Skip to content

Latin America on the Democratic Agenda

Latinoamérica, agenda, Biden

Leer en Español

[Leer en español]

The world is aware of the United States, because of its unquestionable political, economic, social and militar development.

In Latin America, the United States is viewed with suspicion, but in the face of its own crises, cooperation with the U.S. is needed. Venezuela doesn’t escape the dichotomy, although in recent years, given the “cataclysm” affecting it, it has built a kind of partnership with Washington, with the aim of putting an end to the government that rules one which exhales “hatred of the empire.”

Donald Trump’s administration cooperated with this now dwarfed country to get rid of the hordes that govern it, but its efforts did not succeed. Today, the latter owns the territory, the people and the power. For Ibsen Martínez, the sanctions affected the people, but not the government. In the personal aspect, there are few prisoners and few seizures of ill-begotten fortunes. The disappointment closes with the elections of December 6th for the National Assembly, now with an absolute majority of those committed to the regime. The opposition didn’t participate.

This is the Venezuelan scenario welcoming Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and so it is pertinent to define Washington’s cooperation. The primacy position will be “sanctions are popular among the electorate of the sanctioning country, but not for the population that suffers from the sanctioned government.” It cannot be ruled out, therefore, that “relief from (Martínez’s) punishments” will be advocated.

Likewise, a U.S. military intervention did not materialize, an idea which Venezuelans, including political leaders, have been fond of, which “the Creole military leadership,” in their imagination, thought they would defeat as they defeated the Spaniards in Carabobo. The less ostentatious, perhaps, were convinced that the United States has its own entanglements to worry about.

An uncertain horizon was foreshadowed more than a democratic triumph, today attenuated by the reiteration of the unconstitutionality of December’s National Assembly, but, in addition, the fact that “governments that originate”, as Rodrigo Borja explains, “outside the law, must be qualified as de facto.” It is the confrontation of force before the formal consecration of constitutions, typified because the first one deprives of rights. A serious problem in Latin America and beyond.

The “title of origin” of the Caracas regime is flawed, since it was born from the falsification of the popular will. The challenge is how to get out of it, bearing in mind that enough has been done already. The disjunctive stands between a methodology to face a de facto government or one on the way to a constitutionally legitimate one.

The main actors of the dictatorial regime facing Venezuela. (EFE)

The other possibility is posed by Gene Sharp in his book From Dictatorship to Democracy. It would be an arrangement with the dictator to progressively reduce the powers he exercises in pursuit of democracy (a rather improbable possibility in a country lacking an energetic democratic opposition). Dictators, according to this philosopher, are accustomed to bargaining to save their wealth.

Sharp’s conclusion touches on a hypothesis that is far from reality, at least as far as the peoples who have not achieved it, and will probably leave this world without knowing it, are concerned. The political scientist argues that:

  1. It is possible to free ourselves from dictatorships;
  2. An effective strategy has to be devised and
  3. Vigilance, hard work and disciplined struggle, carry a very high price

It cannot be denied that he comes close to reality when he admits that “freedom is not free,” but, perhaps, more so with regard to Venezuela when he states: “no external force will come to give the oppressed people the freedom they yearn for.”

Undoubtedly, this road has been traveled by the countries of Latin America, with few exceptions. But also those from other distant places, imploring help from the United States, assuming that it is “guarantor of the peace of mankind.”

It should also be taken into account that interventions, including military ones, usually originate from the particular interests of the intervening state, in many cases wielding altruistic banners, such as establishing barriers to communism. Also, to promote democratic reforms and the rule of law.

For the Chilean Sergio Bitar, the strategy is “fueled by the defense of private business interests, assistance for economic development and safeguarding the free market system.” The former minister of Allende, Lagos and Bachelet concludes that “the North’s foreign economic policy has been used primarily to support governments of interest to the U.S. Administration.” The strategy should, therefore, define what motivation Biden-Harris would have for an intervention. Also, clarity with respect to the consequences.

In 2021, the colossus of the North does not have it easy. For The New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof, the data paints an alarming picture. “It’s as if we were a developing country” and quite far from Norway, Denmark, Finland and New Zealand.

The situation, in a real context, is thus worrisome. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman argues that “Joe Biden’s plan to deal with our economic woes must be effective.”

The conclusions are far from simple, since the uproar should include not only Venezuela, but also Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina. In addition to Chile, the example of social democracy, sunk amidst protests with the slogan “Go away,” directed not only at the rulers, but also at politicians.

It is not disdaineful to arbitrate agreements with “the de facto governments,” without pretending to solve in a single step intricate issues such as transitional justice and the relationship between the civilian and military world, as they could be addressed in subsequent stages. An agreement on procedures for obtaining and competing broadly for public power is better, as adjustments could be made in the future (Lowenthal/Bitar). One reads that this was important for the transitions to democracy in Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa and Spain.

A final addition that exacerbates the situation is the book El mundo cambió, by César Vidal, who compiles strange postulates in the “democrat strategy.”

The articles Joe’s Dilemma: Peace or Justice? (Naím), Joe Biden in Power (Montaner) and Biden’s Challenges with Venezuela (Smilde) reveal alternatives and difficulties.

To fight, yes, but well, united and organized, seems to be the slogan.

Luis Beltrán Guerra

Leave a Reply