The desert cities – IV

Image: Stela Grespan
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By GILBERTO LOPES*

In Latin America we are suffering a renewed Plano Condor

Almost a million dead! More than 31 million cases! Seven months into the pandemic and the world, upset, is surprised to see an increase in outbreaks, renewal of quarantine periods, uncertainty about the production of effective vaccines. Uncertainty also about an eventual economic recovery, after the unprecedented collapse of the world's main economies in the first half of this year.

The United States this week surpassed seven million cases and 200 deaths, a number that Donald Trump cited as the upper limit that could be reached with good management of the pandemic. The dead could range between 100 and 200, he said in late March. “If we stay at 100 dead – which is a horrible number – we will have done a great job”. And he added: “it is very likely that the peak of the disease could occur in two weeks”. Almost six months later, all these numbers have been surpassed and, on the current average, the United States would arrive at the elections on Monday, November 3 with about 250 dead from this coronavirus.

India continues to slowly approach the numbers of the United States. It already exceeds 5,5 million cases and approaches 90 deaths; followed by Brazil, with more than 4,5 million cases and about 140 deaths. Peru continues to lead the number of deaths per million inhabitants in the world, with 942 (behind only the microstate of San Marino), followed by Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Ecuador, in that order, all among the top ten of this tragic list in the world .

Return to the neoliberal model

Covid-19 has changed the electoral calendar in Latin America, forcing the postponement of the general elections in Bolivia to September – originally scheduled for May – and finally to October 18, the date that is supposed to be final. These are elections called after the coup d'état of October last year, which ignored the outcome of the elections with the support of a manipulated report by a commission of observers of the Organization of American States (OAS), unleashed violence in the country and forced President Evo Morales into exile.

Also in Chile, the holding of a plebiscite on the reform of a constitution inherited from the regime led by General Augusto Pinochet was postponed, finally scheduled for October 25, a week after the elections in Bolivia. Luis Arce, economist, candidate of the Movement to Socialism (MAS), former minister in the Morales government, leads virtually all electoral polls in Bolivia, with more than ten points ahead of his main rival, former president Carlos Mesa, in a election in which five other candidates participate. The country's current de facto president, Jeanine Áñez, resigned her candidacy last week to support Mesa.

In any case, we will have to see if Arce can win in the first round. In a survey of the initiative "Your vote counts”, broadcast last Friday, to the question “If the elections were next Sunday, who would you vote for?”, Arce obtained, among the valid votes, 40,3%. Table, 26,2%. Very fair, but not enough to win in the first round. In a second round, with the support of the other sectors that participated in the coup against Evo Morales, it would probably be difficult to maintain this advantage. “What the right offers us is a return to the neoliberal model, with racism and submission to transnational interests,” said Arce, at the inauguration of the 2020 Summit of the Progressive International, organized last Friday.

The virtual meeting, inaugurated by former Greek economy minister Yanis Varoufakis, then held three round tables, the last dedicated to the “struggle for democracy in Latin America” and the application of the “lawfare”, or the judicialization of politics. It is the new model through which conservative sectors have been expelling rulers of the opposite sign from power and preventing them, through legal accusations, from being able to run as candidates later. This was the case in Brazil, with ex-president Dilma Rousseff and ex-president Lula, which was repeated in Bolivia, with Evo Morales, and in Ecuador, with Rafael Correa, both prevented from running for election, and which exiled themselves. In Bolivia, the Ministry of Government, in alliance with foreign forces, began to persecute opposing political leaders, denounced Arce. “We are living in a very disguised dictatorship, without tanks in the streets. But we are the object of harassment and political persecution”.

The right-wing coalition does not even have a common program, he said. Its only objective is to prevent the MAS from becoming a government. MAS is the only party that guarantees that Bolivia's natural resources – lithium, iron, etc. “Do not fall into the hands of transnationals,” he added.

On the occasion of the Progressive International, the Ecuadorian presidential candidate Andrés Aráuz, the Colombian senator Gustavo Petro and the Argentine diplomat Alicia Castro also spoke. Araúz, also an economist, stated that “they want to steal our democracy. What Luis Arce described in Bolivia is also happening in Ecuador. They eliminated the party that supported us and we had to ally ourselves with another one in order to compete. They issued a very accelerated sentence to prevent Rafael Correa from participating in the elections and are also trying to eliminate our candidacy. Our democracies are threatened by the judicialization of politics, the lawfare, the use of judicial power to exclude progressive representatives,” he said.

A renewed Condor Plan

Colombian senator Gustavo Petro called for coordination of political forces on a global scale around climate change. "Climate change could wipe us off the planet, it could wipe out the human species." We have to change the logic of capital, that form of production that led us to a civilizing experience the likes of which the human species has never seen, said Petro.

Argentine diplomat Alicia Castro warned that, in Latin America, we are experiencing a renewed “Plan Condor”, a reference to what the Southern Cone dictatorships put into practice to disappear, torture and assassinate popular leaders after the military coups in the 70s. ripped the veil over the complete failure of the current system. The greatest power in the world, the United States, cannot heal its sick or bury its dead. On the other hand is the violence of inequality. It didn't start with the pandemic, Castro said, but with it, its utter crudity became evident. Ours – she added – “is the most unequal region on the planet; the differences are obscene” and asked for a program that includes taxes for large fortunes and for financial activities, an extraordinary tax for those who obtained extraordinary profits – such as the technological sector, or pharmaceutical companies –, in addition to a debt moratorium, among others measurements. The progressive sectors had advanced in Latin America, rejected the FTAA in 2005, created UNASUR. “With this regional unit we achieved strategic objectives. But soon came the rematch. We had not imagined the power of lawfare”. “First they hit Dilma Rousseff; then the trial of Lula, who was kidnapped from the elections. This was the lab. Then, Evo Morales was kidnapped and Rafael Correa is being kidnapped in Ecuador”, he added. Castro recalled that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on the border between Brazil and Venezuela “in a threatening attitude”. “The matrix they employ is the same as the one they employed in Libya: demonizing the president, creating internal struggles, promoting media lynching. They organize parallel governments – rude figures like Guaidó and Áñez –, they create a great internal malaise and, finally, they gather a number of excuses to intervene militarily, which threatens all of Latin America”, he emphasized. He also highlighted the situation of journalist Julian Assange, imprisoned in a high security prison in London and threatened with an extradition trial to the United States "for telling the truth about what happens in this country". Cruel paradox of our time, he added, in which it is very important “to have popular means of communication at our disposal to face the ferocious machine of the media at the disposal of transnational interests”.

Persona non grata

“Mr President, at the same time that I greet you, I want to express my deep dissatisfaction with the disrespectful and irresponsible way in which the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Araújo, treats Brazilian and Roraima interests in our relations with Venezuela”.

Roraima, north of Manaus, is a state located between Guyana and Venezuela, a scenario that Alejo Carpentier tells us about in his novel “The lost steps”, between the Venezuelan border town of Santa Elena de Uairén and Boa Vista, capital of Roraima, in the extreme north of Brazil, separated by just over 200 km.

The letter to the president of Brazil is from the senator for Roraima, Telmário Mota, from PROS (Republican Party of the Social Order). “The invasion of the soil of my Roraima by the United States Secretary of State, former CIA director Mike Pompeo, accompanied by Chancellor Ernesto Araújo, to promote acts of provocation against a neighboring and friendly country, is an unworthy, hostile, unnecessary, without any connection with the national interest. This is another media act aimed at promoting the electoral interests of the Republican Party on the eve of elections in this country,” Mota said in his letter to Bolsonaro.

Who cares about tensions on our borders? the senator wonders. "Gratuitous hostile acts against governments of neighboring countries do not respond to the national interest." We are brotherly peoples, we don't need a war, he said. The next day, he published on his Twitter account: “I do not accept your invitation to dinner, Mr. Mike Pompeo. Go home! What did you come here for?” Mota recalled that, as a result of his efforts to reopen the border with Venezuela, Brazilian exports went from US$6,9 million in June last year to US$14,3 million today, with a favorable balance of US$40,2 million for Brazil. .XNUMX million in the first half of this year.

Pompeo's unusual tour began in Guyana and Suriname, two countries with little presence on the international scene, but which are attracting increasing attention after the announcement that they have enormous oil reserves. The tour continued in Brazil, where Pompeo made, on Friday, in Roraima, a speech renewing his threats to overthrow, by any means, President Nicolás Maduro, whom he accused of being a “drug dealer” and whose head Washington set a price. Roraima, a state with just over 600 inhabitants, is home to the largest Venezuelan refugee camp on the continent, with nearly eight thousand people, recalled the well-known Brazilian columnist Ricardo Noblat in his blog last Saturday. Noblat highlighted the statements by the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, from the conservative Democrats party, Bolsonaro's ally: "Brazil must preserve the stability of its borders and peaceful coexistence with neighboring countries." The Secretary of State's visit "is not compatible with good international diplomatic practice and contradicts the traditions of autonomy and independence of our foreign and defense policies," said Maia. Pompeo's tour ended in Colombia, Washington's closest ally in the region.

On the other side of the world

But the greatest tensions took place on the other side of the world, with the visit of the US undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and environment, Keith Krach, to Taiwan last week. The visit is part of the tensions between China and the United States in the most diverse scenarios, from the economic to the political, in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Probably no case is as sensitive – and with less room for negotiation – as that of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a rebel province and part of its territory. In early September, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused the United States of interfering in maritime and territorial problems in the region by employing military means and fueling the militarization of the South China Sea.

“The United States and the island of Taiwan continue to adopt the 'salami tactic' to expand their relations, increasing the sale of US arms to the island and trying to force mainland China to swallow this trend. They keep throwing stones in the waters of the Taiwan Strait. But, if the stones go too far, they can become torpedoes, increasing uncertainty throughout the region, as well as the risks of drastic changes in the Taiwan Strait”, he said, last September 16, in his editorial, the newspaper Global Times, whose views are considered an unofficial position of Beijing. Taiwan will never be a sovereign state, says the paper. International law clearly states that Taiwan is not a country. Once the People's Liberation Army sends troops to reunify the island of Taiwan, the weapons sold to them by the United States "will no longer be more than an adornment", he says.

For Chinese academics, Washington's move responds to President Trump's electoral interests. But this policy of trying to push back the Chinese position is dangerous, says Yuan Zheng, a senior fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, quoted by the Global Times. Washington may downplay Beijing's decision by escalating its policy of rapprochement with Taiwan. On Friday the 18th, when Krach was scheduled to meet President Tsai Ingwen on the island, the People's Liberation Army began military maneuvers near the Taiwan Strait. “The Taiwan issue is purely an internal matter for China. We cannot allow foreign powers to interfere,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said. But, to avoid an armed confrontation for the time being, the answer could be economic sanctions against companies involved in these negotiations. Between them Between these geographical extremes, South America and Asia, Pompeo, on his return, announced the re-establishment, as of September 20, of virtually all sanctions against Iran, which had been revoked after the 2015 nuclear deal, arrived at, with the participation of the Obama administration, all interested parties. A decision that goes, moreover, against the decision of the UN Security Council, which rejected, last August, the proposal of the United States to reinstate sanctions, including an arms embargo.

If UN member states fail to meet their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is ready to use its national authorities to impose them, as a consequence of violations of the agreements, and ensure that Iran does not benefit from activities prohibited by the UN. , said the State Department statement. It is a measure that does not even have the support of Washington allies, such as England, France or Germany, who sent a letter to the president of the Security Council, stating that the proposal of the United States has no legal effect and that it was also rejected by China and Russia.

Gilberto Lopes is a journalist, PhD in Society and Cultural Studies from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

 

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