The world is going through democratic setbacks, whether through the explicit closure of regimes and military coups, or through maneuvers supported by institutionalism, but which ignore the will of the ballot box. Or by increasing bureaucratic and legal prerogatives to the detriment of elected governments. Latin America in particular has suffered a setback since the exhaustion of the so-called pink wave, when several left-wing governments were elected.
The end of the era of democracies in America?
In 2017, I wrote a text that dealt with it, entitled “The end of the era of democracies in America”, an obvious pun on the work of Alexis de Tocqueville. I argued at that time that the continent was facing both the conspiratorial action of neoliberal sectors aligned with the United States and the closure of regimes in countries ruled by the left, where the opposition was. mainly composed of such groups, such as Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Today, Latin America has a head start in this process. In a wave comparable to that of the 1930s, fascist and fundamentalist religious movements are developing around the world, often treated by the euphemism of “right-wing populism”. The same is true on the American continent.
Jair Bolsonaro is the most obvious face of this process, tied with his peers such as Viktor Orbán (Hungary), Recep Erdoğan (Turkey), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines) and Narendra Modi (India). Even in Uruguay, where democracy is seen as more stable and of quality, someone like Guido Manini Ríos has appeared competitive, with his Cabildo Abierto spoiling the party composition of parliament.
At the same time, legal-political persecutions (the so-called lawfare) of former presidents took place in Ecuador, where Lenín Moreno turned right and Rafael Correa had to go into exile in Belgium; in Argentina, against Cristina Fernández de Kirchner; and in Brazil, against Lula, who spent 580 days in prison.
End of cycle and beginning of tense balances
Interestingly, after an apparent turn to the right in the same proportions as to the left in the pink tide, what seems to be happening today is a tense balance between two blocks.
Alberto Fernández’s triumph, with Cristina as deputy, over Mauricio Macri in the first round of Argentina’s 2019 elections was not a mere sigh of hope amid the widespread suffocation of the left.
The panorama of Mexican politics has also changed with the victory of López Obrador, also in 2018, in the presidential race: his Movimento Regeneration Nacional (Morena) party now has a majority in Congress and state governments. The main opposition parties, the PRI, the PAN and even the PRD (which was on the left) formed in 2021 a single electoral coalition, “Go for Mexico”, to stand for the elections of the Chamber of Deputies, failing that. to overcome the majority. government.
After the military coup in Bolivia, which placed Jeanine Áñez as president, the MAS returned to power, even without Evo Morales, with the victory of Luis Arce in 2020. Several sectors of the Chilean left had a victory overwhelming to the elected Constituent Assembly. in March 2021.
The impressive mobilization against the neoliberal reforms that Iván Duque tried to carry out in Colombia, and the police repression thereof, show that Uibism no longer has the comfort it enjoyed over the past decade. In turn, Lula’s return to eligibility and his favoritism against Bolsonaro in the polls reshuffle the cards on the Brazilian political scene.
Peru as a battleground
The link between these two blocks materializes during the Peruvian presidential election. Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former dictator Alberto Fujimori, finished second in a row for the third time in a row, still with support very close to half of the votes valid in the second round.
Even with the former autocrat convicted of human rights violations and corruption, Fujimorism remained a competitive political force. A survey carried out in May 2013 by the Ipsos Apoyo institute showed Fujimori as the best president of the last 50 years for 30% of those questioned. But also as the second worst, with the highest rejection among 18% of respondents.
In his first attempt at the presidency in 2011, Keiko won 48.5% against Ollanta Humala. He lost again in 2016 to Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK), a neoliberal, but by a tighter margin: 49.9%.
After the resignation of the PPK and the dismissal of his successor, Martín Vizcarra, the 2021 elections again ended in a near draw. This time, however, with 49.8% of the vote, she lost to teacher and union leader Pedro Castillo.
Keiko accused the electoral process of fraud, as did Henrique Capriles, who was also defeated in Venezuela in 2013, Aécio Neves in Brazil in 2014, Guillermo Lasso in Ecuador in 2017 and Carlos Mesa in Bolivia in 2019.
Bolsonaro is already anticipating a possible defeat in 2022 and accuses the electronic voting machines used in Brazil of being fraudulent, defending the adoption of printed votes, a measure that could facilitate political coercion in areas dominated by organized crime.
The concern of the bestsellers about the demise of democracies in general is not really that there will be democratic ruptures. Rather, it is the anxiety that traditional market representatives are running out of space. The victories of Lacalle Pou in Uruguay in 2019 and Guillermo Lasso this year in Ecuador are not enough to hide that the old formula has worked less well.
They appeal to false equivalences, qualifying any minimally critical posture of capitalism or imperialism as “left populism” and the far right as “right-wing populism”. They point to polarization as equivalent to the risk of democratic breakdown, while they recurrently view dismissals and coups d’état as understandable and undemocratic, albeit extreme, reactions of the opposition against political groups outside the Union. the establishment.
This neoliberal right, which was the protagonist of the initial phase of the “end of the era of democracies in America” that I mentioned earlier, now supports it. Other actors lead the conflicts, with or without attacks on democracy, on the right side.
Despised by the electorate and preferred by the market, this dominant right seeks to allow a “third way”. When that is not possible, however, the old right-left divide, which still tries to convince itself that it is outdated, speaks louder again.
This is how they voted for the president of torture lawyer Jair Bolsonaro against Professor Fernando Haddad, the candidate of the Workers’ Party in 2018. This is how the writer Mario Vargas Llosa decided to quell his old rivalry with the Fujimori and declared his support for Keiko, who he said was a “lesser evil” than Professor Pedro Castillo.
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