By Atilio Borón – Jun 21, 2021
Despite the fact that the verdict of history is irrefutable, there is a tendency, within the conventional wisdom of the social sciences and the established opinion, to constantly spread the erroneous conception that the Latin American right-wing has reconciled itself with democracy. Such an opinion states that the latter has already cut ties with its oligarchic, racist, patriarchal and colonial genesis and that it has put an end to its history as a conspicuous instigator and frequent direct executor of innumerable coups d’état, attacks, sabotage, massacres and all kinds of violations of human rights and political freedoms. Despite its perverse origins, some clueless academics and ”opinionologists” (or simply those rooting for the right-wing) now say that the Latin American right has ”upgraded” itself by accepting the rules of the democratic game. This is a tragic error confirmed, as already mentioned, in historical praxis: the right was never democratic, it is not so today, and it will never be in future. Due to its roots and class interests, the right is called upon to defend, tooth and nail, dependency capitalism’s social order, of which it is its exclusive beneficiary. That is why the Latin American right-wing makes use of all the immense resources it has at its disposal (money, investment sabotage, capital flight, tax evasion, speculative attacks against local currencies, personnel layoffs, establishment closures, media terrorism, invocation of military interventionism, the buying of favors amongst judges and prosecutors, seeking protection from ”embassies,” etc.) against any threat, however moderate. In my article Seven Theses on Reformism, Revolution and Counterrevolution in Latin America (to be found in the freely downloadable ebook compiled by CLACSO under the title Atilio Boron: The Log of a Navigator), I have provided some decisive information on the subject. Consequently, I suggest to anyone interested on developing on this further to read said article for a more complete elaboration on the argument that I try to develop in this piece.
For the time being, I consider that it will suffice to present a brief summary of the behavior of the Latin American right, so that readers may be able to draw their own conclusions. In Argentina, in 2015, Mauricio Macri triumphed over Daniel Scioli in the second round of the presidential election. With a 3% difference in votes between the candidates, the losing coalition admitted defeat the very same night of the elections. In 2017, narco-politician Juan Orlando Hernández won the Honduran presidential election thanks to a scandalous fraud that was so blatant that it even postponed Washington’s recognition for several weeks, irrespective of the fact that Hernández was their anointed candidate. Although the opposition protested against the fraud, it had no choice but to admit ”defeat.” In the 2018 Brazilian presidential elections, Jair Bolsonaro, the spokesperson for the coup leaders who had evicted Dilma Rousseff from the presidency through lawfare, triumphed. Notwithstanding the coarse and multiple violations of electoral rules (among which was Bolsonaro’s non-appearance at the presidential debate); the sinister role played by the judiciary—which illegally prevented Lula from becoming a candidate—and a media tightly controlled by the right, the defeated opposition alliance respected the verdict of the polls. At present, the Brazilian politicians in Congress, as well as the ”judicial” branch and the influential mass media, even more corrupt than the former, are making the people of Brazil pay an immense price for having installed a sociopath like Bolsonaro at the Palacio del Planalto, who, with his pandemic denialist policy, has sent more than half a million of his fellow citizens to their untimely deaths.
In Uruguay, in 2019, right-wing candidate Luis Lacalle Pou defeated Daniel Martínez of Frente Amplio by 1.5% of the valid vote count, and the losing candidate admitted his defeat without question. Shortly after assuming the presidency, Lacalle Pou displayed a suicidal denial, proclaiming with a chauvinist attitude, that what was happening to their Argentine and Brazilian neighbors [in regard to the pandemic] would not happen to Uruguay. Lacalle Pou had to swallow his own words and today Uruguay is paying a very high price for its president’s arrogance.
In Mexico, leftist candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas was leading in the 1988 presidential vote count until a suspicious ”systems failure” of the computers of the Federal Electoral Commission delivered a miracle: upon restarting the computers, Washington-appointed candidate, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, emerged as having a wide margin over his opponent and was thus proclaimed the winner. Popular protests were useless in the face of such a blatant fraud. The right-wing wanted to win ”at any cost” and, with the blessings of Washington and OAS, it did.
Also in Mexico, in 2006, the right-wing produced another electoral heist. Several days after the end of a closely contested election, the Federal Electoral Institute issued a statement announcing the end of the vote count, and that conservative candidate Felipe Calderón had won by a difference of 0.62% of the valid votes over Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Despite the widespread repudiation of the blatant electoral scam—given the fact that in many polling stations, more people had voted than were registered—Calderón was proclaimed the winner of that electoral contest.
In the Nicaraguan presidential election of February 25, 1990, the candidate of the National Opposition Union, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, triumphed. She obtained 55% of the valid votes, beating Daniel Ortega, then president of Nicaragua and the Sandinista incumbent, who received 41% of the votes. Two days after the end of the election, Ortega publicly acknowledged his defeat and congratulated the triumphant candidate. Ortega would be re-elected as president in 2007.
In 1930s Argentina, right-wing electoral fraud acquired a quasi-institutional status, under the name of ”patriotic fraud.” Its declared purpose was to prevent the ”radical rabble” and the socialists and communists from accessing any position of power through elections, at any cost. Electoral fraud was exalted as a service that a virtuous oligarchy, with its parties, judges, and newspapers, rendered to the country. To this very day the right persists in trying to circumvent the people’s will; of course they now do so though the use of new technologies of political neuromarketing that manipulate, through hatred and fear, the attitudes and behaviors of the masses. But the right wing in Argentina not only resorted to fraud; they also outlawed Peronismo, the main political force in the country, for eighteen years. And when neither tactic was sufficient, the ”military card” could always be played: thus an endless succession of ”military objections” gnawed at the weak and illegitimate civil governments that emerged after the overthrow of Juan Domingo Perón’s government in 1955. Two brutal dictatorships marked this process of political decomposition: first, the one headed by Juan Carlos Onganía in 1966 and, ten years later, the apotheosis of crime and genocide which was the civic-military dictatorship established by the military coup of March 24, 1976 and that would plunge the country into an unforgettable and unforgivable bloodbath. In both cases, the collaboration of the Argentine right was essential for providing ideas, projects, officials, and diplomats to the military and for placing its media apparatus at the service of dictators.
By contrast, on October 20, 2019, Evo Morales won the Bolivian presidential elections with a 47.08% of the vote against 36.51% obtained by opposition candidate Carlos Mesa. The electoral legislation of Bolivia establishes that if no candidate wins 50% of the valid vote count, the election will go to the second round, except in the case where a candidate exceeds 40% of the vote count and leads by a 10% difference over their closest rival. In the 2019 election, this was effectively the case, as Morales received approximately 10.6% more voter support than Mesa. Notwithstanding, two reports from the OAS, one before and one after the election, made allegations of irregularities in the counting of the votes, and this installed a climate of fraud and suspicion that infinitely promoted the denunciations of a right wing that, even before the election had taken place, had stated that it would not recognize any result other than the victory of the opposition candidate. After a series of violent demonstrations and before the incomprehensible official stance of defenselessness, the high command of the Bolivian Army and the Police backed the complaints of fraud made by the racist right-wing and demanded President Morales’ resignation. A few weeks later, various reports made public by US academic organizations specialized in electoral matters confirmed the transparency and honesty of the Bolivian elections, but by then it was too late and Bolivia was bleeding from the new regime’s violence. One year later, Morales’ MAS Party was able to recover the presidency by crushing the putschist right at the polls.
The most recent chapter of this fraudulent saga of the Latin American right is taking place at this very moment in Peru—in June 2021—where the presidential candidate of the left, Pedro Castillo, has prevailed over the corrupt representative of the powers that be of that country, Keiko Fujimori. Despite the virulent claims of fraud made by the opposition, the final vote count gives a clear, albeit small, advantage to the Peru Libre candidate. Complex procedures checking the electoral records for irregularities have been carried out by specialized organizations, and they have concluded that in no case do minor irregularities alter the definitive electoral result. Despite this, the right-wing coalition has resorted to all kinds of resources, including a surreptitious call for a military coup made by Mario Vargas Llosa, in order to prevent Peru “from falling into the clutches of Chavista totalitarianism.” There has even been a statement made by retired military personnel which was strongly condemned by current Peruvian President Francisco Sagasti. In any case, one cannot rule out that there may be a parliamentary coup aimed at annulling the elections or disqualifying the winner, Pedro Castillo. Unfortunately, the Peruvian Congress, which is made up of 130 members, has the powers to impeach and remove the president for multiple reasons, among which is the very enigmatic ”moral incapacity.” The president of the Congress, Mirtha Vásquez—an important leader of the Frente Amplio coalition who has extensive experience in defense of human rights in her country—has urged her colleagues to reflect on their actions in order to avoid becoming accomplices in a right-wing coup or impeachment maneuver. For such a thing to happen, the right must control two-thirds of the votes in Congress, that is, 87 seats, which it does not have for now, but as rumor has it in Lima, ”the right may not have them, but could always rent them.” Whether such a maneuver will succeed or not will depend, as always, on the mobilizational and organizational capacity of the left forces that oppose it. The outcome of the election is yet to be known in the coming days.
Conclusion of this brief review: when the right wins, the left admits the verdict of the polls; when the left wins, the right resorts to blackmail, fraud, or military or institutional coup—confirming for the umpteenth time that the right is not and will never be democratic. Let us not forget this lesson. The right cannot be trusted, ”not even a bit!” as Che Guevara used to say about imperialism. The same is true of the putative children of the empire scattered throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
Featured image: Jeanine Áñez, Mauricio Macri, Jair Bolsonaro, and Keiko Fujimori, representatives of the right in Latin America. Photo from Atilio Boron’s blog.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
Atilio A. Borón is a Harvard Graduate professor of political theory at the University of Buenos Aires and was executive secretary of the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO). He has published widely in several languages a variety of books and articles on political theory and philosophy, social theory, and comparative studies on the capitalist development in the periphery. He is an international analyst, writer and journalist and profoundly Latinoamerican.
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