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In Colombia and Chile, Latin America Is Returning to Democracy

It was the culmination of a democratic movement that began with the 1991 Colombian constitutional reform and extends through the 2016 peace accords that ended the decades-long conflict between that country’s government and the Marxist-Leninist Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), a struggle in which documents filed About her newly secretive, in which the United States played a role key role. On June 19, Gustavo Petro defeated far-right demagogue Rodolfo Hernandez to become Colombia’s first player. center left head. Francia Marquez Mina, Vice President of Petro, will serve as the country’s first black Vice President. The pair got more votes than any card in the nation’s history. The Colombian people in the streets of Bogota celebrated the former guerrilla fighter vow To represent “that silent majority of peasants, indigenous people and women [and] youth ‘while speak Against the background of its textEl Cambio is a secluded(“Change is unstoppable”).

The Petro victory, which followed similar left-wing victories in Chile, Honduras and, to a lesser extent, Peru, signals a broader pendulum swing within Latin America reminiscent of the “pink tide” of the early periods. For a Biden administration that often bases its foreign policy around the dangers of authoritarianism, this political shift may seem like a positive development. But given that these states’ interests often conflict with those of Washington in an increasingly multipolar world, the administration’s support for this democratic wave remains ambiguous, even as Biden himself has emphasized the importance of strengthening the rule of law at home and abroad. Now, as Brazil prepares to hold a presidential election in October amid a threat Autoglob (“self-coup”) by increasingly dictatorial Jair Bolsonaro and a possible return to military rule, Biden must decide whether he is committed to demonstrating that democracies can provide for their citizens, because confirmed at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles earlier this month, or whether he sees the term “democracy” as little more than a slogan, essentially devoid of meaning.

“One can imagine John F. Kennedy saying these kinds of things in 1962,” says modern Latin American historian Robert Carle of Biden’s last speech. “After sixty years of anti-democratic behavior, it’s becoming a bit hard to swallow, especially at this moment when the state of American democracy is so fragile.”

Under a different kind of democratic administration, Carl asserts, Washington might take steps to avoid alienating the Petro government into the orbit of China or Russia. But Biden is a different animal. While Petro’s acknowledgment of the unique threats posed by climate change aligns with warnings issued by the US president while promoting the rebuilding better agenda, the Colombian leader’s pledge to scale back his country’s actions. Reliance on fossil fuels Stopping any additional extraction could pose a serious challenge to Washington, especially since the Russian war in Ukraine shows no signs of abating. What is clear is that the US relationship with what was once its most reliable country in the region is likely to change. Less clear is how the Biden administration will respond to potential land-use reforms and drug bans — or how it will promote democracy in countries like Colombia.

Says Brian Winter, Vice President for Policy at the Association/Council of the Americas and editor Americas Quarterly. “Senior government officials in countries like Brazil, Chile and Argentina are still talking about the idea of ​​a new Marshall Plan for Latin America, and that is simply not on the table due to the political and financial realities of the United States.”

Brazil is another story entirely. While the Colombian right has recognized the legitimacy of Petro’s victory, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has relentlessly undermined the integrity of his country’s elections even with last poll It is suggested that he is likely to lose in the first round of voting to Luis Inacio Lula da Silva of the PT. It is still the most dangerous thing, even though most of the military are committed to it Upholding the country’s constitutionBolsonaro had the support of several key officials, some of whom had links to the Brazilian dictatorship from 1964 to 1985. Officers such as Almir Garnier Santos, who serves as the commander of the Brazilian Navy, have echoed the president’s allegations about poor voting systems, while Defense Minister Walter Souza Braga Neto he have Alleged threat To prevent elections from taking place unless changes are implemented. (Braga Neto, who is expected to be Bolsonaro’s deputy, denies this claim.) Brazilian Supreme Court Justice and Chief Election Officer Edson Fachin stresses that these fears are unfounded. according to a report by The New York Times Jacques Nicas, Rio Chief of Staff, “Mr. Bolsonaro’s tactics appear to have been adopted from the evidence of former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. Trump and his allies have worked to support Bolsonaro’s allegations of fraud.”

Recently, last month, Bolsonaro question The legitimacy of Biden’s victory. Why would the American president give him a special audience, as he did at the Summit of the Americas, and allow an ambitious dictator? Press for Washington’s help In defeating his opponent?

The simplest answer is that the Biden administration was trying to save face. After the 11th hour’s decision Bar Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela From the conference pushed many political leaders from Latin America to skip the event in protest, The White House couldn’t afford to lose Bolsonaro either – however despicable the president might find his Brazilian counterpart. (The top was them First face-to-face meeting since Biden took office). However, that does not explain his decision to praise Bolsonaro’s management of the Amazon just days after British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian activist Bruno Pereira disappear In the Valle de Javari. “There is an actual genocide being committed against entire indigenous cultures,” notes Brian Meyer, website editor. Brazil wire. “Biden acted as if Bolsonaro had done nothing wrong.”

Frederico Figueiredo, who served in the Brazilian chancellery under Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer, believes the US president is “between Satan and the deep blue sea” with the upcoming elections. “It’s a complicated choice for Biden, because Bolsonaro could offer him things like privatizing state-owned companies that he knows he won’t get from Lula,” Figueiredo explains. “Lola too [engage the nations in] Brix [Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa] And the rededication of Brazil to organizations like CELAC [the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States] It could stop the US hegemony in the region. But Bolsonaro is an internationally disgusted figure, and [dealing with him] Biden’s supposed commitment to promoting democracy threatens.”

Then there is the US decision to exclude authoritarian regimes in Latin America from the summit itself. While Brazil remains a flawed democracy, Bolsonaro has made no secret of his contempt for democratic norms. So where is the Biden administration drawing the line, and how much of its logic is driven by its own self-interest?

in recent interview with Washington PostChile’s newly elected president, Gabriel Borek, acknowledged he had many criticisms of governments being barred from the conference, but said it was best to present them in person. “I think we could have a better relationship if the United States understood that in terms of political equality with countries in the region, especially those with shared values,” Borek said. “These values ​​would be better supported without fatherhood.”

Other Latin American countries, such as Argentina, urged the Biden administration to prove its democratic rhetoric by addressing “Unequal“The rules of the international financial system. These range from forms of trade embargoes that have been in place for years and sometimes decades to IMF loan fee Designed to keep poor countries in debt.

says Mark Healy, chair of the history department at the University of Connecticut who specializes in Latin America. “It’s not immediately clear that’s what you’re going to do.”

In 2022, after atrocities Condor operation And the Try to overturn at homeThis may be the only kind of leadership the United States has left to offer.

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