Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso is credited in a newspaper article with the phrase that at the governmental level power and function can be transferred, but authority cannot be transferred.
One can imagine that Cardoso was referring to the fact that governments are legitimized in their capacity to command, to make decisions and, finally, to the effectiveness of those decisions. And part of this effectiveness is the exercise of authority and the majority consensus on this exercise.
Well, in the last couple of years we have seen governments in the region come out of a transfer of power and function, but no authority. The question which arises from this is to know if this type of government is effective in providing political responses and if this effectiveness involves building a social consensus.
In Ecuador’s 2017 elections, the ruling PAIS party’s candidacy was led by Rafael Correa’s former vice-president Lenin Moreno.
If the undisputed leader of this political force was Correa, who had led two consecutive governments (2007-2017) with multiple progressive reforms, in order not to alter the institutional structure by imposing a constitutional reform that would allow him to run for the third times he transferred his request to Moreno.
Moreno won the presidency of Ecuador and took office in 2018. The policies and reforms of the previous period have been saved.
In 2019, in Argentina, due to the economic crisis caused by major errors made by the leadership of “Cambiemos” in the presidential figure of Mauricio Macri, the Peronist opposition, which had become the majority in Kirchnerism, saw an opportunity to take back power.
But on a political chessboard that analysts and the media had synthesized as: “With Cristina, you cannot reach it, without Cristina you cannot”. In other words, the direct candidacy of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner generated significant electoral rejections, but without Kirchnerism it was impossible to regain power.
In a skilful attitude, the former president handed the presidential candidacy to Alberto Fernández, a former chief of staff at the first stage of Kirchnerism, soon a strong opponent. And Fernández, the candidate of the “Frente de Todos”, won the 2019 elections.
In 2015, in Bolivia, President Evo Morales, constitutionally barred from running again in 2019, forced a national referendum that narrowly pitted him against.
Faced with this situation, he lobbied the electoral tribunal, which ruled that inhibiting a further candidacy of Morales would constitute a violation of his right to stand.
This situation polarized the country, leading to strong protests in the October 2019 elections, when the electoral tribunal certified Morales’ victory.
The corollary of these violent protests was the departure of Morales from the country, a transitional presidency led by the opposition to MAS, and the 2020 elections.
Against all odds, the MAS triumphed comfortably, but Morales had to delegate his candidacy to his former Minister of the Economy Luis Arce.
Since the start of 2019, Lenin Moreno, already an ally of Ecuador’s economic establishment and, as a result, having severed ties with the postal system, to the point of suing the former president for corruption, has started negotiations with the IMF.
Driven by the multilateral organization, in October of the same year, the president announced a package of neoliberal economic reforms that sparked violent popular protests across the country.
The possibility of stifling this protest was to back down on some of the measures in the package and to rethink the agreements with the IMF. One situation and the other have definitively broken the presidential power, both for his new allies and for the ranks of the ranks.
The weakness of the Moreno government prevents it from having its own agenda, which only the year of the pandemic managed to hide.
The start of Fernández’s presidential term in Argentina (he took office in December 2019) was marked by the start of the pandemic.
But after half of the year, and in a context of economic and social crisis aggravated by the pandemic, the country went through several situations of governmental political decisions which were immediately modified.
Analysts and the media agree that these changes were due to the “vetoes” of Vice President Cristina. Likewise, in journalistic statements about situations emanating from previous Kirchnerist governments, the president said things he had previously condemned.
To date, the president has articulated an opposition that was defeated a year ago, antagonizing it with decisive power groups, while that does not mean recognition of Kirchnerism. His image as president has plummeted in the past three months.
In Bolivia, Arce assumed the presidency at the end of 2020. Morales, exiled in Argentina, returned triumphantly to the country, promising not to interfere in the decisions of the new MAS government.
However, in recent days and with the impending departmental and municipal elections, the political structure of the MAS has started to split in the face, according to the government, of Morales’ centralized and final decision in the preparation of government lists.
The direction of a recently assumed government, haunted by overwhelming opposition to all power factors, is uncertain.
Let’s go back to Cardoso’s sentence.
Latin America, a region still in turmoil and where political changes are always mobilizing, disrupting the status quo and generally conflicting, has the particularity of offering certain common denominators between its countries, in addition to the specific problems of each country.
It can be argued that this issue of delegation of power, for whatever reason in each country, is not limited to any country situation.
And it can also be said – the evidence from the current situation proves it – that in a region where strong leadership has always been the most valuable political currency, the delegation of presidential authority creates more problems than this very act of delegation. did not want to avoid.
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Translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima