FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Visions for Latin America’s Future

by BENJAMIN DANGL

Miners in Potosí, Bolivia, set off sticks of dynamite as cold winter winds zipped through the city, passing street barricades, protests, hunger strikers and an occupied electrical plant. These actions took place place from late July to mid-August against the neglect of the Evo Morales administration toward the impoverished Potosí region.

This showdown in Bolivia is similar to conflicts across Latin America between the promises of left-leaning governments, the needs of the people and the finite resources of Pachamama (Mother Earth).

Diverse social organizations, miners, unions, students, local residents, and even the city’s soccer team, united in the protest in late July. The mobilizations shut down the city and many mining operations. Residents criticized what they saw as the government’s lack of attention, funding and development projects for Potosí, the poorest department in the country.

Among the demands were the completion of a highway between the neighboring department of Tarija and Potosí, a cement and metallurgical factory, an airport, and the preservation of Cerro Rico, a historic silver mine now in decay. After 19 days of mobilizations, the activists and the Morales government reached a resolution in which the administration agreed to all of the protesters’ demands.

This recent conflict in Potosí is one of many that have taken place in the country regarding the distribution of government funds, execution of development projects and access to natural resources. In mid-June, various indigenous movements from eastern Bolivia gathered for a march to assert their autonomy over the management of land and the extraction of gas and minerals in their territory.

At the heart of these conflicts is a question leftist governments and social movements across Latin America are grappling with: what should this “other world that is possible” look like?

“Is it one based on constant economic growth, even if this is ‘socialist’ and would raise the real income of people in the global South?” sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein asks about today’s Latin America. “Or is it what some are calling a change in civilizational values, a world of buen vivir [living well]?” This latter philosophy includes living in harmony with others and with nature, rather than accumulating capital and material things while destroying the earth.

Besides conflicting visions of this “other world that is possible” (from the World Social Forum’s slogan) is the divergence between political rhetoric and reality. Many leftist governments across the region lack the political will – or are constrained by economic and political forces, and the state – to carry out much-needed structural changes to allow people to live well.

Government promises and policies are empty without action on the part of both politicians and the people. At the recent Social Forum of the Americas in Asunción, Paraguay Roberto Baggio of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement, told IPS News, “When we talk about agrarian reform, we’re talking about making access to property more democratic and laws that make it possible to take action, because a good land reform program is not sufficient if concrete actions are not taken.”

This view reflects one of the dominant roles Latin American social movements find themselves in now. Few are seeking to overthrow governments as they did when explicitly neoliberal administrations were in power. Rather, writes Uruguayan journalist Raúl Zibechi, there is “something more subtle; the social movements have begun to place limits on governments.” From Ecuador and Venezuela, to Argentina and Bolivia, this new relationship between movements and governments is still being defined.

Another participant in this dance is the earth itself. Considering the onslaught of climate changes, the soy boom, and the ecological destruction of logging, oil, gas and mining industries, the need to apply the philosophy of buen vivir is as pressing as ever.

As Nobel Prize-winning indigenous activist Rigoberta Menchu reminded participants at the Social Forum in Paraguay, “We can’t dominate the Earth; she dominates us.”

***

The relationship between social movements and states in seven different Latin American countries is examined in BENJAMIN DANGL’s forthcoming book Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (AK Press, October 2010): http://dancingwithdynamite.com/

Dangl is also the author of The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (AK Press, 2007), and editor of TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events and UpsideDownWorld.org, covering activism and politics in Latin America. Email Bendangl@gmail.com.

Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America, covering social movements and politics in the region for over a decade. He is the author of the books Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, and The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. Dangl is currently a doctoral candidate in Latin American History at McGill University, and edits UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America, and TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events. Twitter: https://twitter.com/bendangl Email: BenDangl(at)gmail(dot)com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
Susan Babbitt
Don’t Raise Liberalism From the Dead (If It is Dead, Which It’s Not)
Uri Avnery
Palestine’s Nelson Mandela
Fred Nagel
It’s “Deep State” Time Again
John Feffer
The Hunger President
Stephen Cooper
Nothing is Fair About Alabama’s “Fair Justice Act”
Jack Swallow
Why Science Should Be Political
Chuck Collins
Congrats, Graduates! Here’s Your Diploma and Debt
Aidan O'Brien
While God Blesses America, Prometheus Protects Syria, Russia and North Korea 
Patrick Hiller
Get Real About Preventing War
David Rosen
Fiction, Fake News and Trump’s Sexual Politics
Evan Jones
Macron of France: Chauncey Gardiner for President!
David Macaray
Adventures in Labor Contract Language
Ron Jacobs
The Music Never Stopped
Kim Scipes
Black Subjugation in America
Sean Stinson
MOAB: More Obama and Bush
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Minute Musings: On Why the United States Should Launch a Tomahawk Strike on Puerto Rico
Tom Clifford
The Return of “Mein Kampf” … in Japan
Todd Larsen
Concerned About Climate Change? Change Where You Bank!
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Brexit: Britain’s Opening to China?
John Hutchison
Everything Old is New Again: a Brief Retrospectus on Korea and the Cold War
Michael Brenner
The Ghost in the Dream Machine
Yves Engler
The Military Occupation of Haiti
Christopher Brauchli
Guardians of Lies
James Preece
How Labour Can Win the Snap Elections
Cesar Chelala
Preventing Disabilities in the Elderly
Sam Gordon
From We Shall Overcome to Where Have all the Flowers Gone?
Charles Thomson
It’s Still Not Too Late to Deserve Your CBE, Chris Ofili
Louis Proyect
Documentaries That Punch
Charles R. Larson
Review: Vivek Shanbhag’s “Ghachar Ghochar”
David Yearsley
Raiding the Tomb of Lubitsch
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail