Δευτέρα, 1 Σεπτεμβρίου 2008

Latin America Looks Towards European Union

North American Congress on Latin America

γράφει η Sujatha Fernandes

Latin America, once thought of as America's "backyard," has been moving further out of the orbit of the United States in the last ten years or so. As the testing ground for Washington-imposed neoliberal policies, Latin America has now become the locus for a series of left wing leaders who are contesting these policies, and as they do so, they have been turning towards allies in Europe, China, and the Middle East as a counter to US hegemony. Europe, in particular, has begun sketching out alternative policies that make the US seem increasingly isolated in its approach to Latin America.

Between the mid 1970s and the mid 1980s, structural adjustment measures of privatization, deregulation, and market-based growth were formulated into a coherent and extensive set of neoliberal principles known as the Washington Consensus, and reforms were urged on Latin American countries. The decade of the 1990s was marked by the relative hegemony of the neoliberal model and its application throughout the region.

The neoliberal model was widely proclaimed by Washington to be a panacea that could resolve the foreign debt crisis and spark economic growth through reviving the private sector. A key component of free trade policies were the proposed trade agreements known as the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which would reduce barriers to trade between the United States and countries in the Americas. The first agreement was signed between Mexico, Canada and the US, known as North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA required the imposition of structural adjustment policies in Mexico, and was met with a dramatic uprising by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) on January 1, 1994, the day it came into effect.

In the last decade, there have been nationwide mobilizations across Central and South America against privatization and free trade agreements. Several leaders challenging the neoliberal orthodoxy to greater and lesser degrees came to power: Hugo Chávez in Venezuela in 1998, Lula Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil in 2003, Nestor Kirchner in Argentina in 2003, Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay in 2004, Evo Morales in Bolivia in 2005, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua in 2006, and Rafael Correa in Ecuador in 2006. The national mobilizations, the ousting of neoliberal politicians, and the election of left wing leaders, marked a deeper rejection of the neoliberal model than the earlier cycle of protests.

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