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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    The Wind From Below

    In April 1964, the CIA commented that ‘Cuba’s experiment with almost total state socialism is being watched closely by other nations in the hemisphere and any appearance of success there could have an extensive impact on the statist trend elsewhere in the area.’ The Americans were correct in this assessment, but one could not have imagined the impact the Cuban revolution would still have on the world today. A quick glance at the recent news coverage displays that Latin America is becoming, to borrow a phrase from political author Tariq Ali, an ‘axis of hope.’

    In the United States the notion of democracy is a pathetic joke, with rich elites vying for power every few years offering no real promise of change. However, when we look south we see something completely different. The electoral victories of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela have given the region a reason to look towards a brighter future. His Bolivarian plan is in complete contrast with the Washington consensus. Furthermore, the North Americans neo-liberal dominance has been severely discredited. It appears that no leader can even win an election in South America without openly shunning Washington’s economic agenda.

    Adherence to the neo-liberal model is now synonymous with poverty and failure. Initially Cuba was the primary opposing model, but now there are others as well. Venezuela and Argentina have both become noteworthy models.

    What is exactly happening is completely unique in the hemispheres’ history. Since the Spanish conquest, Latin American nations have always been effectively separated on colonial grounds with quite a few exceptions. There have been calls for unity, but most have not worked well in the past on a continental scale. The previous supporters of continental integration, Simon Bolivar and Che Guevara, had attempted this but they did not succeed. In memory of them, South America is finally achieving liberation from northern exploitation.

    For the first time as well, the indigenous populations are actually gaining concrete achievements. In Bolivia they have elected the first indigenous president, Evo Morales, who has closely aligned himself with Chavez and Castro. Rafael Correa has been elected in Ecuador with promises of removing the U.S. military base from the country, possibly defaulting on the nations ‘debt,’ and strengthening South American integration. Nestor Kirchner of Argentina, Lula Da Silva of Brazil, and Michelle Bachelet of Chile are also left-leaning presidents with common socialist goals for the region. In Central America, Daniel Ortega from the Sandinista party was re-elected as well, making it the first Central American nation involved in this bloc.

    All of these electoral victories have been occurring in the background of very significant popular social movements. In the past they were crushed with extreme violence occasionally resulting in guerrilla struggles. But those days of state and Washington supported terror seem to be over. The unsuccessful U.S. supported coup attempt in Venezuela may be the last time they attempt to overthrow a regime in South America with that traditional method. Lula, for instance, would not have been tolerated in the 1960’s, but times have changed drastically.

    If patterns persist in the current mode one can honestly assume South and Central America may be the most hopeful place on the planet in coming decades. Sub-commandant Marcos, spokesman for the Zapatista Movement in Mexico, had written in 1994, that, ‘The storm is here. From the clash of these two winds the storm will be born, its time has arrived. Now the wind from above rules, but the wind from below is coming… The prophecy is here. When the storm calms, when rain and fire again leave the country in peace, the world will no longer be the world but something better.’ The storm has finally arrived, and it appears something better is in the horizon.

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