The era of ungovernability in Latin America


Subcomandante Moisés.

By: Raúl Zibechi

On our Latin American continent the global geopolitical disarticulation translates into a growing ungovernability that affects governments of all political currents. Forces capable of establishing order in each country do not exist, nor do they exist on a regional or global level, something that affects everyone from the United Nations to the governments of the most stable countries.

One of the problems that you observe, especially in the media, is that when they lack analysis to use they appeal to stylistic simplifications: “Trump is crazy,” or similar conjectures, or he is labeled as a “fascist” (not a simple conjecture). They are just adjectives that elude in-depth analysis. We know well that Hitler’s “craziness” never existed and that he represented the interests of the big German corporations, ultra rational in their zeal to dominate global markets.

Something similar happens on the side of critical thinking. All the problems that confront the progressive governments are the fault of imperialism, the right, the OAS and the media. There is no will to assume responsibility for the problems they created all by themselves, nor the least mention of the corruption that has reached scandalous levels.

But the central fact of this period is the ungovernability. What has been happening in Argentina (the stubborn resistance of the popular sectors to the policies of robbery and dispossession of the Mauricio Macri government) is a sign that the rights don’t obtain social peace, nor will they obtain it at least in the short or medium terms.

Argentine workers have a long and rich experience of more than a century resisting the powerful, and so they know how to wear them down, until bringing them down through the most diverse ways: from insurrections like that of October 17, 1945 and December 19 and 20, 2001, to armed uprisings like the Cordobazo [1] and several dozen popular riots.

In Brazil, the right piloted by Michel Temer has enormous difficulty imposing reforms on the pension and labor systems, not only because of union and popular resistance but also because of the internal bankruptcy that the political system suffers. The de-legitimizing of the institutions is perhaps the highest that history remembers.

The economist Carlos Lessa, president of the BNDES with Lula’s first government, points out that Brazil can no longer look at itself in the mirror and recognize what it is, a lost horizon in the torpor of globalization ( The assertion of this leading Brazilian thinker can be applied to the region’s other countries, which cannot but shipwreck when systemic storms lie in wait. In fact, Brazil is going through a phase of decomposition of the traditional political class, something that few seem to comprehend. Operation Car Wash (Lava Jato) [2] is a tsunami that will not leave anything in its place.

Venezuela offers an identical panorama, although the actors practice opposite discourses. By the way, attending to discourses in full systemic decomposition has scarce usefulness, since they only seek to elude responsibilities.

Saying that Venezuelan un-governability is due only to the destabilization of the right and the Empire, is to forget that the popular sectors also participate in the prolonged erosion of the Bolivarian process, through micro-practices that disorganize production and everyday life. Or maybe someone can ignore that the bachaqueo (ant contraband) is an extended practice among the popular sectors, even among those that say they are Chavistas?

The sociologist Emiliano Terán Mantovani says it without twists: chaos, corruption, tearing of the social fabric and fragmentation of the people, fueled by the terminal crisis of the oil renaissance ( When the political culture of the most ferocious individualism predominates, it’s impossible to conduct any process of change towards some moderately positive destiny.

In sum, the panorama that the region presents – although I mention three countries the analysis can, with nuances, be extended to the rest– is increasingly ungovernable, beyond the character of governments, with strong tendencies towards chaos, expansion of corruption and extreme difficulty in finding a way out.

Three fundamental reasons are at the basis of this critical situation. The first is the growing potency, organization and mobilization of those below, of Indian and black peoples, of the urban and campesino popular sectors, of young people and women. Not even the Mexican genocide against those below has achieved paralyzing the popular countryside, although it is undeniable that it faces serious difficulties to continue organizing and creating new worlds.

The second is the acceleration of the global systemic crisis and the geopolitical disarticulation, which took a leap forward with Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the persistence of the Russia-China alliance to stop the United States and the evaporation of the European Union that wanders without direction. The conflicts expand non-stop to border on nuclear war, without anyone being able to impose certain order (though unjust like the postwar order since 1945).

The third (reason) consists of the inability of the regional elites to find any lasting solution, as was the process of import substitution, the construction of a minimum welfare state capable of integrating some sectors of the workers and a certain national sovereignty. On this tripod they established the alliance between entrepreneurs, workers and the State that was able to project, for some decades, a credible national project, although not very consistent.

The combination of these three aspects represents the “perfect storm” in the world-system and in each corner of our continent. Those above, as Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés said a few days ago, they want to convert the world into “a walled finca,” probably because we have become ungovernable. We must get organized in those difficult conditions, and not to change the finqueros (plantation owners), that’s for sure.

[1] The Cordobazo was a May 29, 1969 civilian uprising against the military dictatorship in Cordoba, Argentina.

[2] Lava Jato, (Operation Car Wash in English), is a Brazil corruption scandal involving large corporations giving bribes to government officials in order to get contracts.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, April 28, 2017

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



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