Try Red Pepper in print with our pay-as-you-feel subscription. You decide the price, from as low as £2 a month.More info ×
RN You have made three films on Latin America, two of them on Fidel Castro. What motivated you to make this new documentary about Latin America?
OS Also don’t forget about ‘Salvador’ in 1986. That was about El Salvador, in Central America, which was a tragedy. So I went back, I like Latin America; I view South America as the underdog in this situation. As a moviemaker I tend to make movies about people who don’t get a fair shake. I think it’s wrong what’s going on. I met Chavez for the first time in 2007, then I went back in 2008 and he said don’t take my word for it, go and talk to my neighbours. I did. We met seven Presidents in six countries. I said, what’s all the fuss about? Why are we making such a stink about Chavez? There is something going wrong. When the United States gets so self-interested in destroying somebody, which has happened repeatedly in South America and Central America, there is some motivation. We are looking for that motivation.
RN The mainstream US media has been rather critical about your film. Are you surprised about this?
OS No, I’m surprised we were able to take it as far as we have. People will see the movie. There will be an uphill battle, because when the New York Times says don’t see this movie they are lobbying against it.
TA That also has an opposite effect. A lot of people will say, the way these guys are writing about the movie means there is something fishy here. It encourages people to see it.
RN It’s more worrying when the Village Voice is so negative.
OS The Voice for years has been doing that. They are not a liberal organisation in my mind. I think that they are pseudo-liberals. You can get into a whole argument about what it is to be a liberal, or a progressive in America. It’s nitpicking. Nitpicking.
RN So it’s like The Guardian here in relation to Venezuela?
TA The Guardian correspondent in Venezuela lives in the leafy suburbs of eastern Caracas and his reporting from Venezuela is totally biased.
RN You seem to be fascinated by the charisma of the Latin American ‘caudillo’, leaders such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. But Latin America is also the birthplace of social movements that have for a long time been fighting for change. How do you see the dynamic relationship between the two, between the leaders on the one hand and the social movements on the other?
TA These leaders will not be in power were it not for the social movements. There is a link between the two. The social movements in Bolivia helped create the Movement for Socialism, the party of Evo Morales that propelled him into power. The big social movements against the IMF in Venezuela that led to the massacre, the ‘Caracazo’, in which three thousand people were killed produced Chavez. The same movements occurred in Ecuador, in Paraguay. So I don’t see a big divide. Each depends on the other. This divide largely exists in the West where the social movements have died out because they weren’t able to achieve anything. There is hardly a social movement left now in Western Europe. A country like Italy, which had huge social movements – now all gone. Whereas, in South America, one reason they have lasted is because they have managed to achieve something, not a huge amount, but structural reforms to the system.
OS I would add, not only do I like ‘caudillos’ or strong men, that’s not the same as a dictator, he [Chavez] has obviously been elected. I much admire Nestor Kirchner, an intellectual with volition to do something. Because intellectuals tend to get lost in their will power. Kirchner was strong enough to carry through a reform based on his thinking on economic reform. He is a shining example of a hero to me. He said, himself, in the documentary, my friend Hugo should consider a successor, because too much of one man will backfire and I think that is the problem that Hugo is going to face. He’s too much in the news. He is too controversial. They are making an argument about Hugo Chavez, instead of the argument about right versus left in Latin America.
RN In your film you also portray Lula, which doesn’t have the same left wing credentials as the others, but in terms of international politics, in terms of integration in Latin America is very important. It seems that some people on the left sometimes lose sight of the big picture, of where things are going in the continent.
OS Yes, that’s why I urge you, that’s why I keep saying to people: think of the big picture. You guys get lost in these details and you end up eating each other up.
RN Why do you think a person like Chavez projects such a bad image in the United States, while Presidents like Uribe, who are actually, allegedly, involved in drug-related paramilitarism in Colombia, with human rights violations on a scale unparalleled in Latin America, gets such a good press?
TA Because Colombia and Uribe are allies of the United States, work with them, have participated in US-initiated actions in the region and so that’s fine. It was always thus in the past. Why did they topple Allende? Why did they support Pinochet? That policy, in a different way, is still going on. Chavez they hate because not only does he attacks them frontally, but he is also the elected president of a country with the largest oil reserves in the continent, and that oil means a lot to them. As many of their journalists say, if Chavez was in Paraguay they wouldn’t hate him so much. But the reason they hate him is because he is using the oil, and he is using it against them, and he is helping to give oil to some of the other Bolivarian republics. The Cubans were kept going when they did a trade of oil for doctors, and that they hate because it’s broken the isolation of the Cubans, and they help each other, they want to speak with one voice. That’s what our film shows, that’s never happened before. For the first time, leaders who disagree with each other have united and have said to the United States enough- this far and no further, we are not going to back down.
Roberto Navarrete is an editor of www.alborada.net, a website covering politics, media and culture in Latin America.
South of the Border is released in UK cinemas on Friday 30 July
The Tipping Point Film Fund will hold a screening of South of the Border (including a panel discussion entitled: Radical Latin American leadership – what’s to be afraid of?) on Friday 30 July at 6:30 PM (details here).
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Michael Calderbank profiles Jeremy Corbyn's new supporters in parliament
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
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