On the Current Right-Wing Backlash in Latin America
On the current right-wing backlash in Latin America and how Hillary and co. relate to it:
Observations from Venezuela
By Miguel Tinker-Salas
I would submit that events in Honduras are not isolated, but rather part of a right wing counterattack taking shape in Latin America. I have been arguing for some time that the right is rebuilding in Latin America; hosting conferences, sharing experiences, refining their message, working with the media, and building ties with allies in the United States. This is not the lunatic right fringe, but rather the mainstream right with powerful allies in the middle class that used to consider themselves center, but have been frightened by recent left electoral victories and the rise of social movements. With Obama in the White House and Clinton in the State Department they have now decided to act. Bush/Cheney and company did not give them any coverage and had become of little use to them. A “liberal” in the White House, gives conservative forces the kind of coverage they had hoped for. It is no coincidence that Venezuelan right wing commentators applauded the naming of Clinton to the State Department claiming that they now had an ally in the administration. The old cold-warrior axiom that the best antidote against the left is a liberal government in Washington gains new meaning under Obama with Clinton at the State Department.
Coup leaders in Honduras and their allies continue to play for time. Washington’s apparent vacillation is allowing them to exhaust this option, but so are Colombia, Mexico, Panama and others. After all, this coup is not just about Honduras but also about left success in Latin America, of which Honduras was the weakest link.
It is increasingly becoming obvious that there is no scenario under which they will accept Zelaya back. I do not think that they have a plan “B” on this matter and this speaks to the kind of advise they are getting from forces in the U.S. and the region. If Zelaya comes back, the Supreme Court, the Congress, the military and the church all lose credibility and it opens the door for the social and political movements in Honduras to push for more radical change that these forces would find more difficult to resist.
But Honduras is only part of the equation. Colombia’s decision to accept at least 3 new U.S. military bases or Forward Operating Locations, (including Palanquero), dramatically expand the U.S. role in the country and throughout the region. The U.S. military has been eyeing Palanquero with its complex infrastructure and extensive runway for some time. This is a very troubling sign and speaks volumes about how the Obama administration plans to respond to change in Latin America. A possible base on the coast would also offer the recently reactivated US Fourth Fleet, a convenient harbor on the South American mainland. In short, Venezuela would be literally encircled. However, Venezuela is not the only objective. It also places the Brazilian Amazon and all its resources within striking distance of the U.S. military, as well as the much sought after Guarani watershed.
The recent media war launched by Alvaro Uribe against Ecuador and Correa once again claiming financing of the FARC and the more recent offensive against Venezuela concerning 30 year old Swedish missiles, that, like the Reyes computers, cannot be verified, have filled the airwaves in Venezuela, Colombia and the region. The current Colombian media campaign was preceded by Washington’s own efforts to condemn Venezuela for supposed non-compliance in the war against drug trafficking.
Lost in all this, is the fact that Uribe is still considering a third term in office and his party has indicated it will push for a constitutional reform. So conflicts with Ecuador and Venezuela serves to silence critics in Colombia and keep Uribe’s electoral competitors at bay. All we need now is for Uribe to ask the Interpol to verify the missiles' origins and director Ron Noble to give another press conference in Bogota. Déjà vu all over again!
The right and its allies in the U.S. are also emboldened by the electoral victory in Panama and the very real prospects of leftist defeats this year in Chile and even Uruguay. Obviously they are also encouraged by the humiliating defeat of the Fernández/Kirchner’s in Argentina. These developments could begin to redraw the political map of the region. Bolivia will undoubtedly come under intense pressure as they are also preparing for an election later this year.
All this is occurring with an increased U.S. military commitment in Mexico with Plan Mérida which seeks to build on the lessons of Colombia; maintain in power a president whose economic and social policy are highly unpopular, but who relies on conflict, in this case the so-called war on the drug cartels, to maintain popularity. Parts of Mexico are literally under siege including Michoacán, Ciudad Juarez, and Tijuana. The backdrop for this is a divided left, the PRD was the biggest loser in recent midterm elections, and social movements remain localized and unable to mount a national challenge.
None of these developments are forgone conclusions, but rather speak to a concerted counter attack by the right wing in Latin America and its allies in the U.S.