Carlos Alberto Montaner: Latin America and the New Populist Cycle
By Carlos Alberto Montaner
Latin American Herald Tribune
September 24, 2018
In Mauricio Macri’s Argentina, the Peronists don’t care that Cristina Kirchner and her husband were two downright thieves. “Puto o ladrón, queremos a Perón (Queer or thief, we want Perón)” is still the slogan of the tribe.
Maybe we are not republicans in the universal sense of the word. Or not enough republicans. To be a republican, it is essential to voluntarily place oneself under the authority of the law and to respect the decisions of impartial courts, but that is particularly difficult for us. Republics are fragile structures that are only able to breathe in a virtuous atmosphere. Outside of it, they die or become something else.
In the Brazil of Lula da Silva and his cronies of Odebrecht it happens more or less the same as in Argentina. Traps, bribes, massive frauds were the order of the day, but the supporters of the charismatic leader did not care about those violations of the law. Recently it was known that Lula himself, against the criteria of his own technicians, gave instructions to the National Bank for Economic and Social Development of Brazil (BNDES) to lend 600 million dollars to Cuba under very favorable conditions.
The goal was to develop the Port of Mariel under the direction of Odebrecht, knowing that the island’s government would not be able to repay the loan. A substantial part of that credit returned to Brazil in the pockets of corrupt politicians. It was the part of the booty that Odebrecht secretly distributed, paid with the taxes of the defrauded Brazilian people. By the way, if the project had been given to a developer charging reasonable benefits, would have cost half the amount paid to the Brazilian company.
Despite these dirty deeds, Lula led the polls until the courts forbade him to run for the presidency, accusing him of corruption. After that impediment, imposed by Sergio Moro, an exemplary judge who set up the operation Lava Jato and has faced with enormous courage the political mafias of the Workers’ Party, Lula has chosen Professor Fernando Haddad to replace him. Haddad is a very radical professor of Political Science, former failed mayor of Sao Paulo, also with pending charges of corruption.
Simultaneously, Lula has recruited the young journalist Manuela d’Avila, leading Congresswoman of Brazil’s Communist Party, as deputy of Haddad. The selection of the couple indicates which way things are going. Private capital is terrified and running out of the country through all the available holes. As has been said so many times, “there is no animal more coward than a million dollars.”
In the opposite electoral end, the right-wing candidate in the next elections in October Jair Bolsonaro -- a former captain of paratroopers -- also does not respect too much the current legality.
He speaks with nostalgia about the times of the military dictatorship and justifies torture. At one time, he praised the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, and he regretted that the army had not shot 30,000 people, including former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, whom Bolsonaro accused of collusion with the Workers’ Party. Meanwhile, his vice president, former General Hamilton Mourao, mumbles grimly about the possibilities of a coup if they lose the election because of an alleged fraud. Some people in Brazil call Bolsonaro the Brazilian Trump. God help us!
It is very likely that we enter again in a populist cycle. Macri in Argentina can lose power as a result of the economic crisis. Haddad could defeat Bolsonaro and establish a left-wing populist regime. Or Bolsonaro could defeat Haddad – they are tied in the polls – and start a kind of right-wing populist government, without any consideration for the republican institutional design. AMLO has legitimately won the Mexican elections and is not expected to govern with prudence.
In Latin America the evil dictators – Nicolás Maduro, Daniel Ortega, Evo Morales, Raúl Castro and his political scion Díaz-Canel – do not have to wait by the river long enough to see the bodies of their enemies floating by. All they have to do to stay in power is to wait for a new populist cycle. And it is happening.