Drug war 'a smokescreen'

Issue 

Drug war 'a smokescreen'

By Graham Matthews

BRISBANE — The Resistance Centre here opened itself to the cool breeze of the Caribbean on November 17 with a Green Left Weekly forum to discuss strategies for the left in Latin America.

El Salvadoran Victor Umanzor, who recently returned from Central America and Cuba, compared his visit to Cuba with one he made in 1994. In 1994, he said, people were scrambling to get access to basic commodities — soap, salt etc. — but in 1999 there is a far greater abundance of necessities.

"In Cuba, no school or hospital closed as a result of the crisis ... Every person has the right to free medical care. Every child has the right to education", he said.

He contrasted this situation with that in El Salvador. "Economically, El Salvador is doing poorly", he said. "People's salaries are barely sufficient to pay the bills as they fall due."

In this situation of desperate need, Umanzor saw a divided left, the result, he said, of the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in eastern Europe.

"The FMLN [Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front] is divided between a revolutionary socialist wing and a social-democratic current", Umanzor reported. The revolutionary wing has won a majority of recent preselections of FMLN candidates.

The forum was also addressed by Lynda Hansen, an activist in the Democratic Socialist Party and Committee in Solidarity with Latin America and the Caribbean. She spoke about United States attempts to "enlist the governments of Latin America in its war against the so-called narco-guerillas of Colombia".

Drugs are merely a cover for the US's political war against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and other left movements throughout the region, she said.

Many Latin American countries are experiencing large strikes, and Paraguay is being rocked by a growing peasant movement for land reform, Hansen added.

The discussion raised issues ranging from the nature of the Cuban state to US misinformation campaigns in Latin America.