Friday, March 21, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 7: The Victors Segment 5/14
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2. The Fruits of Victory: Latin America

Turning to the rest of "our little region over here which has never bothered anybody" (see p. 52), a World Bank study in 1982 estimated that "40 percent of households in Latin America live in poverty, meaning that they cannot purchase the minimum basket of goods required for the satisfaction of their basic needs, and... 20 percent of all households live in destitution, meaning that they lack the means of buying even the food that would provide them with a minimally adequate diet." The situation worsened in the 1980s, largely because of the huge export of capital to the West (see chapter 3, p. 98). Speaking in Washington in preparation for the 1989 General Assembly of the OAS, Secretary General Soares described the 1980s as a "lost decade" for Latin America, with falling personal income and general economic stagnation or decline. He said that in the past year (1988), in the worst crisis since the depression of the 1930s, average income had fallen to the level of 1978. In 1989, average per capita product declined again, and the export of capital continued in a flood, CEPAL reported. According to World Bank figures, average per capita income in Argentina fell from $1,990 in 1980 to $1,630 in 1988. Mexico's GNP declined for seven straight years. Real wages in Venezuela fell by a third since 1981, to the 1964 level. Argentina allotted 20% of its budget to education in 1972, 6% in 1986. David Felix, a specialist on Latin American economics, writes that per capita output for the region declined almost 10% from 1980; real investment per worker, which declined sharply in the 1980s, fell to below 1970 levels in most of the heavily indebted countries, where urban real wages are in many cases 20-40% below 1980 levels, even below 1970 levels; the brain drain quickened and physical and human capital per head shrank because of the decline of public and private investment and collapse of infrastructure. Much of the sharp deterioration of the 1980s, Felix and others conclude, can be traced to the free-market restructuring imposed by the industrial powers, a matter to which we return.24

Mexicans continue to flee to the United States for survival, and here too macabre tales abound. The Mexican press reports drownings, disappearances, and "the disappearance or theft of women for the extraction of organs for use in transplants in the U.S." (quoting a regional Human Rights Committee representative). Others report torture, high rates of cancer from chemicals used in the maquiladora industries (assembly plants near the border, for shipment to U.S. factories), secret prisons, kidnapping, and other horror stories. Excelsior reports a study by environmental groups, presented to President Salinas, claiming that 100,000 children die every year as a result of pollution in the Mexico City area, along with millions suffering from pollution-induced disease, which has reduced life expectancy by an estimated 10 years. The "main culprit" is the emissions of lead and sulfur from operations of the national petrochemical company Pemex, which is free from the controls imposed elsewhere -- one of the advantages of Third World production that is not lost on investors.25

The Mexican Secretariat of Urban Development and the Environment described the situation as "truly catastrophic," Excelsior reports further, estimating that less than 10% of Mexican territory is able to support "minimally productive agriculture" because of environmental degradation while water resources are hazardously low. Many areas are turning into "a real museum of horrors" from pollution because of the blind pursuit of profits. The Secretariat estimates further that more than 90% of industry in the Valley of Mexico, where there are more than 30,000 plants, violate global standards, and in the chemical industry, more than half the labor force suffers irreversible damage to the respiratory system.26

Maude Barlow, chairperson of a Canadian study group, reports the results of their inquiry into maquiladoras "built by Fortune 500 to take advantage of a desperate people," for profits hard to match elsewhere. They found factories full of teenage girls, some 14 years old, "working at eye-damaging, numbingly repetitive work" for wages "well below what is required for even a minimum standard of living." Corporations commonly send the most dangerous jobs here because standards on chemicals are "lax or nonexistent." "In one plant," she writes, "we all experienced headaches and nausea from spending an hour on the assembly line" and "we saw young girls working beside open vats of toxic waste, with no protective face covering." Unions are barred, and there is no lack of desperate people to take the place of any who "are not happy, or fall behind in quotas, or become ill or pregnant." The delegation "took pictures of a lagoon of black, bubbling toxic waste dumped by plants in an industrial park," following it to "where it met untreated raw sewage and turned into a small river running past squatters' camps (where children covered in sores drank Pepsi Cola from baby bottles) to empty into the Tijuana River."27

We have already noted the economic and political conditions in Colombia, another success story of capitalist democracy flawed only by the drug cartels. A study by Evan Vallianatos of the U.S. government Office of Technology Assessment amplifies the dimensions of the victory here. "Colombia's twentieth century history is above all stained in the blood of the peasant poor," he writes, reviewing the gruesome record of atrocities and massacre to keep the mass of the population in its place. The U.S. Aid program, the Ford Foundation, and others have sought to deal with the plight of the rural population "by refining the largely discredited trickle-down technology and knowledge transfer process," investing in the elite and trusting in "competition, private property, and the mechanism of the free market" -- a system in which "the big fish eats the small one," as one poor farmer observes. These policies have made the dreadful conditions still worse, creating "the most gross inequalities that the beast in man has made possible." It is not only the rural poor who have suffered beyond endurance. To illustrate the kind of development fostered by the transnational corporations and the technocrats, Vallianatos offers the example of the small industrial city of Yumbo, "rapidly becoming unfit for human habitation" because of uncontrolled pollution, decay, and "corrosive slums" in which "the town's spent humanity has all but given up."28

Brazil is another country with rich resources and potential, long subject to European influence, then U.S. intervention primarily since the Kennedy years. We cannot, however, simply speak of "Brazil." There are two very different Brazils. In a scholarly study of the Brazilian economy, Peter Evans writes that "the fundamental conflict in Brazil is between the 1, or perhaps 5, percent of the population that comprises the elite and the 80 percent that has been left out of the `Brazilian model' of development." The Brazilian journal Veja reports on these two Brazils, the first modern and westernized, the second sunk in the deepest misery. Seventy percent of the population consume fewer calories than Iranians, Mexicans, or Paraguayans. Over half the population have family incomes below the minimum wage. For 40 percent of the population, the median annual salary is $287, while inflation skyrockets and even minimal necessities are beyond reach. A World Bank report on the Brazilian educational system compares it unfavorably to Ethiopia and Pakistan, with a dropout rate of 80 percent in primary school, growing illiteracy, and falling budgets. The Ministry of Education reports that the government spends over a third of the education budget on school meals, because most of the students will either eat at school or not at all.29

Go to the next segment.

24 Oscar Altimir, World Bank Staff Working Paper No. 522 (World Bank, 1982), cited by Schoultz, National Security and United States Policy, 75. Soares, Carl Hartman, AP, Nov. 7, 1989. CEPAL, Excelsior (Mexico), Dec. 27, 1989; LANU, Feb. 1990. World Bank, Ed McCullough, AP, Dec. 11, 1989. Felix, "Latin America's Debt Crisis," World Policy Journal, Fall 1990.

25 Excelsior, March 3, 1990; Nov. 11, 1989 (LANU, May, Jan., 1990).

26 Excelsior, Aug. 19, July 1, 1990; LANU, Oct., Sept. 1990.

27 Maude Barlow, chairperson of Council of Canadians, Toronto Globe & Mail, Nov. 5, 1990.

28 E.G. Vallianatos, Fear in the Countryside (Ballinger, 1976).

29 Evans, Dependent Development (Princeton, 1979), 4. Veja, Nov. 1; Excelsior, Nov. 3, 1989 (LANU, Dec. 1989). KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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