Our Brand is Deception

“For better or worse, neoliberalism-with a familiar emphasis on free trade, export production, and the doctrine of comparative advantage-reigned supreme in Latin America at the turn of the third millennium.”

This week’s movie “Our Brand Is Crisis” was important in explaining two policies that relate to the latest developments in Latin America. These are the United States continued blind influence on the region with no thought to the effect on the actual people. Also the other development is that the people in Latin America especially the indigenous were no longer willing to accept the status quo and were standing up against their oppressors. This neoliberalism that is talked about in John Charles Chasteen’s book “Born in Blood and Fire” had an urgent flare in Latin America. The policy was fueled in more by the United States that agreed with the policy. So how did an area fueled in nationalistic ideologies become so globalist?

To answer those questions one has to look at closer at the actual people being effected and participating. One sector of society was benefitting, the middle class and above. But, in reflection there was a whole portion of society mostly the indigenous that had not forgotten their nationalistic roots and were not willing to go along with the cogs of the neoliberal globalization politics. In the face of all of this as Chasteen explains, a reconceptulization of the race relations in the region was taking place. People used nationalist rhetoric of the past to instill their own fight for their rights in the region.

One important lesson that the movie and Chasteen touches on is that the United States understanding of the people residing in Latin America needs to be reshaped if there is going to be any kind of positive relations between the two areas. Chasteen explains that the United States sees all peoples of Latin America as Latinos. He shows how this is only a concept that applies once they immigrate to the United States where they become an amalgamated whole under the “umbrella” name Latinos. The actual people of the region see themselves as Bolivians, Mexicans, Brazilians, and so on. To understand this is to show that each country has a history that must be understood and the effect that this still has on their country today. In the case of Bolivia, the United States strategists did not understand that protesting in the street is the way that their people effect political change. In their push towards globalization in these countries they forgot the peoples that were being marginalized. They forgot these people’s histories and their engrained beliefs that they would forever stand for.

“Increasing poverty, stagnant or falling real wages, and a further and steady widening of the distribution of income in virtually every nation has also become omnipresent and largely ignored social context of the neoliberal era.”

In James Cypher’s article on the “Washington Consensus” explains the essential weaknesses of neoliberal economics in Latin America. One argument he makes is that the kind of funds that came into the Latin American countries was one very limited in who they helped and two did not bring the employment that they promised. This is one argument that the people in the movie make against Goni’s own policies from his first presidency from 1993 or 1997. They say that although he created social security he did not bring an increase in jobs whatsoever.

The article by John Perkins reveals the understanding these people have in what they are doing and the harmful effects that it has on these countries. But what is even more startling is that they know what they are doing. They want these countries that they are lending to, to be forever politically and economically tied to them. They do enough to make the highest elite in the countries happy and forget the rest. They willingly deceit these people to make larger loans than they know they can afford. They also in the process break down the fragile government structure in that country by alleviating the people’s trust in their government. It is very much like the movie when the strategists may not know or care if Guni was the right candidate for that country but they still made sure he got into power with deceptive tactics.

Till next week,