Latin America's new consciousness conflicts with transnationals' attempts to control the world's natural resources
When the first European sailors weighed anchor in the Caribbean Sea, the chronicle of slavery and death in the three Americas began to be written. It was the first invasion, the first act of pillage. Since then, the weapons of conquest have changed. Sucessive US governments and transnational oil, communications and arms corporations have used fleets and military coups, intelligence and the media, to ensure their control over the world's natural resources. But they are not exploited in order to feed the hungry or provide health or housing for the poor. On the contrary, the aim is to intensify economic exploitation. The so-called Free Trade Agreements, for example, only condemn those who sign them to even greater subservience.
Nevertheless, the struggle of the peoples of the Americas for their right to self-determination and control of their resources has produced many revolutionary processes in the early 21st century, their roots in the work of anti-capitalist organisations and activists, as well as peasants, landless workers, base communities and oil workers. The coup against Zelaya in Honduras was a response to his intention to change the constitution and to join Alba, the Bolivarian project for the integration of the Americas launched in 2001, whose first signatories were Cuba and Venezuela. Unlike the US-backed Free Trade Area (FTAA), Alba "is a strategic political alliance whose purpose is to harness the skills and strengths of its members with the aim of transforming our societies to produce the integrated development of free and just nations". The countries that decided to introduce new socialist constitutions have been victims of coup d'etats – Venezuela in 2002, Bolivia in 2008, and most recently Honduras.
Latin America's future will be intimately connected with its energy resources. The world's largest reserves of oil, gas and water outside Russia and Iran are in the south. It is no coincidence that the US fleet is now in the Caribbean, while military bases in Colombia and Curacao supposedly waging war against drugs and terrorism threaten Venezuela and Ecuador. Bolivia has had to confront an extreme rightwing bent on separating the Media Luna provinces, with their bottomless reserves of hydrocarbons, from the rest of the country.
The key to the next decade are the proven reserves of oil (over 314bn barrels) in the Orinoco Basin in Venezuela, and Bolivia's enormous reserves of gas, while Brazil's huge energy reserves, including Amazonia, the world's largest water source, are well documented. And Argentina and Uruguay could easily satisfy the food needs of the whole continent.
For the first time these countries are forming alliances and making agreements between themselves, changes that conflict with the appetites of the transnationals. The Alba project involves exchanges of energy for food, a Latin American currency, the creation of a Banco del Sur and discussions about external debt. Venezuela's educational and health initiatives threaten imperialist interests by replacing paternalism with consciousness and activism. The next generation of Latin Americans will be much more independent and have a deeper sense of their own reality.
In 2010 oil production will reach its peak; after that there will be significant reductions, affecting the price of crude oil. The biggest oil consumers are the developed countries in the International Energy Agency; they are all experimenting with alternative energies, but there is none cheaper than oil and gas, especially as hydroelectricity is affected by the shrinking water tables. Thus there will be a permanent campaign to discredit OPEP as an organisation that protects oil producing countries; news reports always refer to it as a cartel, even though it only regulates production not the oil price.
The US will continue to bombard the southern Americas, not with bombs but with a more dangerous weapon – support for the Latin American right. Coup makers, terrorists and rightwing politicians – such as Luis Posada Carriles and Manuel Rosales – tour America, denouncing the progressive movements of Latin American people.
But Latin America's revolutionary processes are producing new paradigms and changing the relationship between people and the Earth. Now people speak of Pachamama – Mother Earth – and the need to protect and conserve it through equity, integration and respect for the self-determination of peoples. Energy and water forums meet to control consumption; a new consciousness is growing.
In the decade to come there will be major contradictions to overcome, like the capitalist legacy of corruption and bureaucracy. But at the same time, the effects of the first decade's investments in health and education will begin to be seen, to the benefit of those long forgotten by the capitalist system. The organisations of the people are a fact and they cannot be held back. As the slogan shouted by men and women all over Latin America has it: "Beware! Bolivar's sword is sweeping the continent."
Copyright Speakers Corner 2017