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Latin America is the paradise of lost causes, the reproductive nest of populist charlatans, the most graphic example of the word “corruption”, and at the same time, it is the irrefutable proof that having abundant resources does not ensure prosperity.
Anthropologically, we damaged ourselves centuries ago. The process of colonization taught the leaders of our communities that the business was the plundering of the productive class through force; over time institutions have varied, the states as well, and even demographics, but what has remained intact is that extractive character of the political classes to the citizens.
The blame for our sociological inability to progress is spread throughout our history, it is not just about men or names, it is about social processes and systems. However, beyond the political and economic interactions of the past, of our bloody centuries, and of that absurd need to romanticize poverty, the problem remains the same a century ago, yesterday, and even today: the intellectual fragility – or principled fragility – of our political leaders, unable to identify, understand the problem, and act accordingly.
In our times, historical victimization to avoid individual responsibilities has become a daily occurrence, for many thinkers and part of civil society it is easier to blame the Spaniards for the systemic poverty of Latin America, rather than to assume or understand that the dead do not have the power to make decisions; That is why today we still see the president of Mexico demanding Spain to apologize for the conquest, while in his country millions are starving because of the absurd collectivist economic policies that Lopez Obrador applies, and the endemic corruption that sprouts thanks to statism.
We must also examine our intellectual tragedy to understand the causes of our misery. Last week, I attended the presidential forum in “Defense of Democracies in the Americas”, where a number of presidents and politicians, presumably from the center to the right of the ideological spectrum -with some exceptions- spoke, and each and every one of the speakers had a common enemy: the socialism of the 21st century and the tyrannies of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Among those invited to speak were former Argentinean President Mauricio Macri, former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana, former Ecuadorian President Osvaldo Hurtado, former Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís, as well as OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and acting Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno; each and every one of them issued their repudiation against the totalitarian governments of the continent, and identified 21st century socialism as a threat capable of destabilizing the entire region; however, beyond the political, ideological and intellectual struggle, there is not really a coherent argument that distances them too much from their supposed political adversaries.
Evidently, no one can question the democratic principles of all the men mentioned above, however, their expressions, their speeches, their ways of dealing with the problems that are eating away at Latin American societies are not too far removed from the totalitarian rulers that have the region on tenterhooks.
I would dare to say that the most used word during the whole day was the blessed “inequality”, I believe that everyone, without exception, used it to refer to what is “wrong” in Latin America. None of them thought to say that our problems were the lack of competition, academic and labor preparation, solid industries and companies, open markets, strong economies, absurd state interventionism, or bad fiscal policies; no. According to them, the problem repeated again and again, and again, was “inequality”, copying the recalcitrant discourse that Chavismo and Castrismo have implanted in our societies.
Unfortunately, it seems that the Latin American leaders of yesterday and today find it impossible to understand that the monster to be defeated is poverty and not inequality, that the wealth of some does not cause the poverty of others, that on the contrary, the greater the reproduction of wealth, of companies, the higher the rate of employment and salaries in any part of the world.
It is distressing to repeatedly hear the same failed recipes from the political leaders that have kept Latin America as part of the underdeveloped Third World, the one that argues that only more government can solve “eliminating inequalities.”
It is painful enough to have to repeat that inequalities are precisely the product of human freedoms, and that there can be no “equality” without trampling on the basic, sacred and fundamental principles of every man to live his life as he sees fit, as long as he does not trample on the rights of others with his actions.
Why, how, until when are the leaders who claim to oppose authoritarianism going to continue fighting against the ghost of inequality? Do they not realize that by pursuing the annulment of inequalities they become the same authoritarians they claim to fight against? Why instead of telling people that we must take from the rich to give to the poor, do they not encourage them from their positions of power to compete, educate themselves, form companies and provide them with fiscal incentives to get ahead?
The latest political crises we have seen in Chile, Ecuador and today in Colombia, have similar components, with presidents who claim to oppose 21st century socialism, but somehow end up using the same failed economic policies of their “enemies”.
Iván Duque sparked a national crisis precisely after trying to raise taxes to provide more subsidies; laughably, the leftist groups that are the ones calling for the implementation of measures such as punishing the income of the rich were the ones who came out to protest in this circus of Latin American politics where there are no principles or ideological convictions, but two sides that claim to fight but always pursue the same “solution” to the problems: raise taxes, enlarge the size of the state, and give money to the poor for propaganda photos.
The day when it is understood that the endemic evil of our nations is poverty, the same one that is caused by the terrible collectivist economic policies of our states -also poor- wanting to be benefactors, perhaps we will be able to advance a little in identifying our problems. As a result of this, we can then propose effective solutions to our misfortunes. While that does not happen we will continue submerged in a battle of wet cannons with captains who say they hate each other, but who in the end only benefit from the spoils of war.
Emmanuel Rincón is a lawyer, writer, novelist and essayist. He has won several international literary awards. He is Editor-at-large at El American // Emmanuel Rincón es abogado, escritor, novelista y ensayista. Ganador de diversos premios literarios internacionales. Es editor-at-large en El American