Current situation and trends acting in the Americas

29.11.2010 - Punta de Vacas - Pía Figueroa

We want to determine the moment of process in the Americas, and understand what are the tendencies. That is, we ask “What is happening in the Americas and what trends are developing?” We want to answer this question with the interest of being able to delineate our activities in general terms and then translate it to our specific fields of action. Our point of view in studying the situation is *”looking”* for that which promotes or checks the possibilities of human change.

There are many situations that are happening today in the Americas. There are great discoveries and technological advances, there are conflicts and social tensions within and between countries, there are human and natural accidents. Certainly there are multiple events in the political, economic, social, cultural, ethnic, institutional, religious, and spiritual fields.

Some of these situations appearing during the years 2009 and 2010 (without this list being exhaustive), are:

**Conflicts:** Attempted military coups in various countries; a threat to Iran by the United States; troop buildup in Afghanistan; the weakening of FARC in Columbia; border disputes between Venezuela and Colombia and between Colombia and Ecuador; British nuclear military exercises in the Falklands. A particular case of destabilization has been the coup in Honduras, which can not be seen as an isolated case within the region, but linked with the Puebla-Panama project, a multinational corridor pushed by the US and its multinationals. In South American destabilization attempts have failed so far. After the failed attempt in Ecuador, it retreated back towards Central America and fomented a conflict between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, in the hands of opposing factions.

**Accidents:** Earthquakes in Chile and in Haiti; oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the death of Nestor Kirchner in Argentina.

**Political developments:** Strengthening of the Tea Party in the USA; reappearance of Fidel in Cuba; new Health Act in USA, progressive laws in Argentina, a law prohibiting discrimination in Bolivia; Re-election of Evo Morales by a large majority; end of the Coalition *(Concertacion)* government in Chile; Strengthening of UNASUR; threats of the presence of nuclear weapons in the region.

**Cultural events:** The bicentennial in Latin America has been the most publicized in the media. To us the growing awareness of indigenous peoples demanding their rights seems more relevant. Such is the case of Bolivia, of the Mapuche in southern South America, of the ethnic groups in Peru, etc.

**Economic developments:** global financial crisis, financial support to companies in Brazil, Brazil’s economic agreement with Africa, payment of the debt of Brazil and Argentina to the IMF, economic growth in the countries of the region, financial regulatory law in the USA. We need to add the talks about the Argentine debt without IMF intervention. Also, the huge issuing [of money] is the old U.S. policy of making others pay its own internal costs. This will cause the fall of the dollar, strengthening and invading the countries of the region with cheap imported goods to the detriment of local industry, as has happened on other occasions.

**Developments in values, spirituality and religion:** The creation of synthetic life, equal marriage law in Argentina, discovery of planets suitable for life, emptying of the institutions, scandal of pedophilia in the Catholic Church.

**Social events:** Rescue of miners in Chile, increased violence on the Mexico-US border, bullying, student demonstrations in Argentina.

These are just some of the many events in the region, which is in an accelerated dynamic.

Highlighting the most significant things happening in the Americas, we can say that: A first important factor was the severe economic crisis, especially that of the U.S. financial system, which has impacted Europe, triggering an economic, labor, social and political crisis. In turn, this crisis has reinforced the role of China as the central determinant of the world economy. Regarding China, we need to consider that it has not yet begun its Perestroika, as it was in Russia and the U.S., and that by process it will necessarily happen. What we know is the opening to the invasion of the markets, but its *”internal psychosocial movement”* is much less certain. The U.S. crisis also affects China, which is one of the largest holders of U.S. bonds, so in the case of a disaster it will be left with no one to pay.

This crisis has helped boost regional integration, especially through UNASUR, but also with Mercosur and other multi and bilateral examples. That momentum toward integration in turn has been affected, *”attacked”*, by attempts to destabilize democracies. In this framework, one can recognize the recent coup attempts in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as the one carried out with *”success”* in Honduras. Also the strong dismissive attitude of the media to the governments of Cristina Fernandez in Argentina and others, obeys the same destabilizing logic.

Moreover, this economic crisis and especially that of the U.S. and European financial system, has hit the Latin American region (whose economy is not strong in the financial field but is basically built on the export of raw materials) less hard. For the first time a crisis hits much harder in the so-called *”developed”* world, while Latin America is strengthened, developing economic relations with Asia and especially China, supplying with its raw materials the rising demand in that country. Thus, Latin America has not had a significant rise in unemployment, and on the contrary, its economy has grown and its reserves have increased. This economic growth, unaligned with the USA and Europe, and accompanied by the growing progressivism already mentioned, is one of the salient features of this time.

A second factor is the conflict in the Middle East, including in it Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and especially the growing tensions with Iran, a country that America has turned into its *”number 1 enemy”*, with mutual threats of attack and a background of growing nuclear threat. This conflict has touched the region, which has not remained indifferent or uninvolved. Brazil seeks for the first time to take a mediating role (probably motivated by its attempt to become a permanent member of UN Security Council). Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia strengthen their ties with Iran, with presidential visits and economic, political and military agreements.

In turn, the difficulty of Obama to resolve this conflict and his failure to fulfill his campaign promises have created great frustration in USA; the ultra-right is reappearing with strength, organized around the Tea Party. This dissatisfaction has meant Obama losing the majority in the House of Representatives in the recent elections in that country.

We have the impression, and its an issue to investigate further, that military spending in the [LA] region, although lower than in other continents, continues to grow, with purchases spread between the USA, Russia, Europe, China and other countries.

A third factor has been the deep crisis of the Catholic Church, accused of covering up numerous cases of crimes of pedophilia committed by its clergy. Hundreds of cases have been reported in all countries of the region and Europe, tainting the highest authorities of the church, which has been weakened, creating space for the enactment of a number of progressive laws, which are usually blocked by the most conservative sectors. From equal marriage laws in Argentina to new laws against discrimination, and in favor of freedom of expression, personal liberties, labor rights and recognition of ethnic diversity; an air of new freedoms and rights is moving through the region.

Also this crisis, of a church that is fundamentally European, accompanied by the economic crisis in that continent, has facilitated the strengthening of relations with China and Asia, which has brought economic growth to the region, reducing the effects of the financial crisis.

**Lets look for a moment at what is happening in other continents:** Europe is experiencing a general crisis, with a strong economic downturn and rising unemployment. The advancement of the right, which has been gaining control of some governments in elections in the region, has resulted in multiple restrictive measures, anti-immigrant laws and actions, and denial of religious freedom. Ultimately, we are experiencing a crisis of the European Union, accompanied by strengthening its military alliance with USA.

In Asia, China has become the central determinant of the global economy. Besides being a global production center, its reserves have become the largest in the world, sustaining the global financial system and particularly the United States. Given this role, nobody cares that it is a dictatorship, an issue that is *”not seen”* by the other governments. In the same continent, India is now a nuclear power in conflict with Pakistan and full of internal religious problems. Further west, Iraq, Iran, Israel and Palestine are part of the world’s most explosive conflict. In synthesis, Asia is a diverse economic, military and cultural power, which is advancing.

So, while Europe is embroiled in a widespread crisis and America is complicated, Latin America is growing and developing with integration and a progressive outlook. This development is partly due to its relationship with Asia and particularly China. Regarding the relationship with Iran, it seems to be a way of pressuring the weakened USA and Europe.

Despite this, we can say that today Europe remains the region most influential in Latin America and that their relationship is economic, political, cultural, religious, and military. Then we reach Asia, with a strong relationship, but basically economic with some military component. Oceania and Africa are areas that have virtually no part in the current process of America.

**We observe now what has been the process of Latin America since the 60’s onwards.** We see four stages in the process of twelve years each. Between 1965 and 1977, the USA was the main factor of influence. The most decisive elements of that period were the Alliance for Progress, the war in Vietnam, the guerrillas and the hippies. It was a time of polarity. Between 1977 and 1989, the USA was still the most important factor of influence. But this time through the installation of military dictatorships, which were later displaced when they had fulfilled the mission for which they were installed. Thus, this period also includes the transition to democracies along with the installation of the neoliberal model. Between 1989 and 2001, Europe became the dominant factor of influence, through social-political models, the Catholic Church and the emergence of European multinationals in the region. Finally, between 2001 and we expect to at least 2013, Asia has had the most influence. China has become the largest trading partner, buying almost without limit the enormous amounts of mineral raw materials and agricultural, forestry and fisheries products of the region, generating economic growth and making room for progressive reforms previously hampered by the most conservative sectors.

Bearing this in mind, we can try to delineate the trends acting in the present moment: 1. Europe in decline; at risk of destructuring. 2. China central factor in the economic world. 3. Latin America accelerated integration. 4. Mexico stressed, forced to depend on USA, unable to participate in the new region of the south with a cultural crisis and the potential for a social explosion. 5. USA with some ability to overcome economic difficulties.

We believe that these 5 items should be taken into account in the near future. However, future studies will be necessary if some of these same trends accelerate.

What if Europe comes apart? What happens if there is an armed conflict in the Middle East? What if China enters its own Perestroika, like Gorbachev’s in the Soviet Union or the United States of Obama?

These are subjects to study to complete a framing of the situation and of future events at the regional and global level.

*translated by Chris Wells and Hope Jolles*

Categories: International, Opinions, Politics, South America


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