GUSTAVO PETRO’S Colombian election win strikes a blow for peace and socialism in a country plagued by state and paramilitary violence.
It is not just a historic victory for Colombians, who have elected the first left-wing leader in their history, but a victory for anti-imperialism.
In recent years we have seen left-oriented governments determined to chart a path independent of Washington coming into office in Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Chile and the victory of the Bolivian people over the US and British-backed military coup of 2019.
We have seen the abject failure of Washington’s attempt to replace Venezuela’s government with a delusional opposition MP whose recognition as “president,” despite controlling no territory, has been treated with derision by the large majority of countries.
We have seen the US’s continuing effort to isolate Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela founder, with this month’s Summit of the Americas seeing multiple regional leaders decline to attend while they are excluded.
And the signs are that we shall see the triumphant return of Lula to the presidency of Latin America’s largest country, Brazil, this autumn after the “constitutional coup” that removed his party from office in 2016 and the stitch-up that prevented him standing against Jair Bolsonaro in 2018.
In short, we are seeing the unravelling of US efforts to impose its will on Latin America. Colombia could hardly be a more important link in this chain.
The whole labour movement can celebrate the election of a man determined to fully implement the 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), a deal that Colombian governments have betrayed by allowing the murder of hundreds of former Farc guerillas seeking to re-enter civilian life.
It can celebrate, too, a leader pledged to end the extraordinary violence deployed against social activists and worker representatives in Colombia, the most dangerous country on Earth to be a trade unionist.
A radical rupture is needed with a regime closely linked to far-right paramilitaries and an army that murdered an estimated 10,000 civilians in the “false positives” scandal, in which people were lured to remote areas, killed and then dressed as guerillas so that soldiers could claim promotions and cash rewards based on bodycounts.
That regime, answering only to the super rich, has presided over a worsening economic crisis and deployed lethal and sexual violence by police against protesters in Bogota, Cali and other cities.
The new Colombian government will need our comradeship. Solidarity movements with the Latin American left will need support in raising awareness to make it as difficult as possible for our own government to connive at the inevitable attempts to demonise, destabilise and overthrow it that we have seen so many times across that continent — often with Colombia, the base for many attacks on Venezuela, playing a key role.
But it is significant that those attempts, despite the huge military and economic power of Washington, are less and less successful.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine may have shored up US alliances in Europe — though the French legislative elections, denying President Macron a parliamentary majority, will cause headaches for both the EU and Nato in trying to pursue a coherent approach.
But globally, US power is very obviously on the wane. Global South countries are refusing to be dictated to on their alliances and development partners. Sanctions and attacks on Russian currency reserves are prompting more countries to look to alternatives to dollar trading. And the peoples of Latin America are standing up.
As an imperialist power, albeit one in junior partnership with the US, the dilemmas facing Britain are distinct from Latin America’s.
But we too can challenge politicians on the wisdom of shackling ourselves to a declining superpower, parroting its every propaganda offensive and participating in its every cold — or hot — war, when so much of the world is breaking free.
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