South of the border, an entire region is rising. Latin America is electing radical governments, dismantling cold-war era power structures and moving towards integration and genuine independence.
Today, “MintPress News” speaks to Ollie Vargas about Latin America and just what is going on in the region President Joe Biden called the U.S.’ “front yard.” Ollie Vargas is an award-winning journalist based in Bolivia. He is the co-founder of “Kawsachun News,” an outlet reporting in the English language on Bolivia and Latin America. He has also contributed to “MintPress.”
Key to the latest drive towards Latin America has been the role of Brazil and, in particular, President Lula da Silva, who has taken it upon himself to lead the Global South to take a more active role in world politics.
“The election of Lula da Silva in Brazil last year is key for Latin American unity and a multipolar world. There has always been the aspiration there. But without the leadership of Brazil, which is, of course, the largest country in Latin America, it is very difficult to make it a reality,” Vargas said.
Brazil is currently the only Latin American member of the BRICS economic bloc. However, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba, Nicaragua and a host of other countries in the region have expressed interest in joining, which could turn the tables and provide balance to the U.S. “rules-based international order.”
Another key figure providing pushback to American dominance of Latin America is Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. AMLO, as he is known, has refused to kowtow to Washington. Indeed, at President Biden’s Summit for Democracy in March, he described the U.S. as nothing more than an “oligarch with a façade of democracy.”
AMLO has proven very popular in Mexico, thanks to his pro-people policies. These include massively raising the minimum wage and state pensions, allowing tens of millions to live in dignity. All the while, he has kept inflation low. He holds a televised press conference every morning, in which he talks directly with the people. As Vargas put it, “While previous leaders stood above the population, AMLO stands with the people.”
AMLO stands, in Vargas’ opinion, in contrast to Chilean president Gabriel Boric. Heralded as a new kind of progressive at the time of his election, Boric has failed to maintain his popularity. Vargas explained that, while Boric has some superficially radical positions, he has changed little about the day-to-day existence of the ordinary people:
Boric is someone who came out of the middle-class student movements in Chile. He’s not someone who comes from the socialist left, from trade unions, or from indigenous movements. I would define his ideology as a liberal centrist. He has taken positions that would probably be considered more progressive than much of the Latin American left on LGBT issues, feminism and things like that. But when it comes to the economic issues, he represents an absolute continuity with the old conservative free-market government of Chile.”
Vargas also talks about the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on Latin America, about the upcoming elections in Ecuador, and what it was like reporting under the dictatorship of Jeanine Añez in Bolivia in 2020.
If you are at all interested in Latin America, the Global South, or the changing world order, don’t miss out on this episode.
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Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.