ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Trade Treaties and US Hegemony in the Americas

On April 29, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia signed a People Trade Agreement, which is seen as a step towards the alternative trade agreement proposed by Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez - the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. The nationalisation of Bolivia's natural gas industry is a result of pressure from social movements and takes place in the context of moves towards energy integration in ALBA. After decades of austerity, growing inequalities, and US domination of the region, national governments are beginning to reject Washington's recipe for corporate-led growth.

SUJATHA FERNANDES V enezuelas president Hugo Chvez, Brazils president Lula Inacio da Silva and Nestor Kirchner, president of Argentina, met in Sao Paulo, Brazil on April 26 to discuss possibilities for integration and collaboration. On April 29, Cubas president Fidel Castro met with Chvez and newly elected Bolivian president Evo Morales to sign a People Trade Agreement (TPC), which is seen as a step towards the alternative trade agreement being proposed by Chvez, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). The political scene of the Americas in the first decade of the new millennium bears some similarity to the revolutionary change and sense of possibility in the air during the 1960s. Fidel Castro and his band of guerrillas had declared victory in Havana in 1959, and the success of the Cuban revolution in thwarting Washingtons aims sparked one of the largest guerrilla movements to date across the Americas. The CIA-sponsored military coup against the democratically elected-Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954 had proven that the US was not willing to tolerate change by peaceful means. A whole generation of young people in Guatemala, Venezuela and Nicaragua went into the mountains and took up arms. Revolutionary struggles were waged by the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia and the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) in Peru. Guerrilla organisations received support from Cuba and the Soviet Union, who sought to counter the hegemony of the US over the Americas.

In subsequent decades, many of these young and idealistic revolutionaries were imprisoned, tortured and assassinated by military governments that came to power across the Americas. Following the CIA-sponsored coup against the socialist government of Allende in Chile in 1973, the Pinochet dictatorship began to carry out a series of free market reforms with the help of economists trained at the University of Chicago. By the 1990s, a free market orthodoxy had emerged, which was known as the Washington Consensus. The left in the Americas had been decimated by the experience of military rule. The Soviet Union had collapsed in 1991, removing any hope for an alternative hegemonic pole to the US. Unemployment and poverty rose substantially as a result of privatisation, the relocation of factories to more profitable zones, and the opening up of local markets to foreign competition.

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