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Revolutions, Theirs and Ours

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By Farooq Sulehria

In October 2003, as Bolivia's President Sanchez de Lozado proceeded with plans to export gas to the United States, there was an explosion of public emotion and action. For a month there were road blockades, protests and marches as the Bolivian people showed that they would not allow their resources to be channelled through the hands of a few affluent to the USA.
President Sanchez de Lozado sent troops to meet the protestors. Sixty people were killed, and became martyrs for the Bolivian cause; the president was forced to flee to the United States. On June 7, Lozado´s successor Carlos Mesa was also forced to resign, pressurised by a new wave of mass street protests.
But in this age of Rose, Orange, Tulip and Cedar revolutions, terms bestowed upon various uprisings by the Western media, the mass demonstrations that led to Lozado´s escape and Mesa's resignation apparently did not qualify as revolutions of any colour.

Similarly the media did not refer benignly to the Andijan uprising in Uzbekistan this past May, nor grant it any colour. It was instead projected as an act of "Islamic terrorists" which apparently justified the bloodshed. And what is bloodshed between friends particularly when one friend is sitting on gas and oil reserves?
"We have had concerns about human rights in Uzbekistan, but we are concerned about the outbreak of violence, particularly by some members of a terrorist organisation that were freed from prison," stated White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

Earlier this year, the media networks did not grant the Nicaraguan uprising any colour either despite the resemblance between the Ecuadorian events in April and Kyrgyzstan uprising in March.
The Kyrgyz uprising which began in March forced the president Askar Akayev to flee. He sought Asylum in Moscow and resigned. The media hailed it as the Tulip revolution. But the Ecuadorian uprising that similarly forced President Lucio Gutierrez to flee and seek asylum in Brazil, did not constitute any Tulip, Cedar or Rose revolution.

Also in March, a half-baked revolution briefly appeared in headlines: the Cedar revolution, produced by anti-Syrian mobilisations in Lebanon. This revolution, however, fizzled out half way when the Hezbollah mobilised one million ´Syrian agents´ to unleash a counter-revolution. The story continues. Mesa is the latest on a long list of neo-liberal Latin American politicians thrown out of office -- in elections, or by popular revolt. In the last five years, uprisings have overthrown governments in Ecuador (twice), Peru, Argentina (thrice) and Bolivia (twice). In Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Ecuador and Uruguay, governments have been elected on anti-neoliberal platforms in the last seven years.

The most significant breakthrough has come in Venezuela: the Bolivarian revolution. Since the 1998 election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's extensive oil wealth is being used to fund ambitious social programmes to improve the lives of the majority that live in poverty. One of the most significant gains has been the mass literacy programme, which has succeeded in eradicating illiteracy according to United Nations standards. An attempted 2002 coup against Chavez, backed by the US, was defeated by mass mobilisation. But the Western media has not termed any of these upheavals as a colourful revolution. Why?

The reason is that mafia-rulers in ex-communist states are ready to offer their virgin states to neo-liberal deflowering while Latin America no longer buys the myth of neo-liberalism. Since the 1980s, the World Bank and IMF have been pushing "free trade", privatisation and the redirecting of funds from basic services to debt repayment as a way towards prosperity. By opening up their economies to "competition" and the "efficiency" of market forces, Latin American countries were promised significant economic growth that would reduce poverty. In fact, what happened was a significant increase in the hold over the economies of Latin America mainly by US corporations.

Between 1990 and 2002 multinational corporations acquired 4000 banks, telecommunications, transport, petrol and mining interests in Latin America. After a decade of neoliberalism in Argentina, culminating in an economic collapse in December 2001, the number of people living in poverty increased from one to 14 million. The Latin American people are now saying enough is enough. The recent PTCL strike in Pakistan is an early symptom of Latin American plague reaching this country.

After all, every time people in Latin America beat back neo-liberal policies and oust some IMF or World Bank collaborator, others around the globe are watching and learning. No matter if Latin Americans fail to acquire some colour for their revolutions. Real revolutions do not need a colour assigned to them by the Western television networks.

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