Organised labour has long insisted that energy is more than an issue of electrons. Over two decades ago, the Congress of South African Trade Unions was explicit that addressing energy poverty is not just a matter of power plants, grids and transformers; it is also – and primarily – a matter of political change. Who controls energy production, who finances it, what the energy is used for and who decides are key to the struggle to ensure that people have the energy they need to ensure decent livelihoods.
The election results in Venezuela and Argentina, the Brazilian crisis, and the erosion of the “citizens’ revolution” in Ecuador are part of a change in political climate that puts the transformative processes underway on the defensive.
In the past weeks four progressive governments in the region show unmistakable signs of weakness. Rafael Correa will not compete for re-election, in the context of an uncertain economic outlook for his country. Dilma Rousseff may face impeachment by parliament. Nicolás Maduro suffered the first Bolivarian electoral defeat, leaving his government at the mercy of parliament, and Cristina Fernandez’s candidate was defeated by the right-wing Mauricio Macri.