United World International is starting a new article series, where international experts evaluate the year 2021 and present their predictions and expectations for the year 2022.
Today we present the views of Fernando Esteche, internatipnal relations professore from Argentina.
By Fernando Esteche*
The 2021 electoral results of different Latin American countries have encouraged superficial analysts to promote inconsistent theories about a New Progressive Cycle that, curiously enough, is to be headed by conservatives manifestly opposed to leftist ideas.
Among the structuring theses employed to analyze the current geopolitical stage of American geopolitics are two fundamental ones:
1) The decline of the United States as the hegemon of the global economy and the unipolar system. This decline manifests itself both in crises of global hegemony and in internal crises of the US political system itself, the financial system, the economic model, infrastructure, urban space, etc.
2) The US’ re-deployment in an attempt to reverse this decline, which has resulted in a multidimensional offensive: diplomatic, military and financial. These offensives are being launched at all levels in a desperate effort to regain the capacity for over-determination in global politics.
These two theses are the ones that guide our thinking when it comes to reflecting on the current geopolitical moment in America.
With the arrival of Biden-Harris to the US government marks the arrival of one of the factions involved in developing internal hegemony, i.e. the financial globalist faction, which aims to take up Obama’s unfinished agenda in opposition to Trump’s foreign policy, operating in the service of large global financial groups with a focus on stock market power and the objective of global trade liberalization and productive delocalisation, with global corporations as the main economic and historical subjects. This is the faction opposed to Trump’s core of supporters (belonging to the Americanist or continentalist faction).
The decadent and outdated jingoistic supremacist Americanism embodied by Donald Trump unleashed much of the globalist strategy that is now being taken up again with vigor in the financialisation and militarism of Biden-Harris, which is no less jingoistic and violent than Trump’s.
Multidimensional imperialist redeployment in Latin America
The first American redeployment has been directed predominantly in Latin America, although there are other actions in different corners of the world such as Armenia, Kazakhstan, Asia-Pacific and Ukraine.
When it is argued that Latin America is the backyard of the United States, a semantic operation of concealment is being developed, which, while exposing a level of interference and evidence of a relationship of colonialism, obscures the reality that the subcontinent is the real living space of the United States.
Economic development itself, with the offshoring of production, the maquiladoras and various other forms of production, shows that it is also a hinterland (in terms of the internal space of the metropolis) that contains an enormous reserve of cheap labor, which guarantees conditions of productive competitiveness for the “imperial bourgeoisie”. The Puebla Panama Plan concerns, among many other variables, precisely this element.
The focus on South America, where we are witnessing the dynamic and growing voracity of Imperialism, can be explained in light of the world crisis that is developing as a result of the depletion of various types of goods, water, minerals, energy, etc. which are abundant in South America. In addition to the enormous oil basins, there are minerals that are strategic inputs used in cutting-edge technologies that develop new energy patterns (the clearest examples of this are lithium and coltan). The same applies to the valorisation of the Orinoco and Amazon basins, which offer an immense wealth of biodiversity and gigantic reserves of freshwater, together with the Chiapas, Guarani and Continental Ice aquifers.
There are several lines of production operating via the colonial and subaltern relationships created by international trade integration agreements and multilateral organizations that serve to maintain the political status quo.
The whole integration apparatus of the first neoliberal moment remains intact: the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIIRSA) fosters the integration of infrastructure for efficient plunder; the asymmetric free trade agreements, the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) between the US and Mexico wherein Mexico has been appointed the North American border’s gendarme; the Merida Initiative, which articulates police policies between the USA, Mexico and Central America; Plan Colombia, a military manifestation and patrolling enclave in the subcontinent; the Puebla-Panama Plan, which integrates the US and Mexico into the subcontinent; the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBIS), which ensures the constitution of the Caribbean as a North American Mare Nostrum; and the Bretton Woods organizations (the World Bank and International Monetary Fund), which are destroying economies and aborting the possibilities of autonomous development of Latin American nations. As the executive body of this apparatus of subjection and domination, the infamous Organization of American States (OAS) serves to make US policies viable, to produce stigmatization and diplomatic isolation of sovereign and anti-imperialist nations, and to legitimize maneuvers for the fraudulent installation of pro-imperialist governments.
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which was born as an Latin American and Caribbean organization under the influence of the post-neoliberal governments of the last stage of the 20th century (and which was practically buried during the conservative restoration led by Macri, Bolsonaro and Piñera) deserves closer consideration. The organization, whose very existence is a denunciation of the OAS itself, has once again begun to function within the limitations inherent to the policies of the governments that comprise it, which is encouraging many analysts to think things have reached a new stage, something we do not see happening in the immediate future.
With all of this institutional scaffolding such as the complex of asymmetric integration agreements and multilateral lending organizations, the United States is combining its classic Big Stick tactics with Dollar Diplomacy. It’s combining its good neighbor policy with the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt corollary. Thus, they push their redeployment in the region with the unmistakable stamp of a neo-monroism, turning their ambassadors into true colonels of occupation.
The military dimension of the redeployment is of the highest importance, especially in light of the previously mentioned Plan Colombia, through which the US is developing its gendarme policies and military penetration into our region. Today, it is not only a question of ensuring plunder via the revamped Pacific Alliance, but also of being a rearguard and aircraft carrier for intervention if any local actors stray beyond the logic or predictability of imperial meta-control.
Currently, almost all Latin American countries have some form of cooperation with SOUTHCOM forces. For example, in terms of maritime agreements, UNITAS Atlantic, which works together with UNITAS Pacific, TEAMWORK South, SIFOREX and PANAMAX to achieve an area of influence affecting almost the entire Southern Cone. In other words, we continue to be captive and to reproduce an alliance of cooperation for hemispheric security with the US. Different regroupable forces with different transfer and operational capacities “triangulate” with the commands and troops of SOUTHCOM and the Fourth Fleet of the US Navy, in charge of surveillance and “protection” of the “blue waters” (oceans), “green waters” (littorals) and “brown waters” (rivers), which occupy the northern, north-eastern or eastern coasts of almost all the States of the insular Caribbean, as well as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Suriname, and what is still called French Guiana (Cayenne), as well as Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, and the Pacific Alliance.
Neo-monroist redeployment arrangements must address not only access to resource depredation but also the infrastructure and security of what the Americans consider to be their vital interests.
Recolonisation of the periphery
The political correlate of imperialist economic domination is the recolonisation of the periphery, which relies on the growing association of the local ruling classes with their northern partners. This intertwining is a consequence of financial dependency, the surrender of the commons and the privatization of the region’s strategic sectors. The loss of economic sovereignty gave the IMF direct control over macroeconomic management and the State Department an equivalent influence over political decisions. No Latin American president (with the obvious exceptions) adopts important resolutions without consulting the US embassy. The preaching of the media and the Americanised intelligentsia has contributed to naturalizing this subordination, while problemitizing Chinese and Russian participation in strategic matters such as the production and distribution of vaccines in the midst of the covid 19 pandemic.
Washington is developing new hybrid warfare tactics for the region that combine old and new practices to foreshadow a remapping of the region. The ‘neo-coupism’ that was inaugurated in Honduras against Manuel Zelaya, followed by Lugo in Paraguay, the removal of Dilma Roussef in Brazil, proscriptions and other devices against Lula Da Silva, as well as the articulation and concentration of right-wing forces such as the Venezuelan opposition, the Bolivian opposition or, the daughter of this tactic, the Pro party in Argentina, combining lawfare, soft power and smart power to put the North Americans in a position of over-determination in the region.
Open crisis of order and meta-control
The changes of government in Mexico and Argentina offered a hopeful scenario for the rearticulation of an axis of self-determination and sovereignty, but it was short-lived.
Mexico cannot free itself from a series of conditioning factors and common agreements with the United States, in addition to suffering from drug-trafficking in its own territory as an element of territorial and state disintegration. Obrador’s task is not the recovery of sovereignty and self-determination, having first and foremost to deal with the recovery of territorial control by the state, the fight against the profound bureaucratisation and gangsterisation of its political system.
Argentina presented much better conditions than its brother country, but quickly proved much more disappointing. Its first cabinet reshuffle after a midterm election defeat has entrenched its tendency in increasing colonial subordination.
Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are the beachheads in the hybrid wars unleashed by the US: they are the trident of anti-imperialist resistance. The fight in absolute loneliness against the growing delegitimation produced by the diplomacy of the Latin American political system.
MAS’s recovery of the Bolivian government should not be confused with the deepening of the first revolutionary stage headed by Evo Morales. Lucho Arce’s government’s main objective is its own survival and the maintenance of the agreed levels of autonomy in a largely hostile region. Internal dissidence, even with Evo Morales himself, not only weakens the electoral tool, but fundamentally undermines the state superstructure as the organizer of the social production of its people. This is something that will be a constant in many countries in the region.
In Ecuador, Lenin Moreno’s betrayal of his political structure, with Rafael Correa in exile and an irresolvable divorce of groupings of native peoples from formal politics, has been consolidated with the electoral triumph of the banker Guillermo Lasso.
Brazil’s coup in 2016 made possible the rise to power of Jair Bolsonaro, whose mediocrity as a statesman and position at the helm of the tenth largest economy in the world makes him a dangerous character. But Lula’s imprisonment, the abortion of the possibility of a PT victory with his endorsment and the para-coupism against Dilma Rousseff cannot be understood without taking into account the process of decomposition suffered by the alliance with the popular sectors that had sustained the Workers Party in government, as a result of the political decisions taken at the beginning of Dilma’s second term, including the formation of a cabinet in alliance with neoliberalism. Bolsonaro served to show the effectiveness of the US’ political penetration and the efficiency of the State Department’s neo-colonialism manuals. Yet, that alone, without a global agreement or an alliance of domination expressed in real political power, remains very flimsy. It is an experiment that is beginning to fail and show the cracks in Brazil’s dominant economic, ideological, military and political sectors. In this sense, we warn that the alliances proposed by Lula (Henrique Cardozo, Alckmin) to articulate an electoral accumulation capable of defeating Bolsonarism or neo-Bolsonarism (former judge Moro) risk going in the same direction as the argentine alliance of the Frente de Todos, or worse, risk repeating the same mistakes that cost him his support before. This will result in a huge disappointment of the Brazilian people’s expectations, as is happening in Argentina, with the consequent degradation and crisis of the system of representation and order.
Uruguay, captive of its “civic nap” tendency, is once again attempting a conservative restoration. The crux of the matter is that the left has not produced left-wing policies, neither towards the interior of the “little country” nor with respect to foreign policy. It should never be forgotten that Mr. Luis Almagro, director of the Organization of American States (OAS) and key player in the articulation of the military coup in Bolivia in 2019, emerged from the Frente Amplio and, in the light of the facts, is a diligent operator of the policy of a new reordering of imperial domination for the region.
Colombia, in the midst of a multi-century war, is a victim of the largest soft colonization operation of the 20th century carried out by Washington through Plan Colombia, and has been called to be the foothold of the North American empire in the south. Under the tutelage of ‘democracy’, the country has found itself caught between war, drug trafficking and the Empire, with local oligarchies disputing the administration in regard to the transnationalism oligarchies. The persistence of armed conflict after the promise of a new peace is evidence of the impossibility of liberal democracy. The current situation of chaos and violence perpetrated by the government of Iván Duque once again brings to the fore liberal democracy’s fundamental inability to respond to popular mobilisations and demands which have been left without an institutional channel through which to project political energy in the face of a militarised state that murders, disappears and imprisons emerging social and political leaders. In this sense, the Historical Pact that Petro curiously presented in Spain at the social democratic summit as a popular proposal for Colombia suffers from the same ills as Boric’s proposal in Chile, or Pedro Castillo’s in Peru.
The early shipwreck of Pedro Castillo in Peru submitting to the pressures of a right-wing party exposes the limitations of the social democracy that pushed him to do so.
The slow creep to the right of Boric’s election campaign foreshadows the colonial subjugation behavior seen in Fernández’s Argentina.
Left-wing candidates who make an effort to show that they are not left-wing do not express the aspirations and demands that the people are raising in their street battles in Bogotá, Santiago, the Peruvian rondas, in Quito or Guayaquil, in Buenos Aires, or in any corner of South America.
Popular rebellions nourished in the memory of post-neoliberalism and illuminated in the yearnings of the unfinished revolutions of Latin populism are not represented in the progressive alliances suffering from the congenital malady of their reformism at a time of imperial aggression and redeployment. They have very little to offer the popular movements.
The system that offers progressive political proposals only in order to contain the popular will can count on greater or lesser electoral success, but they are designed to fail, which will in turn weaken the already weak system of representation and expose the cracks in liberal institutions as effective organizers of the social process.
Moreover, it is clear that the electoral arena is increasingly rejected by the masses as an arena for the resolution of their conflicts– at the same time, we see noticeable right-wing electoral activism in this field.
Elections offer an insight into the balance of power among those who choose to vote, who are usually half or less than half of the population. The other half is manifested in the streets, in silent passivity. The social order is entering a process of reconfiguration, because the production of order and institutionality is also something outside imperial control. Here there is an unresolved contradiction between democracy, the mode of accumulation of transnational finance capital and the capacity for the social meta-control of the peoples. The resolution of this triangular contradiction holds the key to the possibility of a sovereign Latin America, as well as the possibility of its continued subjugation.
The current moment is characterized by redeployment and imperial recolonisation, but also of popular anti-neoliberal rebellion. The central political task is the construction of a new historical bloc to create the conditions for wide-scale political change in the region.
*Fernando Esteche is PhD in Social Communication (UNLP), full professor of International Relations (FPyCS – UNLP), professor of Contemporary Latin American History (FPyCS – UNLP) and the director of PIA Global.