Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 1 May 2018 — or at least two decades, since Hugo Chavez’s rise to power, the policial debate in Latin America has centered its discussions around the populist model, which was introduced in Venezuela and which has not stopped being exported, with more or less success, to the rest of the continent.
After the resounding failure of the experiment called “21st century socialism,” the arguments against it were greatly strengthened; today, it is not so difficult for any well-informed Democratic candidate to win a debate by a large margin when facing the representatives of the radical Left.
With the overwhelming evidence we have at hand about the impracticality of this type of political project, it seems impossible that candidates like Gustavo Petro in Colombia or Manuel López Obrador in Mexico will be competitive in the face-to-face surveys in the next elections.
Apparently, voter perception is not based solely on television content, educational videos, or posts on social media. A majority of the world’s citizens continue to reference the concrete situation in which they live to determine whether they will support or oppose any given politician.
To save democracy from the claws of populism is, in the opinion of many, the “mission” that voters have in the next elections, and this is true. What’s not healthy is that this perspective overlooks the necesary debate that must be had about the quality of the democracies and governments which aspire to be elected as alternatives to populism.
It is of no use today to win ideological debates or to demonstrate the falsity of the proposal aligned with Chavism if, after being elected, many Democratic candidates don’t last in their seat without being prosecuted for corruption, vote buying, alliances with the mafia, links to drug trafficking, crimes against journalists, shell corporations to launder money, and a string of things that have become rule, with honorable exceptions from the Rio Bravo to Patagonia.
No matter how hard it is to admit, bad Democratic governments are the principal architects of populism and its consecuences, because they have not taken full advantage of their years in power to implement the structural changes, investments, and public policies that are urgently needed in Latin America to improve the quality of life of a majority of our people.
It’s difficult to believe that in the era in which we live, millions of people in our America are unable to access the medical attention that they need, some are unable to study at elementary levels because they’ve needed to work since childhood, and crime, scattered or organized, runs rampant in entire populations where governments and police mean nothing to the Left.
I know that the populist formula does not resolve these problems, or if it resolves them in part, it does so in exchange for your life, your will, and your conscience. But, if we are clear that this is not the way, that the solution is not that “you give him the fish without teaching him how to fish,” that “you can’t drink the milk and eat the meat from the same cow,” and many other adages that appear to be obvious: why are there not sufficient advancements with solutions emanating from democracy? Isn’t that what democracy itself is for?
I have no doubt that the western democratic design, based on balance of power, freedom of expression, and respect for the human rights recognized in the Universal Declaration, is the best one that exists on the face of the earth, but if the human capital entrusted with making the system work does not respect its rules and repeatedly betrays the social pact and the trust of the outraged voters, then they will inevitably end up rejecting the politicians and also the democratic design.
Now more than ever, the future of our America depends on the integrity, honesty, and commitment of the democratic leaders. This should, at least in theory, make us feel safe and happy. We’ll see what will happen in practice.
Translated by: Emilee Sullivan