Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Britain toes Washington line in Latin America

The UK government's policy of ending direct aid to Latin America received fresh confirmation last month in a report published by the Department for International Development (DfID). Increasingly, British aid for the continent will be directed through the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

August 1, 2004
4 min read


Pablo NavarretePablo Navarrete is a British-Chilean journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is the founder of www.alborada.net and a correspondent for the Latin America Bureau (LAB)


  share     tweet  

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.”

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Pablo NavarretePablo Navarrete is a British-Chilean journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is the founder of www.alborada.net and a correspondent for the Latin America Bureau (LAB)


Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya

North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero

The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava

France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati

This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help

PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank

Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media

I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to

We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS

Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank

Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland

Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones

The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya

The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe

How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency