As the 40th anniversary of the death of Argentinean-born revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, murdered in Bolivia on October 9, 1967, on the orders of the CIA, arrives, there is increasing evidence that his spirit of struggle against injustice continues to get stronger in Latin America.
Five left-wing Latin American governments used the United Nations' September 25-October 3 General Assembly meeting to slam US imperialism and corporate control of the world economy — the very things Che died fighting against — insisting these two things threatened to destroy the planet.
Representatives of the governments of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua attacked the hypocrisy of the US government, and demanded changes to the global capitalist system that puts profits before people's needs and the environment.
As a direct result of US-imposed neoliberal policies on Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s, there has been a massive increase in poverty across the continent — which has also spurred a growing rebellion that is now challenging US domination of the region.
While heterogeneous, the governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua are the product of this growing revolt — joining with socialist Cuba, which has for decades been a symbol of resistance to US corporate domination of the continent.
Addressing the UN assembly on October 2, Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro slammed US President George Bush whose bullying speech to the same body on September 25 hypocritically talked up the defence of human rights and democracy around the world. Maduro described Bush's threats against Iran as a campaign by Washington to "demonise the Iranian people".
"We have seen how", he explained, "in a dangerous fashion, [the US government is] making threatening statements against the peaceful people of Iran. Has the world thought about what would happen if this total madness on the part of the elites in the United States government led to an attack on the peaceful nation of Iran?"
Maduro continued, saying the "foolish and irrational war" on Iraq "has brought death, destruction, instability, and has created more havens for terrorism". He emphasised the number of homes, hospitals and schools the US$600 billion spent on the occupation of Iraq could have provided globally.
Bolivian President Evo Morales, his nation's first indigenous president, spoke of the disastrous impact that climate change and environmental destruction were having on impoverished Third World countries. "I feel that many of our countries are victims of these phenomenon", he said on September 26.
"I still cannot understand why there are so many lives lost in floods, invasions, or wars", he said, blaming the capitalist system. "I am even more convinced that the concentration of capital in a few hands is not the solution for humanity … It is capitalism and the exaggerated and unlimited industrialisation of some countries that generates these problems."
Morales, whose government is facing a concerted, US-backed destabilisation campaign by right-wing forces, explained: "When we align ourselves with social movements to protest, to condemn these unsustainable policies … then comes the interventions, military bases and wars, the demonising and accusations of terrorism, as if the people have no right … to demand new approaches to rescuing life and humankind."
Morales called for capitalism to be eradicated, pointing to socialist Cuba as a positive alternative. "Cuba also sends troops to many countries", he said, adding: "But these troops save lives." Morales was referring to the Cuban medical program in which Cuban doctors work to provide free health care in 68 poor countries across the world, including Bolivia.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, on September 28, explained that in his country a "citizens' revolution" has begun with the aim of eradicating poverty and underdevelopment. Addressing a UN meeting on climate change four days earlier, Correa highlighted the need to change the current "model of development", arguing that the poor nations were disproportionately suffering the adverse affects of climate change. He insisted that the wealthy industrialised countries bear the responsibility to stop climate change and reverse the damage already done.
In his speech to the UN on September 25, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), slammed the "global capitalist empire enslaving the world". Ortega began his address "remembering the millions of human beings who have been victims of policies of colonialism and neocolonialism". He described the "victims of natural disasters" as being "victims of the global imperialist capitalism" because "its pro-development policy continues to provoke destruction, death and poverty". This, he said, "is the main aggressor against Mother Earth".
Ortega slammed the US-led occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and criticised the US war drive against Iran. He called for support for all national liberation struggles, highlighting the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians as well as the struggle for independence by the US colony of Puerto Rico.
Ortega offered solidarity to Cuba, and again called for an end to the 46-year US economic blockade of the island nation.
Ortega also spoke about the growing rebellion in Latin America and attempts by Washington to crush it, such as the failed coup against the elected government of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 2002. "The empire ran immediately to recognise the coup leaders! It was the Venezuelan people themselves that rose to reinstate the president they had elected. In other words it is the people that decide their own destiny!"
Bush used his UN speech on September 25 to again attack Cuba, claiming that, "In Cuba, the long rule of a cruel dictator is coming to an end". Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque, who walked out of the assembly, argued that Bush was "a criminal" and that he had "no moral authority or credibility to judge any other country".
Speaking to the assembly the following day, Perez Roque slammed Bush's threats against Cuba and other nations including Iran describing the president's speech as the "delirium tremens of the world's policeman".