How the USSR’s destruction accelerated Neoliberalism in Latin America

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Latin America was not oblivious to the tension Russia underwent in 1991 when a group of Soviet leaders carried out a coup attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev. Argentine analyst Alberto López Girondo explains why the consequences of the event were very important for the region.

Throughout 1991, many republics that were part of the Soviet Union decided to declare independence. The integrity of the Soviet state as it existed for most of the twentieth century was in danger. Then leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, intended to create the Union of Sovereign States, a confederation of a different kind from the USSR, to replace it and keep the countries that were part of it.

But in governing circles, not everyone was in agreement with the project. A group of leaders wanted the USSR to continue as it had been. From August 18 to 21, the self-styled State Committee for the State of Emergency tried to take control of the country.

The coup ended up failing, as Gorbachev was not overthrown thanks to popular mobilization. But his intention to restructure the Union also failed, accelerating the process that led to the collapse of the USSR in December 1991.

“I think Latin America, in the first years of the 21st century, was the only place where they tried to maintain some kind of utopia, but obviously not a socialist revolution. Popular governments tried to maintain a certain defense for the interests of the population, which is currently reversing,” he said.

According to analyst Alberto López Girondo, international editor of the newspaper Tiempo Argentino, those days in August “marked the end” of the country that began to be built after the revolution of 1917.

“In many parts of the world there is still a strong debate about what led to this situation, but in particular it marked the end of the USSR, the end of Gorbachev’s project of framing some kind of openness within the same system. I believe that today we are paying the consequences,” Lopez Girondo said.

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The coup attempt of August 1991 was “one of the pieces” in a domino effect that reached the entire planet and whose consequences reached Latin America. Throughout the 1990s, the analyst says, with the disappearance of the Soviet bloc, “the advance of neoliberal policies” increased social inequality and found less resistance.

According to López Girondo, at the center of ideological debates “on the left and in progressive movements around the world” is the analysis of how these forces “begin to adopt policies that are right” when they come to power.

“This is because there is no such great balance, that great beacon that the USSR meant for 70 years, which told the world that there was another alternative,” says the expert.

For López Girondo, after World War II, capitalism tried to adapt to less brutal policies, because there was the USSR, which was only few hundred kilometers from countries like Germany. When the USSR disintegrated, the analyst points out, savagery has returned to the world.

This was visible in the military area, he continued. NATO “lost its raison d’être”, as its adversary, the Warsaw Pact, an alliance of Eastern European countries and the Soviet Union, disappeared. But instead of dissolving, NATO has been advancing, incorporating countries that were once Soviet-dominated.

Europe has also taken advantage of the situation and, with the reunification of Germany, has become one of the strongest players in the world. The European Union, “until then a common market” has advanced in regional integration and created the euro to compete with the dollar, added the analyst.

“All this happened when Europe began to consider that it had won the battle against Russia, – Europe which has always been an enemy of the countries of the center of the continent,” said Lopez Girondo.

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