Saturday, May 03, 2008

The War on Democracy: a real critique of US Latin American policy, or left-wing bias?

The War on Democracy (2007, dir. by Christopher Martin and John Pilger, wr. John Pilger) produced by Youngheart, is a documentary that explores how the United States government has allegedly undermined democratic reforms in some Latin American countries. The administrations (especially the current Bush one) will say that their intention is to prevent Communist or extreme socialist takeover of the countries, especially of corporate assets in these countries. The film was shown this week in FilmfestDC. The film is to be distributed by Lions Gate in the UK, and Coach14 in the US. It is reasonable to believe that Lions Gate would eventually distribute it in North America.

About half of the film deals with Venezuela and the socialist government of Hugo Chavez. The film shows the extreme differences between rich and poor in Venezuela, and there are many compelling shots of the barrios packing the hillsides in Caracas. The film covers the bizarre coup attempt in 2002, and claims that the US was behind it.

The film backtracks to Cuba, the rise of Castro, and the clumsy failed attempt (the Bay of Pigs early in the Kennedy Administration) which it glosses over. It does not mention the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The film covers problems in Guatemala and with the drug wars in Nicaragua. The film also covers US intervention in Chile and Bolivia. There is a historical shot of September 11, 1973, when Pinochet took over Chile with a fascist government, and dissenters from the old Allende government were herded into a stadium. (This was the basis for the film Missing in 1982 with Jack Lemmon, dir. Costa-Gavras, Universal). In the 1990s the US supposedly had a “kinder, gentler” policy toward Latin America. That has not been too convincing with Bolivia. The film shows on-location shots of El Alto, near La Paz, and the highest inhabited city in the world, and one of the poorest

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