10 July 2021 ~ 0 Comentarios

How to Confront Totalitarianism in Latin America

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

In 1915, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a kind of vice minister of the American Navy during the Democratic administration of Woodrow Wilson. At that time, in the midst of serious disorder, Haitian President Jean Vilbrun Gillaume Sam was assassinated. Shortly after, the occupation of Haiti began with the landing of just under 400 US Marines. Wilson did not want Europeans to intervene in his backyard affairs. FDR took the opportunity to test his knowledge of law. He had studied “law” at the prestigious Columbia University in NY and wrote a Constitution for the Haitians.

It was not an issue of Constitutions. The country has had 28 and some, like the 1918 one, precisely the one written by FDR, is magnificent. Haiti is the “sick man” of Latin America. (That’s what Turkey was called in relation to Europe). However, the Haitian case has served to educate US presidents on what cannot be done. In 1934, FDR was already president of the US and decreed the “good neighbor” policy. Something like a Pan-Americanism that gave up imposing US values ​​and principles south of the Rio Grande.

But that policy had a severe contradiction. The US could not escape its status as “head of the free world,” especially during the Cold War, so in 1965 Lyndon B. Johnson used the OAS to prevent the establishment of a second Cuba in the Dominican Republic.

Let us note the successful example of the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbor, also with a very turbulent history, which already has almost 60 years of democracy and growing prosperity. Why? Is it because the Dominican Republic has been home of several statesmen, very different from one another, with different ideologies, but with a common love for their country, such as Joaquín Balaguer, Juan Bosch, Ángel Miolán or José Francisco Peña Gómez? Perhaps, but there is an organizing element in the force used from the outside. That was a lesson Dominicans learned.

The New York Times and Nicaragua

Gioconda Belli, the excellent Nicaraguan writer, has published a great article in the NYT. It is titled Daniel Ortega and the Crushing of the Nicaraguan Dream. First, she establishes her Sandinista credentials. She was barely 20 years old when she fought the Somoza dynasty. Of the ten members of her clandestine cell, only two survive: she and another one. But she never trusted Daniel Ortega. She considered him mediocre and capable of betraying. And he did it. He became a tyrant. He substituted one dictatorship for another. Yes, he was street smart, but that didn’t make him intelligent. It made him dangerous.

Humberto Belli, Gioconda’s brother, had also been a Sandinista, but he broke with that political group as soon as he became deeply Christian. One day before he was arrested, someone warned him and he escaped to Costa Rica. Ortega’s henchmen raided the house and threatened his wife and his 16-year-old daughter with raping them before killing them. Humberto was a very effective Minister of Education during the government of Violeta Chamorro. The lady, against all odds, defeated Daniel Ortega by ten points in the 1990s. Today, Dona Violeta suffers from Alzheimer’s. Perhaps it is better that she never knows that her daughter Cristiana lives under house arrest; that his son Pedro Joaquín – deputy, former ambassador, Minister, always a journalist – was arrested and taken barefoot from the home he shared with his longtime wife, Martha Lucía; while her son Carlos Chamorro, also a journalist, had to go into exile again in Costa Rica.

The strategy (if that crude thing can be called strategy) of Daniel Ortega and his “eccentric” wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, today hated by seventy-five percent of Nicaraguans, is to apprehend all the possible presidential candidates. Cristiana, Arturo Cruz, and so on up to a dozen potential contenders are on target. They do not realize that holding elections in those circumstances would remove any vestige of legitimacy that they might retain.

Bring back the Caribbean Legion, but on a continental scale

In the 1940s, Guatemalans elected Juan José Arévalo, Cubans elected Ramón Grau and Carlos Prío, Costa Ricans elected José Figueres, Venezuelans elected Rómulo Betancourt, and Puerto Ricans elected Luis Muñoz Marín. Little by little, they created the “Caribbean Legion” to fight in favor of democracy and against the military dictatorships. That fighting spirit crashed against the governments of the United States that preferred to keep their “son of a bitch” in power because we were in the times of the Cold War.

Today the situation is different. The antidemocratic wave comes from the helpless Cuban communism, the populism of Maduro and the confusion in Bolivia. Fortunately, Biden understands what it’s like to work in cooperation. The OAS and Almagro should be the starting point. Democracy must be defended not only with words. As in NATO’s Europe, it is perfectly legitimate to shoot Gaddafi out of Libya or to keep Kosovo free of the Serbs. The key is to create the instrument.

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