International People’s Tribunal on U.S. Imperialism / Black Agenda Radio with Margaret Kimberley

Countries facing sanctions imposed by the United States | Credit: Black Agenda Report

Nina Farnia is an Assistant Professor at Albany Law School and a member of the steering committee of the International People’s Tribunal on US Imperialism . The Tribunal is holding hearings on the impact of sanctions, economic coercive measures, in 16 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. She joins us from Albany, New York to discuss the tribunal’s work.

Margaret Kimberley is Executive Editor and Senior Columnist at Black Agenda Report, which she co-founded in 2006 with Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon. She is the author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents, Steerforth Press, 2020. Her work can be found on twitter @freedomrideblog and at

Black Agenda Radio is a project of the Black Agenda Report offering News, commentary and analysis from the black left.

Migration as Sign of Climate-Change Impact in the Global South / by W. T. Whitney Jr.

Source: The African Union Mission in Somalia

U.S. government programs for migrants who crossed the U.S. southern border are punitive and disjointed. Left-leaning political groupings may criticize, but they too have fallen short in conceptualizing lives of dignity for migrants in the United States. Nor do they adequately take into account adverse circumstances weighing on migrants’ lives in their home countries.

First among forces pushing masses of people northward is the environmental crisis. The role of climate change in reducing soil productivity and food availability and in predisposing already beleaguered people to migrate is of great concern.  

One assumption here is that capitalist systems of production and consumption have been central to causing the climate to change for the worse. Another is the need for war on capitalism so as to stave off more climate change and cope with its fallout. That hasn’t happened in the industrialized northern countries.

Southern regions may be different. The excesses of capitalist globalization have hurt masses of people there. They were never afforded the relief northern peoples gained from welfare-state remedies. They may be ready to take up the climate-change fight.

Northern climate-change warriors who are anti-capitalist ought to be establishing linkages of support with their southern counterparts. One precedent for them is Spain.  Anti-fascists in 1936 joined the International Brigades to defend the Spanish Republic.  Now, in one way or another, northerners would be joining a faraway fight, this time against climate change.  One locality is Guatemala. 


Author Ilka Oliva Corado describes herself as an “indigenous, undocumented immigrant in the United States.” An English-language version of her story, which is situated in Guatemala and titled “The Plum,” appears here. Excepts follow: 

Guillermina leaves the grocery bags on the table and hurriedly takes out a plum, washes it and takes a bite … She is grateful for the hands that cared for it from the time the seed of the tree was planted. Ever since she was a child, her peasant grandparents taught her to be thankful for the labor of those who work on the land.

She was from Parramos, Chimaltenango, in Guatemala. When she arrived in the United States, she was speaking only her mother tongue, Cakchiquel. … She spent 20 years working as a domestic worker in New York. … Guillermina left Guatemala with her brother Jacobo to help her parents raise her younger siblings … She was on the eve of her fifteenth birthday when she left her indigenous clothing behind and packed two pairs of pants and two T-shirts in her backpack …

(Oliva Corado writes that the traffickers sexually abused Guillermina and her brother as they traveled in Mexico, from Chiapas to Tijuana.) “She doesn’t know what happened to her memory. But she managed to block all recall of the journey after they arrived in Tapachula [in Chiapas].” (The author writes that Jacobo was similarly abused. He remembers, has nightmares, and sleeps fitfully at night.)  

He works three jobs. Every Friday they collect their money so that Guillermina can send off the remittance. Neither of the two will allow their younger siblings to emigrate. At home … they work the land of their grandparents, but Miguel, the youngest, didn’t listen to them and emigrated with another group of friends. He wanted to leave to help his older siblings deal with the economic burden of the house. Now he’s been missing for three years. 

Guillermina bites into the plum that takes her back to remembering the bean fields, shade from the avocado and orange trees, and furrows in the cornfields.  It was there she saw her younger siblings beginning to walk while her parents were working.

Plum juice drips from the corner of her lips. … But tasting the fruit that Miguel loved so much sets off the pain that for three years has been knotted in her throat and she begins to cry inconsolably.

It was in the supermarket that she received the call from Jacobo. There is news of Miguel. A forensic team did tests and they have confirmed his identity. A humanitarian rescue team searching months ago for a missing migrant woman found his bones in a dry river in Sonora. Her parents will be able to bury their young son in the town cemetery, finally.


The family’s land may not have been producing enough food to satisfy nutritional needs, nor enough to sell and provide cash. International agencies concerned about food shortages use a scale that registers severity. It consists of phase 1 – no significant problem; phase 2 – stress; phase 3 – crisis; phase 4 – emergency; and phase 5 – widespread acute malnutrition.

The 2022 Global Report on Food Crises, assembled by United Nations agencies, reported on trends in Guatemala, population 16.9 million. In November, 2018, 2.12 million Guatemalans were classified as experiencing food “crisis.” The corresponding figures in August, 2000 and in May, 2021 were 3.24 million and 3.29, respectively.  As of those dates, there were 4.67 million, 7.21 million, and 7.78 million people, respectively, who endured food stress. A recent report indicates that, as of September 2021, 4.6 million Guatemalans were facing food crisis (phase 3) or food emergency (phase 4).

The World Meteorological Organization, reporting in July on the impact of climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean, points out that, “Droughts, heat waves, periods of cold, more tropical storms and floods have led to loss of life, serious damage to agricultural production and infrastructure, and displaced populations.” 

The authors of another detailed report on the region’s “Climate Change Emergency” state that, “the present bimodal pattern of precipitation in Central America may be distorted in the coming decades … Extreme phenomena like droughts, hurricanes, and the Niño Southern Oscillation will be recurring … and their intensity will increase with climate change .. These phenomena magnify social-economic vulnerability in the region.” 

A survey of the impact of changing climate in Guatemala claims that drought “mostly afflicts the semi-arid region of the country known as the “dry corridor,” and that “in the coming years, that area is expected to extend to higher elevations.” Recently rain has been uncharacteristically scarce or absent during heat waves.

Rural families in Guatemala grow or produce food from their own land. Family members may also work seasonally on big farms to be able to purchase additional food, or they fish or hunt. High poverty rates underscore the vulnerability of their lives – 70% in Guillermina’s Chimaltenango department and nearly 80 percent among Guatemala’s indigenous population. Now the impact on food supplies of droughts, storms, and floods – which are more severe now because of climate-change – adds to their plight.

Many Guatemalans and others in the Global South have to move. They go to big cities or they cross national borders to begin new lives, and/or earn money to support families at home. Plenty of other reasons to migrate do exist such as land grabs, governmental chaos, and violence from criminals, gangs, paramilitaries, and soldiers. 

But migration undertaken in response to climate-change effects is highly significant, so much so that victims are everywhere, and in the millions. On that account, the prospect emerges of mass political mobilization and of growing awareness along the way of capitalism as enemy.

Capitalist-inspired intrusions already fill the landscape with mines and oil-extraction facilities, dams and flooded rivers, pollution, mega land-holdings and mono-culture farming operations. U.S. political interference, debt owed foreign banks, privatizations, and cuts in social spending have provoked opposition movements.  Growing appreciation of linkage between these manifestations of global capitalism and capitalism’s contribution to climate change may serve to stimulate anti-capitalist resistance movements that are ready to take on the environmental crisis.

This possible scenario in the Global South ought to resonate with anti-capitalist activists in the North. The great need is for international solidarity. Author, editor, and eco-socialist John Bellamy Foster offers perspective in his recently published article titled “Ecology and the Future of History.” Excerpts follow:

“The agent of revolution is increasingly a class that is not to be conceived in its usual sense as a purely economic force but as an environmental (and cultural) force: an environmental proletariat …[and] Most of the major class struggles and revolutionary movements over the centuries of capitalist expansion have been animated in part by what could be called ecological imperatives – such as struggles over land, food and environmental conditions.”

He adds: “In general, Third World liberation movements have been aimed at both the environment and economy and have been struggles in which peasants and Indigenous peoples have played central roles, together with nascent proletarian and petty bourgeois forces …[and] All material struggles are now environmental-class as well as economic-class struggles, with the separation between the two fading.”

Finally, “The objective consequence of the changing social and ecological environment, the product of uncontrolled capitalist globalization and accumulation, arising from forces at the center of the system, is inevitably to create a more globally interconnected revolutionary struggle: a new eco-revolutionary wave emanating primarily from the Global South.”

W. T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Mexico leads in opposing the Cuba blockade and U.S. imperialism / by William T. Whitney Jr.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel, right, and his Mexican counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, left, raise their arms during a ceremony to award the Jose Marti Order to Lopez Obrador, at Revolution Palace in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, May 8, 2022. El presidente cubano Miguel Díaz Canel, a la derecha, y su homólogo mexicano, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a la izquierda, levantan los brazos durante una ceremonia de entrega de la Orden José Martí a López Obrador, en el Palacio de la Revolución en La Habana, Cuba, el 8 de mayo de 2022. | Yamil Lage / Pool Photo via AP

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) visited Cuba on May 8-9. He began by highlighting regional unity as good for equal promotion of economic development for all states. AMLO addressed themes he had discussed previously when Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel visited Mexico City in 2021.

At that time, AMLO, by virtue of Mexico serving as president pro tempore, presided over a summit meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states (CELAC). He proposed building “in the Western Hemisphere something similar to what was the economic community that gave rise to the current European Union.”

Two days later, AMLO included Diaz-Canel in a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence. Praising Cuba’s dignity in resisting U.S. aggression, he called for an end to the blockade.

Months later in Havana, on May 8, 2022, AMLO, speaking before Cuban leaders and others, recalled “times when the United States wanted to own the continent…. They were at their peak in annexations, deciding on independence wherever, creating new countries, freely associated states, protectorates, military bases, and…invasions.”

U.S. leaders, he declared, need to be convinced “that a new relationship among the peoples of America…is possible.” He called for “replacing the OAS with a truly autonomous organism.” CELAC presumably would be that alternative alliance. Formed in 2011, CELAC includes all Western Hemisphere nations except for the United States and Canada.

The United States in 1948 established the Organization of American States (OAS) for Cold War purposes. When the OAS expelled Cuba in 1962, only Mexico’s government opposed that action, and later Mexico was one of two nations rejecting an OAS demand to break off diplomatic relations with Cuba.

AMLO predicted that “by 2051, China will exert domination over 64.8% of the world market and the United States only 25%, or even 10%.” He suggested that, “Washington, finding this unacceptable,” would be tempted “to resolve that disparity through force.”

AMLO rejected “growing competition and disunity that will inevitably lead to decline in all the Americas.” He called for “Integration with respect to sovereignties and forms of government and effective application of a treaty of economic-commercial development suiting everybody.” The “first step” would be for the United States “to lift its blockade of this sister nation.”

AMLO’s visit prompted agreements on practicalities. The two presidents determined that Cuba would supply Mexico with medications and vaccines—particularly Cuba’s anti-COVID Abdala vaccine for children. Mexico’s government will send almost 200 Mexican youths to Cuba to study medicine; 500 Cuban physicians will go to Mexico to work in underserved areas. The two presidents signed a general agreement providing for expanded cooperation in other areas.

Before arriving in Cuba, AMLO had visited Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Belize. Along the way, he reportedly complained that, “The United States may have awarded $40 billion in aid to Ukraine but doesn’t fulfill its promise of years ago of helping out Central America.”

The two presidents’ encounter in Havana raises the question of a long-term Mexican role in mobilizing collective resistance to U.S. domination and the U.S. blockade of Cuba. Mexico is well-positioned to lead that effort, what with strong economic and commercial connections with the United States. The United States, leaning on Mexico as an economic partner, may well be receptive to certain demands.

According to the White House-based Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, “Mexico is currently our largest goods trading partner with $614.5 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2019.”

Beyond that, and in relation to Cuba, Mexico has its own revolutionary tradition and longstanding ties with Cuba. She is well-placed to lead a strong international campaign to undo the U.S. blockade.

In his major speech, AMLO cited support from Mexico in Cuba’s first War for Independence. He mentioned Cubans’ collaboration with Mexico’s much-admired President Benito Juárez and pointed out that Mexico in1956 hosted Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro as they prepared for their uprising against Batista. AMLO cited former Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas’ solidarity visit to Cuba in 1961 after the CIA-organized Bay of Pigs invasion. In token of cultural ties between the two peoples, Mexico was the guest of honor at Havana’s recently concluded International Book Fair.

José Martí warrants special attention. In exile, Martí lived, taught, and wrote in Mexico from 1875 to 1877. Afterwards he stayed connected with Mexican friends. Martí would later write admiringly about the liberal reforms of Indian-descended President Juarez, whom he regarded as the “impenetrable guardian of America.”

That “America” would be “Our America,” which became the title of a Martí essay with deep meaning for unity and for separation from the United States. “Our America” proclaimed that the culture and history of lands south of the Rio Bravo (Rio Grande) originated autonomously, quite apart from European and U.S. influences. The essay appeared first in January 1891, in two journals simultaneously. One was El Partido Liberal, published in Mexico, the other being a New York periodical.

Unity among Latin American and Caribbean nations appears to be precarious as the U.S. government prepares to host the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, on June 6-10. The Summit is an offshoot of the OAS which, according to its website, “serves as the technical secretariat of the Summits process.”

The United States has indicated that the leftist governments of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua won’t be receiving invitations. AMLO, speaking in Havana, reiterated his objection and once more stated that if nations are left out, he will not attend. Nor will the presidents of Bolivia and Honduras, Luis Arce and Xiomara Castro, respectively.

The presidents of several Caribbean nations will also be staying away. They point to the hypocrisy of U.S.-appointed Venezuelan “president” Juan Guaidó being invited, but not Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel.  Unhappy with U.S. advice on transparency of elections and Russia-Brazil relations, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will not attend.

The conclusion here is that the old system of regional alliances is unstable and that the timing may be right for renewed resistance to U.S domination and the blockade. Now would be the occasion for U.S. anti-imperialists and blockade opponents to align their strategizing and efforts with actions, trends, and flux in Latin America and the Caribbean. And, most certainly, they would be paying attention to actions and policies of Mexico’s government.

Martí had often corresponded with his Mexican friend Manuel Mercado.  His letter of May 18, 1895, the day before he died in battle, stated that, “The Cuban war…has come to America in time to prevent Cuba’s annexation to the United States.… And Mexico, will it not find a wise, effective, and immediate way of helping, in due time, its own defender?”

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

People’s World, May 20, 2022,

The People’s Summit for Democracy offers a progressive vision to counter US dominance in the region / by Sheila Xiao, Manolo De Los Santos

Coalition organizations from the People’s Summit for Democracy marched on May Day in Los Angeles, California.

Parallel to the exclusionary Summit of the Americas organized by the Biden Administration, people’s movements and organizations have organized the People’s Summit for Democracy to uplift diverse voices from across the region and engage in necessary dialogue

In a recent interview, Brian Nichols, the US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, was asked the question that is on everyone’s mind ahead of the June 2022 Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California: Will three particular countries in Latin America (Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua) be invited? Nichols responded with neither hesitation nor equivocation that the answer was no. Speaking on behalf of President Joe Biden, he further added that countries whose “actions do not respect democracy”—as the US government views these three countries and others like them—“will not receive invitations.” Nichols’ seemingly offhand comment, said with the usual arrogance of US officials and calling the three countries “regime[s that] do not respect [democracy],” sent a shockwave through the region that the US was likely not expecting.

Throughout Latin America, the reaction was immediate. Leaders such as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Bolivian President Luis Arce, and Honduran President Xiomara Castro, as well as several heads of state from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) including Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Keith Rowley, all expressed that they would not participate in the summit if the exclusions of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua were maintained. CARICOM has called for a summit that ensures “the participation of all countries of the hemisphere.”

Biden’s insistence on continuing the US policy of exclusion and aggression against Latin America has made his summit a failure before it has even begun. Mired in controversy and criticism, the Biden administration has not been able to build consensus around any common agenda because of the double standards it creates.

While the US may have already moved on, the memories of recent coups and interventionist plots by the US government in the region are still fresh. The US and the Organization of American States (OAS) both helped engineer a coup in Bolivia in 2019 that overthrew a democratically elected government.

There is no Americas without Cuba

The summit since its inception has been met with skepticism by progressives across Latin America due to the outsized or, more accurately, domineering role played by the US and the OAS with regard to invitations, agenda, and vision. However, this year the US seems to have underestimated the important political shifts in the region and their impact on the political legitimacy of the US

The US does not seem to have anticipated any challenges to its leadership of the summit, but the pushback against US hegemony comes as no surprise to most Latin Americans and those around the world who have been following the region’s politics of late. Since the last summit in 2018, the political map has undergone radical transformations. Not only are progressive governments outnumbering reactionary ones across the region, but many of them emerged precisely out of a deep rejection of US-backed governments and policies, and the conditions that they create for the people.

Across the region, countries whose public sectors were undermined for decades by US- and IMF-imposed neoliberal policies saw their societies and economies devastated during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the extreme poverty rate in the region rose from 13.1 percent in 2020 to 13.8 percent in 2021, representing a setback of 27 years. At more than 2.7 million deaths from COVID-19, the Americas represent 43.6 percent of global COVID-19 deaths despite constituting only 12 percent of the world population.

The outliers in this general trend of economic crisis and humanitarian emergency were Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, which suffered some of the lowest rates of deaths from COVID-19 in the region and the world due to their comprehensive strategies of, above all else, putting the health and well-being of their citizens before profits.

This policy extended beyond their national borders. From as early as March 2020, Cuba was already sending medical brigades to countries across the region and the world to support their responses to COVID-19. With Cuba’s development of five vaccines against COVID-19, the country has worked closely with other global south countries to distribute vaccine science and technology to promote localized production and distribution; meanwhile, US pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies like Pfizer and Moderna were turning record profits. At the height of the pandemic in Brazil, Venezuela sent oxygen to the city of Manaus, which had run out of the vital supply despite pleading for federal aid from the Brazilian government under President Jair Bolsonaro.

It has become glaringly clear that countries in the region have everything to gain from maintaining cooperation and partnerships with the countries the US declares to be its enemies.

Democracy for whom?

The US excuses its aggressive policy against Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua by citing these countries’ alleged human rights violations and the so-called threats that these countries pose to democracy.

However, many have started to question what kind of democracy exists in a country where 1 million people have died from COVID-19, 2.2 million people are in prison (accounting for more than 20 percent of the world prison population), where police kill an average of three people a day (with Black people being 2.9 times more likely to be killed by police than white people), and where $801 billion is spent on the military (the US makes up 38 percent of global military spending).

The majority of people in the Americas have rejected this hypocritical moral high ground and the premise that the US has the right to decide who participates in what forum and with whom. This is why a coalition of more than 100 organizations from across the region have come together to organize the People’s Summit for Democracy to counter the improperly named “Summit of the Americas.”

The People’s Summit carries forward the legacy of movements against neoliberal capitalism and US imperialism that have organized counter-summits every time the US organizes its Summit of the Americas. The People’s Summit will be held in Los Angeles, California, on June 8-10, and seeks to bring together the voices of people whom the US would prefer to silence and exclude. Immigrant organizers in Los Angeles will take the stage with landless rural workers from Brazil to discuss their visions of democracy for all. Feminist organizers from Argentina to New York will share strategies of how to fight for abortion access and counter the reactionary right-wing attacks on women and LGBTQ people.

These unprecedented times call for more cooperation and less exclusion. While unfortunately the US government also denied the visas of a 23-person delegation of Cuban civil society to the People’s Summit, the bonds between the Cuban people and the people of the Americas are unbreakable, and despite their best efforts, the US cannot silence the aspirations of the people.

For the Americas, which are on the cusp of transformative times, the age of the Monroe Doctrine is over.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Sheila Xiao is a researcher and community organizer. She is chair of the Los Angeles chapter of the ANSWER Coalition and the co-founder of the peace organization Pivot to Peace. She is a co-coordinator of the People’s Summit for Democracy.

Manolo De Los Santos is the co-executive director of the People’s Forum and is a researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He co-edited, most recently, Viviremos: Venezuela vs. Hybrid War (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2020) and Comrade of the Revolution: Selected Speeches of Fidel Castro (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2021). He is a co-coordinator of the People’s Summit for Democracy.

People’s Dispatch, May 26, 2022,

These Dark Times Are Also Filled with Light / by Vijay Prashad

Shengtian Zheng and Jinbo Sun, Winds of Fusang, 2017. ‘Fusang’ is an ancient Chinese word referring to what some believe to be the shores of Mexico. The work is an homage to Latin America’s influence on China, particularly that of Mexican artists on the development of modern Chinese art.

Dear friends,

Greetings from the desk of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

In early March, Argentina’s government came to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a $45 billion deal to shore up its shaky finances. This deal was motivated by the government’s need to pay a $2.8 billion instalment on a $57 billion IMF stand-by loan taken out under former President Mauricio Macri in 2018. This loan – the largest loan in the financial institution’s history – sharpened divides in Argentinian society. The following year, the Macri administration was ousted in elections by the centre-left Frente de Todos coalition which campaigned on a sharp anti-austerity, anti-IMF programme.

When President Alberto Fernández took office in December 2019, he refused the final $13 billion tranche of the IMF’s loan package, a move applauded by large sections of Argentinian society. The next year, Fernández’s government was able to restructure the $66 billion debt held by wealthy bondholders and open discussions with the IMF to delay repayment of the debt incurred by Macri’s government. But the IMF was rigid – it insisted on repayment. Neither the Macri loan nor the new deal under President Fernández settles Argentina’s long-term struggle with its public finances.

Carlos Alonso (Argentina), La oreja, 1972.

The term ‘odious debt’ is used to describe the money owed by societies whose governments have been undemocratic. The concept was crafted by Alexander Nahum Sack in his book The Effects of State Transformations on Their Public Debts and Other Financial Obligations (1927). ‘If a despotic power incurs a debt not for the needs or in the interests of the State, but to strengthen its despotic regime, to repress its population that fights against it, etc.’, Sack wrote, ‘this debt is odious for the population of the State’. When that despotic regime falls, then the debt falls.

When Argentina’s military ruled the country (1976–83), the IMF generously lent it money, ballooning the country’s debt from $7 billion at the time the military took power to $42 billion when the military was ousted. Plainly, the IMF’s provision of funds to the Argentinian military junta – which killed, tortured, and disappeared 30,000 people – set in motion the ugly cycle of debt and despair that continues till today. That those ‘odious debts’ were not annulled – just as the apartheid debt was not annulled in South Africa – tells us a great deal about the ugly reality of international finance.

Gracia Barrios (Chile), Desaparecidos, 1973.

The deal cut by the IMF with the Fernández government is exactly like other deals that the IMF has made with fragile countries. During the pandemic, 85% of the IMF’s loans to developing countries came with austerity conditions that sharpened their social crises. Three of the most common conditions of these IMF loans are cuts and freezes to public sector wages, the increase and introduction of value-added taxes, and deep cuts to public expenditure (notably for consumer subsidies). Through its new deal with Argentina, the IMF will inspect the operations of the government four times per year, effectively becoming an overseer of the Argentinian economy. The government has agreed to reduce the budget deficit from 3% (2021) to 0.9% (2024) to 0% (2025); to accomplish this, it will have to cut large areas of social spending, including subsidies for a range of consumer goods.

After reaching the agreement, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva pointed out the great difficulties faced by Argentina, though these difficulties will not be ameliorated by the IMF plan. ‘Argentina continues to face exceptional economic and social challenges, including depressed per capita income, elevated poverty levels, persistent high inflation, a heavy debt burden, and low external buffers’, she said. Consequently, Georgieva noted, ‘Risks to the program are exceptionally high’, meaning that further default is all but certain.

Shengtian Zheng and Jinbo Sun, Winds of Fusang (close up), 2017.

A few weeks before Argentina came to terms with the IMF, President Fernández and China’s President Xi Jinping held a bilateral meeting in Beijing at which Argentina signed onto the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Argentina is the twenty-first country from Latin America to join the BRI. It is also the largest economy from the region to join, pending applications from Brazil and Mexico. Expectations rose amongst sections in Argentina that the BRI would provide a pathway to exit the grip of the IMF. This remains a possibility even as President Fernández returned to the IMF.

Our team in Buenos Aires has been looking carefully at China’s growing ties with the Caribbean and Latin America. These studies resulted in our most recent dossier no. 51, Looking Towards China: Multipolarity as an Opportunity for the Latin American People (April 2022). The main argument of the dossier is that the emergence of programmes such as the BRI offers countries such as Argentina choices for development finance. If Argentina has more latitude in choosing its avenues for finance, then it will be better positioned to reject harsh offers of stand-by assistance from the IMF which come with conditions of austerity. The possibility of these choices opens the door for countries such as Argentina to develop an authentic national and regional development strategy that is not written by the IMF staff in Washington, DC.

The dossier is quite clear that the mere entry of the BRI into the Caribbean and Latin America is not sufficient. Deeper projects are necessary:

It is possible for Chinese integration to further the ‘development of underdevelopment’ if the Latin American state projects produce a new relationship of dependency on China by merely exporting primary products. On the other hand, it will be far better for the region’s peoples if the relationship is based on equality (multipolarity) as well as the transfer of technology, the upscaling of production processes, and regional integration (national and regional sovereignty).

Josefina Robirosa (Argentina), Bosque azul (‘Blue Forest’), 1993-94.

The BRI’s annual disbursement of funds is around $50 billion, with projections suggesting that, by 2027, total BRI spending will be about $1.3 trillion. These capital flows primarily focus on long-term investments in infrastructure rather than short-term bailouts, although new studies suggest that China has offered short-term liquidity to several countries. Between 2009 and 2020, the People’s Bank of China entered into bilateral currency swap arrangements with at least 41 countries. These currency swaps take place between the local currency (the Argentinian peso, for instance) and China’s renminbi (RMB), with the local currency as collateral and the RMB used either to buy goods or to acquire dollars. The combination of BRI investments and RMB currency swaps provide countries with immediate alternatives to the IMF and its austerity demands. In January 2022, Argentina’s government asked China to increase its 130-billion-yuan swap ($20.6 billion) by an additional 20 billion yuan ($3.14 billion) to cover the IMF payment. A few weeks later, the People’s Bank of China provided the necessary swap to Argentina’s Central Bank. Despite this infusion of cash, Argentina still went to the IMF.

The answer to why Argentina took that decision can perhaps be found in the letter written by Martín Guzman (minister of the economy) and Miguel Pesce (president of the Central Bank) to the IMF’s Georgieva on 3 March 2022. In the communication, Argentina promises to ‘improve public finances’ and to restrain inflation, which are straightforward orthodox positions. But then there is an interesting obligation: that Argentina will expand exports and draw in foreign direct investment to ‘pave the way to an eventual re-entry into international capital markets’. Rather than use the opportunity afforded by BRI-currency swaps to develop its own national and regional agenda, the government seems eager to use whatever platform possible to return to the status quo of integration into the capitalist marketplace for finance dominated by Wall Street and the City of London.

On 12 April 2022, the Committee of Creditors of Internal Debt (CADI) announced that the people of Argentina refuse to shoulder the burden of the IMF debt. The people should not pay a single peso: those who squirrelled away the billions that Macri borrowed from the IMF should be the ones who pay the price. Banking secrecy laws need to be suspended in order to draw up a list of those who took that money and hid it in tax havens. The hashtag of CADI’s campaign is #LaDeudaEsConElPueblo – the debt is with the people. It should be paid to the people, not drawn from them.

As the Argentinian poet Juan Gelman (1930–2014) wrote during the reign of the military junta, these are ‘dark times, filled with light’. This phrase resonates even now:

dark times/filled with light/the sun/
pours sunlight onto the city/ torn
by sudden sirens/the police on the hunt/night falls and we/ make love under this roof

Gelman, a communist, fought the dictatorship, which killed his son and daughter-in-law and damaged the spine of his country. Even the dark times, he wrote, echoing Brecht, are filled with light. These are tough moments in world history, but even now there remain possibilities, there remain people gathered on the streets of Buenos Aires and Rosario, La Plata and Córdoba. Their slogan is clear: no to the pact with the IMF. But theirs is not only a politics of ‘no’. It is also a politics of ‘yes’. Yes to taking advantage of the new openings to shape an agenda for the well-being of the Argentinian people. Yes, also yes.



Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including “The Darker Nations” and “The Poorer Nations.” His latest book is “Washington Bullets,” with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

Tricontinental, April 21, 2022,