* * * * *
1 August 2009
Source: Green Left Weekly
With the June 28 military coup in Honduras, the agreement for five United States military bases in Colombia and the intensification of a dirty propaganda campaign against Venezuela, “the big question is whether the US will look at launching a war that will undoubtedly spread throughout the region, or whether it will decide to postpone such a scenario and attempt to continue dealing regular blows.
“There is no other possible scenario.”
This is how Luis Bilbao, the director of the Venezuelan-based Latin American-wide magazine America XXI, described the situation in the region to Green Left Weekly.
Bilbao has accompanied Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to various regional gatherings and has worked with the Chavez government to help build the Union of South American Nations (Unasur). He said recent US moves, which included assisting the Honduran coup, were the result of the “increased political role of ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our Americas] in the region” this year.
ALBA, set up by the revolutionary governments of Cuba and Venezuela, involves nine countries from Latin America and the Caribbean. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, overthrown in the coup, took his country into ALBA, upsetting the US and local elites.
ALBA was created as a fair trade bloc and alternative to the neoliberal US-proposed Free Trade of Americas Agreement, but has increasingly become a political vehicle for coordinated interventions by the region’s anti-imperialist governments.
Bilbao said two events clearly demonstrated this increased collaboration and the resulting “shift in hegemony in the region”.
“The participation of the ALBA group in the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago [held on April 17-19] is something without precedent”, he told GLW. “The group met the day before to create a counter-document to the one that the US had already built consensus around. This resulted in an eruption of unexpected force, preventing the approval of [the US-pushed] document.”
Due to the intervention of the anti-imperialist ALBA bloc, “a large number of other countries – that had already approved the final document – felt they could not be seen to be signing onto it in opposition to the position of ALBA”. The second event occurred two months later, at the meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS), “where the plan was to accept the reincorporation of Cuba into the OAS”, on the condition that “Cuba accepted Western ‘democratic’, that is, bourgeois principles”. “Here, once again, the ALBA bloc erupted onto the scene … and the plans of imperialism and the regional capitalists were defeated.” For Bilbao, this chain of events provoked a situation “where hegemony [in the OAS] changed hands” from the US to the ALBA bloc. “Obviously, this was something the US could not accept.”
Lacking the “political-democratic means to counter this”, the US had to “put into motion a new phase [of its counteroffensive], prepared for a long time, but contained and applied in tentative and partial ways”. He cited the events in Bolivia last September, where there was an attempt to “divide the country and initiate a civil war in order to bring down the government of President Evo Morales”, as an example of the growing US offensive. The plan failed and the US had to backtrack. Less than a month after the OAS meeting, the coup in Honduras occurred. However, Bilbao said, “by the night of June 28, that coup had already failed. “Within hours, ALBA moved into action and created that same change of hegemony I talked about before, but this time within a totally different framework. “The OAS could not support the coup, as ALBA had already launched a plan to counteract it. Therefore, the OAS immediately came out against the coup.” US president Barack Obama was also forced “to say he was not in favour of this, in an ambiguous fashion in order to support [the coup] while [verbally] opposing it. But the truth is the US could not play the role of heading up the coup, either openly or covertly.
“They had to come out and say they were against it. They didn’t call it a coup, but said they were against the new president.”
Despite the different manoeuvres, using Costa Rican president Oscar Arias to head negotiations between Zelaya and the coup regime, “the situation has not changed, on the contrary it has become worse for the US … it is clear the coup has failed”.
The question remains whether “the US will allow the government to fall, which would be another defeat and humiliation for the White House, or whether they will provoke a bloodbath before the government falls, so the world knows the cost of [resisting coups] is very high”.
Bilbao said: “They will undoubtedly try to place the blame on the military or business groups in Honduras. Of course there are figures in the Honduran military and its capitalist backers capable of a bloodbath.
“But it will be the result of US policy, because the US, with a single move, could put an end to that government.
“If it doesn’t, and we witness a bloodbath in Honduras, it is because the US wants to demonstrate to Latin America that it will not be easy to shake off the control, exploitation and oppression of the US over our countries.
“It is clear that if the US unleashes a massacre of the Honduran people, this confrontation will spill over into the rest of the region.”
It is in this scenario that “the US has put into motion a bigger and now more openly belligerent plan”. This plan includes the installation of military bases on the border with Venezuela and the accusations that Venezuela is a narco-state that supports terrorism and arms the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which is waging a decades-long armed struggle against the Colombian regime.
Using third parties, the US was clearly unleashing “a war dynamic”, Bilbao said.
For this reason, Bilbao said: “Lula had played the negative role of not fulfiling any role [during the Honduras crisis]. There is no doubt that if Lula had shown the same determination as ALBA, the coup regime would have fallen.”
Asked whether Obama reflects a change in US government policy or, at least, a difference with the position of former president George Bush, Bilbao said that “without a doubt Obama is not Bush, in many ways”.
Similarly, “without a doubt, and this is very important factor, there is something new in the world political panorama – the US imperialist bourgeoisie is divided”.
“Without a doubt, there are different lines of action proposed regarding the current situation.”
However, “without a doubt, Obama is the president of that empire and whether they – the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the terrorist groups encrusted in the state department and the defense department – carried this out with or without his full knowledge, the phenomenon is the same.
“The only thing in doubt is whether Obama will accompany this plan to the end.”
In Bilbao’s view, an evaluation of the first few months of the Obama government make clear that he “has not consistently defended any of the promises he made”.
Moreover, Obama finds himself in a situation that is “seemly reaching its limits”. He noted how only a few days ago, Obama was forced to reschedule a televised speech on his proposed health program after the CBS network refused to grant him its prime time 9pm slot – sticking to its scheduled programming of a well-known pop singer.
This clearly demonstrated the “political weakness of the government”, Bilbao said. This weakness “is leading to a fracturing of the US imperialist bourgeoisie”.
“We can not ignore this fact, but neither should we ignore the result of this complex relationship of forces: the coup in Honduras; the installation of bases on the border with Venezuela; the provocation launched in Colombia [with allegations about the supposed arming of the FARC with Venezuelan rifles]; and the destabilisation policy that the US embassy is carrying out in Paraguay to bring down President Lugo.
“The only doubt today is whether they want us to pay right now or not, and on that point there are undoubtedly many positions within the US ruling clique. Which one will win out is something that can not be determined now.”
If war breaks out, ALB’s response will be firm. “But, beyond ALBA’s response, is the response of the people [of Latin America]. A people that today is advancing slowly towards an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist perspective.”
In a context of regional war, “revolutionary armed forces will reappear across all of Latin America, guerilla forces will reappear, as will clandestine and violent forms of combat. If all other channels are closed off, there is no doubt this is how the people will respond.”