The Americas moving Left

Eyad Abu Shakra
Eyad Abu Shakra

Eyad Abu Shakra

By : Eyad Abu Shakra

Argentinian voters went the other day to polls to elect a new president who will take over from President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Opinion polls have been showing Daniel Scioli the Peronist Left candidate comfortably leading his main conservative opponent Mauricio Macri. Less than two weeks before that Justin Trudeau, the leader of Canada’s Liberal party, ended nine years of extremist Conservative rule. As for the U.S.A, thanks to his domestic programs President Barack Obama is shown by opinion polling to be enjoying a 51 percent approval rating despite his disastrous foreign policies.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seems to be in a very good shape in primaries campaign while Republican contenders sink in bottomless pit of pandering to the extreme religious and racist in pursuit of votes.

From Canada in the northern part of North America to Argentina in the southern part the winds of politics are blowing left, keeping in mind of course that what matters most in global affairs is the U.S. compass.

Many were taken by surprise by Trudeau Jr’s decisive victory. The son of the later charismatic ex-Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau who led Canada for around 15 years (1968-1979) and (1980-1984) soundly defeated Stephen Harper, the most hawkish right wing leader in Canada’s recent history.

During his nine-year term in office Harper adopted all kinds of reactionary and offensive stances bordering on outright racism, especially against Muslins, immigrants and Palestinian rights; benefitting from a divided opposition between the Liberals and the New Democratic party leftists. By the end of the day, however, the Canadian had enough, and the Harper “experiment’ ran out of steam the moment a credible alternative became available.

In Latin America – Central and South America – long regarded by Washington as its “back garden” the picture has been somewhat different. Throughout the Cold War, Washington benefitted from a “triple alliance” comprising of the Church, the military and the rich whether from landed aristocracy or agents and dealers of American business interests and monopolies.

Thus, this “alliance” ruthlessly exploited and subjugated the poor peasant and working class as well as persecuted middle class liberals and progressives. Military dictatorships never hesitated in resorting to excessive violence, bloody purges and violation of human rights. “Death Squads” were formed to carry out kidnappings and assassinations, only to be confronted by radical revolutionary organizations that became active in the countryside, jungles, as well as inner cities.

Collapse of the USSR

The end of the Cold War marked by the collapse of the USSR brought down the logic on which the aforementioned “triple alliance” depended and flourished. Even the stance of the (Catholic) Church began to change; indeed, in many cases, the Church began to openly side with the poor against the military, monopolies and foreign interests defended and bankrolled by military dictators.

Actually, even before the disintegration of the USSR “Revolutionary Theology” started to emerge in several countries like Colombia. Evangelical missionary activities by some Protestant groups, furthermore, antagonized the Catholic churches locally pushing them to cement their ties with their local poor population who became their incubators and protectors.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seems to be in a very good shape in primaries campaign while Republican contenders sink in bottomless pit.

Eyad Abu Shakra

A leading example was what happened in Nicaragua after the victory of leftist Sandinitas, where no less than three ministers in the Sandinistas’ first cabinet were Catholic priests. One of those was Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, the foreign minister between 1979 and 1990, and president of the UN General Assembly between September 2008 and September 2009.

Soon rightwing dictatorship began to fall throughout Latin America (especially in South America, and more so in countries with strong trade unions and educated, cultured and organized infrastructures, such as Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, as well as Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.

Given this fact, the ascendancy of the Left in South America is not surprising. It is now becoming the rule while the reign of the Right is the exception. In fact only two Latin South American countries, Colombia and Paraguay, are governed by right-wing governments.

Back in Argentina, outgoing President Fernandez de Kirchner is leaving office – after succeeding her late husband Nester Kirchner – only because constitutionally she is not allowed to serve a third term. However, she has handpicked and run the campaign of Daniel Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires Province, and she considers his victory a victory of her moderate leftist line against Macri, the right-wing businessman Mayor of Buenos Aires, and president of the famous Boca Juniors Sports Club (for whose soccer team played the legendry Diego Maradona). Early opinion polls showed Scioli garnering around 39 percent of the votes against 30 percent for Macri with a good showing for the young third candidate Sergio Massa, a one-time ally of Kirchner. The issue (as per the much closer result later) would be decided by a second round run-off.

Petty bidding

Going with the tide Hillary Clinton emerged with flying colors from her Congress hearings on the Benghazi events of 2012, when she was secretary of state. Her impressive and confident performance greatly enhanced her status as the Democrats’ frontrunner for the November 2016 presidential elections.

Her position was further strengthened by Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement that he had withdrawn from the race, later joint out of the arena by Rhode Island former governor and senator Lincoln Chafee.

This means the only candidates still challenging the former First Lady are Vermont’s senator Bernie Sanders and Maryland’s ex-governor Martin O’Malley; although there is a consensus that, now the clouds of Benghazi are vanished, neither is capable of stopping her bandwagon. In the words of veteran California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, “Had somebody come to my home this morning and say, ‘You know, I think that put her in the White House’.”

Such talk may sound like well-founded optimism from a leading Democrat; but what is beyond doubt is that the GOP candidates as so preoccupied with their petty bidding and extremist outbidding that they look unable to come up with a coherent policy presented as an alternative to Obama’s “non-politics”.

Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in the Column section are their own and do not reflect RiyadhVision’s point-of-view.


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