Latin America, in search of a present history

21.11.2019 - Buenos Aires, Argentina - Omar Zanarini

This post is also available in: Spanish

Latin America, in search of a present history

It is one month since the social explosion in Chile and despite permanent repression, the Chilean people are still on the streets to demand the resignation of Sebastián Piñera, who declared war on them in the first week of the conflict. Complaints from Santiago sends shivers down the spine. The mass movement is on the rise despite state repression. Each government announcement to contain the situation is a provocation that updates the demand for a new constitution.

In Bolivia, the coup d’état is ten days oldand the blood of the Bolivian people begins to run on the streets. The genuflex armed forces were called to the coup and forced Evo Morales into exile in Mexico. It happens that, in a caste society inherited from the colony, it is unacceptable for an Indian to lead the state and seek to banish its colonial structure. The Army is one of its most conservative ideological consequences. And there the oligarchy intervenes, and the de facto government of Jeanine Añez, through Supreme Decree No. 4078 exempts the military from any criminal responsibility and authorizes them to kill.

By Omar Zanarini*

In both cases, the colonial matrix of repression has the people as its enemy, and its oligarchies leading it. What is presented in the media as a dilemma between sides is nothing more than the consequences of an inconclusive nation: that of the Great Latin American Homeland. Throughout the continent, two identifiable fields are established in the interests they represent. In our small homelands they are experienced as a “crack” that undermines society and divides them in a binary way between two premises: homeland or colony.

These are times of neoliberalism and globalization, of counterrevolutions and soft and hard blows, and classics, with their massacres, imprisonments and disappearances. And nothing is magical realism. We constantly recapitulate what is in full development, an exercise that enables us to reflect on some reflections.

Recapitulating. To look back to see who is coming.

The process begins in 2009, in Honduras, with the coup against Mel Zelaya; continues in Paraguay against Lugo; in Brazil, the impeachment of Dilma and the subsequent imprisonment of Lula. The Argentine chapter is made up of the judicial war or lawfare against former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and the imprisonment of militants and officials, including former vice-president Amado Boudou. In Ecuador, with the betrayal of Lenin Moreno to the Citizens’ Revolution, the process is opened against Rafael Correa and the closure of the headquarters of UNASUR and Celac. And in Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro has been resisting the onslaught of imperialism. In Chile, since the return to democracy, nothing has changed: what Pinochet left is still standing. And in this balkanisation scenario, without a doubt, the weakest link was Bolivia.

In Chile and Bolivia there are insurrectionary moments, where the social, the racial and the national are not split. On the other side of the mountain range, Sebastián Piñera’s government is already being pointed out as a dictatorship. The state of exception is a fact and the government puts itself above the laws in order to protect the Pinochet republic. The Chilean people in the streets cannot be deterred by repression. Euphemisms such as “excessive use of force” cover up murders, kidnappings and all kinds of human rights violations. In their demand, the people demand to stop belonging to a colonial order that is inscribed in their Constitution.

In Bolivia, the coup has a component of racial hatred inherited from the old caste structure of the colonial era. For the Bolivian people, Evo Morales’ twelve years meant his recognition as a plurinational identity, and not only did he regain dignity, but for the first time in the history of Bolivia, the State was led by an Indian. This was unacceptable for an oligarchy that lived at its expense for centuries. In the claim of the Wiphala, the people manifests the refusal to be the object of the internal coloniality of their oligarchies. In both cases, “homeland yes, colony no”.

The ideas of the ruling class and hate speeches.

Our history, that of Latin Americans, shows that hatred as a form of articulation of politics necessarily entails repudiating democracy and in its name and in the name of the republic eliminating the other, which is always racially different. It does not matter if popular democracy is the way in which the processes of equalization and expansion of rights are validated, what the oligarchies do not want is to lose privileges.

As a cliché, we remember that the ideas of the ruling class are the dominant ideas of a given time and place; as such their legitimacy is always contested when the other classes begin to do politics and organize themselves in order to take over the state, whether by votes or by revolution. Conquered the state by the people, dominant ideas lose hegemonic capacity and become discourses that close off meaning in some sectors, and emerge residual as conservative truths. Then the values that up to that moment were the truth that legitimized the exploitation of one class over the other, refuse to mutate and detach again their racial virulence.

And when that happens, hate speech coagulates in a middle class that does not understand the progress of those who were historically below the social ladder. They see in the progress of the popular sectors their own class stagnation (why in a country where the gap between rich and poor is reduced as a result of emancipatory state policies, cultural consumptions also tend to be equal) and that they do not tolerate.

Convinced that, in a capitalist system that proclaims individualism and meritocracy as the only way to be realized, fractions of that class are led by those who best construct their interpretive framework to “understand” and “explain” reality. Then returns the coloniality of discourse that naturally hates and socially segregated, because among other things, it is a system that classifies the other racially and socially assigns them a role. Thus the middle class racializes its discourse and tries to broaden its class horizon: the mestizos, the Indians, the blacks, the planeros, the Indians, the coyas. In the language of hatred the great “etc” does not accept polysemy.

The racial component and the oligarchic distinction.

In Latin America the racial component gave the oligarchies, for several centuries, the legitimacy imposed by the conquest. Where the conquered, first classified racially and from there socially located in the productive structure, will fulfill the tasks that the capital commands to carry out, except that of directing a State. That was the norm.

Around the intolerance of those who govern for the majorities, the norm seeks how to re-establish itself. It would be illogical to think that those who dominated for centuries today lack a social base from which to sustain their positions. It is clear that hatred also summons multitudes. But that does not configure them as a people, much less as patriots.

Thus, democracy in Latin America, understood as the way in which the people participate in the political life of a country, has been the exception. Or at least it was throughout the twentieth century; coups d’état have been the instrument with which the oligarchies have asserted their “truth” every time the correlation of forces was adverse to them. They, the allies with imperialism, still feel themselves in the 21st century, the gendarmes of the colonial state.

It is then up to the peoples to sustain the cultural battle at its highest standards in order to, in that way, not only dispute with the elites the State and its privileged way of taking over production. And with it to banish all pedagogical colonization from the minds of Latin Americans.

(*) Journalist. Graphic Radio

Translation Pressenza London

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