Jeremy Corbyn and Latin America

Setting aside Corbyn’s other policies and proposals, over which a great deal of ink has already been spilled, if he wins there could be a significant shift in the Westminster discourse relating to Latin America. Corbyn has long been associated with solidarity movements for radical governments in the region, and he has frequently spoken up for the legacy of Sandinismo in Nicaragua and also that of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Since the close entanglement of George Canning in the independence struggles of the new republics, Latin America has received little attention in Westminster politics (the Falklands/Malvinas conflict being a great exception, and hence poorly understood at the time and since), and where there has been interest from Foreign Office ministers* (consistently from Tristan Garel-Jones, intermittently from William Hague, reluctantly from most others) it was an interest based on a revival of a historic business relationship, not necessarily invoking the ‘informal empire’ of Britain in Argentina, but certainly elite-to-elite in the realm of global capital.

Corbyn’s ascendancy may signal a shift towards a popular relationship, one couched in terms of solidarity. This will be unwelcome among the political class, and while references to Chavez won’t quite retain the toxicity of those to Hamas et al, blood will boil at the prospect of an opposition leader who has openly endorsed land expropriation and the nationalisation of subsoil resources. But beyond the endorsement of ALBA or the domestic policies of radical populists, Corbyn’s rhetoric has engaged Latin American communities in the UK because he couches his opinions in terms of Latin Americans as people – people, in his view, upon whom many great historical wrongs have been visited.

To see what this humanisation (as opposed to being either worrisome migrants or potential markets for exports) means for London’s Latin American** community, just have a look at the beginning of this clip:

*To give an idea of how little attention is given to many parts of the world in the Cabinet at least, Hugo Swire currently has responsibility for: the Far East and South East Asia; India and Nepal; Latin America (including: Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba); Falklands; Australasia and Pacific; Commonwealth

**Eliding the differences between Latin American expatriate communities is problematic, but I think it’s fair to say (at least in my experience) that enough events and organisations (not to mention residential areas) cutting across national ties exist in LondonĀ  to make the idea of a London Latin American community valid.

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