When German scholar Alexander von Humboldt began his extensive travels throughout Latin America in 1799, no one had any idea at the time that he would significantly contribute to the later European enthusiasm for the culture of Central and South America – and, surprisingly, not for its natural resources.
Back in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was a common belief that the Americas lagged behind culturally compared with Europe, Asia and Africa. Humboldt’s expedition, however, ended this misconception and not only discovered the fascinating nature of Latin America specifically but also promoted and publicised the cultures of the autochthonous populations to a broader audience.
From the early 19th century onwards, both the indigenous Americans and the European inhabitants of the New World began to develop a self-consciousness of their own, respectively. The famed liberator of Latin America, Simon Bolivar, even called Alexander von Humboldt the true “Discoverer of the New World”.
Nowadays, Latin America may be politically sovereign on a state level, however, since the United States of America started to view South America as its hinterland since the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine, South America itself has been in a state of constant unrest for decades, due to innumerable interventions, covert operations, regime changes and economic sanctions sponsored by the United States.
As recent events in Venezuela and Bolivia has shown us, Latin Americans are continuing their struggle for sovereignty. We can see two new examples in this fight for self-determination in El Salvador and Peru as well. For over 20 years, El Salvador, with its 6 million inhabitants, has had no national currency of its own. Instead, the country has been bound to the US Dollar since 2001 and is therefore at the mercy of the currency system that is Dollarization, which can only be maintained by the seven fleets of the US Navy, US Army bases around the whole world and endless wars.
But President Nayib Bukele – himself being a populist, uniting left-wing and right-wing policy approaches – wishes to end the dependency of his country with a spectacular move. El Salvador has since become the first country to introduce Bitcoin as the official currency of the state, alongside the US Dollar.
The World Bank immediately announced that it would not support the decision of the small state, primarily due to Bitcoin’s economically volatile nature and the high energy consumption that comes with the mass usage of cryptocurrency.
But Bukele does not adopt this strategy in order to let his country plunge into chaos. Rather he seeks to help his impoverished people, of whom more than 70% do not have access to a bank account. Furthermore, over 2 million citizens live abroad, and their transfer payments make up 20% of El Salvador’s GDP. Bitcoin could potentially help to drastically reduce transaction fees – much to the chagrin of the USA.
Bukele ultimately wants to use volcanic thermal energy (several volcanos are active in El Salvador) in order to mine Bitcoin and satisfy the cryptocurrency’s appetite for energy. What sounds rather fantastic at first makes sense at second sight. Bukele also managed to reduce the murder rate in the unstable country by 50%, which is remarkable, considering El Salvador’s reputation as one of the most dangerous countries on Earth with regards to murder rates. One can hope for Bukele and his people that the former’s socio-economic measures and policies will serve to fight poverty and will be met with further success.
Peru to Protect the Nation’s Education & Family Structure
Whereas El Salvador is fighting for its economic sovereignty, Peruvians, on the other hand, have made another, yet different, step towards their own political independence. There, the devout Catholic and socialist Pedro Castillo won a surprising victory in the presidential elections against the right-wing Keiko Fujimori. Castillo won the elections by a margin of 44,000 votes. His battle cry was, “No poor people anymore in a rich country!” But he did not win over the masses solely by his fight against corruption. In contrast to the political left in the United States and Europe, the teacher from a small city in Peru stands against every form of gender ideology and LGBT ideology. Abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriages have also been renounced.
Family and education are two institutions that Castillo desires to support the most in the future – a demand that the committed teacher and head of a countrywide teacher strike can represent authentically. Another important point on Castillo’s agenda is the sovereignty of Peru as a whole. Calling for the protection of the natural resources belonging to the Andes state, Castillo also pleaded to change current conditions in favour of the people, whose current woes have been caused both directly and indirectly by Western companies and thriving neo-liberalism since the discovery of rich uranium and lithium deposits throughout Peru.
Whereas current revenue from the aforementioned resource extractions is flowing up to 70% into the pockets of international companies, only 30% reach the Peruvians themselves. Castillo desires to turn over this relation by renegotiating international agreements. Finally, he also champions the end of US military presence in Peru, instead of supporting stronger cooperation between Latin American states. Castillo’s main goal currently is to create a new constitution that he wishes to achieve through a popular plebiscite. Through Castillo’s proposed policies, neoliberalism in Peru shall be carried to its grave, since the Peruvian leader understands that Peru is the prey of international corporations. It will be nothing short of fascinating to see if Castillo will be successful with his ambitions.
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