Comments, In Focus

Colombia’s quest for justice (I): The international context

Between April 21 -23, the National Patriotic Council will convoke thousands of activists from most of the major urban and rural social movements and trade unions, human rights groups and indigenous, afro-Colombian movements, who will meet to unify forces and launch, what promises to be the most significant new political movement in recent history.

James Petras

United by a common pledge to seek a political solution to over 60 years of armed social conflict, the meeting will decide on a strategy to defeat past and present narco- para political regimes, recuperate land and households for 4 million displaced peasants, Indians, farmers and Afro-Colombians.

Central to the mission of this gathering will be the recovery of national sovereignty, severely compromised by the presence of seven US military bases, the large-scale, long-term takeover by foreign multi-nationals of the country’s mineral and energy resources and the protection of indigenous and afro-Colombian communities from environmental depredation.

The April meeting has been proceeded by mass gatherings, organized by popular councils, intent on breaking military, paramilitary and the landlords political machines’ control over the electorate.

There is good reason to believe that this political movement will succeed where others failed, in large part because of the width and breadth of the participants, the growing co-operation and unity in common struggles for land reform, participatory democracy, and near universal opposition to US backed militarism and the neo-liberal free trade agreement.

A promising context

Never has the international climate, especially in Latin America, been so favorable for the growth of Colombia’s popular democratic initiative and the eventual political success of this “movement of movements”.

Throughout most of South America and the Caribbean a favorable historic moment of regional autonomy has taken organizational form, backed by almost all the major countries in the region.

ALBA( Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America) links a dozen Caribbean and Andean countries in a pact of regional integration led by the dynamic, democratic, anti-imperialist government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

UNASUR,(Union of South American Nations) MERCOSUR(Common Southern Market) and other regional organizations, are expressions of the growing political and economic independence of Latin America and a rejection of the US dominated OAS(Organization of American States).

In practical terms, the growth of these independent regional organizations has meant a rejection of US sponsored military intervention, as illustrated by their repudiation of the Washington backed military coup in Honduras in 2009.

Latin America’s opposition to Washington’s Free Trade of the America’s Agreement led to the growth of intra-regional trade and forced Washington to seek ‘bilateral’ free trade agreements’ with Chile, Colombia, Panama and Mexico.

The growth of autonomous regional integration provides two strategic advantages: it lessens economic dependence on the US and weakens Washington’s leverage in imposing economic sanctions against any nationalist, populist or socialist government in the region. This is evident in Washington’s failure to secure any Latin American support for its blockade of Cuba or sanctions against Venezuela.

The decline of US political influence and economic dominance opens a historic opportunity for a popular nationalist and democratic government in Colombia to realistically develop a new alternative development model centered on greater social equity.

The dynamic growth of Asian markets, especially China, provides Latin America with a historic opportunity to diversify its markets, increase trade and secure favorable prices for its exports.

The advantage of Asian trade relations is that they are not encumbered by subversion by the CIA and the Pentagon – they are based on strictly mutually beneficial economic relations and non-intervention in the internal relations of each country.

The diversification of trade is well advanced: China has replaced the US and the EU as the principle trading partner of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and the list is growing as Asia rapidly expands at over 8% and the US-EU economies wallow in recession.

Latin America is no longer subject to the cyclical volatility of US-EU financial markets.

During the financial crises of 2008-2010 of the US and Europe, Latin America was able to turn increasingly to China for financing: China’s lending to Latin America grew from $1 billion dollars in 2008, to $18 billion in 2009 to $36 billion in 2010. Moreover, countries like Argentina and Ecuador, which cannot access private capital markets in the US and EU because of debt defaults,can draw loans from Chinese state banks.

Between 2005-2010, China lent Latin America $75 billion and by 2010 Chinese loans exceeded the combined loans of the IMF, World Bank and BID.

Moreover, Chinese state banks do not impose harsh political and economic “conditions” to their Latin borrowers as does the IMF. In other words, Latin Americans intent on external financing, can borrow from China to finance structural changes including agrarian reform and the nationalization of banks without fearing economic reprisals from overseas lenders.

ALBA provides an important ‘sub-regional grouping’ and a forum representing a forceful rejection of imperial wars, an opportunity for deeper Caribbean integration and a defense against imperial political and military intervention as well as favorable subsidies on petroleum imports.

ALBA provides Colombia with an opportunity to deepen its strategic ties with Venezuela and Ecuador, as they share a common frontier , highly complementary economies and a common historical and cultural Bolivarian legacy.

In contrast to the period between the late 1970’s to 2000 when Washington dominated Latin America via client military and civilian regimes and the neoliberal dogma enshrined in the so called Washington Consensus of 1996,and limited the freedom of action of an independent popular government, today, a free and independent Colombia would have an immensely more favorable international, political and economic environment.

The decline of US global power

US influence is declining on a world scale: China and India have displaced the US as the major trading partners in Asia, Latin America, Africa and in major countries in the Middle East. Russia’s economy and military has recovered from the catastrophic pillage during the Yeltsin era and is pursuing an independent policy.

This is evident in Russia’s military sales and petroleum agreements with Venezuela, its UN Security Council veto of the NATO backed mercenary assault of Syria and its closer ties with China.

Along with the emergence of a multi-polar world of Russia-China-Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa is in the midst of a series of anti-imperialist and popular democratic rebellions which threaten US client dictatorships.

Equally important the US’s prolonged, costly and losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been immensely unpopular internally, and along with the fiscal and trade deficit and financial crises, has undermined public support for new large scale ground wars.

In other words the US is much less capable of sustaining a large scale military intervention against a major country like Colombia, if and when a new popular government is elected. (To be continued)

(Next week: part 2)

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