Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Latin America Declares Independence

by Noam Chomsky

"Five centuries after the European conquests, Latin America is reasserting its independence. In the southern cone especially, from Venezuela to Argentina, the region is rising to overthrow the legacy of external domination of the past centuries and the cruel and destructive social forms that they have helped to establish.

The mechanisms of imperial control - violence and economic warfare, hardly a distant memory in Latin America - are losing their effectiveness, a sign of the shift toward independence. Washington is now compelled to tolerate governments that in the past would have drawn intervention or reprisal.

These developments are in part the result of a phenomenon that has been observed for some years in Latin America: As the elected governments become more formally democratic, citizens express an increasing disillusionment with democratic institutions. They have sought to construct democratic systems based on popular participation rather than elite and foreign domination.

A persuasive explanation for this has been offered by Argentine political scientist Atilio Boron, who observed that the new wave of democratization coincided with externally mandated economic "reforms" that undermine effective democracy. In a world of nation-states, it is true by definition that decline of sovereignty entails decline of democracy, and decline in ability to conduct social and economic policy. That in turn harms development. The historical record also reveals that loss of sovereignty consistently leads to imposed liberalization, of course in the interests of those with the power to impose this social and economic regime.

Meanwhile, new socioeconomic programs under way in Latin America are reversing patterns that trace back to the Spanish conquests - with Latin American elites and economies linked to the imperial powers but not to one another.

Of course this shift is highly unwelcome in Washington, for the traditional reasons: The United States expects to rely on Latin America as a secure base for resources, markets and investment opportunities.

And as planners have long emphasized, if this hemisphere is out of control, how can the United States hope to resist defiance elsewhere?"

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