Of the various regions we have selectively studied in class, I have found Latin America the most depressing. It could be that I knew the least about it as a region when we began the class, but nevertheless Latin America at times seems to be a case study in the worst deeds of the United States and the greatest failures of Neoliberalism.
This is partially because it seems the region has repeatedly reached for emancipation in some way and had its hopes squashed. In African examples, such as the US sponsored overthrow of the first president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and his replacement with the brutal dictator Mugabe, the example is depressing, but there is deep doubt that the original president could have surmounted the incredible odds stacked against him and his country.
In the example of Chile , which we discussed Wednesday, however, Salvador Allende entered a country with great wealth inequality but an established rule of law, which he followed, and repeatedly tried to implement policies to help the most oppressed in society. It is easy to see how he could have been successful in this aim; and yet, his policies threatened American corporate interests and those of the Chilean military, which lead to his death and his replacement by an extremely brutal dictator, Augusto Pinochet. This example is more heartbreaking as it shows American power being used as a factor to crush the dreams of a people when they could have possibly been realized.
This pattern of failures of Neoliberalism can be seen repeatedly in Latin America. Part of the rise of Hugo Chavez from Wednesday’s lecture was the removal of price controls for food in Venezuela in return for loans from the world bank. This is a reform for economic ‘development’ that produces more upper class and middle class wealth while worsening the situation for those who had the least in society. It is as though there is no sense of collective interest, as the interests of the destitute are not counted at all in the sum total of economic development. As Galeano states in Friday’s reading on page 310, “Solidarity is considered a useless waste of energy… but the powers that be have decided to alternate the carrot and the stick .” It is discouraging to see the prevailing socio-economic philosophy to be apparently failing so many this way.