The power of elections

February 2, 2006

Found this great article on the elections in South America. I don’t want to post the whole thing, and its all worth a read. But here are some tidbits:

As he stood among the admiring hordes at this shrine to pre-Incan civilization, his hat tugged down to his eyes, the old man appeared to have been drawn to this Andean summit for his last gasps on this Earth.

But one topic animated his hooded eyes, despite the 3,840-metre altitude and suddenly punishing sun.

“They have taken our resources and given them away to the evil rats,” he said. “They have stolen our riches and given them to the United States.

“These riches are here for us. We need them in Bolivia for the poor.”

Luis Atarapi Aiphana has lived through Bolivia’s military coups, corruption, the “Black February” of 2003 when 34 died in street confrontations, the ever-changing governments. And now he has made the long trek to Tiwanaku to witness a rare spectacle — a ceremony in which incoming Bolivian President Evo Morales is stressing hope, respect and, most of all, change.

Such rituals of transition are happening across South America.

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As North America has focused on wars and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the unfolding drama in the Middle East, a revolution has occurred under its nose.

This Latin American revolution has been waged with ballots, not blood, but that does not lessen the sting of its repudiation of made-in-Washington policies, including the so-called “neo-liberal” agenda of free trade and fiscal policy in the region, and the unilateralism of the Bush administration.

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One Washington-based diplomat called this year the “perfect storm” in Latin America, with no fewer than 10 presidential elections scheduled.

“This next year will shape the region as a whole over the next six years,” the diplomat said.

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Larry Birns, director of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, says Latin America is in the first 10 miles of a 1,000-mile journey but the region is beginning to talk “about the unthinkable.”

“It has broken out of the ghetto of being alone in the hemisphere … They are now global nations. It means that Washington has less of that mantle of tyranny of geography. This could conceivably mushroom into a historic transformation in the region.”

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“You see those 20-year-olds running around denouncing the Americans and you realize that it is passed on down from generation to generation.”

And anti-American rhetoric plays so well in 2006 because of the spate of elections against a backdrop of Republican neglect of the region.

For the first time, Washington could not install its choice as head of the Organization of American States — then failed in its bid to promote its second choice. But there were signs of waning influence in 2003, at the OAS general assembly in Chile, when for the first time the U.S. was not elected to the body’s human rights commission.

Go read the whole article. I find what is going on to our south fascinating. While the US media focuses on the Middle East, a revolution is happening and no one in this country seems to be paying attention. This is the real spread of democracy and it is happening without, and against, the US. No wonder Bush failed to even mention South America in the SOTU speech. He can’t claim any of this as his doing, so its not worth mentioning.

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