Latin America: The Continent that Never Ceases to Amaze Us

With such leaders that the continent of Marquez produces, the poor would not have to steal in order to feed the children.

Latin America never ceases to amaze us. Its ability to “produce” “extraordinary” leaders continues across generations. Guevara and Castro are the most famous in the twentieth century, and before them, Simon Bolivar was the historical hero of the South American continent (whose name is given to an entire country “Bolivia” and who represents a gathering point for Latin American revolution and liberation movements under the name of “Bolivarian forces”). One doesn’t find many examples of leaders like these in other parts of the world (our Arab world is also distinguished by its uniqueness in producing leaders like Emirs, Sultans, Kings, Oil Sheikhs, army officers, and corrupt billionaires). The most important characteristic of the Latin leaders is their sincerity, modesty, proximity to the people, and their relentless struggle for the cause of the poor and justice.

A few days ago, Chile elected a young man, a student leader, 35 years old, as its President. Gabriel Boric now joins the series of exceptional leaders that Latin America produced in recent years. Hereunder we briefly review them:

Castillo in Peru: The farmer school teacher who became president

A few months ago, Pedro Castillo was elected President. Castillo was born into a poor family of illiterate peasants in a small town in Cajamarca Province, one of the poorest regions in Peru. He is the third child of his parents’ family out of nine children. His father, Irino, was born on a farm owned by a feudal family who leased to his family the plot of land on which he worked.

The young Castillo traveled all over Peru to earn money for his school. From the age of twelve, he and his father walked long distances to work in coffee plantations in the Amazon region of Peru. He traveled with his sister to work in rice crops in order to pay for school. He sold newspapers andd ice cream and cleaned hotel rooms in Lima until he finally got a master’s degree in educational psychology from university.

In 1995, Castillo worked as a teacher in the community-established primary school in his hometown of Bunia (due to receiving no government assistance) where he was responsible not only for teaching the students, all of whom were in harsh poverty to the edge of starvation, but also for cooking and cleaning! With his work and dedication, he became a popular and influential figure in rural Peru. The government recognized the school and Castillo began receiving a (little) wage for his work, and Castillo soon joined the teachers’ union and became its leader a few years later. In 2017, the union organized a strike that spread to large parts of Peru with the aim of increasing salaries, improving the conditions of teachers, and increasing the budget for the education sector.

Until his election as president, Castillo lived with his family in a country house in the Chogur District, on a farm with cows, pigs, corn, and potatoes. He was often seen wearing a straw hat, a traditional overcoat, and sandals made from old tires!

He promised that if elected, the citizens themselves would supervise his policies and that he would only receive the teacher’s salary! He said he would seek to cut the salaries of members of Congress and ministers in half.

Mujica in Uruguay: The President whose wealth is an old car!

When Mujica assumed presidency in 2010, he submitted a financial statement in which his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle was the only asset he owned! And its value was estimated at only $ 1,800. His salary as head of state was $12,000, and he donated 90% of it to charities, considering that the remaining 10% was enough for him to live like the rest of the people in the country.

He was born poor and orphaned at the age of 14 and worked as a peddler of roses in Montevideo. He spent 13 years in prison, 10 of them in solitary confinement, due to his revolutionary struggle within the ranks of the leftist Tupamaros Movement. When elected President, he was still living in a modest house on a simple country farm owned by his wife. He announced the opening of the doors of the presidential palace to accommodate the homeless, who have no place in government shelters.

He was perhaps the most ascetic of the world’s presidents, with no interest at all in the manifestations of luxury, in addition to being the least committed to presidential protocols, in terms of official clothing (he never wore a tie) or the provision of presidential transportation and luxurious palaces, and continued a lifestyle that is very close to the life of the poor of his country.

Morales in Bolivia: The first indigenous President

The first President in the history of Bolivia descended from the indigenous people (Amerindians). Evo Morales was born into a farming family in the remote southwestern region of Bolivia. From the age of six, Morales joined his father to work in agriculture and accompanied him to northern Argentina to work in the sugar cane fields and to the province of Cochabamba to sell llamas.

Despite working at an early age, Morales managed to enter school. However, he continued to work in parallel with his study as a mason, baker, and trumpet player. After completing his fifth year of secondary education, Morales joined the army (military service was compulsory). After he finished his military service, Evo returned to work as a farmer in his native town, but soon El Niño phenomenon and the snowy winds ravaged agricultural crops and herds of livestock, forcing thousands of residents to emigrate, including the Morales family, who headed east toward the Cochabamba region, where Evo continued to work in agriculture. In the 1980s, Morales was elected head of the coca farmers’ union during a period of confrontations between coca growers and the government that led to his arrest and imprisonment.

In 2019, a coup took place (obviously US-motivated and sponsored) that resulted in his overthrow and his asylum in Mexico. But only a year later, he returned to his country with his head held high, in full dignity, after his party won again in the elections, and his fellow ally and successor, Louis Arsi, became President.

Maduro in Venezuela: The bus driver who succeeded Hugo Chavez

Nicolas Maduro was born in Caracas where he completed high school. Harsh living conditions did not allow him to continue his education after high school, so he worked as a bus driver, where he began his political career through union work in the Caracas metro in the eighties of last century, although union work in the metro was outlawed at the time.

Through his union struggle, he moved to Parliament after winning the elections and became a deputy, and then president of the National Assembly. His political activity contributed to the release of Hugo Chavez from prison, so he became one of his confidants and helped him in his campaign that brought him to the presidency.

Chavez chose him as his deputy and invited Venezuelans to vote for him when he was diagnosed with cancer and his health deteriorated. Indeed, Maduro was elected President of the country in 2013, and since then, he has been the target for continuous conspiracies and campaigns by the United States against him through its clients and agents in Venezuela.

Maduro survived despite an assassination attempt, an attempted military coup, and a parliamentary coup by Trump’s ally Juan Guaido. The Americans went crazy, especially the war-obsessed Republicans, for Maduro’s heroic steadfastness. Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, issued an explicit threat to him and addressed him saying, “You will not escape punishment”! Republican Senator Marco Rubio went even further when he threatened him with the fate of Gaddafi and attached to his threat a picture of Gaddafi covered in his blood minutes before his death!”

Trump is gone, along with the rubbish of Bolton and Rubio, while Maduro remained to this day in his country and among his people, the majority of whom trusted him and renewed his election and authorized him to continue the process of building the nation away from subordination to America and its brutal capitalists who are the vampires of the poor.

Lula da Silva in Brazil: The shoe shiner who became President of the largest country in the continent!

Lula grew up in a poor family of 7 boys and girls, and his childhood was harsh and difficult. Only two weeks after his birth, his father traveled to Sao Paulo to look for work and then disappeared, so the mother took charge of the family and had to live with her children in one room in a poor area of the big city.

Lula stopped studying at the age of 10 due to the extreme poverty of the family. He had to work as a shoe sweeper for a long time in the streets of Sao Paulo, as a boy at a gas station, as a craftsman in a workshop, then as a car mechanic, and as a vegetable seller. He ended up as a mining specialist after joining a factory which gave him a 3-year training course. He was exposed to an accident at the age of 19 while working in a car parts factory, which led to the loss of the pinky finger in his left hand due to the neglect of the owner of the factory and the poor working conditions.

Lula joined the workers’ unions and began his struggle to defend the rights of workers, improve their conditions, and liberate them from the cruelty of capitalists. Lula was elected president of the labor union in 1978. The union was very large at that time and had nearly 100,000 member workers.

After his election as President, Lula was very popular, especially among the poor classes. He was even called the “Champion of the Poor” due to his heroic work for the poor in Brazil facing unemployment, high rates of inflation, and the widening gap between the rich and poor in society.

Lula imposed higher taxes on the rich and succeeded in securing nearly 60 billion dollars that he allocated to help poor families and eradicate the phenomenon of inherited poverty. He required all families benefiting from this program to have their children attend school, as a condition.

Also in Brazil, Dilma Rousseff: The girl who was imprisoned by the Generals at the age of 23!

Dilma Rousseff was born to a lawyer of Bulgarian origin. She began her struggle early and joined the leftist movement against the military dictatorship that seized power in 1964. She was arrested in 1970 when she was 23 and was sentenced to six years in prison, of which she spent three in actual jail. During her imprisonment, she was tortured by electric shocks for her role in the underground resistance.

Politically, after her release, Dilma joined labor movements and parties until she settled in the leftist Workers Party. President Lula presented her as his successor in 2009 and indeed she won the elections and received the presidential sash from him at the beginning of 2011 to continue the battle started by Lula to combat social inequality in Brazil.

In 2016, Dilma was subjected to a high-level parliamentary-political-constitutional conspiracy, undoubtedly under the supervision and orchestration of the United States, which resulted in her dismissal from her position as President of the country on charges of “corruption”! But what corruption?!

Her opponents took advantage of a violation committed by her in her rush to support the poor class in Brazil when she bypassed the constitutional constraints in allocating budgets and obtaining the required approvals from Parliament (due to deliberate delays!) in order to spend on the project to provide public housing for the poor, which she had adopted. Indeed, it is “corruption” but of the kind that honors a person: neither theft nor bribery, but an excessive rush to help the poor, for which she paid a very high price: her presidential position.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wrote, “In one of her despairs, I heard my mother murmuring: God must permit stealing sometimes, in order to feed the children.” But with such leaders that the continent of Marquez produces, the poor would not have to steal in order to feed the children.