JAMES PETRAS : Latin America’s New Middle Class Rulers: Stabilization, Growth and Inequality | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED


JAMES PETRAS : Latin America’s New Middle Class Rulers: Stabilization, Growth and Inequality

The revival of popular revolutionary movements begins by rejecting complicity with the new middle class rulers presiding over the new phase of state-private capitalist expansion.

Latin America’s current relations with the US as well as its present political and economic configuration can best be understood in the context of large scale changes over the past twenty years and the relative stability of the past five years.

We will proceed by schematically highlighting the salient features leading to the rise and crises of neo-liberal regimes and policies and the emergence of diverse “post neo-liberal” regimes in the present period. We will analyze the nature and performance of the ‘post neo-liberal regimes’ to bring out their strengths and weaknesses in the context of world market conditions, as well as the emerging political and social contradictions and alternatives.

US Imperial Power and the Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Regimes

US imperial power and influence reached its maximum influence between 1976-1999. The military and civilian regimes throughout this period backed US international and regional positions and embraced “free market doctrines”. The neo-liberal rulers denationalized and privatized all strategic economic sectors, deregulated the banking and financial systems and submitted to the dictates of the IMF and World Bank. Nearly one trillion dollars in profits, interest and principle payments, rents and illegal funds were transferred to US and European banks and corporations.

By the end of the 1990’s, mass discontent was boiling over into street protests and strikes by public sector trade unions and especially in rural mobilizations. With the onset of the economic crises and financial crash of 2000 major upheavals took place throughout the continent.

Crises and Social Uprisings 2000 – 2005

Between 2000 – 2005 there were major popular uprisings overthrowing nearly a dozen neo-liberal presidents and several elections which apparently led to center-left political leaders. In Argentina 2001 – 2002, three presidents were ousted by mass movements, as banks closed, middle class savings were frozen, unemployment skyrocketed to nearly 30% and poverty levels exceeded 40%, unprecedented in this country renowned for its wheat and beef . In Ecuador popular uprisings in 2000 and 2005 replaced corrupt neo-liberal presidents and resulted in the election of President Correa, identified with the center-left Citizens Alliance.

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