Analysis. The Community of American and Caribbean States welcomes Lula and aims to strengthen the integration policies of the subcontinent. Meanwhile, putschists, liberals and various extractivists mobilize against ‘the communist danger.’

The new progressive wave in Latin America agitates the far right

The latest demonstration by the Latin American far right was scheduled for Tuesday, January 24, when the 7th Summit of the Community of American and Caribbean States (CELAC), chaired by Argentine head of state Alberto Fernández, began in Buenos Aires. The return of Brazil to the group – after Bolsonaro sought to exit – and the presence of President Lula gives this Community of 33 countries in the region the role of backbone of the oleada progresista that has once again turned much of America pink, from Mexico to Argentina, Honduras, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil and Chile.

The focus of the discussions will be on strengthening the integration policies of the Latin American subcontinent, so that it can present itself as a sovereign interlocutor vis-à-vis the northern part of the continent, the U.S. and Canada. This is a project that has been championed by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Argentine President Alberto Fernández and recently presented by the former at the North America Summit held in Mexico City. While setting aside the more ideological component of anti-imperialism – former Bolivian Vice President García Linera describes it as “a low-intensity progressivism” – the leaders of the nueva oleada are demanding that Washington renounce the policy of interfering (and changing unwelcome governments) according to the Monroe Doctrine, which was restored to the forefront of policy towards the countries south of the Rio Bravo by former President Trump.

The success of this line among the CELAC countries also strengthens the position of Argentina and President Fernández in the run-up to the difficult presidential and general elections on October 22. The continental right considers Argentina to be the weak link in the array of forces opposing them, and they hope that a breakthrough here will be able to start a continental backlash against the “expansion of socialism” in Latin America. In short, they are envisioning a repeat of what happened in 2015 with the election of the right-wing Maurizio Macri as president, which bolstered Argentina’s role as the vanguard of the reversal of the first progressive tide, which began with – and was influenced by – Hugo Chávez’s presidency in Venezuela in 1998.

According to analyst Katu Arkonada, the attack against strengthening CELAC, especially aimed at countering the socialist advance, was prepared in November at a meeting in Mexico, “the largest in the world,” the Conservative Political Action Conference, led by Trump’s former chief of staff Steve Bannon. A number of the participants, Arkonada says, “played an important role in the parliamentary coup against Pedro Castillo in Peru, the Bolivarian coup led by Fernando Camacho in Bolivia, and the attack on democracy carried out in Brasilia by Bolsonaro’s followers.”

However, there has been a lot of water under the bridge since the “conservative comeback” led by Argentina’s Macri. According to Eduardo Lucita (of the group Economistas de Izquierda), the new Latin American radical right-wingers are linked to the European far right, primarily the Spanish Vox. Abascal and other leaders of the latter have been at the center of a long chain of meetings and online gatherings aiming to build a kind of reactionary international they call “Iberosfera,” with obvious nostalgia for Spain’s colonial past. The ideological aggregating factor they propose is “the communist danger […] in a region seized by totalitarian regimes of communist inspiration, backed by drug trafficking, under the umbrella of Cuba.” It is a kind of manifesto of the Latin American right-wingers, to which Eduardo Bolsonaro (Brazil), Keiko Fujimori (Peru), José A. Kast (Chile) and Javier Milei (Argentina) have all adhered. All are political leaders that offer guarantees for neoliberal extractivist policies.

This movement chooses the ground of a critique against “cultural Marxism” – the cause “of the degradation of Western values” – in order to try to nullify class conflicts. For these right-wingers, “all struggles, whether social, economic or political, are configured as cultural conflicts.” It all comes from a subculture that “is the counterpart of the social decadence imposed by decades of neoliberal policies,” but which is making inroads into the rebellion of the youth against the lack of choice in their lives, which leads to criticism of the “political caste” and even “the system” of liberal democracy.

Although defeated in recent elections (Peru, Colombia, Brazil), these right-wingers have maintained a strong hard core, exceeding 40 percent in Brazil. They are strong and stable, but not advancing. However, according to the analysis of Uruguayan Raúl Zibechi, both the assault on the centers of political power in Brasilia and the fierce repression underway in Peru indicate that the military leadership is on the side of these right-wingers. They don’t aim to enact coups, but to become “the guardians of extractivism in Latin America.”

Zibechi writes that “Lula is being cornered by the military-business alliance that doesn’t want to take him down, but to impose conditions on him.” The first is to “keep the Amazon under military control, organizing and guaranteeing mining, both legal and illegal.” In short, the Latin American left must realize that “[t]he real power is the military … which is not going to submit to (nonexistent) ‘democratic legality.’“

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