As the Chinese proverb says, “a single spark can start a prairie fire”, and the many battles underway in Latin America and the Caribbean seem to confirm it.
Chile is a particularly significant case because it has always been held up as an example of the supposed benefits of the new capitalism of so much market and so little state, so much globalisation and so little care of national sovereignty.
The huge citizen protest has still not brought about Piñera’s resignation but it did ensure the popular victory in the referendum for a new magna carta that eliminates the one inherited from the dictatorship.
A process of new struggles has started between the popular majorities and the Chilean bourgeoisie and its associated social layers who are trying to hold on to their privilege.
Events in other countries are also significant. The changes in the presidency of Peru are based on another broad social protest movement demanding political democracy and economic democracy in a country whose dominant class has for decades imposed the neoliberal model with similar results to Chile.
There is certainly growth, but development does not exist; the GNP has increased because more raw materials (mostly mining products) are being exported but the social majorities are not seeing improvements in their living standards; on the contrary, they are experiencing more poverty and marginalisation.
The soulless practices of multinational companies have a negative impact on the population (the majority indigenous communities) and harm the environment (with the complicity of the authorities) leaving little or no benefit for the country.
The vast corruption that affects the institutions leaves the new Peruvian government with an immense challenge in front of it since the popular mobilisations are not showing any signs of weakening and are now a key element in the control of public policies.
The fire is not less in Colombia, a country affected by a deep crisis at every level and with a government that is clearly overwhelmed by events.
Here it matters little what is written into agreements solemnly signed by governments. It doesn’t matter much what the rules say, but in this country the authorities never comply.
Promises of land for the poor peasantry don’t come to anything, just like promises of better working conditions for salaried employees, respect for indigenous and black communities, and protection of the lives of social activists, opposition politicians and guerrilla fighters who have given up their weapons and who are assassinated daily with total impunity.
And much more serious still, the government decision to sabotage the Peace Agreements with the FARC-EP, solemnly signed and equally unfulfilled.
Nowhere else do assassinations happen with such impunity as in Colombia. Are we seeing a repeat of the extermination of the Patriotic Union, a party that was born out of a previous peace process with guerrilla groups and which suffered around five thousand assassinations including two presidential candidates from the left, parliamentarians, mayors, social activists and anyone suspected of “sympathising with communism”.
The media hardly mention the subject and faced with daily crimes the authorities’ response remains the same: “There will be a thorough investigation”. Everybody knows how those investigations end up.
Nor has the murdering of social leaders, human rights activists and environmental defenders in Honduras ceased since the popular government was eliminated by corrupt military officers and parliamentarians (with the assistance of the Pentagon).
The panorama is not peaceful in Paraguay either. A process of removal of the popular government took place there using similar mechanisms to those applied in Honduras and in Brazil against Dilma Rousseff.
However, the left has maintained its popular support judging by the recent local elections, whereas the right-wing Bolsonaro has experienced a huge setback.
The extreme poverty of large sections of the population and the racist practices fed by the government itself have brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators out onto the streets, triggered by the recent murder of a black citizen.
The spark of a large fire is also visible in this colossus of the continent and points to important events in the immediate future.
Argentina is not exempt either, subjected to criminal pressure by the IMF to pay a debt incurred by Macri’s former neoliberal government. The popular mobilisation here could also set off a change.
The case of Bolivia proves especially significant because it combines many of the factors of the continent’s political processes: radical economic, social, political and cultural demands.
Radical because they go to the root of the problems, the very structure of the social order.
The demands are no longer slogans exclusive to enlightened minorities or to political parties, rather they are embodied by the people themselves, by the poor who constitute the immense majority of the population.
There is, then, a sufficient level of awareness to drive substantial change, social and political organisations exist of sufficient calibre to play a decisive role in relevant events (electoral and of other types) and Bolivia’s new government plans to reform the military to avoid the coup tactics that were used against Evo Morales.
In Ecuador and in Guatemala (where parliament is burning), the problems persist and the countries are a long way from enjoying a stability that guarantees the interests of the creole bourgeoisie and its foreign allies.
In Venezuela, the policies of blockade and open war by Washington and the oligarchies do not appear to have had the expected result: there has not been a popular uprising against Maduro, nor is it likely that the blockades and sabotage will prevent the government regaining control of the National Assembly in next December’s elections.
This time there will be participation from the opposition, who seek dialogue, all of which gives Maduro enough power to negotiate some sort of advantageous deal with Washington and with the moderate internal opposition.
In addition, Caracas appears to have gained the support of the armed forces for its change process, leaving the local bourgeoisie without its usual tool for effecting coups d’ état. Moreover, they have modernised them to effectively prevent a possible foreign intervention.
It is claimed that they already have almost four million militiamen, from popular armed forces, as the best insurance against a possible external aggression or a civil war that would seek to destroy the Socialism in the Twenty-First Century project that Chávez left as an objective and that has been kept as a goal.