Semi-legal governments – 08/30/2021 – Latin America21

The tired democracy in which most of the countries around us live has established at least two practices: the positions that wield power are the result of electoral processes and, with reasonable frequency, there is an alternation between those who vie for it. usufruct of power.

However, over the past five years, practices have developed that tend to erode behaviors that flow from the very core of democratic practice. Thus, faced with the possibility of harassment from outside the system by genuinely undemocratic sectors, it is the actors within the system who conspire against its nature.

Spanish political scientist who taught for decades at Yale University, Juan J. Linz, saw this problem and placed some of the blame on what he called the semi-legal opposition. The parties and semi-legal political actors note the intermittent, attenuated or ambivalent presence of certain traits of disloyalty, which he analyzes in detail.

If this scenario was understandable in highly polarized socio-economic countries with deeply totalitarian expressions like those found in Europe in the 1930s, where different exogenous forces aspired to take power, the difference we see today is that the tension is within the political establishment. This means that the products of democracy itself, which are governments, are great elements of conspiracy against the very future of politics. This gives rise to unusual actions on the part of semi-legal governments.

In the case of bodies that are the product of periodic, free and competitive elections, once in power, governments propose strategies to harass and overthrow the mechanisms that brought them to power. First, they promote mistrust with regard to the functioning of the institutions which deal with the electoral game, then propose their replacement by others over which they can exercise total control.

The semi-legal character in Latin America

In Latin America, recent events in different countries have evident elements of this semi-legal character in government behavior. In this sense, Brazil is the most obvious and, at the same time, worrying case, since it is the most relevant and influential country in terms of economic and demographic weight. Its president, Jair Bolsonaro, tried in vain to suppress the electronic voting system put in place in 1996 and undisputed to this day.

This campaign of mistrust has however pushed 300 personalities, mainly related to the world of economy and business, to publish on August 4 a manifesto questioning the “authoritarian adventures” of Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro’s denunciations have only been echoed by certain far-right sectors, and even the majority of parties that support his government do not subscribe to these criticisms. This was reflected in the government’s defeat in the Chamber of Deputies on August 10, when it failed to secure the necessary 308 votes, with 218 votes against, 229 for and one abstention, resulting in abandonment of the constitutional amendment. he had proposed that the votes be printed.

A similar scenario can be found in Mexico, in the heat of the crisis going through the Federal Electoral Court of Justice, reflected in the recent resignation of its president, José Luis Vargas. Vargas had reached this position with the support of the government and was a fundamental pawn in the reform that the president of the country, López Obrador, demanded and which was heralded by his confrontation with the National Electoral Institute, a prestigious institution in charge of manage the election process. The idea was that whatever the INE approved would be systematically rejected by the Court and vice versa. Thus, the discredit of the electoral process, promoted by the government agency, has been resolved.

Basically, there was the president’s desire to have an electoral system in his image and likeness. In one of his daily morning speeches, the president disqualified the magistrate elected to replace Vargas, Reyes Rodríguez, over an alleged tweet in which the latter had insulted him. However, the latter denounced that the aforementioned tweet was the result of his hacked account. But the public harm was already done because López Obrador followed up on this complaint calling for the resignation of all magistrates, which would open a constitutional breach with serious consequences arising from the replacement of Vargas and, once again, from the inevitable process. growing distrust of government-fueled institutions.

El Salvador is a different case, but its connotations also stem from the president’s impiety. Nayib Bukele has just sponsored the approval by the government he presides over a draft new constitution that includes the extension of his term from five to six years, as well as the fact that constitutional reforms will not have to be approved by the current Legislative Assembly and ratified by the next one, but that this last stage will be replaced by a referendum. It is also a scenario of manifest disrespect for the rules of the game for which he was elected and of manipulation which introduces a notorious feeling of mistrust.

Things look much worse in Nicaragua, where the political deterioration is overwhelming and the government is acting in a totally unfair way. On August 6, the Supreme Electoral Council disqualified the Citizens for Liberty party, which led an opposition alliance against the re-election of President Daniel Ortega in the November 7 elections. In the past two months, the Nicaraguan government has arrested more than 30 political opponents, including seven presidential candidates, student activists, private sector leaders, defense lawyers and others. Ortega, 75, and his wife and current vice-president Rosario Murillo, 70, are running for their party, the Frente Sandinista, for their third and first re-election respectively.

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