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The Opposition: Its Role in Sustaining 21st Century Dictatorships

Oposición: su papel en la permanencia de las dictaduras del siglo XXI, EFE

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21st century socialism or Castro-Chavismo has managed to expand the dictatorship model from Cuba to Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, with the indefinite seizure of power and impunity, supplanting the rule of law with the “rule of oppression.” However, with so-called leftist governments, it has not been able to implant dictatorships and most countries remain democratic. The difference lies in the actions of the political oppositions, which in the case of dictatorships are part of their creation and permanence, and in democracy prevent dictatorial imposition.

The formation of Venezuelan, Bolivian, Ecuadorian, and Nicaraguan dictatorships began with an electoral seizure of power following proposals to re-found democracy and change the country; they sought to put an end to the worn-out and corrupt traditional political system and a wide range of populist proposals that a few years later resulted in misery, violence, and organized crime. Once in power, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, uniformly implemented a political system contrary to democratic principles and the rule of law.

Ecuador recovered democracy under the guidance and leadership of President Lenín Moreno, who restored the essential elements of democracy, putting an end to political prisoners, persecution, exile, torture, and the narco-state. Although those affected and detractors seek to manipulate the causes of the process, the results show that Ecuador is proof that it is possible to get out of the Castro-Chavist dictatorship.

In Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, constituent assemblies were used to destroy the democratic system and replace it with a dictatorial one, and reforms and modifications were used in Nicaragua. In countries where political oppositions have lent themselves to these manipulations with agreements, submission and even voting, dictatorships have been implanted. In all cases where dictatorships have been consolidated, the regime took part and reached agreements with the opposition with parliamentary representation or with part of it, with varied arguments and pretexts, but resulting in dictatorship.

The governments of 21st century socialism in Uruguay with Mujica, Paraguay with Lugo, Brazil with Lula and Rousseff, Argentina with the Kirchner spouses, Peru with Castillo, have not established dictatorships and have surrendered power in the face of the electoral results or due to the process against President Rousseff and the impeachment by the coup d’état perpetrated by Castillo. So are the governments of Lopez Obrador in Mexico and Fernandez/Kirchner in Argentina, which, despite their constant efforts to break the democratic order, are stopped by the opposition, the free press and democratic institutions.

In order to distinguish between the real opposition and the one committed to the implementation of the dictatorship to later become integrated as “functional opposition,” it is enough to observe the place and condition of its leaders. Some remain within the dictatorship’s circles, with spaces for public participation and activity that appear to be normal, while the others are persecuted, imprisoned, exiled, attacked and subjected to all kinds of violations of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. This is evidenced today in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia by the political prisoner lists and those of the bureaucracy of the dictatorial regime.

Those in the opposition who have surrendered democracy are the ones who try to present the dictatorships of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua as normal governments, revolutionary processes of change, or simple crises. They are the functional opposition who participate in the electoralist dictatorships where people vote but do not elect. They are those who ignore the torture, the persecuted, the political prisoners, and the exiled or refer to them as a problem of police abuse with which they whitewash the dictatorship.

The dictatorial or functional opposition is a simulation at the expense of the human rights of the people and also acts in the international arena, confusing and discouraging allies with multiple, diverse and contradictory proposals, disqualifying leadership, in order to destroy credibility and undermine cooperation to the real civil resistance.

The most infamous and usual practice of the functional opposition in a dictatorship is to maintain and promote division, split the opposition, and prevent a unity project -with ideological, programmatic, or personalistic arguments- so that dictatorships of organized crime with an average of 80% of popular repudiation continue pretending to win elections.  

This article is part of an agreement between El American and the Interamerican Institute for Democracy.

Carlos Sánchez Berzain es abogado, politólogo, máster en ciencia política y sociología. Catedrático. Estadista perseguido y exiliado político. Director del Interamerican Institute for Democracy // Carlos Sánchez Berzain is a lawyer, political scientist, with a master's degree in political science and sociology. Professor. Persecuted statesman and political exile. Director of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy.