Hugo Chávez, military officer turned left-wing revolutionary, was one of the most important Latin American leaders of the twenty-first century. In My First Life, Chávez narrates the story of his life in the years preceding his election as president in 1998. His interlocutor is Ignacio Ramonet, a former editor at Le Monde diplomatique who previously produced a similiar book with Fidel Castro. The post below is excerpted from Ramonet's introduction.
To celebrate the publication of My First Life, the book and many other titles on Latin America are currently on sale at a 40% discount.
At the age of forty-five, Hugo Chávez became one of the youngest presidents in Venezuelan history.
His investiture was held on 2 February 1999. And less than two months later, on 25 April, he called as promised a referendum for a Constituent Assembly. He got 88 per cent of the votes. The Bolivarian Revolution was on the march. In July, members were elected to the Assembly. The Polo Patriótico, the president’s coalition, swept the board again, with 121 of the 128 seats. The new Assembly began work on the Fifth Republic’s Constitution, the text of which had to be ratified by a national referendum on 15 December 1999.
This letter was first published in Le Monde. Translated by David Broder.
(via Wikimedia Commons)
As a rule, crises open up the terrain of the possible, and the crisis that began in 2007 with the collapse of the subprime market is no exception. The political forces that upheld the old world are now decomposing — first among them social democracy, which has since 2012 entered a new phase in its long process of accommodation to the existing order. As against these forces, the National Front has diverted part of the anger in society to its own advantage. It has adopted the pretense of an anti-systemic stance, even though it challenges nothing about this system, and least of all the law of the market.
Such is the context in which Nuit Debout was born — a movement that now marks the first month of its existence. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall the opposition to neoliberalism has taken various different forms: the “Bolivarian” governments in Latin America in the 2000s, the “Arab Spring,” Occupy Wall Street, the Spanish indignados, Syriza in Greece, the Corbyn and Sanders campaigns in Britain and the USA…. Future historians delving into our era will doubtless say that it was particularly rich in social and political movements.
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HOW TO RADICALIZE THE BABY BOOMERS IN YOUR LIFE
As neoliberal policies and monetary hegemony continue to dominate around the globe, protests for democracy and against the political elite are widespread. With the start of the World Cup in Brazil it is, yet again, kicking off everywhere.
Riot police fired percussion grenades and teargas at anti-World Cup protesters in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on Thursday as the countdown to the kick-off was marred by demonstrations in at least 10 Brazilian cities. Just hours before the opening ceremony at the Itaquerão stadium, about 100 protesters started fires and threw rocks at police in an apparent attempt to block a road leading to the venue.
The "Our Cup is on the Street" protests are targeting the high cost of the stadiums, corruption, police brutality and evictions. "The World Cup steals money from healthcare, education and the poor. The homeless are being forced from the streets. This is not for Brazil, it's for the tourists," said Denize Adriana Ferreira in this Guardian report.
The following reading list from Verso suggests books to help us understand the multifaceted histories of uprising in Central and South America, as well as the anti-world cup protests.
Barbaric Sport: A Global Plague
by Marc Perelman
What does hosting the World Cup really mean for Brazil? Marc Perelman explores this, and more, in Barbaric Sport.
Boycott Football and Fifa - read his piece on the world cup here.
Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of A New Architecture
by Justin McGuirk
Justin McGuirk travels across Latin America in search of the activist architects, maverick politicians and alternative communities already answering these questions. From Brazil to Venezuela, and from Mexico to Argentina, McGuirk discovers the people and ideas shaping the way cities are evolving.
'We want FIFA standard schools and hospitals' - what the World Cup means for Rio: read an extract from Radical Cities here.
The press of course went into high dudgeon, and not just for the obvious reason that it's one thing for opponents in the Middle East to call the United States the Great Satan and another thing for the president of a Latin American country to personally single out its president as Beelzebub, on US soil no less.
I think what really rankled was that Chávez was claiming a privilege that had long belonged to the United States, that is, the right to paint its adversaries not as rational actors but as existential evil. Latin American populists, from Argentina's Juan Perón to, most recently, Chávez, have long served as characters in a story the US tells about itself, reaffirming the maturity of its electorate and the moderation of its political culture. There are at most eleven political prisoners in Venezuela, and that's taking the opposition's broad definition of the term, which includes individuals who worked to overthrow the government in 2002, and yet it is not just the right in this country who regularly compared Chávez to the worst mass murderers and dictators in history. New Yorker critic Alex Ross, in an essay published a few years back celebrating the wunderkind Venezuelan conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, fretted about enjoying the fruits of Venezuela’s much-lauded government-funded system of music training: “Stalin, too, was a great believer in music for the people.”
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