The Deserted Cities – XII

Image: João Nitsche


Comments on recent events in international politics

Cases and deaths skyrocket

The number of cases and deaths in the world has skyrocketed again due to Covid-19. The curve had approached 600.000 new daily cases. By October 30th, it had reached almost 573.000, until, on November 5th, it took a leap: it surpassed 613.000. And it continued to grow until it reached over 660.000 on November 13th. The number of daily deaths also grew. The highest number had been 8.534 on April 17, in the first wave of the pandemic. Then the wave subsided, and between May and June the death toll dropped to around 5.000 daily, to rise again to 7.312 on 22 July. Then the European summer began and the death toll dropped again to below XNUMX in early October. A third wave, in early November, has already surpassed April's numbers, reaching more than ten thousand deaths per day.

Five European countries were again among the top ten with the highest number of cases in the world. France, England and Italy saw it rise to around 35.000 new cases daily last week. The next two weeks will be key to controlling the pandemic in England, officials say. The number of hospital admissions is fast approaching April peaks. Germany, Spain and Russia had just over 20.000 daily cases. According to Germany's Center for Disease Control, last Friday, the country had the highest number of new infections (23.5420), above the previous record (23.399), and was approaching the moment for the adoption of closure measures.

Central European countries, members of the Visegrad group – Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia – performed well in controlling the pandemic. But that has changed. Cases have risen rapidly and authorities fear that health services are close to collapse. The four countries are considering some form of closure to control the contagion. But the list of cases and deaths continues to be led, by far, by the United States, which approaches 190.000 daily cases, followed by India, with more than 45.000, and Brazil, with around 35.000. The three account for almost half of the cases and deaths in the world. Last week, the United States passed 250.000 deaths due to the pandemic, followed by Brazil, which is close to 170.000, and India, with 130.000. At the current rate, when he leaves office, there will be over 300.000 deaths to the Trump administration's account. As for the number of deaths per million inhabitants, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, in that order, are among the top ten, followed by the United States and Mexico.

The origin of all things

"It has been clearly demonstrated that our ability to quickly remove Allende is very limited," said Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser to President Richard Nixon, in a secret memo sent to him on Oct. 18. Just a week later, far-right groups assassinated the Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean army, General René Schneider. It was the first attempt to provoke a military revolt, which prevented Allende from taking power, on November 3, 1970.

One year after the military coup led by General Pinochet on September 11, 1973, he ordered the assassination of his former friend and predecessor in command of the army, General Carlos Prats. The crime was committed in Buenos Aires by the Directorate of National Intelligence (DINA) on September 30, 1974, where Prats, an anti-coup soldier, was in exile. A bomb, placed under his car, killed him and his wife, Sofía Cuthbert. The details of the US government conspiracy were again in evidence with the publication of a series of documents that reveal the plot to overthrow the Chilean government led by Salvador Allende.

Six days after Allende was sworn in, Kissinger handed the heads of the CIA, Department of Defense and Secretary of State a top-secret memo entitled "Policy for Chile." The document summarized guidance that emerged from a National Security Council (NSC) meeting with Nixon on the matter. The document summarized the position adopted by the president, at the suggestion of Kissinger himself:

(1) The public position of the United States will be correct but cold, in order to avoid giving the Allende government a base that allows it to gain national and international support to consolidate the regime; but…

(2) The United States will seek to maximize pressure on the Allende government to prevent its consolidation and limit its ability to pursue policies contrary to the interests of the United States and the hemisphere.

"I definitely think this policy is important considering its effects on other people in the world," Nixon said, echoing arguments Kissinger made to him four days earlier about the possible effects of the "Allende model." “The effect of the 'Allende model' can be insidious, it can have effects elsewhere, especially in Italy; if reproduced, it could have a significant effect on the world balance sheet and our standing in the world,” said Kissinger. "If Allende shows he can implement an anti-American Marxist policy, others will think they can too." That was his assessment.

The directive authorized US authorities to collaborate with other governments in the region, especially the military dictatorships that ruled Brazil and Argentina, to coordinate efforts against Allende; to quietly block multilateral bank lending to Chile and end US export credits and loans; to encourage US corporations to leave Chile, and to manipulate international market prices for Chile's main export, copper, to do as much damage as possible to the Chilean economy. The CIA was authorized to prepare plans in this regard for future implementation. "Helms (CIA Director Richard Helms) has to get rid of these people," Nixon told Kissinger, referring to the covert operations that were being planned. “We made that very clear,” Kissinger replied.

The consequences of that coup d'état are evident today. The effects of Washington's initiative are well known and were remembered on the 50th anniversary of Allende's election last September. It strengthened the military regimes, gave rise to “Operation Condor”, a coordination between the dictatorships of the Southern Cone for the kidnapping, disappearance or murder of opponents throughout the region and, above all, opened the avenue for a neoliberal model of the economy, whose effects are now under criticism worldwide. Effects evidenced, moreover, by the tragedy of Covid-19. It is more difficult to know whether the eventual successful government of Allende could become a “model” with worldwide influence, as Kissinger feared.

In Chile, a process has been opened for the convening of a Constituent Assembly, approved in a plebiscite last month, to replace the one that left Pinochet. Its members will be elected next April, amid public protests that broke out in the country in October last year and have not ceased. But the policy promoted by Washington at that time ended up having an effect in the United States as well, as was inevitable. Finally, there too, the government questioned the popular will expressed at the ballot box, causing the usual experience of intervening in elections in Latin America to be reversed and installed in its own country.

About Knives and Guns

In this war, the republicans do not give in at all. They are fighting with guns a war that Democrats want to win with knives, said David Sirota, a columnist for The Guardian in the United States, speechwriter for Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic candidacy. Sirota remembers the 2000 campaign, when the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, accepted a court decision that prevented the total vote count in Florida, giving victory, by a handful of votes, to his Republican rival George W. Bush. His article was published on Thursday, November 12, as Trump was taking to the courts to challenge election results in several states. “The Democrats refuse to see the slow-motion assault that the Republicans intend to take the election with,” he said. Trump isn't just throwing childish tantrums, "it's part of a criminal plan," he claimed. In his view, Trump and his supporters are campaigning to create an environment that convinces a significant portion of public opinion that fraud has taken place, so that it can go to court and challenge the results. In any case, the attempts of legal proceedings against the elections have lost strength as the electoral authorities of each state have confirmed the fairness of the process.

Sirota recalls, however, that the US Supreme Court now has three justices, appointed by the Republicans, who were directly involved in the “Bush vs. Al Gore case that stole the election in 2000 in favor of the Republicans”. Also on Nov. 12, White House correspondent Maggie Haberman wrote in the The New York Times that the president had met the day before with a group of advisers to discuss his chances of reversing the election result. For Haberman, however, it's simply a strategy to keep his supporters on edge, then start fighting, hoping to "keep his millions of supporters excited and committed to whatever comes next, whatever that may be." He recalled that Trump has already announced his intention to run again for office in 2024. Whether he does or not, he added, "this will keep an already crowded field of potential Republican candidates frozen."

Perhaps. For Zeynep Tufekci, however, the Republican leadership is optimistic. They know that Trump “is ready” and rejoice. Why not?, she asks, in an article in The Atlantic. Republicans have nothing to complain about: they firmly control the Supreme Court; will likely control the Senate, over which there will be a runoff to elect Georgia's two senators on Jan. 5. Democrats have to win both seats if they want to win a majority in the Senate, which seems unlikely. "If they don't control the Senate, he said, Biden would be the first president since 1989 to take office without controlling both houses of Congress." In the lower house, although still in the minority, Republicans won more seats than they expected; maintained their positions in the states; and "diversified their own coalition, winning with more female candidates and greater support from nonwhite voters." Everything is ready, said Tufekci, for a more talented politician to take over Trumpism's legacy in 2024.

Republican trap?

Biden, for his part, thinks he can work with his rivals to achieve his goals. But he is wrong. “The era of bipartisanship is over,” said the correspondent for the The Guardian in Washington, David Smith. A senator for 37 years (from 1973 to 2009), Biden dreams of his "good old days in the Senate," Smith said. “This is more than naive, it is an illusion. He is living in a past that was destroyed a long time ago and whose remains ended up being incinerated by Donald Trump,” he said. A naivete that is also lamented by George Mombiot, another columnist for The Guardian. “A tear came out of my eyes, I placed a hand on my heart. In his victory acceptance speech, Biden called for unity and reconciliation. I hope I'm wrong," said Mombiot.

“America is fundamentally divided. Divided between exploiters and exploited, oppressors and oppressed. No unity is possible between kleptocrats and oligarchs”. Mombiot is implacable with the legacy left by Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, who, in his opinion, opened the doors of the presidency for the current president. In his attempt to reconcile irreconcilable forces, Obama chose not to face the banks' greed. He allowed his Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, to pave the way for ten million families to lose their homes after the 2008 financial crisis; its Justice Department blocked efforts to investigate alleged financial fraud; promoted trade agreements that deteriorated workers' rights and the environment; governed amid growing inequality and concentration of wealth, job insecurity and a record of mergers and acquisitions. “In other words, it failed to break the consensus that had grown up around the dominant ideology of our time: neoliberalism.” If Biden also resigns to break this consensus, he could open the doors of the 2024 elections to a competent autocrat, concluded Mombiot, as Tufekci had already warned in his article.

global crisis

Biden will find a world with a crisis that is not just conjunctural, a world where other powers – such as China, Russia, India, Iran or Turkey – compete for power at the global or regional level with the United States, said José Dirceu, minister of the house civil service during Lula's first government in Brazil. “As in the rest of the world, I am very afraid of the neoconservatives who surround Biden and who will return to the Pentagon and the State Department”, said, in turn, the former Greek economy minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who is now a member, with Senator Bernie Sanders, a Progressive International. Varoufakis is also under no illusions. I would be sorry if Trump had won the election,” he said, “but we helped put a president in the White House who will act on behalf of the big interests.” "I just hope he doesn't jeopardize the one good thing Trump has done internationally, which is not to start any new wars." “If Biden surrounds himself with people who, against all the evidence of past decades, still believe in the unlawful threat and use of military force as the basis of American foreign policy, then the international cooperation the world so desperately needs will be sabotaged for four more years. years of wars, hostilities and international tensions, without our most serious problems being resolved”, conclude Medea Benjamin, American political activist and founder of the NGO Code Pink, and the British journalist Nicholas Davies.

*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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