Unlike in 1973, most people in Latin America and the Caribbean now have the right to elect governments of the left, without these governments being overthrown by an alliance of traditional elites with Washington. And they have been doing so continuously since 1998: in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Haiti. Unfortunately, some of the weaker countries, and especially those who are “too far from God and too close to the United States” are still not free: Washington was able to get rid of democratically-elected left governments in Honduras with a military coup (2009), Paraguay (where it helped the “parliamentary coup” last year), and Haiti (whose elected government was overthrown by Washington and its allies in broad daylight in 2004).
But Allende’s dream of an independent Latin America has been mostly realized. And the electoral road to social democracy (which he, like the current leaders of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela, for example, called “socialism”) is now possible.
This is a huge advance not only for the region but the world, as Allende knew it would be. The new democratic left leaders have taken many steps to ensure that these changes will be permanent, creating new regional organizations such as UNASUR and CELAC. The latter contains every nation in the hemisphere except the United States and Canada, and hopefully will increasingly displace the Organization of American States. The OAS is much corrupted by Washington, which hijacked it for example, in overthrowing the Haitian government and later overturning election results there, and manipulated it in support of coup governments of Honduras and Paraguay.
Allende’s dream of social democracy that benefits working and poor people has also made major advances in the era of Latin America’s “second independence,” which opened up more policy space. Since Argentina became liberated from the IMF, poverty and extreme poverty have fallen by more than 70 percent, real social spending has nearly tripled, and the country has achieved record levels of employment. Brazil, notwithstanding its recent slowdown, has had its best and most inclusive growth in decades, reducing poverty by 45 percent and hitting record low levels of unemployment during the past decade of Workers’ Party government. Venezuela has reduced poverty by about half and extreme poverty by more than 70 percent since the government got control over its oil industry 10 years ago. Ecuador has also achieved record low levels of unemployment, regulated and taxed the financial sector, and greatly expanded access to housing and health care. Other left governments have had similar achievements.
Salvador Allende and the movement that supported him in 1973 showed great courage and integrity, but the United States government was still too powerful to allow for democratic choices in South America. But 40 years later, the world has changed, and his dreams are becoming reality more and more each day.