Juan Carlos Zambrana Marchetti *
When history shows that even the liberators who now are universally recognized, like Simon Bolivar, were resisted while alive by the social sector that lost power, it is showing us the thankless side of patriotism. It would seem that liberty is better understood in a historical perspective, for it is only from a distance that we begin to understand, for example, that in the past we never had it. In reality, there is an eternal war for freedom, in which we have merely won battles.
So long does the war for liberty go on that even Bolivar could not see his work completed, as the new republics reached agreements with the dominant classes of the colonies, leaving intact the economic structure of looting and giving rise to a republican era of neocolonial characteristics: a long historical period in which Latin America continued to be looted and its peoples exploited, albeit in different ways.
The fact is that the interests of looting and exploitation, having economic power in their hands, adapted with agility to hide the new forms of domination, and did so long before the peoples could even realize that they were still slaves. The control of information with which the institutionalized deceit was perpetrated caused the Latin American peoples to ignore during the 20th Century that, for example, the “free market” was not free, that “democracy” was not the government of the people, and that “liberty” was no more than freedom to feed the insatiable voracity of predatory and accumulative capitalism.
During the decade of the 60s there emerged the figure of Ernesto Che Guevara, another of the frustrated visionaries who left a deep imprint on the imagination of humankind. He happened to live during the expansion of U.S. neocolonialism through “nation-building” programs to build nations complacent with Washington’s abusive policies.
Guevara fought against that, but in his last campaign it befell him to face one of the Latin American military dictatorships that the government of Richard Nixon had supported in order to impose his policies on the continent.
Brandishing a rifle to confront the world order of the United States led Che Guevara to his immolation at the hands of the CIA, but turned him into the inspirational figure of anti-imperialism at a world level.
After the bloody dictatorships of the 70s, which continued to loot their countries, there came the era of weak democracies. These were incipient democracies that, having been born amidst the smell of gunpowder and under the hard breathing of the dictators, were content to recover the state of rights and to preserve it from new humiliations. It was hard to aspire to more, because the peoples were already so alienated by the corporate media that the Right continued to wield important political power within a representative democracy in which the people did not govern, but were instead “represented” by a candidate who was approved, one way or another, by Washington’s interests. So much so, that, in those countries where the Left reached power, it did so only with great efforts, through broad coalitions with little strength to combat the powerful political and economic international structure of looting.
Predatory capitalism is agile when it comes to morphing and to always anticipating the defense that the peoples might put up. That was never as evident as in the 80s. After the “failure” of the Left under pressure of the “worldwide system”, there was in Latin America a resurgence of the old colonialism of Spain, which had mutated into English colonialism, and later into the neocolonialism of the United States. The latter, after World War II, had already taken on the disguise of humanitarian assistance, economic aid, privatization and capitalization. It returned during the 80s with a brand-new mask called “neoliberalism” and backed by a series of control mechanisms implemented at the time by “independent” institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the other organizations of the baneful “Washington Consensus.”
Neoliberalism imposed looting on Latin America through its explicit policy of turning over all natural resources and productive sectors to international private enterprise, and further to take away from government its social function and its ability to fulfill it. It was the cruel era of institutionalized looting in the “democratic” way.
It is during that period of impune expansion of inequality that the figure of Hugo Chavez rises up to lead the new battle for the liberty of the peoples. It is the new stage of the eternal asymmetric war, which is possible only in the mind of visionaries: to confront a world order untouchable until then, and which, in this case, had turned democracy into the patrimony of the corporations –a corporatocracy, or, better yet, a pantomime to stage imitations of democracy on a set in which only the agents of the interests of looting took part. Only Hugo Chavez, inspired in the thinking of Bolivar, puts into practice the new socialism of the 21th Century, and elevated it until it has changed into a paradigm that is internationally recognized as a viable democratic option, not just to face the crisis of predatory capitalism and of representative democracy, but also to build the society of greater justice to which humanity so aspires.
Thanks to Chavez, other peoples were able to compete in a democracy against the interests of looting, to
access government, and to initiate profound processes of decolonization that have changed the face of the continent and begin to be felt in other regions of the world. Hugo Chavez, as the equalizer of asymmetries in democracy, is the most important figure of the new battle for the liberation of the peoples. He is the man who is turning into reality the dream of his afore-mentioned predecessors.
Not everyone sees things as clearly, because the Venezuelan opposition in Miami, making use of the President’s delicate health, seeks to take away yet another electoral victory of the Venezuelan people and give the impression that there is a “vacuum of power” in Caracas.
That way of thinking is a leftover of the old paradigm of power from centuries past, wholly obsolete and inapplicable, in countries with a participatory democracy like Venezuela and Bolivia, where the process of decolonization is irreversible because it is founded on an economic model that is more just, and because it is defended by the people from the trenches of their social organizations.
What Chavez has done is, in many respects, immeasurable, although the opposition needs a historical perspective to assimilate and begin to understand it. May God grant long life to the President.
(*) Correspondent of Cambio newspaper in the United States.