Abu-Jamal's Radio Broadcasts
From Latin America
in the United States have grown up thinking of ourselves as the
smartest, most civilized, most able folks on the planet.
While we may
not say it openly, we think it, and consequently, we look down on
our neighbors to the immediate South. One need only look at U.S.-Latin
American relations, at over a century of American relations with
South and Central American nations, which may be described as imperial
and dominating. In 1927, Walter Lippman, a *New York Times* columnist
control the foreign relations of all the Caribbean countries;
not one of them could enter into serious relations abroad without
our consent. We control their relations with each other. We exercise
the power of life and death over their governments in that no
government can survive if we refuse it recognition. We help in
many of these countries to decide what they call their elections,
and we do not hesitate, as we have done recently in Mexico, to
tell them what kind of constitution we think they ought to have.
[Fr. Clara Nieto's *Masters of War: Latin America and U.S. Aggression*
(N.Y.: Seven Stories Press, 2003), p. 22]
words, these actions described what many Americans, both then and
now, shrunk from calling their nation: an empire. In the almost
80 years since Lippman's observations, that general state of affairs
continues to describe U.S.-Latin and Caribbean relations.
things come from the South that surprises us. The resistance of
the Cuban Revolution, surely as nakedly nationalist as it is socialist,
still has a majestic David and Goliath quality to it. In the mountains
of Chiapas, the Zapatista rebellion, which, although anchored in
the ancient indigenous Indian and Mestizo populations, continues
to show that the people of Mexico have not agreed to be servants
of the rich norteamericanos. And now the people of Bolivia, again,
many of them descendants of the indigenous native peoples of the
land, have shown us something remarkable in the annals of resistance
From the high
plains and villages of Bolivia, from the poor, the unemployed, the
dispossessed, has come the Water Wars.
and foreign business interests pushed through a law essentially
claiming all rights to Bolivian water, the people, across virtually
all sectors rebelled, and through something they called *Coordinadora*
(or coalition) Bolivians staged public demonstrations, erected barricades
along major roads, and exposed the backroom deals signed by corrupt
politicians to enrich themselves, and beggar the people. These Water
Wars unleashed latent people's power to run out a series of presidents,
and forced the U.S. company, Bechtel, which tried to broker the
deal, to leave the country, with empty hands.
readers in the U.S. will be able to read for themselves the remarkable
story of how everyday Bolivians, mainly in the city of Cochabamba,
stood up to the greedy local and foreign businessmen, to fight neoliberalism
and political corruption, in the face of brutal government repression.
One of their keys was to expand, and in some cases, bypass, the
traditional trade union workers, who, under the new economic conditions
of Bolivia (and much of Latin America) constitute a minority of
workers. They turned to the poorest, least organized, least paid,
most oppressed people, and formed a popular base that the traditional
unions, the government, and foreign business backers could not ignore.
They organized the people.
The story is
told by one of the main organizers, Oscar Olivera, in the soon-to-be
published: *Cochabamba: Water Rebellion in Bolivia* (Cambridge,
Ma.: South End Press, 2004).
What we learn
from this is something very fundamental that the people,
when organized, are powerful indeed, and can transform our social,
economic and political reality.
And that lesson
comes, not from the North, but from the South; from Bolivia, from
the poor Resistance!
2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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© copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.