Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
NGOs working in the region fear that this represents a subservience to US policy towards this politically sensitive continent. Latin America is Washington’s number-two foreign-policy priority after the Middle East.
The DfID’s report presents a draft regional assistance plan for Latin America. It sets out the government’s strategy for alleviating poverty in the region up to 2006/07.
The report acknowledges the enormity of the task ahead: Latin America has some 57 million people living on less than $1 per day; inequality is severe and is fuelled by widespread social, political and economic exclusion. Any significant contribution to ameliorating these problems, the department admits, will require “long-term commitment and prudent analysis”.
Historically, however, the DfID’s dedication to its Latin America programme has been inconsistent at best. Between 1997 and 2003 its emphasis was on giving aid through civil society organisations, which gained the department some credibility in the region. This year, however, the UK’s aid programme to Latin America has been drastically cut back to help bankroll the UK’s attack on Iraq.
The DfID’s latest report can be seen as an intensification of the government’s withdrawal from direct involvement in the region in favour of working with the US and the agencies it leads – principally, the World Bank and the IDB. Further evidence of that process is the closure of the UK’s embassies in Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, leaving a single Central America embassy in Costa Rica. The DfID has also closed its offices in Peru and Honduras, so that it now only has premises in Nicaragua, Bolivia and (mainly for trade purposes) Brazil.
One reason why NGOs in Latin America believe the World Bank and the IDB are unfit to deliver successfully on poverty reduction is the development banks” support for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The FTAA aims to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) to every country in Central America, South America and the Caribbean, except Cuba.
Nafta has facilitated the exploitation of cheap labour in Mexico’s infamous maquiladores – export assembly plants that neither create sustainable jobs nor contribute to the long-term improvement of development indices in Mexico. It is a trade policy that has proved to be counterproductive in development terms, and which leads to further impoverishment and disempowerment of people.
The DfID argues that there are gains to be had from such free-trade agreements, namely better access to Northern markets. There is some truth in this, but such minimal access as is achieved does not translate into the reduction of poverty alleviation.
The department’s approach to Latin America is based on the idea that Latin American countries are “Middle Income Developing Countries” (MDCs) and therefore ineligible for programmes for the relief of extreme poverty. (This takes insufficient account of the extreme inequalities within Latin American countries.) It believes Latin American countries should trade their way out of poverty. Hence its lack of anxiety about an approach to aid that is so closely associated with Nafta. World Bank and IDB aid to Latin American nations is largely dependent on their showing willing over FTAA negotiations.
If the DfID were serious about poverty relief in Latin America, it would consult with the region’s well-informed network of NGOs on the ground. These groups are overwhelmingly opposed to the FTAA, and see the department’s current plan as utterly misinformed.
Another indication that British policy in Latin America is being driven by Washington is Tony Blair’s role as the main advocate within the European Union of aid to the extreme right-wing government in Colombia. That country’s president, Alvaro Uribe Velez, is the prime agent of the US’s Plan Colombia, a mainly military campaign against “narco-terrorists” across the Andean region – in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and, potentially, Venezuela.
The UK government insists that its priority is human rights, but for some years now there has been no direct humanitarian aid from the DfID to Colombia: the only significant direct aid from the UK to the country is military aid, many of the details of which are classified information.
At the International Monetary Fund, too, Britain also consistently follows the US position – notably, over Argentina and Brazil. As Latin America Bureau director Marcella Lopez Levy says: “The UK government assumes that it”ll get more crumbs in terms of trade from the US table in Latin America than the European one. That’s what these developments in the DfID are all about.”
Deregulation and tax loopholes are justified by saying that they 'protect growth'. But really, they just protect the wealthy, writes James Fox
Inequality is often treated as a law of nature - but really, it's the result of conscious political choices. It's time to choose equality, writes the IPPR's Carys Roberts.
Tom Palmer, aka Agent Kingfisher, was the 'messiah' of London's squatting scene until his death last year. But who was responsible for his fate? MI5, late capitalism or simply a drug overdose? Matt Broomfield investigates.
'Docs Not Cops' write that we must resist attempts to make our NHS any less universal
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
'We wanted to use a shared love of the beautiful game to stand in solidarity with those living under occupation', writes Kate Hadley.
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones