Latin American Elections Show a Leftward Shift

Strong shift to support socialist candidates in recent elections across Latin America, including Venezuela’s United Socialist Party
Strong shift to support socialist candidates in recent elections across Latin America, including Venezuela’s United Socialist Party. | Photo: Orinoco Tribune

By Chris Fry

Recent elections in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Honduras, and Chile show a definite shift of popular support for socialist candidates, in open defiance of U.S. imperialism. But since the 2019 Bolivian coup, supported by Trump, that forced out of office Indigenous President Evo Morales, each of these progressive leaders have come under attack by Wall Street and the Biden White House. And each has come under pressure not to switch their recognition from the Taiwan regime to the People’s Republic of China.

Ever since the revolutionary Sandinista Movement overturned the brutal Somoza regime in Nicaragua in 1979, the U.S. has waged a non-stop regime-change campaign, from Reagon’s “Iran Contra” subversion campaign to the present day. The Biden response to the election that culminated in a stunning victory for President Ortega and the Sandinista government on November 7th is no different. Immediately, the U.S. and the EU imposed more harsh sanctions designed to punish the people of Nicaragua for voting for the revolutionary party that has made tremendous progress in improving the lives of the people, particularly the farmers and workers.

In Venezuela. local and regional elections were held on the weekend of November 20. The United Socialist Party (PSUV) won a stunning victory, winning 20 out of the 23 states as well as 18 governorships. Two other states may also go to PSUV after the final tally. The U.S.-recognized opposition leader issued a discouraged statement after the vote:

Guaido, the former speaker of Congress who is recognized by the US and its allies as Venezuela’s rightful leader, said on Monday that the opposition needed to “rebuild itself” after the disappointing result.

In 2009, the progressive Zelaya government in Honduras was overthrown by a military coup, spearheaded by General Vasquez, an alumnus of the infamous U.S.-run School of the Americas. Here is how a June 28th article in Al Jazeera describes it:

Prior to the coup, the slightly left-leaning Zelaya had raised the urban minimum wage to $300 a month and pursued a smattering of other domestic adjustments. While these measures hardly did much to alleviate institutionalized misery, they were still too abominable a departure from business as usual for the right-wing Honduran elite – faithful acolytes of the American empire and replicators of capitalist oppression.

Following Zelaya’s overthrow, the Barack Obama administration [Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state] in the United States took its sweet time debating whether the coup had actually been a coup and should therefore trigger the required cutoffs in aid to Honduras.

Ultimately, the US heel-dragging allowed the Honduran right wing to re-entrench itself in power, and subsequent illegitimate and fraudulent elections – swiftly signed off on by Obama & Co – sealed the deal.

For twelve long years, the Honduran people have endured a right-wing reign of terror, forcing thousands to flee their country. In 2013, activist Berta Caceres, who was organizing against an illegal dam project conducted by a multinational corporation that threatened Indigenous communities in Honduras, spoke about the 2009 coup to Democracy Now and the U.S.-supported fraudulent “elections” that year:

“We’re coming out of a coup that we can’t put behind us. We can’t reverse it,” Cáceres said. “It just kept going. And after, there was the issue of the elections. The same Hillary Clinton, in her book, ‘Hard Choices,’ practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the meddling of North Americans in our country. The return of the president, Mel Zelaya, became a secondary issue. There were going to be elections in Honduras. And here she [Clinton] recognized that they didn’t permit Mel Zelaya’s return to the presidency.”

Two weeks later Caceres was murdered in her own home by the military and dam’s company death squad, led by West Point graduate Roberto Castillo, head of security for that corporation.

No wonder, then, that thousands of celebrating Hondurans poured into the streets when they heard that Xiomara Castro, leader of the leftist Libre Party, won the November 28th presidential election. Castro is the spouse of Manuel Zelaya, target of the 2009 coup.

In Chile, the people also celebrated the election of self-described “democratic socialist” 35-year-old Gabriel Boric to the presidency, who ran against the right-wing Jose Kast. Kast ran on a pro-business, anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ platform and voiced support for the corrupt and brutal Pinochet dictatorship, placed in power by the CIA in 1973. Some 60,000 people lost their lives and 32,000 more were tortured under the Pinochet regime.

Under Pinochet, the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA), Pinochet’s “gestapo”, carried out, with CIA assistance, an international murder campaign, called Operation Condor, of progressives around the world.  Former Chilean Diplomat Orlando Letelier was killed by a car bomb in Washington, D.C., at the personal direction of Pinochet in 1976.

Unlike the other Latin American winners of recent elections, Boric has tried to curry U.S. favor by denouncing the Cuban and Nicaraguan governments as being “authoritarian”.  But in the midst of an ongoing progressive campaign in Chile to replace the Pinochet constitution with one that places climate protection over the powerful mining interests, Boric’s election victory is a sign of definite progress. Also, Boric himself has voiced strong support for the Palestinian cause, calling for a boycott of goods from Israeli settlements.

U.S. Imperialism’s China Syndrome – on its last legs in Latin America

Since signing the “One China” policy with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1979, the U.S. has hypocritically pressured countries, particularly ones in the “Global South”, to continue to recognize Taiwan. But after the PRC announced its massive global “Belt and Road” development program, which only countries that drop recognition of Taiwan can participate in, the list of those not recognizing the PRC has shrunk to a small handful.

The Sandinista government voiced its defiance of Washington when after the election it made its “switch”:

“The People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing all of China and Taiwan is an undoubted part of the Chinese territory,” Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada said in a televised announcement from capital city Managua on Thursday [December 9].

This follows the diplomatic switch by El Salvador and the Dominican Republic earlier this year.

In return for a U.S. promise of substantial reconstruction assistance for Honduras, President-elect Castro, who had suggested that she would recognize the PRC, announced that for now she would continue the Taiwan policy, but may change that in the future.

Biden recently held a virtual “Democracy Summit”, inviting those countries that Washington arrogantly deems “democratic”, as opposed to those that are labeled “authoritarian”. Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and El Salvador were all excluded from the summit, while the murderous Phillipine Duterte regime and  the anti-Indigenous Bolsonaro regime in Brazil were invited because they are faithful servants of imperialism. Taiwan was invited, even though Biden has announced that the U.S. does not (yet) recognize it as a country,  which it isn’t..

So far the Biden administration has done virtually nothing to counter the “anti-democratic” Trumpist neo-Klan groups in the U.S., supported by ultra-right patrons in Congress and Wall Street, who stormed the capitol on January 6th to overturn his own election. Some Pentagon generals are openly concerned about future U.S. coup attempts enlisting the military. In an interview with NPR, retired General Eaton said:

And we saw it when 124 retired generals and admirals signed a letter contesting the 2020 election. We’re concerned about that. And we’re interested in seeing mitigating measures applied to make sure that our military is better prepared for a contested election, should that happen in 2024.

Examining just how difficult it is for these Latin American countries to even just maintain semblance of democratic choices for their people against CIA coups, “starvation sanctions” and other all kinds of political, economic, and military pressure from Wall Street and the Pentagon, it is remarkable how much they have stepped up their popular resistance to the continued tyranny of U.S. imperialism.

Progressives here have a duty to support them.

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