The conflict for hegemony

Image: Lara Mantoanelli
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By GILBERTO LOPES*

Russia, China and the United States

Thousands of people marched last Wednesday, March 24, in Buenos Aires, remembering the nearly 30 people murdered or disappeared, on the 45th anniversary of the 1976 military coup. “I have never felt my son so close as this year. He was part of that little-named group of more than XNUMX political prisoners, of thousands murdered by a genocidal dictatorship,” said Lita Boitano, president of the organization Families of the Disappeared or Prisoners for Political Reasons in Argentina.

Documents recently declassified from the National Security Archive revealed the involvement of the US government in the coup that overthrew Isabel Perón on March 24, 1976. The documents showed how the then CIA Director – and later US President – ​​George HW Bush informed President Gerald Ford about the hit two weeks earlier. The US government assured the Argentine military that it would recognize the new regime. The State Department privately indicated that the military would rule for a long time and with unprecedented severity. How it actually happened.

The same support they had given to the military coup in Brazil in 1964; in Uruguay, in June 1973, and in Chile, in September of the same year, all responsible for thousands of murders, torture and disappearances of political opponents. Dictatorships that, also with US support, later created “Operation Condor”, with which they coordinated their operations in the Southern Cone.

They supported the Argentine military until 1983, after the dictatorship, already weakened, tried, with the assault on the Malvinas Islands occupied (by the British), to awaken a patriotic feeling in the country. At the time, Washington supported England. It facilitated the sinking of the cruiser Belgrano – causing the death of 323 sailors, of its little more than a thousand crew members – and the triumph of its ally.

The war lasted two and a half months. The defeat precipitated the end of the military dictatorship and consolidated the role of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Britain. Little by little, the tragedy faced by the Argentines at the hands of the military became known. Torture centers were discovered, the kidnapping of babies born in captivity, the procedures used to throw the bodies of captured opponents in the Rio de la Plata, sometimes still alive.

45 years have passed

I keep imagining that 45 years ago – at exactly the same time that President Joe Biden announced today, at a press conference at the White House, that he will hold China accountable for human rights violations – a crisis committee closely followed the assault on power. that they had helped organize in Argentina. “The United States will not remain silent in the face of human rights violations,” Biden said at his press conference. "The day we move away from this commitment to human rights, as the last president did, we will begin to lose our legitimacy in the world."

President Biden knows little about his country's history. The barbarism of that time was always committed in the name of democracy and freedom. Just like today. But there is a fundamental difference: the story is the same, but the world has changed.

In those years of dictatorships in Latin America, we still didn't know it, but the world was moving towards the end of the Cold War. The time had begun when Reagan and Thatcher claimed that there were no alternatives in the world they were beginning to build. They seemed to be right.

With the opposition destroyed, with its leaders assassinated, exiled, imprisoned, military dictatorships gradually lost their meaning. Certain freedoms were restored, but one of the teams was decimated. The other, extraordinarily strong, also had the judge at her side. Today, that world no longer exists. And the account, lacking any relation to the existing world, lost its misleading appeal. After all, as two mediocre American academics rightly said in 2002, it is influence, not power, that is most valuable.

For the American president, the battle being waged at this moment is between democracies and autocracies in the XNUMXst century. And he fires at the body. Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “murderer”. The Chinese, Xi Jinping, “does not have a single democratic bone in his body”. The United States – he assures – will not remain silent in the face of human rights violations. Then he added: the day we move away from this commitment, we will begin to lose our legitimacy in the world. He's not wrong, he's just wrong about the date, about the times of this story.

The Hope of the Elites

José Olympio, president of Credit Suisse in Brazil, supported Bolsonaro in the 2018 elections. Asked last week if he would support him again, he replied: “At that moment, he represented hope. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out as everyone expected."

Everyone? A hope? Bolsonaro's useless trajectory in his 35 years as a deputy was already known; his expulsion from the army as a lieutenant for being a troublemaker; his exaltation of violations of the military dictatorship, including torture. In short, a character that Olympio would certainly not hire for his bank.

Perhaps the military support that was given at that time by the army commander, General Eduardo Villas Bôas, with the support of the entire high command, made them dream of repeating a government with roots similar to those of the 60s of the last century in Brazil . Public support, expressed by the military high command in a warning to the judges of the Federal Supreme Court against any pretense of adopting measures that would make Lula’s candidacy for the presidency in 2018, then widely favored, viable. And another shameful one, expressed in private, in a secret conversation between Villas Bôas and Bolsonaro, whose content – ​​they guaranteed – they would take to the grave.

But the world has changed, as we have already seen. For 45 years or more, the hopes of these conservative groups were pinned on the United States and the military, executors of these policies. It was influence rather than power that animated them.

A similar policy is not possible today. The first to know about this are the military. Among other things, because this discourse of freedom and democracy does not find a reality that echoes it. Governing in the name of freedom and democracy gave them a solid foundation, as long as they managed to make an important sector of the population believe in it. Today, what do they have to offer? They tried through the fight against corruption. Only to have them – they and their allies – revealed to be privileged and even more corrupt.

Then chaos ensues. Because, even decimated, without having been able to recompose their discourse and their project, the defeated of half a century ago are only little by little, with difficulty, reorganizing their forces. While the winners of that time watch the collapse of a project that, after half a century of implementation, ended up taking the world to an unsustainable level of polarization. The Covid-19 pandemic has only exposed the perversity of the system, which plunges millions into poverty but adds to wealth between three or four billion in just one day.

It's not about human rights

It is not about human rights, but about hegemony, opined the Global Times – a newspaper that unofficially expresses the views of the Chinese government. In an editorial, he commented on the statement by Russian foreign ministers, Serguei Lavrov, and Chinese, Wang Yi, issued on March 23, after a joint meeting. It is the first time – says the article – that China and Russia, two member countries of the Permanent Council of the UN Security Council, express their ideas on the issues under discussion: human rights, democracy and international order.

There are many reasons why the international system is facing severe turmoil. But more important, the article adds, is that the United States and its allies define democracy and human rights as they see fit. "You cannot manage affairs in the world through sanctions and ultimatums, imposing on other countries the behaviors they expect," said Lavrov. “Such methods are inadmissible in international life. We have repeatedly stated our position in this regard, including in the joint declaration”, signed with the Chinese side.

The declaration had already criticized the “Western attempts to promote its conception of a 'rules-based world order'”, to which the Russians and Chinese oppose the “current system of international law”. For them, he said, “the world order should not be based on international law, but on these rules. Sanctions are part of these rules,” added Lavrov.

also the EU

The day before, the European Union had announced sanctions against China, which it accuses of genocide against the Uighur population of Xinjiang. For China, the accusation of “genocide” is nothing more than a “big lie”, and it responded by doubling the number of sanctions in the European Union, which, in turn, responded offended. The European Parliament threatened to suspend the vote on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) – negotiated for seven years and recently signed by Beijing and Brussels – as long as Chinese sanctions remain in force.

As if the deal were a European concession to the Chinese economy. But the Global enviroment Times recalled that the postponement of the entry into force of the agreement will affect the European industry, especially the German automobile industry. The European Union has been swept up in the Biden administration's new policies towards China. Trump had followed the line of sanctions, especially trade. But he tried to do it in isolation. “The most important diplomatic focus for the Biden administration is not the bilateral management of relations with China, but its new openness towards regional neighbors, as well as its European partners,” recalled commentator Ishaan Tharoor, in the The Washington Post. “Biden tries to recruit the European Union to form an 'alliance of democracies'” against China, wrote Beatriz Navarro, Washington correspondent for the Catalan daily La Vanguardia.

But Patrick Wintour, diplomatic editor of the British daily The Guardian, see things differently. According to Wintour, the United States and Canada follow the European Union and the United Kingdom in their policy of sanctions against Chinese officials over the Xinjiang case. Only boundless naivety – or bad faith – can explain why the diplomatic editor of the The Guardian claims some autonomy in European policy vis-à-vis Washington in this case (and in others as well, such as in Latin America, where sanctions and threats are always aimed at governments that disagree with Washington). As he himself points out, the secretary of state “in the shadow ”, Lisa Nandy of the Labor Party described the sanctions as “a dirty, cynical and desperate attempt to buy votes”, in the face of a complicated parliamentary debate over a bill that many fear could criminalize the protests. He also refers to the signing of the investment treaty with China and the threat of its non-ratification by the European Parliament and states that Germany, in particular, is concerned that the sanctions will destabilize economic relations with China. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, the investment agreement is not a gift from one party to the other. This is the biggest difficulty that Biden's policy has in dragging the European Union behind its own.

*Gilberto Lopes is a journalist, PhD in Society and Cultural Studies from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR). author of Political crisis of the modern world (Uruk).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves

 

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