Saturday, March 22, 2008


Latin America

We Won, but We Lost
An interview with Raquel Gutiérrez

click here for the full interview
click here for information on Raquel Gutiérrez
Bolivia - Last November, Olivera and Frank interviewed Gutiérrez during her brief visit to Bolivia. The following is an english translation of their conversation.

Question: In Europe, it is generally believed that Latin American governments have turned rapidly towards the left (Chávez, Lula, Kirchner, Morales, Correa) and that they identify themselves as part of a new wave of leftist politics in Latin America. Do you agree with this concept?

Raquel Gutiérrez: It is clear that the opposition to neo-liberal measures and the struggles following the terrible privatizations, plunder, devaluation of labor, and all the other disastrous happenings of last two decades, have led to the return of what is now being called a “progressive” government.

The experience of Venezuela is very positive; the experience of the other three countries could end up being very similar; although each has its particularities. But what we are experiencing are governments that claim to be assuming a leftist position only in the sense that they are not continuing the unchecked implementation of the neo-liberal programs of the past.

There has been a limiting of the excesses of past decades, but only that. A series of economic and political measurements continue to preserve a central tenets of what created a slow dismantling of social rights all over Latin America.

To begin with, these so called progressive governments continue allowing foreign capital investment in diverse sectors under conditions that are very adverse for the state. They continue proposing development programs centered on needs that are not agreed upon internally by the people, but which serve the need of accumulation. And perhaps most importantly, these governments are implementing policies only within the neo-liberal framework, which means that political parties remain the only means of representation. This is absolutely contradictory to what society was trying to construct in the moments in which the people broke from the grip of neo-liberalism. Social movements carried out this struggle outside the boundaries of political parties. Let’s look at some examples.

Mr. Kirchner, for example, has maintained energy production as a central focus of his government. , That is, he enables the Argentine state to continue producing energy in partnership with transnational companies and he has subordinated internal prices to undetermined international ones. He did a good job of stabilizing the country again, but he did not open new factories, nor did he support the widespread movement of re-appropriation of local, abandoned companies. So, if we have a “leftist” government that is partnering with certain transnationals and that is antagonizing and punishing workers, I ask myself: is this what it means to be leftist?

Let’s take Lula–perhaps the most frightening case. Lula is in his second term. He has not begun to implement an agrarian reform, which is the primary social issue in Brazil. Lula ground energy production in Petrobras even though it is not really a Brazilian state company but has essentially become a foreign company because of the type of business partnerships it has established. Additionally, Lula has completely become beholden to the increase of soybean cultivation as a means for producing ethanol despite the fact that this goes against the interests of the Brazilian people. Brazil’s prison system and its agrarian policy also make me wonder whether this is truly a leftist government.

Let’s talk about a country close to all of us: Bolivia. There we see a nationalization that is not a real nationalization but is merely a set of changes in the contracts with the oil companies to generate a little more revenue. Nationalization was one of the demands of the Bolivian people throughout years of struggle. We also have an agrarian reform that is not really an agrarian reform, but is a timid attempt to limit the expansion of continually growing extensions of agrarian property. The new law puts a limit on the possibility of expanding, but it is not a redistribution of land. Economically, Bolivia has is absolutely open to transnational capital. I ask myself: is this what a leftist government has to do right now? To me this is the central question concerning this wave of progressive governments.

These governments were born from Latin American societies’ attempts to limit the brutality of neo-liberalism. Yet they are governments which, nevertheless, lack direction and advance with an exasperating slowness, producing a frustration in their own societies that increases by the minute and that furthermore serve as the base on which the right wing reconstructs itself. That is to say, it is not that the right reconstitutes itself because the governments are very leftist, but rather the opposite: the right begins to capitalize off of this frustration and they put forth issues because the people gradually begin to feel that they are not represented by their progressive government.

Let’s talk panoramically: In Brazil, to a certain extent, and in Argentina and Bolivia with greater clarity, there was a popular movement that went beyond the liberal political institution (the party system) and beyond the established forms of decision making and beyond progressive government. For Néstor Kirchner’s government in Argentina—like for the Morales government in Bolivia—the reconstruction of governability or stability was a high-priority task. But this is a contradiction to the movements that brought these governments to power. During their struggles, the people operated from a position of autonomy, with their own organisms of self-governance. Theirs was a completely different way of understanding coexistence and collectivity. In my opinion, this is what constitutes a true and authentic leftist program. I therefore challenge the idea that these Latin American governments are progressive. To assume these government are the desired product of these social struggles skews our vision and prevents us from understanding the processes of social transformation we lived for the last several years. There is a contradiction between this tendency of self-governance and self-determinism (what I consider a true leftist agenda) and our new progressive governments that have elements of old nationalism and that generate dependency. I do not believe that this is conducive to any type of liberation.
[Link above for the rest of the questions]


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