To achieve a political revolution – effecting a real change in society’s priorities – it is vital to have some hope that such a change is even possible. Latin America, and particularly South America, shows us that it is possible.

Voters in South America have elected presidents who were not the U.S. first choice. That is good news for the people of South America. As John Perkins’ book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man detailed, heads of state who were cozy with the United States arranged loans for U.S. contractors to develop projects that locals did not want or need, but which were paid for with resources – natural and financial – that otherwise would benefit the people.

The new presidents rejected this cozy relationship, and achieved nothing short of a revolution against a huge power that had dominated them for almost two centuries. The new leaders have not been perfect; it’s a huge challenge, like trying to change the engine of a car while it’s still running. And yet they have made great progress in their separate countries and in solidarity with other countries in the region. Despite setbacks and reversals, the legacy of revolutionary change has prevailed, in important areas such as healthcare, education, housing, and the environment, and in important systemic changes such as new constitutions and regional integration.

Keep in mind that the U.S. was literally an economic and military empire in the region, so you can bet it misrepresents what’s going on in South America now, from shamelessly calling Hugo Chavez a dictator, to reporting criminal activity by rich delinquents as if they were popular uprisings. To have hope for a real revolution, we need to look beyond the lies told by our government and corporate media.

Here is a summary of countries and time periods in which presidents were elected who were focused more on their own people rather than U.S. interests. Notice on the map how much of South America this covers, especially over the past 10 to 15 years.

Argentina 2003 to 2015
Bolivia 2006 to present
Brazil 2003 to present
Chile 1990 to present, except 2010-2014
Ecuador 2007 to present
Paraguay 2008 to 2012
Peru 2011 to present
Uruguay 2005 to present, except 2010-2015
Venezuela 1999 to present

Twenty years ago it was hard to believe that South America would become so independent from the U.S. that it would reject, from both U.S. presidents George Bush and Barack Obama, a free trade agreement for the Americas patterned after NAFTA. A real political revolution is possible.

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Laura Wells is a political activist who blogs about the electoral and social revolutions in Latin America, and how they might apply to California and the United States.


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