Carlos Sánchez Berzaín
(Interamerican Institute for Democracy) In 1999 the only dictatorship in the Americas was that of Castroist Cuba that survived and expanded with the Castroist-Chavist impetus taking, along the way, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador to the group of 21st Century Socialism. Currently there are “two Americas”, the democratic one and the dictatorial one, the one that has freedom with real political opposition that allows for the alternation of the tenure in power, and the one that tyrannizes the constituency through electoral fraud and maintains a façade of democracy. To regain democracy in these countries there is a need to level politics with the best interests of the people by clearly establishing that in Castroist-Chavist dictatorships there is no chance for opposition and act accordingly.
Dictatorships of the 21st century in the Americas may be able to manipulate and eventually hold on to power almost indefinitely if defenders of freedom and democracy in Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador continue believing and condoning the “simulation of democracy” convinced they are part of the “opposition” and that they “have freedom and political equality” with the regime, believing they act on the basis of “clear rules”, believing they “can win elections” and be able to get to power, believing that the government must “respect electoral results”, believing that through “local or municipal political conquests” they are advancing to the defeat of the regime or that elected officials “can freely discharge their duties”.
In a democracy, “opposition” means to be able to exercise the “fundamental freedom” of being able to think, to dissent, to organize to get to political power, to represent the group of persons, parties, or political organizations with thoughts, ideology, or programs that are different from the group that holds power. The democratic system is essential and there is no democracy without a real opposition that “must have the possibility to access to power through democratic means”. On the other hand, in Castroist-Chavist dictatorships the so-called opposition is those groups who continue tolerating the system, condoning all restrictions to freedom, to the participation in government and the lack of transparency, accepting political and electoral processes “without any democratic components” tolerating threats and limitations imposed by the “methodology of fear” instituted by the regime.
There is no partial or half measured democracy. There is no democracy under duress or fear that if leaders from the so-called opposition do not comply with what the regime wants they can be tried, persecuted, jailed or forced into exile, or extorted with threats to their families, kidnappings, torture, or pressure to have their estate and the estate of their relatives seized, just as it has happened and still happens in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. There is NO democracy in regimes that –with the pretext of being anti-imperialist- form armed paramilitary groups to attack the people. There is NO democracy, and there is no chance of opposition without the freedom of the press, with politically persecuted or political exiles.
There is NO opposition without the “components of democracy” which are; “respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms”, the existence of the “Rule of Law”, the “separation and independence of the branches of government”, “clean and free elections”, and “a regime with a plurality of political parties and organizations”, basic components of democracy contained in the Interamerican Democratic Charter.
In this situation it is urgent “to level” politics with the best interests of the people. This means we must recognize the objective reality and “accept the truth” by calling the regimes in Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador for what they are, Castroist-Chavist dictatorships. This is a vital strategic change because the objective of taking away power from the dictatorial regimes through elections within a system that is manipulated and controlled at their whim is replaced by an objective of REINSTATING, REGAINING, RESTORING AND RETURNING DEMOCRACY, with the immediate and fundamental result of having only two options and being able to know who is on the side of the dictatorship and who is on the side of regaining democracy.
To level politics with what is best for the people in countries with Castroist-Chavist dictatorships does not imply a cease fire, to the contrary, it means to be able to fight harder and be better focused. It is about making politicians and political parties realize that their struggle to gain a piece of the power in a system that is controlled by dictatorships is futile so they can come together and work to, first of all, regain democracy. It is a two phase strategy, first to be able to again have democracy, and secondly -with components and conditions of democracy in place- to be able to run within a system with the Rule of Law, with equality, freedom, respect of human rights, transparency, separation of branches of government, free press, without political prisoners or exiles. Dictatorships are similar to an invader taking over and occupying a homeland and “leveling” politics is about the people –without distinction of ideologies, creeds, or economic or social standing- coming together as one, united to defeat the invader because what matters most is to regain freedom. This is what we mean by leveling politics with what is best for the people.
Today, Venezuela`s dictatorship with a threatening Nicolas Maduro at the helm manipulates and extorts the so-called opposition at will and has been able to discredit it. Bolivia`s dictator Evo Morales using his Plurinational de-facto constitution manipulates his Judicial system to be able to be indefinitely reelected and recruits direct support commitments or pursues indirect support –through threats- from the so-called opposition. Daniel Ortega`s dictatorship and his wife in Nicaragua prepare for elections manipulating a fraction of the opposition that best suits them. Lenin Moreno in Ecuador has the opportunity to remove his country from dictatorship, but up to now there appears to be only discrepancies with few if any actions all while the dictatorial regime of Rafael Correa continues and functions with a subdued opposition.
Published in Spanish by Diario las Américas on Sunday October 1st, 2017
Translated from Spanish by Edgar L. Terrazas, Member of the American Translators Association, ATA # 234680.