December 05, 2021

Latin America Votes against US Imperialism

Vijay Prashad

DEMOCRATIC action across Latin America in the month of November delivered a series of rebukes against the political desire emanating from the United States government. In two significant presidential elections in Central America (Nicaragua and Honduras), the parties of the right-wing – favoured by Washington, DC – suffered defeat at the hands of the Left. Then, in regional and local elections in Venezuela, the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) defeated the united opposition in a majority of provinces, winning 19 of 23 governorships; while in Cuba, the revolutionary forces prevented US regime change operations from proceeding according to plan. These were the most dramatic instances of the strenghthened Left, but they were not the only indications.

In the southern cone of Chile and Argentina, Left-leaning forces made strong showings at the ballot box. In Chile, during the first round of the presidential elections, the Left’s candidate Gabriel Boric led the Apruebo Dignidad (Approve Dignity) alliance to second place in the first round behind the fascistic candidate of the right, José Antonio Kast. Boric, a centre-left politician, is supported by the Communist Party of Chile. He is leading the polls as the electorate galvanises against the fascist into the second round on December 19. In next-door Argentina, the ruling left-of-centre alliance Frente de Todos (Everyone’s Front) led by President Alberto Fernández, suffered serious losses in Buenos Aires and La Pampa, losing the senate for the first time in 40 years, but nonetheless – and despite great frustration in its negotiations with the IMF – was able to maintain its majority in the Chamber of Deputies. Boric’s victory, in the homeland of neoliberalism, will be a major upset for the oligarchies of South America.

In each of these cases – from Honduras to Chile – the parties of the right and Washington, DC, shuddered as the Left forces make significant gains. Nicaragua’s Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN), led by Daniel Ortega, defeated his closest rival 76 per cent to 14 per cent. Accusations of suppression notwithstanding, there has been a groundswell of support for the FSLN’s handling of the crisis during the pandemic. Next door, in Honduras, the forces of the Left, united behind the platform Libre and led by Xiomara Castro, triumphed against the parties of the coup of 2009. This is the second reversal at the ballot box of a US-driven coup in Latin America, the first being earlier this year in Bolivia when the voters rejected the coup regime of 2019 and triumphantly brought back the government of the Movement to Socialism.


On June 16, 2021, US President Joe Biden said, ‘How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries and everybody knew it?’ The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States has a digital library, where anybody can read the documents that show – without a doubt – that the United States has interfered in the democratic processes, including elections, across the world since the end of Second World War. In the American hemisphere, the obvious examples are the US-organised coup d’états in Guatemala (1954), Brazil (1964), and Chile (1973) as well as the funnelled money to right-wing forces for their election campaigns in Chile (1964), Nicaragua (1990), and El Salvador (from 1982 onwards). Funding to right-wing forces by US government bodies – such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy – allowed them to have an advantage in the political sphere. More recently, a Facebook whistle-blower pointed out that their platform did not challenge the troll armies on behalf of right-wing forces in Bolivia, Brazil, and Honduras – some of these troll armies based in the United States. In the past few years, the United States government bodies organised and paid for violent actions in Nicaragua and Venezuela, while the US government gave the green light for the Haitian oligarchy to continue to undermine its democratic processes. Apart from the covert actions, there is a public record of overt interference.

In conjunction with Nicaragua’s presidential elections, the US government passed the sanctions ridden RENACER (Reinforcing Nicaragua’s Adherence to Conditions for Electoral Reform) Act to punish the country. Last year, a leaked document from the USAID demonstrated that the US was putting money into various political forces – including Responsive Assistance to Nicaragua (RAIN) - to undermine the government, to interfere in the 2021 presidential elections, and to create a ‘sudden political transition’. The various forces behind the US called the process in Nicaragua a ‘pantomine election’, seeking to undermine its legitimacy. The playbook is simple: delegitimise the election and then use the range of sanctions tools to tighten the grip on the country till the leading political forces surrender to Washington. That is what has been occurring against Nicaragua and that does not somehow come within Biden’s definition of interference in the elections.

The interference in Venezuela is even more stark. Harsh sanctions against the country, tightened by US President Donald Trump and maintained by Biden, have created significant challenges for the Venezuelan people. The country has held more democratic elections than most other countries in the world. Through a long-drawn-out process, the government of President Nicolás Maduro negotiated with all the opposition to draw them back into the fray. Opposition parties gathered together and contested the election, unable – once more – to defeat the strong tide of Chavismo, the ideological grip of the Bolivarian Revolution. Even Washington’s favourite Venezuelan – Juan Guaidó – accepted the results and said that the opposition needs to unite and fight again another day. Nonetheless, US secretary of state Antony Blinken alleged ‘opposition harassment, media censorship and other undemocratic tactics’ and said that the elections were ‘neither free nor fair’.

Disparagement of elections in Latin America that favour the Left has become the norm from Washington.


When a defeat cannot be overcome, as in Peru’s presidential elections in June this year, the US government joins with the oligarchy to undermine the Left government. President Pedro Castillo has seen the pressure campaign intensify, forcing his foreign minister Hector Béjar to resign over his refusal to back sanctions against Venezuela, and putting in place a ‘moderate’ team that includes his minister of economy Pedro Francke, a former World Bank official. The shadowy fingers of the US embassy – led by former CIA agent Lisa Kenna – has driven a wedge between Castillo and his own party, notably its leader Vladimir Cerrón. Castillo remains in office, but the Left agenda that brought him there had to be diluted under the weight of the pressure. Such mechanisms will be brought to bear against the Libre government of Xiomara Castro in Honduras, a key base of US power in Central America.

Left forces have begun to consolidate around their own regional institutions, such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). This is a bloc of countries constituted in 2010 that have been slowly building political unity, and whose leaders – including Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador – made statements about it replacing the US-controlled Organisation of American States (OAS). CELAC’s advancement at the inter-state level is very significant, as is the expansion of the Bolivarian Treaty (ALBA-TCP), which was created at the initative of Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez in 2004. It is likely that Honduras will rejoin ALBA-TCP, as Bolivia did after that coup was overturned. These institutional platforms allow the states of Latin America to drive a policy agenda that is not set in Washington, DC. In fact, Honduras’ President Xiomara Castro will not only bring her country back into ALBA-TCP, but it is likely that her first foreign visit will not be to Washington, DC, but to Beijing; the leaders of Libre have made it clear that they wish to develop closer trade ties with China and with the other Asian countries rather than rely upon its historical ties to the United States.

These democratic victories are significant, and they will become much more powerful after the Brazilian and Colombian elections in 2022. In both countries, now bulwarks of the hard right, the Left is slated to make considerable gains. In Brazil, the return of the heroic former president Lula is almost guaranteed, with polls showing him far ahead of any combination of right-wing challenger. Jair Bolsonaro’s election victory in 2018 was secured by bringing a false criminal case against Lula and preventing him from being on the ballot; such lawfare is not going to work again. In Colombia, meanwhile, the Left-wing former mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Preto is the front-runner for the presidency. He will face the full wrath of the Colombian oligarchy, who have never allowed even a liberal to win that office. Preto, a former guerrilla, came second in the last election and this time is slated to make significant gains if he can unite the entire Left and take advantage of the massive cycles of protests against the government of President Iván Duque. If Lula wins in Brazil and Preto wins in Colombia, then the main corrosive platforms of US power would erode in South America.