The ascension this month of Brazilian president Luis Inacio ?Lula? da Silva marked the beginning of a new cycle in Latin American history, writes Ignacio Ramonet in Le Monde Diplomatique, one which may see the end of globalization as we know it. ?Although in a very different context,? he observed, ?it recalls the Chilean election of the socialist Salvador Allende as president in 1970.?
The previous cycle, which began in 1983, saw a period of brutal dictatorships replaced by democratic regimes throughout the region. However, those regimes were plagued by their faith in the neoliberal economic policies of the ?Washington Consensus,? which Ramonet characterizes as a complete and utter failure. ?The application of the free market model has translated into a continuous structural adjustment process, and in all the countries concerned its social consequences have been disastrous.? Unemployment, poverty, and ecological and social dislocation have reached historic levels. In Argentina, for example, over half of the country?s 37 million people live in poverty.
The elections last year of Alejandro Toledo in Peru, Lucio
Gutierrez in Ecuador, and the remarkable staying power of Hugo
Chavez in Venezuela?who commands broad support among the poor and
working class, contrary to popular belief in the United States?all
underscore the fact that Latin Americans have had enough. It won?t
be easy for Lula or his colleagues throughout the region to prove
that another economic model is possible. The forces behind the
neoliberal leviathan are powerful. Lula himself said: ?Because all
of Latin America is watching us, and because we bear the hopes of
all Latin Americans, we do not have the right to fail.? Ramonet
asks: ?Will he be able to he live up to his own challenge??