by David Broder
For many mainstream commentators, the clashes following the coup against soft-left Honduran president Manuel Zelaya fit into the usual analysis of a continent-wide battle between pro-US conservative parties and a radical “pink tide”. It is indeed striking how prominently supporters of the Honduran military coup allege interference in the country by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, a theme also particularly commonplace in the political discourse of the right in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia. The Times this week approvingly quoted one observer to the effect that “Chávism versus anti-Chávism is a new version of Communism versus anti-Communism”.
However, while the Venezuelan president is evidently an influential and controversial figure and the focus of much attention, we must go beyond the typical media epithets about his personality – ‘firebrand’, ‘outspoken’, and so on – and ask: what dynamics and social forces do these conflicts represent? Why has Chávism and anti-Chávism generalized across Latin America, how irreconcilable are the divisions, and to what extent are these questions of anti-imperialism and class struggle?
To understand what is taking place, it is important to contextualize the supposed “pink tide” led by Chávez in the history of Latin America, and in particular the continent’s many examples of ‘populist’ governments with supposedly ‘anti-imperialist’ and statist agendas. This article looks in particular at the case of the ‘Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces’, which governed Peru from 1968 to 1975. Continue reading “imperialism and populism in latin america: the case of peru 1968-75”