"Our objective with the Free Trade Area of the Americas is to guarantee control for North American businesses over a territory which stretches from the Arctic to the Antarctic, free access over the entire hemisphere without any difficulty or obstacle for our products, services, technology and capital." Colin Powell, US Secretary of State
"U.S.-Latin American relations have sunk to their lowest level that they have been at since the overthrow of Chile�s President Allende in 1973" Council on Hemispheric Affairs
It is very clear that there are two confronting agendas for Latin America. Bush�s agenda is cast in terms of the fight against terrorism and the virtues of free trade, by which he means to isolate and defeat all forms of popular opposition to the expansionist interests of US multinationals. Against this a new generation of Latin American leaders like Chavez, Lula and Kirchner are seeking a way out from the external debt, that will end hunger and respect the right of their peoples to development.
The Organisation of American States summit in Monterrey was called for governments to discuss �strengthening democracy�. It has just ended amidst massive disagreement. This follows the stalled talks over the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in Miami last November, and in the wake of the breakdown between North and South at Canc�n. The contrast between the two agendas is stark. Bush came to Monterrey to attack Fidel Castro, the new leaders came to attack poverty.
Opposition to the US project stems from social movements across the continent as well as from governments. There are many voices in this struggle, a natural plurality of views, which is something to be welcomed. Latin America is breaking from Bush�s �those who are not with me are against me� mentality. Washington is nervous, and particularly concerned to reassert control over the Andean region where it fears the resurgent indigenous movements, especially were Evo Morales to be elected in Bolivia, could tip the balance against its whole agenda.
Uribe is one of Bush�s key allies, he wants Uribe to succeed as an example for the right. But Uribe�s presidency has began to falter. The left is gaining strength in Colombia. At the level of ideas the neoliberal project is exhausted, but it must be forced through anyway. Three quarters of the electorate abstained in the referendum of 25th October, so massively rejecting Uribe�s package of budget cuts (ordered by the IMF) and constitutional changes (led by his own ambition). The public sector is in ruins – health workers have not been paid for 6 months. Uribe�s programme of more cuts and increased taxes has no popular mandate, yet his Plan B is to implement them anyway. Uribe�s mandate is from Colombia�s criminal ruling class, backed by Bush and the IMF, not the Colombian people. His rule will of necessity become increasingly authoritarian.
Uribe relies on Bush economically and militarily, a dependence that determines his pro-US role in international affairs. This year Uribe hopes to conclude a bilateral free trade deal, at the expense of Colombia�s neighbours if necessary as well as its own people. Both sides of the confrontation in Latin America are seeking allies in Europe. Blair�s position is a foregone conclusion, he will follow Bush�s agenda. and support Uribe, no matter how authoritarian and fascistic the regime is becoming.
Our challenge is to mobilise people on the side of development and human rights. We need to unite broad forces against the US project for Latin America. Those of us aligned against US imperialism need to follow and share in the new developments. Finding processes that strengthen democracy is a theme for us in the solidarity movement as well. We need to be inclusive rather than exclusive. We too should engender a culture of many voices and one struggle.