Wednesday April 16th, 2014, 12:21 am (EDT)

Latin America

Latin America and the Caribbean

Lula and Social Policy: In the Service of Financial Capital

The Lula government’s concept of social protection is not to be found in any official document or in any paper from his Workers’ Party (PT) or his electoral platforms. This is why it is so difficult for the public at large, unfamiliar with the principles of social policy, to understand the meaning of his proposals and actual policies. In trying to explain this concept, we will discuss the government’s reform of the social security system, underlining its impact on the state apparatus. We will analyze the core of its social policy as represented by the Programa Bolsa Família (Family Basket Program) and describe the way the economic cabinet designs social policy. From this start, we make the point that Lula’s public policy puts on hold previous advances in the field of social rights, tries to create a private health care system, and erects welfare networks not founded upon rights. This last factor is crucial for the creation of a new base of support for the government, one not structured around social, union, and political workers’ organizations… | more |

The Financial Globalization of Brazil under Lula

François Chesnais has defined three stages in the process of financial globalization. The first took place in the 1970s and he calls it “indirect financial internationalization of closed national systems.” Latin American countries including Brazil took part in this process of attracting a substantial volume of loans. The second stage, 1980-85, started with Paul Volcker’s “dictatorship of creditors” and the discovery by Margaret Thatcher of neoliberalism as the doctrine for the new age. The center countries, starting with the United States and Great Britain, unlocked their financial markets by liberalizing the international flow of capital. The interlinking of national systems became more direct and immediate through market finances. In Latin America, the debt crisis exploded with rising interest rates (following the negative Volcker shock) involving massive debt contracted in the prior period brokered by the banking system… | more |

The Brazilian Economy under Lula: A Balance of Contradictions

n the 1980s the Brazilian economy suffered a long spell of stagnation and inflation caused by the foreign debt crisis affecting all indebted countries. That crisis triggered an acute inflationary process that reached 2,012.6 percent in 1989 and 2,851.3 percent in 1993, according to the general price index from the Getulio Vargas Foundation. The second half of the 1980s and the first of the 1990s saw the deployment of successive anti-inflationary plans, starting with the 1986 Plano Cruzado and ending with the 1994 Plano Real.* The period also marked the end of the industrialization strategy known as “import substitution” and the onset of neoliberal policies in Brazil… | more |

The Neoliberal Agrarian Model in Brazil

Since Fernando Collor’s 1989 presidential victory, and most notably since Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s two terms in office (1995-98 and 1999-2002, respectively), economic policies have been enacted in Brazil that represent a subordinate alliance of the country’s dominant classes with international capital. Unfortunately, under President Lula these same sectors have remained in control, and economic policy caters to their interests… | more |

January 2007, Volume 58, Number 8

January 2007, Volume 58, Number 8

» Notes from the Editors

In late November 2006 John Bellamy Foster traveled to Brazil where he delivered addresses on the global ecological devastation of capitalism, and the need for worldwide ecosocialist resistance, at two universities in the state of Santa Catarina: the Regional University of Blumenau and the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Florianópolis. These talks were part of the third annual Bolivarian Days Conference organized by the Institute of Latin American Studies in Brazil. The theme this year was “Social Theory and Eurocentrism in Latin America: The Insurgency of Critical Thought.” The conference provided ample evidence of the vitality of socialist and anti-imperialist critiques both in Brazil and in Latin America as a whole in what is clearly a new era of revolt… | more |

Road to the Iraq War: Two Views of U.S. Imperialism

Greg Grandin, Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States and the Rise of the New Imperialism (New York: Metropolitan, 2006), 286 pages, hardcover, $25.00.
Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (New York: Times Books, 2006), 384 pages, hardcover, $27.50.

The evening before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, I was giving a talk at our main leftist meeting place in the San Francisco Mission District.…I was stunned when an admired leftist comrade began fervently invoking similarities between the Bush administration and the Roman Empire, analogizing Roman legions and the U.S. military. Others piled on, developing the comparison further, also talking hopefully about the ultimate fall of the Roman Empire. I interrupted the ancient history discussion, asking why not look at U.S. history, especially U.S. imperialism in Latin America as a precedent. Silence met my remark, and the discussion of Rome continued.… | more |

Socialism and the Knowledge Economy: Cuban Biotechnology

As authoritatively stated in an editorial in Nature, vol. 436, issue 7049 (July 2005), “Cuba has developed a considerable [scientific] research capability—perhaps more so than any other developing country outside of Southeast Asia.” Cuba has been especially successful in establishing a biotechnology industry that has effectively introduced drugs and vaccines of its own, along with a nascent pharmaceutical industry that has achieved considerable success in exports. Its agriculture and health sectors have been strong beneficiaries of its scientific research. As Nature observed: “It is worth asking how Cuba did it, and what lessons other countries might draw from it.” Indeed, the Cuban case is all the more surprising since it is not only a poor country, but one that has been confronted for decades by a ruthless embargo imposed by the United States, which has been extended to scientific knowledge. Moreover, much of Cuba’s scientific progress has occurred in the decade and a half since the fall of the Soviet Union, which previously had aided it economically and technologically… | more |

November 2006, Volume 58, Number 7

November 2006, Volume 58, Number 7

» Notes from the Editors

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez’s extraordinary speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations in September drew worldwide media attention not simply because he referred to the current occupant of the White House as “the devil” for his nefarious actions as the leader of world imperialism, but also because of his scarcely less heretical praise of MR and MR Press author Noam Chomsky for his book Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. As the foremost dissident intellectual in the United States, Chomsky is generally ostracized by the dominant U.S. media system, treated as a ghost-like or even non-existent figure. The establishment was thus caught off guard when Chávez’s comments suddenly catapulted Hegemony or Survival into the bestseller list, along with another recent Chomsky book, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda. The speed with which orders for Chomsky’s books piled up in bookstores and Internet distributors across the nation demonstrated beyond any doubt that people are hungry for serious radical critiques of U.S. imperialism but seldom know where to look—since all such dissident views are deemed off limits by the ruling media-propaganda system… | more |

Cuban Doctors in Pakistan: Why Cuba Still Inspires

The signs point to the fact that the symbol of the Cuban revolution is reaching the end of his road. Even if it does not formally mark the definitive end of almost fifty years of undisputed leadership at the helm of the island republic, Fidel Castro’s handing over of power to brother Raul in late July is surely a precursor to what will happen sooner rather than later… | more |

October 2006, Volume 58, Number 6

October 2006, Volume 58, Number 6

» Notes from the Editors

Fidel Castro’s illness in August has nurtured the hopes of Miami-based Cuban émigrés and the U.S. ruling class that a “transition in Cuba” will soon be possible. It is often implied that this is a question of a transition to “democracy” and “free elections.” However, what is actually being planned in Washington, as part of a decades-long strategy, is an immediate transition back to capitalism in Cuba—at whatever the cost to the Cuban people… | more |

February 2006, Volume 57, Number 9

February 2006, Volume 57, Number 9

» Notes from the Editors

The victory of Evo Morales, presidential candidate of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), in Bolivia’s December elections was a world-historical event of the first order. Its extent was unexpected, certainly by us. Morales won well over 50 percent of the vote. He vanquished his closest rival, former president Jorge Quiroga (the favorite of international capital) by a margin of more than 20 percentage points. Morales openly opposes neoliberalism and U.S. coca eradication policies, insists on national control of Bolivia’s natural gas and other natural resources, and promises to aid those at the bottom of the society. Bolivia is currently the poorest nation in South America, but it has the second largest natural gas reserves on the continent… | more |

December 2005, Volume 57, Number 7

December 2005, Volume 57, Number 7

» Notes from the Editors

At the end of October John Bellamy Foster and Martin Hart-Landsberg (coauthor with Paul Burkett of China and Socialismand author of Korea: Division, Reunification and U.S. Foreign Policy—both published by Monthly Review Press) traveled to Mexico City to participate as representatives of Monthly Review in the Fifth Colloquium of Latin American Political Economists. John spoke on “Imperial Capital: The U.S. Empire and Accumulation.” Martin presented a paper (cowritten with Paul Burkett) on “China and the Dynamics of Transnational Capital Accumulation.” Among the conference participants who met with John and Martin in a special meeting for Monthly Review were Guillermo Gigliani of Economistas de Izquierda (EDI) in Argentina (see “Argentina: Program for a Popular Economic Recovery” in the September 2004 issue of MR), Alejandro Valle of Mexico, the chief organizer of the Fifth Colloquium, and Leda Maria Paulani, President of the Sociedade Brasileira de Economia Política (SEP). Our hope is that this important meeting will lead to the establishment of a strong connection between MR and Latin American political economists confronting neoliberalism. The final outcome of the Fifth Colloquium was itself a landmark event: the founding of the long-planned Sociedad Latinoamerica de Economía Política y Pensamiento Crítico (Latin American Society of Political Economy and Critical Thought). The new organization will not be simply (or mainly) an academic and professional organization but will be actively dedicated to opposing neoliberalism and to supporting political and social movements for radical change in Latin America. We salute our Latin American political-economic comrades in this important struggle… | more |

Hugo Chávez on the Failed Coup

This article is excerpted from Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution: Hugo Chávez Talks to Marta Harnecker to be published by Monthly Review Press in September. The book covers a wide range of topics, including Chávez’s political formation, the transformation currently taking place in Venezuela, and its place in the global context. In what follows, Chávez recounts the events of the failed coup d’etat of April 11, 2002.—Eds… | more |

The FARC–EP in Colombia: A Revolutionary Exception in an Age of Imperialist Expansion

The United States and the Colombian ruling oligarchy have, since the 1960s, repeatedly implemented socioeconomic and military campaigns to defeat the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia–Ejército del Pueblo, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (FARC–EP). However, this offensive, whose main purpose is to maintain capitalist accumulation and expansion, has resulted in an embarrassing setback for U.S. imperialism and the Colombian ruling class. In a time of growing and deepening U.S. imperialism, it is important to examine this failure. Over the past four decades, despite U.S. efforts, support has risen for what has been the most important continuous military and political force in South America opposing imperialism. I examine how the FARC–EP has not only maintained a substantial presence within the majority of the country but has responded aggressively to the continuing counterinsurgency campaign. I also show as false the propaganda campaign of the U.S. and Colombian governments claiming that the FARC–EP is being defeated. This analysis provides an example of how a contemporary organic, class-based sociopolitical movement can effectively contend with imperial power in a time of global counterrevolution… | more |

Left-Indigenous Struggles in Bolivia: Searching for Revolutionary Democracy

La Paz, the Bolivian capital, rests in a deep valley in the heart of the Andes. The geographical terrain of the city is marked clearly with deep class divisions and the racist legacies of Spanish colonial impositions and ongoing internal colonialism, present since the founding of the republic in 1825. The indigenous peoples-over 60 percent of the population according to the 2001 census-have suffered at the bottom of a wickedly steep social hierarchy that whitens in accordance with class privilege… | more |

Mexico’s Labor Movement in Transition

The Mexican labor movement has been undergoing a profound transformation in the last ten years, the result of twenty years of neoliberal economic policies and the transformation of the Mexican one-party state. A new independent labor movement has emerged which has not only broken with the old state-controlled labor-relations system, but has also put itself forward as the leader of the social movements, and, at the moment, appears as a real political force that can challenge the government.… | more |

Made in Venezuela: The Struggle to Reinvent Venezuelan Labor

Last month, the National Union of Venezuelan Workers (UNT) turned two. Since its inception in May 2003, the UNT has been at the center of debates surrounding the advances of Venezuela’s revolution in the labor arena. At root, these debates turn on issues of worker control: over their factories and over their unions. Democracy is at the heart of the attempt by Venezuelan workers to reinvent a labor movement long characterized by corruption and class collaboration… | more |

Report from Venezuela: Aluminum Workers Choose Their Managers and Increase Production

Alcasa, a state-owned aluminum processing plant in the southeastern state of Bolívar, has long been an important employer in a region where the lion’s share of Venezuela’s mining and processing plants are located. Yet since the mid-1990s it has been plagued by inefficiency and corruption. According to Trino Silva, secretary general of the union, Alcasa’s production has been in “the red” for the past sixteen years. Though the aluminum they produce is in high demand and despite considerable production increases over the past few years, the company has been unable to turn a profit. Silva blames a corrupt factory management that used Alcasa as its piggy bank throughout the 1990s, all the while holding the threat of privatization over workers’ heads. It was no idle threat. A few miles down the road, SIDOR, one of Latin America’s largest steel plants and long the pride of the state Venezuelan Corporation of Guyana (CVG), was privatized in 1997. From a workforce approaching 20,000 full-time direct employees (with several thousand more contract and temporary workers) in the late 1980s, SIDOR has downsized to only 4,000 direct employees and approximately 6,000 contract workers… | more |

Prevention and Solidarity: Democratizing Health in Venezuela

Halfway up the hill, in a semi-finished, rustic house, a sheet divides the consulting room from the treatment room. Rarely is there a need to identify oneself upon arrival. “How are you Mr. Antonio, has your pressure decreased?” says the fifty-three-year-old Venezuelan nurse Carlota Núñez. Antonio goes in and, little by little, the inhabitants of the neighborhood Las Terrazas de Oropeza Castillo, municipality Sucre, Caracas move through the waiting room… | more |

On Revolutionary Medicine

This simple celebration, another among the hundreds of public functions with which the Cuban people daily celebrate their liberty, the progress of all their revolutionary laws, and their advances along the road to complete independence, is of special interest to me… | more |