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Column: Who are the real vandals?
Illustration courtesy: Max Feito

In these past two months, massive and militant protests against the neoliberal ideology and its economic apparatus are taking place in various countries all over the world. Especially in Latinoamerican countries.

The seemingly eternal struggles of the original peoples of many countries for self-determination and/or just plain survival are clearly linked to the struggle against neoliberalism. New and long-needed alliances are being forged in the midst of pitched battles.

The governments are responding with the almost instant suppression of civil liberties and the use of their repressive forces, be it the military or the police.

Some ugly, racist and classist attitudes are being openly displayed.

They cover a wide gamut, with examples from the recent coup in Bolivia, where Indigenous Bolivians are being told to “Go back to the mountains! You don’t belong in the city!” to the clearly classist dismissal (by members of the Chilean upper classes) of the anti-government protesters, defining them as a bunch of “rotos,” which is a pejorative euphemism for the poor, (as in “Broken-down”) or downtrodden. But not only the Indigenous or the downtrodden are participating in the struggle.

Other epithets being used against the protesters include “vandals,” or “thieves,” because the widespread protests have clearly affected the most important value of the neoliberal economic ideal: private property.

Since most everything in a neoliberal economic system aims to be under private control, from the banks, to the education and health systems… and even the water, (that is the case in Chile) there is plenty to protest against.

Questions need to be asked and answered:

Who are the bigger thieves? Who are the real vandals? Who are the proponents of systems who benefit the few instead of the much larger percentage of the population? Who are the real promoters of the violence in those countries? Not just physical violence, but also economic and mental violence? Why all this old, ugly violence against our Indigenous peoples?

In my opinion, violence has always been perpetrated by those who have traditionally been in charge in Latinoamerica. With a heavy dose of help from their “Uncle” in the north.

In Chile, the government of the democratically elected Socialist Salvador Allende only lasted three short years. It was violently overthrown in 1973. Compare that to 200 years of an almost total control by the upper classes.

Allende’s government was violently boycotted even before he was officially named President. Helped, of course, by that Uncle from the USA and all the tools traditionally used by this country in order to claim the continent for itself. Henry Kissinger, then U.S. Secretary of State, infamously said: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

In Kissinger’s imperial opinion, those people had to be “protected” from themselves and from their ill-advised desires for freedom and self-dependence.

Of course, even more urgent, the many riches their countries hold to offer, such as copper, zinc, gold, silver, oil, lithium, avocados, water… had to be protected. Protected for the profiteers. The national and international profiteers.

The U.S. has always “protected” the sadly traditionally subservient governments of Latinamerica. Protected them from the desire of their own peoples, those “irresponsible” majorities dreaming of a real independence, of real freedoms. Protected them for the U.S., because the sacred American “way of life” depends so much on the exploitation of other countries.

There is a clear —perhaps necessary— sharpening of the conflicts taking place in Latinoamerica today, that might be described with three dreaded words: a class struggle. Maybe the U.S. is also experiencing that phenomenon?

In the U.S. and in most of Latinoamerica, the governments are controlled, economically and militarily, by a small percentage of the population.
This has always been the case in the entire continent. The few times when countries have attempted to mark a different route, they have been immediately and violently stopped.

The list is long. The most recent example is Bolivia, where its first Indigenous president, Evo Morales, was recently replaced by a military coup.

Those who promoted the coup against Evo Morales accuse him of forcing himself upon Bolivia with “fraudulent electoral maneuverings.” He had already served 13 years, they indignantly claimed.

Imagine that? 500 years of colonization versus 13 years of the indigenous government of Morales.

Perhaps those who ousted Morales hated that he was working hard at redistributing the wealth in Bolivia? Or they just hated him because he was the first Indigenous President? The same way lots of people resented the fact that Barack Obama became the first Black President in the U.S.?

One of the leaders of the coup, Luis Fernando “Macho” Camacho, upon entering the Presidential Palace, knelt before the Bolivian flag, placing a bible atop it. One of Camacho’s supporters declared, “The Bible is returning to the Government Palace. Pachamama will never return. Today Christ is returning to the Government Palace. Bolivia is for Christ.””

Illustration: Gus Reyes

But the “Rotos” and the working class “mestizos” of Chile do not seem ready to go back to their modest housing and keep on being abused. The Mapuche people, the original inhabitants of Chile, are making a very valid point to those masses who are now suffering the terrible repression from the government: “Now you can see what we have suffering all along!”

We can see it and feel it. Not only in Chile, but also in Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil.

The people are feeling the repression…but they are also feeling empowered by the militant responses to the governments.

And they are not the real vandals.

Story by: Carlos Barón