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A Crack in Capitalismo's Facade
By Indy Media /
For much of the 20th century, Latin America was the backyard of the stronger, more powerful United States.

Any Latin American government unfriendly to the neoliberal ideology of free trade and privatization could be bullied into toeing the party line with the help of CIA-sponsored coups. But once the Cold War ended and international organizations started frowning on blatant intervention, a new control mechanism was needed in the region. Rather than strong-arming resistant governments through military might, the United States sought control through a Faustian series of trade agreements and financial aid. Access to the desirable US market was permitted as long as Latin American countries allowed American corporations to operate in their territories with complete disregard for labor rights or environmental protection. Those countries unable to finance their own infrastructure were offered financial aid, a euphemism for loans.

No loan is ever offered free of conditions. In the case of international financial aid, countries on the receiving end are obligated to align their economic and monetary policy to strict neoliberal theory. Historically, this so-called aid and its totalitarian influence over policy has been devastating to Latin American countries. Argentina went broke after years of artificially tying its peso to the US dollar. Bolivia, taking transplanted neoliberal economics to the extreme, privatized water in the city of Cochabamba, threatening the very subsistence of its own people. Venezuela, despite having one of the world’s most profitable oil industries, saw poverty rates skyrocket as the wealth concentrated by oil privatization grew. Finally, after decades of savage capitalism nearly levelled their economies, Latin American governments began to act. Argentina kicked out the IMF and began an unprecedented economic recovery; the water crisis in Cochabamba spurred a regime change in Bolivia that culminated in the election of the socially-minded Evo Morales; Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shocked the world by reclaiming many of his country’s economic assets, nationalizing key industries like oil and cement.

In December 2008 Ecuador made a stand and joined the growing list of countries rejecting capitalist policies. Adopting the slogan “life before debt,” President Rafael Correa announced that he would follow the recommendation of a special audit commission and default on $3.9 billion in foreign commercial debts. Declaring the debt not only illegitimate but also “immoral,” the president sought to assure the world that his decision in no way indicated an inability to pay. Ecuador, he maintains, is simply unwilling to pay.

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A Crack in Capitalismo's Facade