First published in Labour Briefing.
Firstly, can I say how great it is to be writing in this issue of ‘Labour Briefing’ and to be adding my thoughts to the excellent recent articles on Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil that have looked at why we on the Left must be clear that it is up to the people of Latin America to determine their own future, not Donald Trump.
I have been active in solidarity with the left in Latin America for decades, from opposing the coup in Chile in 1973, to supporting the Nicaraguan revolution in 1979, to my agreement with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela when I was Mayor of London, to my continued activity today.
This is a particularly dangerous time, as we have seen growing US hostility to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba with Trump as President, alongside his backing for the reactionary and repressive hard-right governments in Brazil, Honduras and Colombia.
One thing that receives little mainstream media attention is how Trump is tightening the screws on Cuba, intensifying the illegal blockade and reversing the gains of the Obama years.
We have recently seen the Trump administration announce the most severe economic sanctions against Cuba since the illegal US blockade was first introduced in 1962.
Even before these new acts of aggression, the US blockade already constituted the longest economic sanctions against any country in history.
It has cost the Cuban economy more than £735 billion since 1962 and the US has continued to pursue it despite nearly unanimous opposition in the international community, as confirmed by an overwhelming UN vote every year against the blockade.
Trump’s illegal sanctions on Nicaragua must also be opposed.
Trump signed into law the “Nica Act” (Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act) in December 2018.
The Act seeks to use the US’s “voice, vote and influence” within international financial institutions, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank, to stop them providing “any loan or financial or technical assistance” to Nicaragua’s government.
This is of course extremely significant as the US is a strong and, at times, dominant voice in these institutions, and a voice that many international actors do not want to be at odds with.
With regards to Venezuela meanwhile, we are seeing a full-on financial blockade in their attempt to bring about ‘regime change,’ which is of course illegal under international law.
Such US-led ‘regime changes’ have been a disaster in other countries such as Iraq and Libya in recent years, and there’s no reason to believe it would help the people of Venezuela.
This is not about democracy, human rights or helping resolve the country’s severe economic difficulties. It’s about gaining control of the world’s largest proven oil reserves.
What is needed in such a situation is dialogue, but instead the Trump administration is instead threatening military intervention and trying for a coup.
It is great that under Jeremy Corbyn Labour now has a leader prepared to stand up to US wars and Trump’s hate, including with regards to policy in Latin America.
Let’s therefore stand clearly with all those movements in Latin America fighting for social progress and against Trump’s intervention. As part of this, I’m pleased to be speaking at the upcoming annual Latin America Conference. This is a highlight of the progressive calendar, and a vital event to support progressive movements in Latin America who are standing up to hostility from Trump. I hope you will join us there!