‘’History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes’’ went Mark Twain’s theory of history, apt enough to compete with Hegelian and Marxist models. Today’s crisis rhymes with the petro-dollar crisis of the Venezuelan 1980s—except that no ‘’socialist’’ culprit existed then: global Reagonomics impacted the region. Today’s Venezuelan crisis rhymes in history with Cuba’s ‘’periodo especial’’ crisis of the 1990s, and Argentina’s 2001 meltdown, resonant in the current Venezuelan strife as Maduro invokes his own legitimacy.
Yet a strange, unwanted euphoria massages the mind of the viewer watching CNN en Español. It was for a reason the news station was imposed in Argentina by Mauricio Macri while Telesur and RT en Español were scrapped in 2016 from Cable TV packages. The latter’s contracts were cancelled during the first weeks of Macri’s presidency.
CNN en Español shows the dangerous power of consolation: it cultivates the illusion that Venezuela is the one-and-only Latin American country plunged into serious political crisis today. Coverage of Venezuelan crisis and of the failures of Maduro’s and Chavez’s PSUV (United Venezuelan Socialist Party) government serves to eclipse how the destitution of democracy is being carried out by parties who are traditionally allied to US foreign policy and business interests. The media outlet serves to induce panic in Latin American masses: either accept neoliberal austerity and reforms, or face the famines and long ration-lines of Venezuela.
The Brazilian Temer-Cunha coup in Brazil, or the so-called “impeachment” against Rousseff was waged mostly by politicians who stand indicted on charges of larceny and corruption, some wanted by Interpol such as the Paulo Maluf, ( Sao Paolo newspaper article) Cunha and associates were, like Macri, exposed by the Panama Papers leaf-storm which should have had devastating repercussions for the global neo-liberal ascendancy, were it not for the lack of media attention. The corruption the post-coup’s corruption went unreported by CNN En Español.
The news station’s pundits upheld the narrative of ”impeachment”, chronicling the overthrow of Rousseff so as to give Latin American business insiders only the information they deem necessary or relevant. (CNN on the reaction to ”impeachment” ) “Groups loyal to Rousseff stormed the streets, clashing with the police as the protests became violent” CNN reported, omitting the number of supporters of Rousseff and without questioning the grounds for impeaching an elected president. The effort of the business press was to align and equate Rousseff and Lula with Maduro in Venezuela and with other populist politicians of the Latin American left. Today, pro-business and liberal media equates Latin American left wing populism with the nativism of the Trump movement.
In the blitz of news about Venezuela, there are many underreported stories of the state violence and the erosion of democracy in countries whose newly-risen parties are among the most vocal critics of Maduro.
In Argentina, as of November of this year, the state murder of Santiago Maldonado is a proven fact today (autopsy report in Página12). The young backpacker and seller of handicrafts was camping with the Mapuche of the Patagonian South in the zone of the river Chubut in order to show solidarity with the indigenous people’s protest against the Benetton corporation. In an illegal raid by the Argentine gendarmerie, officers took Maldonado by force without giving cause for detention, then refused to answer any public inquiry. Santiago Maldonado became the first case of forced disappearance under the Macri presidency, a cause that brought pressure and shame onto the newly elected PRO party after the outcry when former Minister of Culture Darío Lopérfido had made statements denying the number of disappeared persons during the regime period.
The national chief of security Patricia Bullrich stated to the senators confronting her in Argentinean parliament that she was doing all that was possible to resolve the Maldonado case—Bullrich’s complicity was suspect for many reasons. Her cousin Esteban Bullrich, Minister of Education, had in 2016 praised the ‘’desert campaign’’ genocide of the 19th century as a model of modernization of Argentina, comparing his campaign to open management schools in the Patagonia to a mission of civilizing the natives. After an exhaustive campaign in which Argentineans demanded to know ¿Donde Esta Santiago Maldonado? Where is Santiago Maldonado? The youth’s murdered corpse turned up in the river. Dumping bodies in the river was one of the practices of the late 1970’s junta’s camp guards.
Today, shootouts and clashes continue between Argentinean gendarmerie and Mapuche, further consolidating the Bullrich’s vision of a wild-west nostalgia for the ”Desert Campaign” which was one of the most radical genocides in the Americas in the 19th century, on a par with general Custer’s violence against the North American tribes. Such unlawful and atrocious rampages today obtain the same legitimation as the large-scale ones of the 1870s and 1970s: it is all towards making the Argentinean economy ”more competitive” ”rationalizing the economy” (partly by eliminating the ‘irrationals,” whether they are the native Mapuche and Ona, or the young radicals and dreamers of the 1970s stolen generation) How would CNN En Español have reported on the Desert Campaign had it existed in the late 19th century? The colonels behind the 19th century genocide ennobled by Esteban Bullrich and his relatives in the government intended to make Argentina more attractive to British investors and the London stock exchange, (then, they compared their creole Argentinian initiative of ”modernization” to the efforts of the Japanese emperor who in the 19th century had abolished the Samurai culture as part of compliance with Western markets.)
Macri’s management of Argentina gets unlimited support from CNN En Español’s pundits: scorn of congress, vetoes and executive orders. Macri, still an active CEO while president, unapologetic for his ownership of multiple offshores revealed in the Panama Papers scandal, would have proven the ideal prototype for the Trump administration if it were not for how Macri expressed sympathies for Hillary and Obama and their vision of free trade (TTIP, deregulation, favouring hedge-funds over the will of the people) Macrista opinion-makers like forced comparisons of Latin American populism as being the equivalent of what gets called ‘’populism’’ in the USA and EU, despite that Trump, Peña Nieto and Macri are all heirs, sons of businessmen championing a CEO-leadership of a country while demolishing safety-nets. (World Economic Forum fake news)
The omnipresent face of Nicolás Maduro in the CNN airwaves, meanwhile, is what Marquez’ cynical physician in Nadie Escribe Al Colonel warned the naïve colonel: ‘’for them (the North) South America is a man with a mustache and a gun’’
Natalia Vinelli, Argentine founder of the ”Barricada” news outlet recently arrived at a Latin American extrapolation of Edward W Said’s theory of Orientalism. In an essay-interview on Aljazeera, Vinelli explained how the Northern Gaze distinguishes between ‘’the perfect Latin American’’ and ‘’the authentic Latin American” adding a chapter to Said’s allegory’ ‘A news outlet such as CNN En Español projects a vision of what “the perfect Latin American” should be: a businessman who is competitive, charming and open to western modernity – servile to the rules and regulations of our globalized world, apologetic about his country’s underdevelopment and who feels part of a regional elite who are ultimately aligned with US interests – or at least with the globalising hegemony of free trade agreements. This “perfect Latin American” stands in contrast to another stereotype which we could define as “the authentic Latin American” – it reflects another angle of the North’s view of us. Cultural industries project an image of emotional nations wedded to the whims of authoritarian and populist leaders, in permanent child-like status which prevents us from making decisions about our future”
Ironically, the editorial line of Al-jazeera, staunchly favourable of Asian globalized business, often resorts to precisely this ennobling of ‘’the perfect Latin American’’ against the anti-capitalist ‘’authentic’’ in its coverage of the region.
Western Orientalism takes on a special, obsessive fascination with the barbarity of the Middle East. They can marvel at the video spectacle of what a young ISIS member from the Paris banlieue can do with a hacksaw and enough faith–without examining the wartime and political causes of such death-squad militias as have existed throughout the Third World (the Central American death-squads of the 1980s might recall ISIL’s beheadings)
Such Orientalism simultaneously flattens the map of the other Americas: while the Middle East is inscrutable, old, hoarding a wealth of the world’s and Biblical heritage under the feet of its cumbersome natives, Latin America is, by contrast, the promised land that never fulfilled itself,
with the superficiality once seen in North America by the Old World (but without the tremendous financial and capitalist success, brought on by Protestant colonization in North America.)
The Latin American “subcontinent,” its peoples and migrant Diasporas have increasingly slipped from horizon of global attention into a backstage limbo, a place of negation in the discourses of major powers and media.
Pathos, evoked by a fragmented and vanishing Arab world, has taken precedence in the global eye–doing no service to Arabs, as the only form of help imaginable to liberals and democrats in the United States is to promote a “humanitarian”, philanthropic bombardment of Syria.
The Pathos of the Arab world in Western media is no cause for envy.
Instead of competing for Pathos or for politically correct legitimacy and other competitive misery, Latin Americans need to scandalize and shake up the consensus once more.