounced José Antonio Kast, a far-right politician and open admirer of former dictator Augusto Pinochet, in December’s presidential election run-off.
Let’s not forget how friendly Margaret Thatcher was with Pinochet whose brutal dictatorship oversaw the murder and disappearance of more than 3,000 people while hundreds of thousands were imprisoned, tortured, and exiled.
Boric takes office in March and alongside an important process to replace Pinochet’s constitution with a new progressive one, his election has given hope that a new Chile lies on the horizon. It was mass street protests that began in late 2019 that provided the spark that has energised those fighting the right in the country. “Neoliberalism was born in Chile and it will die in Chile!” has been a rallying cry of protestors.
Mass street protests against repressive right-wing governments in Brazil and Colombia could also mean that the left in these countries win crucial presidential elections set for later this year. These victories would be a massive blow to the US, which continues to support coups against the left and prop up blood-soaked right-wing governments in the region. The UK plays a similar if less influential role, so if we want to help progressive governments in Latin America, we should do all we can to hold our government to account for their support of right-wing forces and anti-democratic practises in the region.
While Latin American countries have very different histories and circumstances to the UK, the biggest thing we can learn from the victory of people’s movements there is not to give up and to keep fighting. Popular protests and uprisings have proven to be key in weakening the right and contributing to their defeat at the ballot box.
Of course, Washington won’t give up trying to make sure that a politics for the many doesn’t take hold in Latin America, but if people there can resist and fight in the face of brutal repression and then win, this should give us the courage and inspiration to do the same here.
As Chile’s left-wing poet Pablo Neruda, who died in mysterious circumstances shortly after the September 11th 1973 coup, once wrote: “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
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