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Talking Radical Radio

Matias de Dovi­ti­is is a long-time activist and one of the co-founders of the Cana­di­an Latin Amer­i­ca Alliance. Scott Neigh inter­views him about Canada’s ori­en­ta­tion towards Latin Amer­i­ca and about the work of the alliance to, accord­ing to their web­site, sup­port the devel­op­ment of a rela­tion­ship between Cana­da and Latin Amer­i­ca that is based on prin­ci­ples of democ­ra­cy, self-deter­mi­na­tion and the defense of human rights.”

De Dovi­ti­is moved to Cana­da from Uruguay with his fam­i­ly when he was was a child. His fam­i­ly was very polit­i­cal, with var­i­ous mem­bers that were exiled or spent time in prison dur­ing the years of Uruguay’s dic­ta­tor­ship in the 1970s and 1980s. This played a sig­nif­i­cant role in shap­ing his view of the world and of politics.

He has been involved in elec­toral pol­i­tics since he grad­u­at­ed from high school. Over the years, he moved from vol­un­teer­ing on cam­paigns to man­ag­ing lots of them, and his paid work is as a polit­i­cal staffer. As well, he has been involved in start­ing and run­ning many oth­er kinds of orga­ni­za­tions – from a group for Latin Amer­i­can stu­dents when he attend­ed Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, to a com­mu­ni­ty news­pa­per, to var­i­ous cul­tur­al and grass­roots orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing the Cana­di­an Latin Amer­i­ca Alliance.

It is noth­ing new for crit­ics of Canada’s role on the world stage to point out that the myth of Cana­di­an benev­o­lence that informs so much lib­er­al and left nation­al­ism has nev­er matched this country’s actu­al actions. In the con­text of this larg­er pat­tern, de Dovi­ti­is argues that in recent decades Cana­da has become much more aggres­sive in pur­su­ing an agen­da in Latin and Cen­tral Amer­i­ca that sup­ports the inter­ests of Cana­di­an cor­po­ra­tions, espe­cial­ly min­ing and oth­er resource extrac­tion indus­tries, and that is often hos­tile to democ­ra­cy, pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics, and human rights.

Describ­ing Cana­da as preda­to­ry” in its actions in sup­port of Cana­di­an cor­po­ra­tions, he con­tin­ued, We uti­lize our resources and our polit­i­cal influ­ence to under­mine demo­c­ra­t­ic polit­i­cal dis­course in many oth­er places that we own cap­i­tal assets, col­lec­tive­ly, as a coun­try. We do bad things that lead to peo­ple being killed, and tor­tured, and per­se­cut­ed, and fired, and things like that.”

Key moments have includ­ed Canada’s active sup­port for the coups in Haiti in 2004, Hon­duras in 2009, and Bolivia in 2019. It includes long­stand­ing hos­til­i­ty towards the gov­ern­ment in Venezuela, and eco­nom­ic sanc­tions against both Nicaragua and Venezuela. De Dovi­ti­is par­tic­u­lar­ly points towards the lead­ing role played by Cana­da in the so-called Lima group, a con­sor­tium of Cana­da plus gov­ern­ments from the region, par­tic­u­lar­ly right-wing gov­ern­ments, that has most­ly been focused on push­ing for régime change in Venezuela.

The found­ing of the Cana­di­an Latin Amer­i­ca Alliance took place in ear­ly 2020. The plan was to launch it with a major in-per­son fundrais­er, but the COVID pan­dem­ic quick­ly made that impos­si­ble and changed the tra­jec­to­ry of the group. Over the year and half since, their work has most­ly involved doing a series of webi­na­rs fea­tur­ing activists, Cana­di­an par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, and dig­ni­taries from var­i­ous Latin Amer­i­can countries.

In de Dovi­ti­is’ expe­ri­ence, there is already lots hap­pen­ing on these issues in dif­fer­ent Latin Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties in Cana­da. But most of the time, those activ­i­ties are pret­ty dis­con­nect­ed from what is hap­pen­ing even in oth­er Latin Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties here, and they get paid scant atten­tion by most peo­ple who are root­ed in the dom­i­nant Eng­lish- and French-speak­ing polit­i­cal cul­tures. The goal of the alliance, then, is not to replace all of that work, but to ampli­fy it and there­by reach a larg­er audi­ence with their pro-democ­ra­cy, pro-self deter­mi­na­tion, pro-human rights message.

As it becomes pos­si­ble to hold offline events, de Dovi­ti­is hopes the alliance can expand its work to build bridges with­in and across var­i­ous Latin Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties, and with oth­er dias­poric com­mu­ni­ties that are also harmed by Canada’s actions around the world. Ulti­mate­ly, they will con­tin­ue to pres­sure the Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment to leave the Lima group, to stop inter­fer­ing in the inter­nal affairs of oth­er coun­tries, to stop the use of eco­nom­ic sanc­tions (which most­ly end up hurt­ing ordi­nary peo­ple), and to do more to make Cana­di­an cor­po­ra­tions respect the rights of work­ers, com­mu­ni­ties, and Indige­nous peo­ples around the world.