The Grayzone premieres its new show Red Lines with Anya Parampil with an interview with the former foreign minister of Ecuador, Guillaume Long.
Video by Ben Norton
Anya Parampil and Guillaume Long discuss the coup in Bolivia, the anti-neoliberal uprisings sweeping Latin America, US Monroeism and the OAS, CIA spying on the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and President Lenin Moreno’s betrayal of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
We are seeing “a big geopolitical return of a very hawkish and aggressive United States, trying to force Monroeism on the region, the old Monroe Doctrine – ‘It’s our backyard,'” Long explains.
1:15 Bolivia coup and “fraud” allegations
5:28 OAS and Luis Almagro
8:49 Ecuador protests against IMF
14:11 Lenin Moreno’s “betrayal”
16:32 Julian Assange
22:15 CIA spying on Ecuador’s embassy
25:10 US diplomatic warfare
28:59 Trump’s threats against Nicaragua and Mexico
33:18 Uprisings against neoliberalism across Latin America
36:22 Future of the Pink Tide
ANYA PARAMPIL: I’m Anya Parampil reporting for Red Lines with The Grayzone.
I’m here with Guillaume Long; he’s the former foreign minister of Ecuador, and currently works as a senior policy analyst for the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) here in Washington, DC. Welcome to Washington, Guillaume.
And you came here to work for CEPR, one of the few think tanks here in Washington which actually thinks, and reflects, and thinks critically about the media and the reports that we see about specifically Latin America and the world today.
One of your first endeavors was a report taking a look at the election in Bolivia, and dispelling some of the myths presented in the OAS report, the Organization of American States report, which was used to delegitimze the re-election of Evo Morales and ultimately to legitimize a right-wing coup, a takeover in the country.
What was the crux of your findings in that report? What did you discover which contradicted some of the claims made by the OAS?
GUILLAUME LONG: So essentially the OAS’s behavior from the start was very strange and suspicious. I have myself been an OAS electoral observer, and I’ve actually headed an OAS electoral observation mission in Bolivia. So as soon as we saw, the day after the elections, that the OAS was releasing a very aggressive press statement, unlike what the OAS would normally do in those circumstances, we suddenly started interrogating ourselves as to what we were dealing with here.
And two days later the preliminary report was again very aggressive, repeating some of the statements made in the press release. And essentially as soon as we started researching, with my colleagues, we wrote this paper with three colleagues, including people who are mathematicians, and the paper is sort of heavily rely on statistics. And as soon as we doing the statistics work, we realized that the OAS was, I suppose the best term for it is lying; it wasn’t telling the truth
And it’s important that the opening statements of the OAS in the preliminary reports were untrue because it is that falsehood that set the ball rolling for what came afterwards — an audit, the essential, the narrative that was replicated worldwide that the elections were fraudulent, and which in itself created a, I would say, an emboldened and radicalized opposition in Bolivia, and all this eventually leading to the coup.
So the essential findings of the paper are very simple: The OAS said that there was an interruption of the quick count at 83, almost 84 percent, of the vote. And so we pointed out that this was an interruption of the quick count, which the international media —
ANYA PARAMPIL: It’s not the final count.
GUILLAUME LONG: Exactly, it’s not the binding, official count. And then the second thing that the OAS said was that after the quick count was initiated, was resumed, the trend changed in favor of Morales. So the argument of the OAS is that, at 84 percent of the quick count, Evo Morales has got a 7.9 percent lead on Carlos Mesa; he needed 10 points in order to win outright. But as you get closer to 100 percent, he gets past that 10-point margin, and therefore doesn’t need a runoff.
And we showed, I think very successfully, that if the OAS had taken into account geography, and if the OAS had looked at the areas which hadn’t reported — which were later reporting areas, and have been in the last few years, in every single election in Bolivia in you see the same thing — then the OAS could have predicted that those were Morales and MAS strongholds, and that he was easily going to get past the 10-point margin.
And that suspicion, the fact that the OAS raised that alarm, I think created a narrative which need not have existed, and eventually led to what you’ve described I think very accurately as a coup in Bolivia.
ANYA PARAMPIL: We’re talking about rural areas where the report-back may have been more delayed when compared with urban city centers.
GUILLAUME LONG: That’s right.
ANYA PARAMPIL: Those are the bases of support for Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS, Evo’s party.
Fidel Castro the Cuban revolutionary leader famously described the OAS as the “yankee ministry of the colonies,” decades ago. And yet it seems as though in the last few years, the pro-Washington bent of the OAS has intensified, and former Uruguayan foreign minister Luis Almagro, the head of the OAS at the moment, is often credited with this switch.
Based on your experience as a diplomat, who is Luis Almagro, and why is he so willing to play Washington’s game?
GUILLAUME LONG: Well I’m not in Luis Almagro’s head, so I can answer part of that question, not all; his personal motivations I’m not sure about. Certainly since Almagro has become secretary general of the Organization of American States, the Organization of American States — which already was a problematic organization in a number of ways — has become an extremely aggressive organization, particularly against progressive governments in Latin America, and I would say the left at large in the hemisphere.
We’re seeing right now, I think, Almagro being even more aggressive than he has been traditionally. And I think it’s part of his reelection campaign. So the secretary-general’s term is up in May next year.
ANYA PARAMPIL: And he wants to stay in Washington?
GUILLAUME LONG: Yeah I think he wants to; well he’s announced his wish to be reelected. So that process is going to happen in March.
And the interesting thing about Luis Almagro is that he has not been very popular, neither on the left or on the right. He’s a bit of a maverick character; he does a lot; he doesn’t work within — he’s not a conservative right-winger; he’s kind of a radical right-winger. He’s not very respected respectful of institutions.
So even people on the right have thought this guy is a bit of a loose cannon. So because he hasn’t had his reelection secured, I think his game right now is to try and get some of the more radical actors, particularly in the Trump administration, but also people who are influential in Trump’s policy towards Latin America — I’m thinking of people like Marco Rubio — to really endorse him.
Even if we know the State Department, you know the kind of the foreign policy bureaucrats, are not necessarily all pro-Almagro; they might favor some other right winger who’s sort of more traditional in his approach to foreign policy and to diplomacy and multilateralism and so on and so forth.
But I think Almagro is being super radical right now, extra radical, because he wants a sort of a gut endorsement by Trump and by the Trump administration. And that makes him even more dangerous.
And we’ve just seen him in Bolivia basically support a coup — and in that process get another vote for his re-election, because the new government will no doubt support him.
ANYA PARAMPIL: You’re saying he’s essentially trying to prove himself as a worthy servant Washington, Rubio, Trump, whatever that may mean?
GUILLAUME LONG: That’s exactly right.
ANYA PARAMPIL: Well the OAS has under Almagro been highly critical of Bolivia, Venezuela, as you say, progressive governments in Latin America and the region. Yet it has been mostly silent regarding demonstrations for example in Ecuador, where you served as foreign minister.
What was the catalyst for these demonstrations in Ecuador and where do you see things going from here, where they are right now?
GUILLAUME LONG: So Almagro went to Quito just after the protests to essentially whitewash the repression and to give his full endorsement to the Ecuadorian government. In that process he also earned himself another vote. It’s really important to understand to what extent the upcoming elections for the secretary general of the OAS are framing these extremist approaches to the region on behalf of the current secretary general of the OAS.
I think Ecuador was probably going to not vote for him or propose somebody else, but suddenly they’ve announced that they are going to vote for Almagro, because Almagro said, ‘It’s fine, nothing’s happened; there was no repression. And all these protesters were being backed by’ — he actually said this — ‘by the FARC, and the ELN, Correa’ —
ANYA PARAMPIL: Was Almagro’s visit to Quito before after Moreno was forced to move the government?
GUILLAUME LONG: So Almagro’s visit to Ecuador was after, once things had settled down, and he essentially went to say everything’s fine with Ecuador — despite the fact that Ecuador is facing potential reports in the Inter-American Human Rights Commission for excessive use of force repression, and actually having political prisoners now.
Because the worst form of repression was not during the protest — well it was very violent during the protests — but after the protests what we’ve seen is a wave of arrests of people from the opposition, including elected officials, some of them now —
ANYA PARAMPIL: Currently elected officials, in jail?
GUILLAUME LONG: Currently elected, people elected last March, in jail now for having expressed support for the protests, having tweeted their support for the protests, and a number of elected officials — and I’m talking about senior officials, elected officials, so the governor of the province where Quito, the capital, is. So very senior —
ANYA PARAMPIL: Is in jail?
GUILLAUME LONG: Is in jail.
ANYA PARAMPIL: We don’t hear about that ever in media.
GUILLAUME LONG: A number of people have fled the country. Others have had to seek refuge in the Mexican embassy, including several members of congress, of the National Assembly as it’s called in Ecuador.
Now you asked what the catalyst was for these protests. It’s interesting because you have long-term causes and I would say short-term causes.
So the short-term causes were essentially an economic package that the IMF was asking for. So taking away some subsidies including on fuel, which has a sensitive — there’s a direct effect not just on the price of fuel, but on the price of food and basic products in Ecuador.
And it was enforced in a decree; it wasn’t even through law. It was forced in a very aggressive top-down authoritarian way.
Other elements of the package was to reduce wages for civil servants, but also to half their holidays, by decree. Civil servants —
ANYA PARAMPIL: Presidential decree?
GUILLAUME LONG: 30 days to 15 days. So pretty aggressive. And also all sorts of other measures that flexiblized financial regulations; they were going to enable capital flight. They were much more problematic maybe for economists, less politicized than these other two measures because they were more complicated; but they were gonna have big macroeconomic impact, and probably encourage capital flight towards tax havens.
So that was the immediate cause for the people to take to the streets. First the drivers, the truckers, the transport, people in involved with public transport; then students; then an indigenous uprising; and finally the urban population, particularly in Quito; taking to the streets for 13 days.
These were the biggest demonstrations possibly in history of Ecuador, certainly in my generation.
But the more long-term causes I would say are with, there was — it was an ongoing for the last two years resentment of the Moreno administration. His approval ratings had been crumbling from 80 percent when he was elected to 15 percent before the protests.
And essentially as a consequence of what is perceived by the Ecuadorian people as his betrayal of the Citizens’ Revolution, which was Rafael Correa’s political project — he was elected on that platform, on a platform of continuation, and he eventually did a 180 degree u-turn on that in all sorts of aspects — economic policy, foreign policy, social policy, etc.
And here had been a few marches, a few demonstrations, but there had been no real uprising. So this economic package suddenly was the the catalyst that brought all this to the fore. And it was a very serious protest in Ecuador, I would say unprecedented in our history.
ANYA PARAMPIL: You describe Moreno’s actions as a betrayal. And I can say that speaking to people in the region, not only in Ecuador, it is the same word they use; they often describe him as a traitor.
And yet before his actual tangible rule, he was described as Correa’s hand-picked successor. You know we always love that term in Western media, especially when it comes to leftist governments — I should say US and European media, to be more specific.
But I’m wondering if anyone within the administration, including yourself or others, ever suspected Moreno to be untrustworthy, to say the least?
GUILLAUME LONG: This is a recurring question. I mean we clearly made a grave mistake with Lenin Moreno as hand-picked successor as you said.
ANYA PARAMPIL: They just reach in and pluck them out.
GUILLAUME LONG: I mean we were aware that it would probably — particularly towards the latter stages of the campaign, we were aware that he would not be Rafael Correa, that he was a different kind of character, and he would probably move to the center.
But we were certainly not aware that he would betray us, and Ecuador more importantly, his people, in such a way, that he would persecute his predecessor, and that he would engage in one of the most extreme cases of lawfare in Latin America, trying to essentially detain and lock up everybody who’s in his opposition, who represents a threat to him.
Right now most of the democratic opposition to Moreno is either abroad, or a few in the Mexican embassy in Ecuador; some of them have been detained; a lot of people have just left out of fear of anything happening to them.
So he has successfully, I would say temporarily, because this is unsustainable — his popularity ratings are the lowest in contemporary history — but he has successfully coalesced the elites around him, the corporate media, the banking sector. And basically is opposed by the 85 percent of the Ecuadorian population who see him as a traitor.
ANYA PARAMPIL: You touched upon some of the areas in which Moreno has betrayed the Citizens’ Revolution led by Correa, the former president of Ecuador, at least domestically.
But from the outside, especially in the States and in Europe, the focus has been on Moreno’s surrender of Assange to the British government.
What went through your mind when that news broke, and what concerns do you have about the possible extradition of Assange to the United States, and the implications that would have for press freedom, all over the world?
GUILLAUME LONG: So by the time Moreno handed over Assange, we already knew that he had betrayed the Citizens’ Revolution in every single other area you could possibly imagine, including foreign policy, security policy.
So there are a number of u-turns that Moreno has done on foreign policy, including going back to the age-old bilateralism with the United States, turning his back on Latin American integration, handing over an airfield in the Galapagos Islands to the United States —
ANYA PARAMPIL: Where Darwin went to write his seminal research on evolution and how finches had developed in this amazing ecosystem.
GUILLAUME LONG: And a very emblematic place for all Ecuadorians. The Galapagos Islands is a symbol of sovereignty, but also a symbol of Ecuadorian-ness in many regards.
Aand what is fascinating is that Ecuador was particularly traumatized I think by foreign military presence on its territory, because for a long time we were the biggest US military base in South America — the Manta military base, US air base, on the coast of Ecuador, which was closed down in 2009, after our constitution in 2008 made it unconstitutional to have foreign troops on our territory.
ANYA PARAMPIL: Correa said something like, ‘If you want a military base from Ecuador in Miami, come right on in. But if not, sorry.’
GUILLAUME LONG: That’s right, that’s right. So the fact that we’ve got a return, an unconstitutional return, of US military personnel on our territory and in the Galapagos Islands, which are very symbolic to us, is very telling of that whole u-turn.
So the surrender of Assange happens in that context. There were a few signs that this was going to happen, so we were raising alarm bells and we were saying this was gonna happen.
Essentially what this did is confirm that Ecuador was right all along in granting Julian Assange asylum in 2012, based on Ecuador’s fear that he was being politically persecuted for his activities as a publisher, as a journalist at the head of WikiLeaks.
Let’s not forget that the narrative for years, while Assange was in the embassy, was, ‘This has nothing to do with WikiLeaks, this has nothing to do with journalism, nothing to do with freedom of expression; it has everything to do with a Swedish case.”
ANYA PARAMPIL: Which is now dropped completely, dead. And he’s still in prison.
GUILLAUME LONG: Which since May 19, 2017 — so it’s more than two and a half years— has been completely dropped. There were never any charges, but the case doesn’t exist anymore.
And yet Julian Assange couldn’t leave the embassy, because he would have been arrested. And when he was finally surrendered, he went straight to a high-security prison, Belmarsh Prison in London.
So what all this shows is that Ecuador — contrary to what I was told actually, by British officials and diplomats — was not a ‘deluded country,’ a ‘paranoid government,’ but a government which had actually understood the risks that Mr. Assange was facing.
ANYA PARAMPIL: That’s what they said you were?
GUILLAUME LONG: Yeah that’s what they said in my face, yeah, sure, of course — that ‘this has got nothing to do with WikiLeaks, got nothing to do with journalism; it’s the case in Sweden.’ I mean this was the narrative —
ANYA PARAMPIL: Nothing is ever political.
GUILLAUME LONG: This was the narrative of the media as well. It was the narrative of diplomats, of the official position of governments. And we always said, ‘Fine, he can go to Sweden.’ This is important, because this hasn’t been reported much.
ANYA PARAMPIL: Or the Swedes could at least come to the embassy and question him there.
GUILLAUME LONG: Well we did that eventually. The first thing is, ‘He can go to Sweden; he is accepted to go to Sweden; the only thing we need from the Swedes is a guarantee of non-extradition to the United States.’ And the Swedes said, ‘No can do.’
So eventually we persuaded the Swedish prosecution to come and interview him in our embassy, and based on that interview, they were finally — I mean they dropped the case; there were no charges brought forward.
So Ecuador really bent over backwards to try and respect actually — our work, we always said we want to respect Swedish justice; we don’t want to be an obstacle to Swedish justice; he can go to Sweden tomorrow; but we want a guarantee of non-extradition. This was always about extradition, the fear, the threat of extradition to United States. This is what this whole case was always about.
Unfortunately now we are seeing that he is in high-security prison, running the serious risk of being extradited to the United States.
ANYA PARAMPIL: And perhaps on the verge of death, according to doctors who recently wrote a letter to the British home secretary saying that his conditions were so dire that he could even die in British custody. And the UN special rapporteur on torture also made similar claims in November.
A recent report in European media revealed that the private Spanish security company hired by the Ecuadorian government to monitor the embassy was actually spying, surveilling Assange 24/7 — but not only Assange, also Ecuadorian diplomatic staff in the building and outside.
Were you surprised by this news? And what doe sit tell us about how the United States and its European allies view diplomats?
GUILLAUME LONG: So no, I wasn’t really surprised. I mean this was the first time we had concrete proof, but that embassy — I know it well — was essentially under siege during the time that Assange was living there.
ANYA PARAMPIL: By?
GUILLAUME LONG: I mean obviously British —
ANYA PARAMPIL: Foreign intelligence services?
GUILLAUME LONG: British intelligence services, British police for a while — because don’t forget that for a number of months there were 67 police officers physically standing outside our embassy. Then eventually there was an outcry in Britain that this was costing a lot of taxpayer money, so they took the physical officers away.
But it was clear that they were — you know, there were cameras everywhere, the same van all the time, the same couple walking past at the same time every night, that kind of thing.
ANYA PARAMPIL: It was that blatant?
GUILLAUME LONG: And electronics didn’t work properly inside the embassy; you would have struggled to make a phone call from a mobile phone. We didn’t have the kind of evidence that has now been published by a number of media outlets that there were cameras that were physically spying on Assange. But it was it was clearly an embassy under siege. So we’re not surprised.
It is something very serious. If Ecuador was behaving right now as a sovereign country, it could seriously protest at the very least. And I think take it even further, this kind of breach of all the diplomatic conventions, essentially, spying on an embassy — and it’s not just, it wasn’t just spying on an embassy in a benign way. It was cameras that were relaying —
ANYA PARAMPIL: In the bathroom!
GUILLAUME LONG: In the ladies bathroom, in fact — relaying images directly to certain offices in the United States in real-time.
These are very serious breaches of international law that Ecuador could be protesting, if it wasn’t trying to, well, to be the best student in the Trumpian class.
ANYA PARAMPIL: A willful servant — the same term we use for Almagro, I suppose.
I know something about the US disregard for international law, particularly diplomatic norms and the Vienna Diplomatic Convention, based on my experience as a reporter inside of Venezuela’s embassy here in Washington, DC earlier this year, when the Trump administration actually recognized an alternative shadow government, and then violated the Vienna Diplomatic Convention, which states the US was actually responsible for protecting the grounds, and that US personnel were not allowed to enter the grounds.
And instead the US Secret Service entered the doors of a sovereign embassy, arrested four US citizens, and turned those premises over to a shadow government not recognized by the UN or any international body — other than the OAS, if you consider an international body.
That was a culmination of a new phase in US warfare tactics, specifically how it has weaponized diplomacy. We have seen the US personally sanction the foreign minister of Iran, or the foreign minister of Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza — even though they claim sanctions are designed to encourage diplomacy. They then sanction the top diplomats from the country.
What do you think about this diplomatic war and what do you know about the diplomatic war the US wages upon its so-called adversaries?
GUILLAUME LONG: There are a number of ways in which the United States has been in breach of international law in its attack on its so-called adversaries. If you look at US behavior in terms of illegal sanctions that are not recognized by the UN; what it’s doing by reactivating the Helms-Burton Act towards Cuba; if you look at extraterritorial application of sanctions so that other third countries can’t invest in countries where they apply sanctions, you know Venezuela, Iran, Cuba is again a very another good example; essentially bullying diplomats who they cannot stop from attending the United Nations and its conferences, but making sure they stick to perimeter in New York and so on.
There are a number of ways that the United States can intimidate, can bully, can harass, can weaken the capacity of states to interact in an international system, and they do it.
In fact to be quite honest, they do it, and it irks European sometimes, even if Europeans are close allies, but sometimes the United States takes it too far; because it affects their businesses and their capacity to invest.
ANYA PARAMPIL: Right, they want to do business with Iran; they want to do business with even Venezuela and Cuba.
GUILLAUME LONG: But so far we haven’t, obviously — one of the great failures of the European Union is that it hasn’t, despite some some formal protest and some rhetoric, there has not been enough muscle, enough independence from what I would call the US security dependence — because this is what it is fundamentally about, is that Europe is dependent on on the US security complex, in order for Europe to emancipate itself and really retaliate or take actions in order to stop those kinds of behaviors that are extraterritorial and therefore illegal internationally.
ANYA PARAMPIL: Venezuela and Bolivia aren’t the only targets of this policy described regarding the region. The US recently characterized Nicaragua as a ‘national security threat.’ And there are signs now that it also hopes to target Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the progressive Mexican president for some sort of regime-change pressure.
Some have characterized US policy towards the region as some sort of Operation Condor 2.0. Do you think that’s an accurate assessment?
GUILLAUME LONG: I definitely think that the US’s geopolitical game right now is to be as aggressive as they possibly can against progressive forces in the world, in Latin America in particular, against progressive governments where those remain.
I think there has been a plan that started before the Trump administration, in order to support regime change and its variants. So when it was through elections —
ANYA PARAMPIL: Or lawfare, something you mentioned.
GUILLAUME LONG: But if elections don’t do the trick, then they will try much more authoritarian measures. So we have had coups — obviously Honduras is the big one, Paraguay is a big one, and then there are some more sophisticated ones, like the impeachment in Brazil, which still resembles a coup. Now this electoral one using the OAS in Bolivia.
Yeah it’s a big geopolitical return of a very hawkish and aggressive United States, trying to force Monroeism on the region. So the old Monroe Doctrine —
ANYA PARAMPIL: It’s our backyard.
GUILLAUME LONG: It’s our backyard, so yeah, going back to that. But I don’t think it has being successful; I don’t think it’s going to work in a long term. I think many mistakes are being committed.
I think the current right-wing pro-US cycle in Latin America will be short, if it is democratic. Where there are elections you see that, again, people didn’t want an aggressive return of neoliberalism. And where there has been an aggressive return of neoliberalim, such as in Argentina, they are voting for progressive forces again.
However it runs the risk of being longer, this right-wing cycle, if it is authoritarian. So lawfare and banning certain politicians that would be elected if they weren’t locked up, or banned, or exiled, is one of the major tactics.
So the Lula case obviously in Brazil, preventing him from running was really important from the point of view of that strategy, because he would have won the election.
Similarly in Ecuador, making sure Correa is outside of the country is part of that lawfare. And you will see that replicated in Latin America.
Of course pretending that Venezuela or Nicaragua could possibly be threats to US national security — it’s not the first time they said that.
ANYA PARAMPIL: I don’t know, I feel scared right now, sitting here on my couch in Washington, DC, that the Nicaraguans and Venezuelans are gonna bomb me, kill me — you know it’s just a constant threat outside of my window.
GUILLAUME LONG: Well fear is important in maintaining certain policies in the world; I think fear plays a big role.
But I think with Mexico, they are dealing with a different type of actor. It’s much more difficult for United States to be able to really enact regime change in in a state like Mexico. It’s not impossible; they’ve helped in the process in Brazil which is also another big actor.
But you right now — what they will do is wait for the opportunity, and when opportunity arises they act. So if you think in the case of Bolivia, there was no real opportunity until these elections. But there is no doubt that since 2008, when Bolivia expelled the US ambassador for suspecting his involvement in a coup attempt back then, since then there’s been no exchange of ambassadors between the United States and Bolivia. And for sure, they were waiting for that opportunity to be able to act, and they found one and they did it.
ANYA PARAMPIL: And we were all quite surprised by how quickly things changed.
We have been talking a lot about the downside, imperial repression in the region. But we are also right now living through a time of resistance, massive demonstrations in Chile, Colombia Brazil, Honduras, and Ecuador against this neoliberal project represented by the United States and IMF.
Why are so many people in Latin America, across the borders, rising up right now?
GUILLAUME LONG: So I think the return of the neoliberal project in Latin America is clearly being resisted by people. I think that is really good; it fills me with optimism to see people around Latin America resisting this really aggressive and fundamentalist return of neoliberalism.
The neoliberals haven’t learned any of the lessons from their failures and their excesses in 1980s and 1990s, which was so terrible for Latin America, and created above all much greater inequality than what already existed in America, which is the most unequal region in the world. And the IMF hasn’t learned from the mistakes of the past and is accompanying this process.
And there has been a major game-changer, and that is that the first decade-and-a-half of the 21st century in Latin America you had a lot of progressive governments — you know different, heterogeneous, they were different, some of them were more center-left, some of were more radical — but by and large these governments did not go down the route of fundamentalist neoliberalism.
They had much more heterodox policies; they reduced poverty; they reduced inequality; and they still managed good healthy rates of growth.
Now this experience, this legacy, people are aware of; they went through this; they saw it with their own eyes.
90 million people were lifted out of poverty between 2000 and 2012 in Latin America, in a region of 500 million inhabitants; that’s not minor. And you know they saw the countries being more sovereign; it has kind of also distilled a certain sense of national pride and dignity.
And so people have experienced that. And to be going back now to this neoliberal fundamentalism, where the IMF, which hasn’t been done any lessons from the past, is calling the shots. And this elite, which has always been very an excluding elite, a very racist elite, a very classist elite, a very sexist elite, is coming back and using the same old recipes from the past, is obviously being resisted.
So you are seeing protests in Colombia, protests in Ecuador, protests in Chile. In Argentina you didn’t have a protest because there was an electoral outlet, so people voted.
And the common denominator — they all have different aspects, so in Colombia you also have an emphasis on the peace process; in Ecuador it has to do with the betrayal of Moreno; and elsewhere.
But the common denominator is ‘No to neoliberalism.’ And I think that’s really good. People have learned lessons from history, and are taking the destiny in their own hands, and they’re saying, ‘No, we don’t want this.’
ANYA PARAMPIL: Well finally, just to carry that note through, this progressive legacy you have described poverty reduction and people’s empowerment in Latin America is popularly referred to as the Pink Tide.
And I always like to think of the tide, the nature of a tide is that sometimes it rolls back, but then it pushes back stronger than before. And right now it can feel as though we are living in this hopeless time — right-wing governments which seem, in spite of protests, relatively strong; they they haven’t fallen despite weeks months of demonstrations. But it’s always going to roll back.
So I’m wondering, how do you see the Citizens’ Revolution in Ecuador progressing forward, retaking power, and then also in the region as a whole?
GUILLAUME LONG: Yeah so again going back to my point, if we give democracy a chance, the Left will be back sooner than we’d actually ourselves expected.
If you look at Ecuador, Rafael Correa, the most popular politicians are the people who were involved with the Citizens’ Revolution. If there were elections where we were allowed to compete freely and if we were allowed to be in Ecuador without being persecuted, without being locked up, without being exiled, so on and so forth, we would — well with the last elections in March, where we had a tiny little window of opportunity, we won, we did exceedingly well.
And I think by and large in Latin America, if you look at the polls, the left is doing well again. So if the right-wing cycle, again, is democratic, there will be an emboldened Latin America, progressive Latin America, a Latin America that has learned from the mistakes of the past.
It doesn’t want to be part of the US backyard. It wants good relations with the United States, respectful relations with the United States, but it wants to be able to have relations with everybody.
It’s also Latin America that has learn to diversify its relations, to have relations with all sorts of other players, not exclusively the United States and that includes exports, political relations, commercial relations.
So China has played an increasingly important role in Latin America, but the European Union also, Russia, BRICS countries. And not just have all the all your eggs in the same basket, which has been the history of Latin America.
There are two major things Latin American must work on, which is not being completely dependent on the United States, and also diversifying the economy of Latin America, moving away from raw materials and not being too dependent on a single product and therefore on the international prices and all these boom-and-bust effects that we have had when you are dependent on primary products.
Those are the two things that Latin America has been working on. It has done progress. The Pink Tide was very important for the progress to be achieved on those fronts and those are the two things that Latin America I am sure will be consolidating in the near future.
ANYA PARAMPIL: When the Pink Tide rolls back, right?
GUILLAUME LONG: Yeah, I mean the color we can debate; it doesn’t have to be pink.
ANYA PARAMPIL: It doesn’t have to be pink. All right we can have a discussion about that.
Guillaume Long, the former foreign minister of Ecuador, now working with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, our good friends there at CEPR. Thanks so much for your time.
GUILLAUME LONG: Thank you very much.
Anya Parampil is a journalist based in Washington, DC. She has produced and reported several documentaries, including on-the-ground reports from the Korean peninsula, Palestine, Venezuela, and Honduras.