A tale of two tours
YOU WOULD rarely have a bigger contrast between Presidents George Bush and Hugo Chávez on their recent tours around Latin America. "Son como el d'a y la noche" as people say there: as different as night and day.
Bush, head of the world's superpower that spends over half of the total world budget on arms, planned the tour to repair his tattered, bloodied image at home and abroad. Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez knows how much Bush is hated particularly in Latin America, and planned his trip simultaneously so that Bush's humiliation would be multiplied ten-fold.
Despite the massive resources and power at his disposal, Bush failed miserably in his aims. In doing so the US president handed president Chávez an ideal opportunity to boost his support amongst workers and poor peasants even further in the Latin American states he visited.
Bush only visited the capitals of the few Latin American countries that have right-wing leaders or those who feel they are secure enough in power to at least talk to the US president.
Colombia was one of the most important stops for Bush. çlvaro Uribe, the president, is one of Bush's biggest fans internationally. Incredibly, despite being the guest of a friendly regime, Bush had to be surrounded by a wall of iron of 20,000 Colombian soldiers and 7,000 police on top of the normal US protection squad of thousands of secret service agents.
Despite all Bush's propaganda nonsense about "democracy" and "freedom", he gives unconditional support to Uribe who is renowned internationally for being completely corrupt and for brutal repression against trade unionists and opposition activists. Colombia is the main recipient of military aid from the US outside the Middle East.
Bush has given over $3.9 billion in the last six years in the so-called 'Plan Colombia II'. This is mainly military aid supposedly to use against the drug trade and the 'narco-terrorism' of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC - Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) that controls parts of Colombia.
There has been no sign of a halt to this aid despite the scandal known as the 'parapolitica' that has gripped Colombia over the last few years. This has involved MPs linked to right-wing paramilitaries, and has uncovered "assassinations, kidnappings, extortion and buying of votes." (El Pais, 12 March 2007)
What of Chávez? His first port of call was to the poorest sections of society in Bolivia. He was greeted by thunderous applause from thousands of workers and poor peasants in the remote flood affected Amazonian province of Beni there. Chávez, accompanied by Bolivian president Evo Morales and the president of the Cuban Popular Assembly (parliament), brought aid consisting of two helicopters, 40 tractors, thousands of blankets and a large team of Cuban doctors.
To a massive cheering, he quoted Tupac Katari, a famous leader of the indigenous people in Latin America. Katari had said just before he died: "I will return and I will be millions". These words have thundered down the generations and particularly over the last decade as workers, students, the landless and indigenous people across Latin America have risen up against the neo-liberal economic madness that has been visited upon them by imperialism.
Echoing the hatred of the masses over the poverty and destitution caused by neo-liberalism, Chávez said: "We are millions and we are Tupac Katari-made millions and we will struggle for our future. This struggle will not end."
Anti-imperialist presidents like Hugo Chávez and Bolivia's Evo Morales, owe their elections to the millions that have moved into struggle in Latin America.
The only guarantee of a future for the workers and peasants of the continent is the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with a democratic socialist federation of Latin American states.
Workers' control and management of a planned economy would provide the basis for returning the land to the peasantry and ending the centuries long oppression of the indigenous people. This would be a fitting tribute to the sacrifice of Tupac Katari and the nameless millions who have fought against feudal and imperialist oppression.