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Latin-American Socialists Fight for Dwindling Regional Influence

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Jun 18, 2014, 1:03 pm
Juan Manuel Santos and Evo Morales
(PanAm Post composite)

EspañolTwo recent events demonstrate, once again, how undemocratic Latin-American socialists, although weakened after the death of Hugo Chávez a year ago, still hold strong regional and international influence: the presidential elections in Colombia, and the gathering of the G-77 plus China summit in Bolivia, both held on Sunday, June 15.

In effect, Juan Manuel Santos’s victory in the second round of the Colombian elections was due in large part to votes from progressives across the spectrum from moderates to the most radical. The support of Clara López, presidential candidate for the Democratic Pole in the first round, as well as that of Mayor of Bogotá Gustavo Petro, were crucial for significantly increasing the vote in the Colombian capital. Former Senator Piedad Córdoba, one of the foremost progressive opposition leaders, and Antanas Mockus, Santos’s opponent in the 2010 elections, also joined the Santos campaign in the second round of 2014. A significant segment of the Green Party, which had its own candidate for president during the first round, also joined forces with the newly reelected president.

But Santos not only won the support of progressives that participate in the country’s political and democratic life through various political parties, but also that of the socialists operating outside the rule of law. In particular, that of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which is interested in continuing the peace process being carried out in Havana, Cuba — a process that has allowed it great room for maneuvering. Hence the statement from former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010), now a senator with the Democratic Centre, in which he said he was casting his ballot on election day “in part with sadness.” He was referring to alleged threats by criminal gangs and the FARC to “massacre those who voted for Zuluaga, and use rifles to force people to vote for president Santos without him uttering a single word.”

It is true that the head of the FARC, Rodrigo Londoño (AKA “Timoshenko”), promoted the idea of casting a blank vote in the second round of presidential elections, but in practice these votes decreased compared with the first round. At the same time, however, just before the second round of voting, he launched a curious proposal to create “a progressive opposition front that includes the insurgency, and is able to form a coalition with the president elected on June 15.”

Obviously, President Santos is the only candidate they could form a coalition with, as he has shown to be more open to negotiating with the subversive group and socialists in general. Upon winning the election, Santos clearly stated that he will govern until 2018 with progressives by his side who helped him win the most disputed election in recent decades under the banner of peace.

The other recent event that occurred over the weekend and revealed the prevailing influence of Latin-American socialists was the Summit of the Group of 77 plus China (G77+China) held in Bolivia. President of Bolivia Evo Morales is the current president pro tempore of the international body. During the summit, which took place in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, two resolutions were approved by consensus. The first was the creation of a Decolonization Institute for the promotion of the “integral development” of the Southern Hemisphere, and the second formalized the organization’s support for Venezuela. The 133 countries of the G77+China fully backed Venezuela’s position in defending its sovereignty against the alleged attacks from the US government and its allies.

Moreover, during a ceremony held with social movement groups before the opening of the G77 Summit, Maduro received the ardent support of the governments of Cuba, Bolivia, and Ecuador. They claim the Bolivarian regime of Venezuela is the victim of an “imperialist” campaign and attacks by US President Barack Obama attempting to provoke intervention in Venezuela. Attending his first foreign meeting in months, President Nicolás Maduro told Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon that “there is a US hand” behind the crisis and social unrest his country is experiencing.

It is inconceivable at this point that the “revolutionary” fairytale of the anti-democratic Latin-American socialists — after 14 years on display as authoritarian, neo-communist, and destructive — still has an audience and a degree of regional or global influence. That representative and socialist democracies are still willing to play the game is utterly incomprehensible. The politics of laissez faire et laissez passer are costing us dearly, and will continue to have serious effects on democracy on our continent.

Translated by Alan Furth.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.