The Terrible Time of the Strongmen / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner
Posted on August 23, 2015
14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 23 August 2015 — Latin
America's streets are filled with people protesting angrily against
their governments. The protests are against governments of the left
(Venezuela – the worst of all, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile,
Nicaragua and Argentina); against those of the center (Peru and
Mexico); and against those of the right (Guatemala and Honduras). Surely
others will be added along the way.
Those who have taken to the streets in Latin America are essentially
protesting for one, several or all of the following twelve reasons:
corruption, inefficiency, insecurity against violent crime, the impunity
of criminals, the subordination of the other republican branches of
government – the legislative and the judicial – to the will of the
executive, the blatant change in the rules to stay in power
indefinitely, the violation of human rights, electoral tricks, control
over the media, shortages, the abuse of rights previously granted to
unions or indigenous peoples, and the irresponsible abuse of the
The phenomenon is very serious. The general perception is that the
region is being governed terribly badly, which in part explains its
longstanding relative backwardness. The social contract between the
governors and the governed has been broken, and the latter refuse to
give their consent to the former. The pitcher can only go to the well so
many times before it breaks.
In the republican concept we are all equal, we are obliged to comply
with the laws, we cannot write constitutions or dictate laws at the
pleasure of an abusive clique, elections are organized as collective
mechanisms to make decisions and not to legitimate corrupt mandarins.
Likewise, it is assumed that politicians and officials obtain their
positions and move up and keep them based on their merits and not on
their relationships. They are public servants who enter government to
fulfill the mandate directed by the society that has elected them. They
have been chose not to command, but to obey. This, at least, is the theory.
And the theory is not wrong. We Latin Americans have violated it until
it has failed.
Bad businesspeople have violated it, in collusion with the rulers,
sharing out profits and closing the path to economic actors who lack
sponsors or who are unable to engage in bribery.
Union and syndicate leaders have made a mockery of it when they
negotiate with power for privileges, knowing that they are making it
almost impossible for young people to enter the labor market.
Certain religious leaders of all ranks have done great damage, as have
verbose journalists and certain radical professors who condemn the quest
for personal triumph, as if economic success in life – achievements
through profits – were a crime or a sin.
Of course the republican design is correct and it works. We see it in
the twenty most prosperous and free countries in the world. Some are
republics and others are parliamentary monarchies, but all accept the
basic norms of the Rule of Law born from the enlightenment and
perfection of liberal revolutions.
Among these successful nations, some governments are liberal and
renounce the anti-clericalism of early times, while others are social
democrats who stripped away the superstitions of Marxism, or Christian
democrats devoid of religious fanaticism, or conservatives who abandoned
an unpleasant taste for the iron fist or the disproportionate worship of
Sometimes coalitions form, at others the political terrain is
adversarial, but they always proceed democratically in the exercise of
power. They form a part of the same political family, presided over by
tolerance, that arose from the American and French revolutions, although
they are divided by an important factor, but one that is neither vital
nor irreconcilable: the intensity and destination of the tax burden,
which determines the size and responsibilities that each group assigns
to the State.
Not included in this lineage are communists, fascists, and
authoritarians of every stripe – militarists, ultranationalists,
religious fanatics – because they do not believe in coexisting with and
respecting differences, nor in the pluralism inherent in every society,
nor in democratic changes in government, as evidenced by the endless
trail of corpses they have left in their efforts to conserve power.
It is desirable that we Latin Americans learn once and for all a rather
obvious lesson: the republican structure is very fragile and is only
sustained over the long term if societies are capable of discriminating
in favor of governments that accept and follow the rules that give
meaning and form to this way of organizing coexistence. Govern well or
everything will go up in smoke.
When they govern badly, first comes the widespread sense of collapse,
and then come the strongmen, the military who command and control, the
enlightened revolutionaries; they exert authority over our peoples,
aggravating all the evils that they swore to fix. That is the terrible
time of the strongmen.
Source: The Terrible Time of the Strongmen / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto
Montaner | Translating Cuba -