Thursday, 29 July 2010

South of the Border

I'm just discovering the huge changes south of the US border. Discussions on Latin American union have been ongoing for some years: with the EU as a model the aim is a common market, currency and parliament within the next decade. The UNASUR treaty was signed in May 2008 and the Banco del Sur was set up in September 2009 to support South American countries. Countries once dependent on the World Bank and the IMF are no longer willing to borrow from it, or to accept the conditions for loans; usually the deregulation of markets, which has lead to multinational exploitation of local resources. Argentina has been active, and in May this year the former Argentine president, Néstor Kirchner, was elected the first Secretary-General of UNASUR at a heads of state summit.

Oliver Stone's new documentary was written by Tariq Ali and Mark Weisbrot. Weisbrot is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington D.C., and has been critical of globalization and of World Bank and IMF policies. He has supported the governments of South America in creating the 'bank of the south' to help achieve independence from the IMF. The film aims to counter the relentlessly negative media representations in the US, and elsewhere, of the south and its leaders by visiting them and allowing them to speak for themselves. We meet them as people and share their thoughts and aspirations.

What If Latin America Ruled the World? How the South Will Take the North into the 22nd Century is a recently-published book by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, a native of Colombia who teaches at London University. I know it through the Guardian review, where it's quoted as making the astonishing prediction of a Hispanic takeover of the United States 'sometime before the middle of this century' – that is, within the next forty years. He also claims that a sense of common ownership of land and resources is, and always has been, at the heart of the indigenous peoples' experience, and that radical, local economic models are being developed in Latin America to supplant the perceived exploitative nature of a capitalist system that, with bitter irony, developed on the proceeds of South American silver mines.

And back to Fernando 'Pino' Solanas. I've been able to follow the dialogue in his great masterpiece Sur now that it's on YouTube with English subtitles. (I wrote about it here.) It's a strange, poetic film with, I now realise, a strong political thread. The first section is called 'La Mesa de los Suenos', the 'table of dreams'; the dreamers being retired military men of an older generation who dream of an Argentine people fully in control of their own resources and using them to their own benefit. The military of the 1976-1983 period were American trained, backed and supported.

Sadly (to me) Solanas abandoned his poetic/political cinema in favour of a more directly political kind of film, which I don't enjoy watching so much. Typical of this is Memoria del saqueo 'A report on the looting', an Argentine/Swiss production that examines the 2001 crisis, and the poverty and wealth of Argentina: this is also on YouTube, as are some of his other films. I haven't watched it, but I assume the 'looting' is of individuals' bank accounts by central government.

In 2007 Solanas founded a political party, Proyecto Sur, 'Project South', with a radical agenda for economic reform. He was elected last year, and seems to have been controversial in office.

A Hispanic USA by 2050? It takes a leap of imagination, but just a decade ago it would have been inconceivable that Brazil would ever be mentioned alongside India and China as on the way to being an economic superpower. & fifteen years ago, neither China nor India counted for much economically. I wonder if we will we have a 'relación especial'.

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