WORLD IN VIEW: Latin America’s people in view and in motion

July 8, 2014

From the July-August 2014 issue of News & Letters

Colombia’s Election and ‘Peace’

“The majority of people voted not for Santos but for the peace process that Santos represents,” commented one Colombian election observer. Two right-of-center candidates battled: President Juan Manuel Santos, seeking re-election, and Óscar Iván Zuluaga, a candidate even further to the right. Peace negotiations with the armed guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were the main issue. What was clear from the run-off election is two-fold: Colombians are finished supporting the unending war that has consumed the country and its resources for decades; and a powerful extreme right, under former militaristic President Álvaro Uribe, won 45% of the vote and is intent on setting up further obstacles to any peace process short of military victory. No mere election, nor even a negotiated settlement, can resolve the nation’s deep social problems of economic inequality and racism.

Zapatista Activist Assassinated

In the Zapatista community of La Realidad in the Mexican state of Chiapas, paramilitary groups with connections to political parties and the state government carried out the murder of long-time Zapatista activist and teacher, José Luis López Solís, known as Galeano. More than a dozen other La Realidad community members were wounded, and a clinic and a school destroyed.

The Zapatista response has been massive—not to take up arms in vengeance with its danger of Mexican state forces entering, but in continuing a mobilization for life. Thousands attended a memorial service. The Zapatistas’ Comandantes Marcos and Moises spoke. Marcos declared that he will “cease to exist,” and will become Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano. Plans are in process to fund-raise globally to construct a new clinic and school, to hold a National Congress of Indigenous in August, and to continue to invite supporters to participate in “Freedom according to the Zapatistas” in their Little School.

World Cup Shows Other Brazil

Against all the madness of the World Cup, it is necessary to see another Brazil: a Brazil of continuing poverty, racism, extreme inequality, police and army repression, but most especially a Brazil of social protest. In the period leading up to the World Cup, and indeed during the games, we have seen a subway strike in São Paulo affecting millions; teachers on strike in Rio state; and massive street demonstrations against government corruption and World Cup spending—an estimated $11 billion cost of hosting the tournament. “Why does a city like Manaus need an expensive and luxurious stadium when a few meters away there’s a neighborhood, Alvorada, without sidewalks and treated sewage?” asked one Manaus writer. Rio has seen mass evictions of slum residents for World Cup construction projects. Attempts to “clean up” these poor crime-ridden neighborhoods with massive police and army invasions resulted in many deaths. Welcome to the World Cup, with the 2016 Olympics on the horizon.

—Eugene Walker

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