Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

Archive for April 2nd, 2008

Naomi Klein – short sighted and mistaken

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After watching the video by Alfonso Curan inspired by Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism, I read “Latin America’s Shock Resistance” an article by Klein that briefly articulates some of the primary ideas behind the book. I have yet to get my hands on the book, but the article really angered me, so I had to write something in response, even if just a note to myself.

The article is a good read, but way too optimistic for me. For every positive change toward democratic socialism that the article sites, there are any number of privatizing and culturally negligent changes that are not mentioned, and are all too real to ignore. This for me takes a great deal out of Klein’s perspective. She’s right, Latin America has grown tired of the United States’ influence and power, changes are being made that counter 100+ year traditions such as School of the Americas and the banana republic diplomacy; these are changes that have been fermenting popularly since the 80s and for some groups much longer.  But there are new transformations occurring based on transcapitalist models that are not being countered and not being fully understood, yet.

I know what is happening in Nicaragua first hand, so it’s the only place that she mentions that I can write about and she is entirely mistaken. Much of the beautiful, untouched beach front property on the Pacific has been purchased by foreign wealth, primarily US development contractors and small pieces by retirees. The once untouched rain forests of the country have been deforested. At the current rate of deforestation the majority of Nicaragua will be a desert in the very near future. On paper the rate of deforestation has lowered, but in reality a great deal of illegal deforestation continues, even under Sandinista watch – the money is too easy.

The entire cultural landscape has been transformed and continues to loose the identity it once had. In parallel with the communal organizations that she sites (primarily in South America), there are any number of private tourism companies established. In some cases tourism is managed by government, but it remains one of the largest private markets in Latin America.  Nicaragua is trying to emulate Costa Rica’s tourism industry, an industry that overwhelms any cultural tradition, because culture is transformed into mere spectacle.  I hate to use this sort of neoMarxist language, but I’ve watched it happen first hand and in real time. The transformation and loss of tradition is immediate. Perhaps tourism that caters to US tourist expectations is the new world bank, is that any better? It might be financially but not culturally.

Daniel Ortega is an ignorant example of the rise of the left in Latin America. Ortega was only elected as president because his party’s majority (the Sandinistas in the National Assembly) changed the constitution to lower the percentage of votes so that a run off between the two top candidates would not be required. The percentage was lowered to what Ortega had been at every previous elections in which he tried to retake the presidency – that’s every election since loosing to Violeta. I don’t recall the exact numbers, but for explanation, lets say that previously if no candidate received 40% of the vote, a run off would be necessary between the two top candidates, one of these always been Ortega and each time he lost. Now the winning percentage has been lowered to what he generally gets, about 35% and a run off will only occur if that winning percentage isn’t a clear 5% higher than the next best. In a 12 party race, with the Sandinista’s being the most powerful and wealth party, Ortega arranged the numbers to what he needed.

In order to win the Christian vote, the Sandinista lead National Assembly made all form of abortion illegal, this was in October of 2006. Within the first two weeks of the new law the first victim died, a young woman who could only live if she underwent an abortion or would die along with her unborn child. She did not have a choice and both died. I know this because my cousin, a doctor in Nicaragua who fights for women’s rights, spoke at the UN and sited this case while seeking the UN’s in repealing the abortion law.

And as for these financial programs that allow countries to not borrow from the world bank, one must still follow the money and see where it ends up. Last year presidents, Ortega and Chavez made a business agreement – the largest oil refinery in Latin America is to be built of the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. In five years that refinery will not be nationalized, it will be owned by the Ortega family… And the blackouts in Nicaragua are worse than they have ever been, only now they are regularly scheduled, a small improvement.

Actually the more I consider the article the angrier I get! It’s entirely one-sided, it describes a forming utopia south of the U.S. border. Countries that prosper due to their new found independence and this simply isn’t true. She apparently has no clue of some of the backroom deals being made by these leaders that she makes into heroes. Her article makes me wonder if she’s traveled to Nicaragua and if so, where did she stay, who did she talk to and what cosmetic version of reality was she given. I’d like to believe in her perspective, but it’s incredibly short-sighted. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t know that many people read her writing and believe it or consider it enlightening when there is so much missing that it is irresponsible..

Written by ricardo

April 2nd, 2008 at 10:03 pm