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Dissecting Utopia: New Book Assesses Latin American Left

The rise of the Latin American left is a product of years of social movements and dramatic leadership.

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In a chapter on Argentina, Federico Schuster writes that the Nestor Kirchner government ignored and isolated radical sectors of piquetero movement in order to demobilize them. Kirchner did not repress the movements, knowing that doing so would generate an enormous backlash as it did with the two deaths of piqueteros under former President Eduardo Duhalde. "Faced with this prospect, he has preferred a strategy of wearing out the resistance," Schuster writes. Due to their relative lack of structure and unity, the movements proved to be unsustainable in this context.

"Instead of encouraging the development of these movements," Schuster explains, "the majority of the leftist parties that have begun working with the unemployed have only ended up contributing to division, attempting to bring as many people as possible into their ranks, rather than building an authentic movement, a broad space that respects the movement’s self-determination. This has contributed to one of the greatest problems of the piquetero movement, which has ended up exacerbating its weakness – namely, dispersal."

At the start of The New Latin American Left , the editors explain that the book is not a conclusive work; many of these movements and governments that the authors focus on have still only recently come to power, so it’s hard to make "definitive evaluations." Yet in dissecting the recent history of the new Latin American left, the book sheds light on immediate challenges posed by the relationships between social movements, political parties and governments elsewhere in the region, from Lima to Tegucigalpa.

Click here to buy a copy of The New Latin American Left

Benjamin Dangl is the author of The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (AK Press, 2007). He is also the editor of TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events, and UpsideDownWorld.org, a news website uncovering activism and politics in Latin America. Email BenDangl(at)gmail(dot)com.