Friday, 31 January 2014

EU’s changing Cuba policy a wake-up call


By David Jessop

The President of the European Commission (EC), José Manuel Barroso, has confirmed that Europe is presently in the process of debating a significant change in its policy towards Cuba.

Speaking recently to journalists in Madrid, Mr Barroso, who is a former Portuguese Prime Minister, said that the European Union (EU) is discussing the possibility of modifications to its Cuba policy, and that this will require the blessing of all of Europe’s 28 member countries.

He also reaffirmed the EU’s long-standing wish for there to be change in Cuba in relation to human rights, and its continuing desire to see the adoption of western democratic norms

Although Mr Barroso did not elaborate, his reference was to the likely agreement when Europe’s Foreign Affairs Council meets on 10 February, to the Commission’s proposals that Europe negotiate a form of association agreement with Cuba.

While this will be welcome in Havana and in the Caribbean, taken together with the US’s slowly evolving policy on Cuba, it should be seen as a signal to Caribbean governments and the region’s private sector to begin to plan for the eventual end to the regional economic vacuum that Cuba has been placed in since 1960.

Since late 2012 a draft negotiating mandate has been under consideration and Cuban officials and the European Commission have with the support of EU members states been trying, at times with difficulty, to chart a way forward.

In late 2013 one final stumbling block arose that still has to be resolved. Then, EU permanent representatives postponed consideration of a recommendation from the European Commission to the Council to authorise a mandate that would allow the EC to open negotiations for a political dialogue and a co-operation agreement with Cuba.

The delay reflected concerns raised by some EU member states over a technical legal issue. This relates to whether negotiations, once begun, might under some circumstances be halted.

The delay meant that any decision on formal adoption by the Council of Ministers has had to wait until behind the scenes consensus could be achieved with a small number of concerned member states that are understood to include Germany and on the matters of principle involved.

Once agreement between member states has been reached, however, negotiations are expected to proceed.

The European Commission is expected to propose an arrangement in some respects similar to that signed between Europe and Central American states last year. It is expected to contain language on political, economic and development matters; will provide a framework for dialogue on issues of mutual concern; is expected to enable the provision of development assistance; and may possibly contain arrangements for asymmetric preferential trade.

Although liberalised trade has not been high on Cuba’s agenda, it is believed that this could become a component of a future association agreement as Cuban goods entering the EU have since the start of this year ceased to benefit from Europe’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), making them less competitive.
Separately, the EC is understood to have reserved sums in its development budget for future assistance for Cuba.

The high level confirmation of a change in Europe policy follows from recent positive statements on the need to improve relations by EU states previously regarded as taking a hard line on dialogue.

It also coincides with an increasing tendency by EU member states to bypass the EU’s common position by signing bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding with Havana that facilitate broad based exchanges on issues from trade to counter-narcotics interdiction and cultural exchange.

The EC President’s remarks follow comments in Havana in early January by the Dutch Foreign Minister, Frans Timmermans. The visit, the first by a Dutch Foreign Minister since the Cuban revolution, involved two-days of high level exchanges during which he stressed the need for an improvement in the European Union’s relations with Cuba.

He also signed a broad based bilateral agreement that allows for the Netherlands and Cuba to engage in political and other consultations.

As such it was one of a small number of such documents signed recently or being negotiated by EU nations, and marks a further move away from the European Union’s  1996 Common Position on Cuba, which contains political conditions unacceptable to Cuba and that until recently, had all but halted exchanges between Cuba and most EU nations.

Mr Timmermans said that the Netherlands was now particularly interested in strengthening bilateral links noting the economic transformations underway in Cuba and the business opportunities this offered. A delegation of businessmen accompanied him.

He also praised Cuba’s efforts to bring an end to what he described as the last violent conflict in the region, a reference to Havana’s hosting of peace talks between the Colombian government and local rebels.

The visit was particularly striking as the Netherlands is a staunch advocate of human rights and democracy and actively supports dissident organisations in Cuba.

Mr Timmerman’s visit, like President Barroso’s remarks, coincide with changing US thinking on Cuba, although the pace at which US exchanges with Cuba on functional issues will move forward and their breadth is still far from certain.

Some Europeans suggest that Europe’s interest in an association agreement with Cuba is being driven by a desire to have an agreement in place before any improvement take place in US-Cuba relations.

Whether this is true or not, a formal association agreement with Europe would enable not only a much closer relationship with Cuba but also mean that the EU would have reached agreement with the only Latin American and Caribbean country with which it has no form of broad based political and economic arrangement.

Recent developments in Europe and the US in relation to Cuba point once again to the Caribbean needing to consider carefully how it will respond to the possibility that a neighbour and friend may slowly emerge as a competitor after a long period of economic isolation.

David Jessop is the Director of the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at

This column orginally appeared in Previous columns can be found at

Friday, 24 January 2014

“The history of Africa will be written as before and after Cuito Cuanavale” – Fidel Castro

Twenty-five years ago, on 27 June 1988, the army of apartheid South Africa was forced to start withdrawing from Angola after 13 years’ intervention in that country’s civil war. The South Africans had been outmanoeuvred and outgunned by the Angolan defence forces (FAPLA – the People’s Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola), in combination with thousands of Cuban soldiers, and units from both the MK (uMkhonto weSizwe – the armed wing of the ANC) and PLAN (People’s Liberation Army of Namibia – the armed wing of the South West African People’s Organisation). 

The four-month battle between the SADF and the Cuban-Angolan force at Cuito Cuanavale was, to use the words of Nelson Mandela, “the turning point for the liberation of Africa from the scourge of apartheid.”

Cuba’s assistance to post-colonial Angola started in 1975, just a few days after the independence celebrations on 11 November (Angola won its independence from Portugal in the aftermath of the Portuguese Revolution of 1974). At the time, three different Angolan political-military movements were struggling for supremacy: the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola), UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) and the FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola).

The most radical, most popular and best organised of these groups was the MPLA, which had the support of most of the socialist countries. The FNLA was allied with the pro-imperialist Mobutu dictatorship in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), and UNITA was collaborating with the US, white-supremacist South Africa and the representatives of the old colonial order.

As Fidel Castro noted at the time: “The Soviet Union and all the countries of Eastern Europe support the MPLA; the revolutionary movements of Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau support the MPLA; the majority of the nonaligned nations support the MPLA. In Angola, the MPLA represents the progressive cause of the world.” (Speech given in Havana to the first contingent of military instructors leaving for Angola, 12 September 1975)

South Africa, faced with the prospect of pro-socialist, anti-racist, anti-colonial, independent states in Angola and Mozambique (plus a rising independence movement in its colony of South West Africa – now Namibia), decided to intervene militarily in Angola on the side of UNITA. The SADF entered Angola from Namibia on 14 October 1975, and the MPLA’s army, FAPLA, was in no position to stop its advance. It was, writes Piero Gleijeses, “a poor man’s war. South of Luanda there were only weak FAPLA units, badly armed and poorly trained. They were strong enough to defeat UNITA, but were no match for the South Africans” (‘Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976′).

South Africa’s invasion, along with the continued threat and provocations by Mobutu’s Zaire, caused Fidel Castro and the leading commanders in Cuba to understand that Angola needed urgent help. In mid-November 1975, several hundred Cuban soldiers boarded two planes for Angola. Over the course of the next 13 years, nearly 400,000 Cubans volunteered in Angola, mostly as soldiers but also as doctors, nurses, teachers and advisers.

With Cuban assistance (and with the help of Soviet advisers and weaponry), the Angolans drove the SADF troops back across the border, and for the next decade or so South Africa focused its efforts in Angola around destabilisation, providing significant financial and logistical support for UNITA, thereby extending a brutal civil war that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Angolan civilians.

The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale
As long as Angola was embroiled in bitter civil war, it was not a major threat to apartheid control of South Africa or Namibia. But in mid-1987, FAPLA – with the help of Soviet and Cuban forces – launched a major offensive against UNITA. This offensive had the potential to finally bring an end to the civil war – an outcome that neither South Africa nor the US could accept.

Therefore the SADF intervened again. “By early November”, writes Gleijeses, “the SADF had cornered elite Angolan units in Cuito Cuanavale and was poised to destroy them.”

Ronnie Kasrils notes that the situation “could not have been graver. Cuito could have been overrun then and there by the SADF, changing the strategic situation overnight. The interior of the country would have been opened up to domination by UNITA, with Angola being split in half.

This was something Pretoria and [UNITA leader Jonas] Savimbi had been aiming at for years.”

The Cubans moved decisively in support of their African allies. Fidel decided that more Cuban troops must be sent immediately, boosting the total number in Angola to over 50,000.

Cuito Cuanavale was defended by 6,000 Cuban and Angolan troops, using sophisticated Soviet weaponry that had been rushed to the front.

The SADF had been convinced that its 9,000 elite troops – in addition to several thousand UNITA fighters – would be able to conquer Cuito and thereby inflict a major defeat on MPLA, and indeed the progressive forces of the whole region. But Cuito held out over the course of four months, in what has been described as the biggest battle on African soil since World War II (Greg Mills and David Williams, Seven Battles that Shaped South Africa, 2006).

Kasrils notes: “All the South African attempts to advance were pushed back. Their sophisticated long-range artillery kept bombing day and night. But it didn’t frighten the Angolan-Cuban forces and turned out to be ineffective.”

With the South African stranglehold at Cuito Cuanavale broken by the end of March 1988, the Cuban-Angolan forces launched a major offensive in the south-west of the country. This offensive is what Castro had intended from the start: to tie South Africa down with pitched battles at Cuito (several hundred kilometres from its nearest bases in occupied Namibia) and then launch a ferocious, dynamic attack to drive South Africa out of Angola once and for all, “like a boxer who with his left hand blocks the blow and with his right – strikes“.

Castro noted: “While in Cuito Cuanavale the South African troops were bled, to the south-west 40,000 Cuban and 30,000 Angolan troops, supported by some 600 tanks, hundreds of pieces of artillery, a thousand anti-aircraft weapons and the daring MiG-23 units that secured air supremacy advanced towards the Namibian border, ready literally to sweep up the South African forces deployed along that main route.” (Cited in Vladimir Shubin ‘The Hot “Cold War”‘)

Kasrils writes: “The end for the SADF was signaled on June 27 1988. A squadron of MiGs bombed the Ruacana and Calueque installations, cutting the water supply to Ovamboland and its military bases and killing 11 young South African conscripts. A MiG-23 executed a neat victory roll over the Ruacana dam. The war was effectively over.”

The supposedly invincible South African Defence Force had been forced out of Angola. The apartheid regime was left with no choice but to sue for peace.

Turning point for southern Africa
Fidel stated that “the history of Africa will be written as before and after Cuito Cuanavale”. Nelson Mandela is on record as saying that Cuito Cuanavale was “the turning point for the liberation of Africa from the scourge of apartheid”. What made a battle in the Angolan war the major turning point for the wider southern African region?

Isaac Saney explains in his excellent book ‘Cuba: A Revolution in Motion’: “The defeat shattered the confidence of the South African military, and with the approach of Cuban forces toward Namibia, Pretoria sought a means by which to extricate their troops ‘without humiliation and alive’.

Thus, the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale was instrumental in paving the path to negotiations. In December 1988, an agreement was reached between Cuba and Angola on one side and South Africa on the other, which provided for the gradual withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola and the establishment of an independent Namibia”.

So, as part of the negotiation process resulting from the Cuban-Angolan victory, South Africa was forced to set a timetable for withdrawal from Namibia. Namibia became an independent state in March 1990. The victory in Angola also provided important impetus for the anti-apartheid forces within South Africa. In early 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 long years, the ANC and other liberation organisations were unbanned, and the negotiations towards a free South Africa were begun in earnest. UNITA suffered a series of major military reverses and Angola was able to start pursuing a course of peaceful progress.

These were all extraordinary developments that nobody could have predicted a few years’ earlier.

Not a proxy cold war but an epic battle between the forces of imperialism and the forces of progress
It has been suggested by several western historians that the war in Angola was, at heart, an extension of the so-called Cold War between the two superpowers of the day (the USA and the USSR) with South Africa acting on behalf of the USA and Cuba acting on behalf of the USSR. Such an analysis is wholly refuted by the facts; its only purpose is to place a moral equivalency between imperialism and socialism.

For one thing, Cuba has tended to maintain a high degree of political independence in spite of close relations with the Soviet Union. In Angola, it is well documented that the Soviets were surprised by the sudden arrival – in both 1975 and 1987 – of large numbers of Cuban soldiers. Kasrils writes that the US security services were “surprised to discover that the Soviet Union’s so-called proxy had not even consulted Moscow over Havana’s massive intervention. They were even more taken aback when sophisticated Soviet military equipment was rushed to Angola to supply the Cuban reinforcements.”

Even the arch-reactionary Henry Kissinger, who was among the leading ‘hawks’ in relation to US Angola policy at the time, admitted: “At the time, we thought Castro was operating as a Soviet surrogate. We could not imagine that he would act so provocatively so far from home unless he was pressured by Moscow to repay the Soviet Union for its military and economic support. Evidence now available suggests that the opposite was the case.” (Cited in ‘Conflicting Missions’)

The continuing relevance and necessity of revolutionary internationalism
Why is it important to remember Cuito Cuanavale? Because it represents a pinnacle of revolutionary internationalism, of solidarity between peoples struggling for freedom. As Nelson Mandela said, speaking at a huge rally in Havana in July 1991:

“The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice unparalleled for its principled and selfless character… We in Africa are used to being victims of countries wanting to carve up our territory or subvert our sovereignty. It is unparalleled in African history to have another people rise to the defence of one of us.”

Cuba’s actions in Angola were driven by a deep sense of social justice and revolutionary duty. One of the historical forces driving its actions was the depth of African roots in Cuban society. Fidel, speaking shortly after the departure of the first few hundred troops to Angola, explained: “African blood flows freely through our veins. Many of our ancestors came as slaves from Africa to this land. As slaves they struggled a great deal.

They fought as members of the Liberating Army of Cuba. We’re brothers and sisters of the people of Africa and we’re ready to fight on their behalf!” This dynamic is reflected in the name that was given to the operation: ‘Carlota’ – in honour of the heroic Afro-Cuban female slave who led an uprising near Matanzas in 1843 and who, upon her capture, was drawn and quartered by Spanish colonial troops.

Raúl Castro pointed out that Cuba had itself benefitted massively from revolutionary international solidarity and thus felt morally compelled to extend the same type of solidarity to others. “We must not forget another deep motivation. Cuba itself had already lived through the beautiful experience of the solidarity of other peoples, especially the people of the Soviet Union, who extended a friendly hand at crucial moments for the survival of the Cuban Revolution.

The solidarity, support, and fraternal collaboration that the consistent practice of internationalism brought us at decisive moments created a sincere feeling, a consciousness of our debt to other peoples who might find themselves in similar circumstances.” Fidel emphasises this point: “As we have said before, being internationalists is paying our debt to humanity.

Those who are incapable of fighting for others will never be capable of fighting for themselves. And the heroism shown by our forces, by our people in other lands, faraway lands, must also serve to let the imperialists know what awaits them if one day they force us to fight on this land here.”

Further Reading

How Far we slaves have come
Read the speeches that Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro gave when Mandela visited Cuba shortly after his release.  Available from the CSC shop priced £8.50 inc p&p
Cuba and Angola: Fighting for Africa’s freedom and our own (pictured above)Charts the Cuban involvement in helping Angola achieve independence with contributions from the Miami Five about their experiences there. Available from the CSC shop priced £10 including p&p

Friday, 15 November 2013

Cuba, democracy and the New Latin American Left

Should the 21st-Century New Latin American Left Include the Cuban Revolution? Of course it should, argues Arnold August, who is speaking at the Latin America Conference in London on Saturday 7 December

Discussion about the new Latin American left has been increasing with the examples of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and others. However, the Cuban Revolution is at times excluded from this emerging political movement, either directly or indirectly.

One of the implicit or explicit pretexts is that Cuba is characterized as a “one-party” system, while countries such as Venezuela are featured as “multi-party” systems. The implication is that Cuba lacks democracy, as part of the old left and as an offshoot of the old Soviet and Eastern Bloc model, while Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador are presented as constituting an expression of a new political left, having bypassed this historical heritage, with all its negative traits.

I believe that the characterisation of political systems based on the number of political parties in existence is a false dichotomy (i.e. of one-party vs. multi-party). This cannot be the gauge of a country’s democratic status nor of its belonging to a new left in the region. Is there a dichotomy with regard to political systems? Yes, but the bifurcation stems from a deep-rooted litmus test going back many centuries. The separation stems from whether or not a political system fosters a sovereignty that resides in the people as the hallmark of a democracy.

Constitutional rights

In the Cuban Constitution, Article 5 indicates that “the Communist Party of Cuba, a follower of Martí’s ideas and of Marxism-Leninism, and the organised vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the highest leading force of society and of the state, which organises and guides the common effort toward the goals of the construction of socialism and the progress toward a communist society.”

Furthermore, Article 3 stipulates that “sovereignty lies in the people, from whom originates all the power of the state.” Is there a contradiction to be found in these two articles? The question is, rather, the extent to which the Party actively fosters the notion that “sovereignty lies in the people.”

To illustrate this point, the new 1999 Venezuelan Constitution indicates in Article 5 that “Sovereignty resides untransferable in the people.” The same principle is also to be found in Bolivia and Ecuador.

The case of Venezuela

In Venezuela, many other articles highlight this requirement. Since the 1998 elections, in which Hugo Chávez was elected President, the developing Bolivarian Revolution has been promoting in real, practical terms the notion of the people being sovereign, in the process of developing a vibrant participatory democracy despite all the obstacles and weaknesses.

Since Chávez’s death, President Maduro and the socialist party PSUV have not only carried out this tradition, but are striving to catapult it further. This is being experimented with through such approaches as “Street Government” and rapidly increasing grass-roots levels of people’s participation.

It is true that the political system in Venezuela is known to be a “multi-party system.” However, let us consider a worst-case scenario, such as if the pro-US Capriles forces had won the April 14, 2013 multi-party elections or, again, if a US-organised coup were to take place or if the Bolivarian forces were to be defeated in the next multi-party national elections or through a recall referendum.

In any of the above-mentioned hypothetical events, what would happen to the notion that sovereignty lies in the people? The pro-US, pro-Venezuelan oligarchy would strive to undo this by replacing it with the unfettered rule of the wealthy over the vast majority, as was the case prior to 1998.

I am convinced that, even in the worst case, the Bolivarian Revolution would remain a permanent feature of the new Venezuelan political landscape and could not be uprooted or eliminated even by the most powerful US-led forces. However, the question remains, in the event of a negative machination as described above, what would happen to democracy in Venezuela? It would suffer a setback even if it were not to be permanent. Yet, this would take place in a multi-party system, which is the supposed epitome of democracy.

Cuba’s participatory democracy

The Cuban political system, on the other hand, is in no danger of this scenario taking place. Rather, the question, as far as the island is concerned, relates to the extent to which the Communist Party increasingly and effectively nourishes sovereignty vested in the hands of the people as an ongoing process of democratisation.

The Cuban criterion of people’s participation goes back to the second half of the 19th century, when, during the wars of independence against Spain and in favour of a more just society, four constitutions arising out of as many constituent assemblies emerged. Local forms of popular governance at the grass-roots level, right under the noses of Spanish occupiers, tackled concerns such as health and education. The last segment of these struggles was led by Martí’s revolutionary political party.

In modern times, taking into account the current changes being brought about in Cuba, is the role of the Communist Party to stifle discussion and debate? Or, rather, is the approach to encourage the participation of the people in shaping their destiny while the Revolution is once again at a crossroads? The facts show that the latter path is being followed.

For example, Raúl Castro made an important speech in July 2007 in which he called on the people to discuss the issues and problems they are facing. In September and October, more than 5.1 million people participated in workplace, educational institution and neighbourhood meetings. There were 3,255,000 separate inputs recorded, including 1,301,203 concrete proposals. Of these suggestions, 48.8% were criticisms.

In preparation for the 2011 Communist Party Congress, there were 163,079 meetings with 8,913,838 participants, resulting in 3,019,471 separate suggestions that contributed to the elaboration of the guidelines that served to orient all the major changes that are presently under way.

Regarding the selling and purchasing of homes, the original guidelines stipulated only the need to “apply more convenient procedures to home exchanges, purchases, sales and leases in order to facilitate solutions to satisfy the demands of the population for housing.”

This was modified to widen the notion of home sales to “allow the buying and selling of housing, while other forms of ownership transfers (exchanges, donations and others) among individuals were to be made more flexible.”

Concerning car purchases and sales, the initial Congress Guidelines did not include anything with regard to this concern. However, in the wake of the discussions at the grass-roots level, a new guideline was introduced to allow for “the purchase and sale, between individuals, of existing vehicles.” Only five months after the April 2011 Congress, new decree legislation was introduced to enable the sale and purchase of vehicles.

There are many other examples to illustrate this point that the main feature of Cuba’s political system is not the number of parties in existence, but rather the active cultivation of sovereignty increasingly being vested in the hands of the people. It is, after all, this so-called “single party” that is the political force striving to further stimulate the active participation of the people.

Ironically, the hindrance to the people increasingly taking up their role as the framers of their own destiny stems from those entrenched in the bureaucracy who oppose this work of the party and its leadership to further democratize the Cuban political and socio-economic system.

The mainstream media and some academic circles propagate the notion that Cuba is a so-called closed, stultified authoritarian system. However, my investigation shows that Cuba is presently the scene of a most vigorous debate at all levels on how to improve the political system so that the notion of people’s sovereignty takes on even more practical meaning.

For example, Rafael Hernández, director of Cuba’s critical Temas magazine, referred to Raúl Castro’s 2011 party congress report by saying that “without transforming the political work style, without changing the manner of conceiving the role of the party, without also transforming the democracy within the party, participation, the party’s work style in its relations with the population, without these changes, the reforms would not succeed.”
Another social scientist, Olga Fernández Ríos, in analysing the grass-roots active participation as manifested in the two examples provided above (the 2007 open debate and the 2010 pre-Congress input sessions) is of the opinion that this type of citizen participation should become a permanent and systemized feature of the Cuban political system.

Thus, Cuba is presently catapulting itself into the new Latin American left. One of its main features is participatory democracy. Cuba is becoming increasingly vibrant on the very issue of people’s sovereignty while fighting a life-and-death struggle against bureaucracy and corruption. Yet, there is only one party.

Bolivia and Ecuador
In addition to the current state of affairs in Venezuela as outlined above, Bolivia, under the leadership of Evo Morales, has led a massive movement with the party he founded.
It has managed to begin to turn the tables on 500 years of colonialism by empowering the Indigenous and poor peoples at the base to take matters into their own hands. This has taken place through elections. One new socialist-oriented political party was and continues to be pitted against a plethora of pro-oligarchy status quo political parties.
The Morales party and government have gone through trials and tribulations as they strive to combine Indigenous values such as Mother Earth with the need to develop the economy for the well-being of all. This is a very complex and difficult challenge.
Morales and his party are looking to win the next elections, to be held in December 2014. However, nothing can be taken for granted, as the US and their allies in that Andean country have not given up their desire to put an end to the historical trend of Indigenous people becoming sovereign. There are several political parties in the Bolivian multi-party system, but the dichotomy far surpasses the criteria put forward based on the number of political parties.
Morales’s party is the only political formation that stands for sovereignty being increasingly vested in the hands of the people and specifically dedicated to the liberation of the Indigenous peoples.
Thus, the future of the peoples does not lie in the multi-party system, but rather in the hegemony of the Morales socialist party over the political scene.
This will be necessary for the ongoing improvement of the notion that, as stated in Article 7 of the Bolivian Constitution, “sovereignty resides in the Bolivian people.” This Constitution, including a wide variety of other notions of sovereignty, most of which find their heritage in 

Indigenous values and traditions of governance, was drafted and voted upon by the people under Morales’s leadership.

September 30, 2013 marked the third anniversary of the attempted coup d’état against Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa. The coup—led by Lucio Gutiérrez, a defeated candidate against Correa in the 2009 presidential elections—took place as part of this other Andean country’s multi-party system.
What Gutiérrez and his US backers could not achieve through elections was attempted in 2010 by illegal and violent means. The fact that Gutiérrez was previously known as part of a new “pink tide” of supposed progressives in his elections campaigning indicates the very limited nature of the multi-party system, which is prone to deceit and demagogy.
As for Correa, he has gone on after the 2010 attempted coup to become one of the most lucid critics of neo-liberal capitalist policies and against US interference in the affairs of Latin America.

Despite some critics from the “left” and, of course, the right, Correa, his movement and their party are the best guarantors of pursuing Article 1 of the Constitution, which enshrines, in part, that “Sovereignty lies with the people.”

Lessons from history
Alternation between “multi-party elections,” on the one hand, and coups and attempted coups, on the other, is not new to Latin American politics. Is this not what happened in the early 1950s in Cuba?

The progressive political force in which Fidel Castro was involved was heading to electoral victory in multi-party elections against the US-sponsored Batista regime. Batista organized a coup d’état on March 10, 1952 and cancelled the elections. Fidel Castro, his supporters and their movement were responsible for ensuring that the Cuban people would hold sovereignty in their hands for the first time in their history as a basis for strengthening and improving it.

This took place despite the multi-party system, 50 years before the new Latin America had begun to emerge. Thus, Cuba is not only part of this new Latin American left, but is, in many ways, its precursor. The common denominator is sovereignty being vested in the hands of the people. 

In contrast to the experience of the 21st-century new Latin American left, the US Constitution does not include the concept of “sovereignty lying in the hands of the people” nor the word “democracy.” 

Arnold August is the author of Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion and he will be speaking in London on Saturday 7 September at the Latin America Conference, held at the TUC, WC1