Friday, September 12, 2008

"¡Váyanse al carajo, yanquis de mierda": ALBA Grows, Free Trade Reactionism and American Ideological Politics Beyond Globalization

ALBA, the command economy alternative to the free trade model of globalization, has acquired a new member--Honduras. According to the Cuban press, "The ALBA (Spanish acronyms meaning DAWN) was launched by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and supported by Cuba as an alternative to the failed US-led Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The regional initiative includes Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Dominica." Cuba Attends Honduras Official Joining of the ALBA Integration Initiative, Cuban News Agency, Aug. 25, 2008. ALBA is meant to prove that privatization and globalization are bad for people. ALBA means to show that that traditional divisions between public and private sectors remains valuable and important, and that certain sectors, traditionally overseen by the state as agent for territorially based communities, are essential for the maximization of the welfare of people organized into states. In a sense ALBA is compelling for those who control the apparatus of states now overwhelmed by new sorts of governance power--private, multinational and governance based. This is a world that is frightening because its rules are not well known and because the system reduces the privileging of the state. When states must compete as equals with corporate and other non-state actors, many of the smaller and poorer states may find themselves the losers. To a great degree, and at a certain level, there is irony in ALBA--it is a reactionary force seeking to fight against global changes that have begun to reconstitute, privatize, diffuse and democratize power outside the monopoly control of polities. That this fight might not be worth waging--states ought to survive as entities to the extent they add value to people's lives. But there is something rather old fashioned about ALBA--it appears to seek to substitute for a private law based global corporatism, a public law based corporatism of a Stalinist sort. But corporatism is corporatism. And its felt effects at the lowest rung of society is hardly ameliorated by the notions that the pain is a necessary component of public rather than private decisions (and always for their welfare). For all that, ALBA might serve other, and important, purposes--principally as a means of aggregating and institutionalizing responses to and challenges of American power in the Western Hemisphere. For that reason alone the Americans ought to pay greater interest in this phenomenon.

Cuba's attendance at the Honduran ceremonies was muted. "The Cuban delegation also includes deputy foreign minister Yilian Jimenez, Cuban ambassador to Honduras Juan Carlos Hernandez and other government officials." Id. But the point was well taken. . . . everywhere but the United States. The Americans, smug and distracted, confident that their model of integration requires no work to maintain, have paid scant attention as ALBA was first organized by Cuba and Venezuela, and then used as a multi-lateral nexus point for anti-American and anti free trade actions on the part of Latin American states seeking a better deal. It has become a safe haven for theorizing challenges to free market globalization that has found friends among the new governments of Latin America and has served to defend the interests of these governments against pressure form the West and its market imperatives. The Americans even failed to notice when the Cubans and Venezuelans announced the opening of an ALBA bank in Cuba in April, 2008. ALBA Opens Bank in Cuba, Prensa Latina, April 10.

But like all things in Latin America, eventually this sort of acting out may come to the attention of the Americans. And so, as one of its first acts of solidarity, Honduras has chosen the showy but safe theatrics of diplomatic bad manners--it has refused to receive the credentials of the new American Ambassador to Honduras. Honduras se niega a recibir las credentiales del nuevo embajador estadounidense, El Pais, September 13, 2008. The purpose was to show solidarity with Bolivia in the most dramtic but innocuous ways. The Honduran president stressed both the stroing ties to his fellow Latin American leaders but also the need to preserve his alliance with the United States.

Zelaya explicó que la entrega de credenciales del embajador Hugo Llorens, prevista para ayer, se ha retrasado para "ser solidario con los problemas que vive Bolivia, para que se busque una solución al problema boliviano, con el fin de que se logre restablecer la paz". "Estamos siendo solidarios con el presidente Evo Morales, que ha denunciado una intromisión" de EE UU en su país, puntualizó. "EE UU es un aliado de Honduras, no va a tomar represalias simplemente porque yo esté siendo solidario con Evo Morales", declaró Zelaya ante decenas de periodistas después de un acto oficial en un barrio de Tegucigalpa.

Id. The Honduran have thus chosen to contribute to the essentially theatrically sad melodrama of the last several weeks, which has seen the expulsion by the United States, Bolivia and Venezuela of their respective ambassadors. The only relief from this stage managed theatrical show has been Hugo Chavez's scene stealing lines (delivered unconscious of the self deprecating irony)--"¡Váyanse al carajo, yanquis de mierda, que aquí hay un pueblo digno. Váyanse al carajo cien veces!". EE UU expulsa al embajador de Venezuela, El Pais, September 12, 2008 ("Go to hell shitty Yankees, this is a dignified people. Go to hell a hundred times over."). And the Russians appear to be taking advantage of this squabble to show that their military aircraft and ships are still capable of showing up in Venezuela. "Respecto al aterrizaje de dos bombarderos estratégicos Tu-160 rusos en Venezuela, Hugo Chávez ha recordado que esta no será la única presencia de Moscú en América Latina, ya que próximamente visitará su país una flota naval de Rusia." This apparently is response to the reactivation of the American 4th Fleet to hover over Venezuela.

An interesting predicament for the United States. Its neglect and carelessness has made a shambles of its Latin American economic policy. That undercuts American business as it seeks to compete with its rivals from Europe and East Asia. The American's periodic frenzy behavior in Latin America--swooping in, for example, for a moment of solidarity with Brazil to carve up the global ethanol market--has proven ephemeral and irritatingly half hearted. Much of leaves the beneficiaries more annoyed than grateful: consider for example the American refusal to discuss its trade barriers against Brazilian agricultural exports while embracing notions of trade advantage based on ethanol. But that is the problem of the great change in American policy since 2001--a privileging of ideology over business interests. Thus the other great irony of ALBA--while the ALBA states pursue a reactionary statist policy, the Americans have pursued an equally reactionary policy of its own--privileging ideological agendas (democracy, etc.) over free enterprise and wealth creation policy. And the void created by the American embrace of Marxist ideologically driven foreign policy has created a space for Chinese entrepreneurs to fill, with talk of free enterprise and wealth creation. And it has proved an opening for the reintroduction of Russian military power (if only for show at the moment) into the region.

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