US diplomatic cables reveal a coordinated assault against Latin America’s left-wing governments.
arlier this summer, the world watched Greece try to resist a disastrous neoliberal diktat and get a painful thrashing in the process.
When Greece’s left government decided to hold a national referendum on the troika-imposed austerity program, the European Central Bank retaliated by restricting liquidity for Greek banks. This triggered a prolonged bank closure and plunged Greece further into recession.
Though Greek voters ended up massively rejecting austerity, Germany and the European creditor cartel were able to subvert democracy and get exactly what they wanted: complete submission to their neoliberal agenda.
In the last decade and a half, a similar fight against neoliberalism has been waged across the breadth of an entire continent, and mostly outside of the public eye. Although Washington initially sought to quash all dissent, often employing even fiercer tactics than those used against Greece, Latin America’s resistance to the neoliberal agenda has in large part been successful. It’s an epic tale that’s gradually coming to light thanks to continued exploration of the massive trove of US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.
Neoliberalism was firmly implanted in Latin America long before Germany and the eurozone authorities began force-feeding structural adjustment to Greece and other indebted, peripheral countries. Through coercion (e.g., conditions attached to IMF loans) and indoctrination (e.g., the US-backed training of the region’s “Chicago Boys”), the US succeeded in spreading the gospel of fiscal austerity, deregulation, “free trade,” privatization, and draconian public sector downsizing throughout Latin America by the mid-1980s.
The outcome was strikingly similar to what we’ve seen in Greece: stagnant growth (almost no per capita income growth for the twenty years from 1980-2000), rising poverty, declining living standards for millions, and plenty of new opportunities for international investors and corporations to make a quick buck.
Starting in the late ‘80s, the region began to convulse and rise up against neoliberal policies. At first, the rebellion was mostly spontaneous and unorganized — as was the case with Venezuela’s Caracazo uprising in early 1989.
But then, anti-neoliberal political candidates began to win elections and, to the shock of the US foreign policy establishment, an increasing number of them stuck to their campaign promises and began implementing anti-poverty measures and heterodox policies that reasserted the state’s role in the economy.