George W. Bush decided to visit Latin America, last week, with the formally unstated, but clear aim, to use the weight of the US "empire" to oppose the role played by Latin American governments like that of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. The result of the visit did not help Bush in any way. It had a negative impact on the governments that he visited and instead re-asserted Chávez’s anti-imperialist profile.
Bush’s Latin America tour was restricted to countries where he has allies in government. Yet large and militant protests against his visit were the main feature of his visits to these friendly governments. This was the case not just in Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico, where the world’s number one ‘warlord’ visited. There were also large protests in Argentina and Bolivia, where Hugo Chávez visited. Chávez spoke to thousands of demonstrators in both Argentina and Bolivia, as well as to many thousands in Jamaica and Nicaragua.
The balance sheet for Bush’s trip was negative. As a result of his tour, the powerful movement of the masses of Latin America took another step forward.
Production of agrofuels
In Brazil, the biggest demonstration against Bush was on 8 March, along one of the main streets, the Avenida Paulista, in São Paulo. This is where President Lula received Bush. The Workers’ Party (PT)-led government launched a huge propaganda campaign to try to show that US-Brazil trade agreements over the production of agro-fuel, (like alcohol produced from sugar cane in Brazil), would benefit the country. However, even this propaganda could not succeed in containing the immense rejection at the presence of Bush on Brazilian soil.
Bush and Lula’s model of production of agro-fuel only serves big business, internationally, and imperialism. They want to impose production based on monoculture, latifundia (big landed estates), and on rural workers working in semi-slave like conditions. This is how the production of sugar cane was always carried out in Brazil. But the latest trade deal is also based on a plan to use genetically-modified seeds, which means paying royalties to the transnationals.
US imperialism is also aiming to reduce its dependence on Venezuelan and Middle Eastern oil. The concern voiced by this superpower about the environment is only a facade, as the production of sugar cane in Brazil, generally, is carried out using methods very damaging to the environment.
In the end, almost nothing was agreed upon between the US and Brazilian governments, not even a lowering of the high trade tariffs on Brazilian alcohol that is exported to the US.
Bush out of Iraq and Lula out of Haiti!
Bush’ visit, in reality, undermined the effort by President Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) to try to regain a progressive image, especially in relation to the government’s foreign policy.
In spite of all efforts from the PT and PCdoB (Communist Party of Brazil) and the organisations led by them, like CUT (biggest trade union federation) and UNE (National Union of Students), they did not succeed in stopping the left from denouncing the presence of Brazilian troops in Haiti, serving the interests of US imperialism.
During the anti-Bush demonstration in São Paulo, which is the biggest financial centre in Latin America, which was called under the banner "Bush out" and to mark International Womens’ Day, the most fighting people from the Brazilian left organised a large ‘Working Class and Feminist Bloc’. Thousands of activists from PSOL (Party for Socialism and Liberty), PSTU (United Socialist Workers’ Party), PCB (Brazilian Communist Party), took part, as well as new movements building alternatives to the pro-government leaderships of CUT and UNE (the main students union), like Conlutas (National Coordination of Struggles) and Intersindical.
Socialismo Revolucionário (SR), the Brazilian section of CWI that works as a current within PSOL, and, in particular, its female activists, played an important role in building this left bloc.
The Working Class and Feminist Bloc demanded, “Bush Out!”, but also rejected Lula government’s neo-liberal policies and its agreements with US imperialism. "Bush out of Iraq and Lula of Haiti" was the slogan that got the best response from demonstrators.
The São Paulo State military police brutally attacked the Avenida Paulista demonstration. Tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets, were used against the demonstrators, especially those on the Working Class and Feminist Bloc. More than twenty people were wounded, including two members and one sympathiser of Socialismo Revolucionário (SR).
Marilia, SR member injured by police rubber bullet
During Bush’s seven day tour across Latin America, more than 420 people were arrested, most in Colombia. This state repression only brought home the role of US imperialism in Latin America and subservience of governments like Lula’s (never mind the notorious right-wing, pro-imperialists, like Uribe, in Colombia, and Calderón in Mexico).
While Bush was in Uruguay meeting President Tabaré Vazquez, on the other side of River Plate, the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, called Bush "a political corpse" in front of about 40,000 people, in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina.
Chávez also ridiculed Bush’s meagre Latin America financial package of $75 million for English language courses and educational interchange, plus $385 million for housing projects. Chávez compared it with the US military budget of $600 billion in 2006. He laid down a challenge to Bush: "If you want social justice in the world...order the immediate withdrawal of the troops in Iraq and use the gigantic military budget of USA to combat hunger and death".
The next day, Chávez promised more than $1 billion for investments on oil projects and community radios in Bolivia. Added to the aid for flood relief in Bolivia, total Venezuelan aid to the country amounts to $15 billion, which is ten times US aid figures.
The urban and land working class of Latin America clearly see the huge difference between the visits of Bush, the imperialist warmonger ,and Chávez, who aims to re-distribute wealth to the poor. However, aid, even the considerable aid from Venezuela, on its own will not even begin to end the terrible social and economic conditions in Latin America. A fundamental transformation of society means breaking with imperialist domination and building a socialist society that puts the needs of the workers and the oppressed people first. To achieve this requires building mighty anti-capitalist alternative, mass workers’ parties with militant socialist policies in every country, and struggling for socialism across the continent - for a socialist federation of Latin America.