The conservative restoration in Latin America

[Translation of an editorial from Página12 of Buenos Aires for September 6, 2014. See original here.]

By Emir Sader

The failure of the military coup against the government of Hugo Chávez in 2002 left the Latin American Right practically disarmed in the face of the proliferating progressive governments of the continent. Since then, it has managed to regain only two governments through bloodless coups – those of Honduras and Paraguay – where the processes of change had not yet managed to gain strength.

But there are signs of a rebuilding of conservative forces in countries on the continent with progressive governments. The threats to continuity in countries like Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, as well as the problems faced in Venezuela, and, in a different way, even in Ecuador, indicate a phenomenon of this kind.

What do these conservative attacks consist of and how are they carried out?

There are common elements among them: the destabilizing role of the private communications media, with the strength that their monopolistic control provides them; campaigns denouncing alleged irregularities committed by the governments, which serve to weaken their image in the view of the public, as well as discrediting the states, governments, parties, policies, as an indirect way of glorifying the market and large private businesses; activity that seeks to create climates of pessimism about the economic plan, of depression, of discouragement, which lowers personal self-esteem. Without that activity, which it uses as an opposition party, no attempt at a conservative regrouping of forces would be possible in our countries.

Based on the power that this kind of activity brings, candidates are offered who represent the antithesis of the progressive governments, although they have to recognize these governments’ successes, above all in the social area, and whose principal programs they say they will continue. For this they need young, “new” faces that would represent a renovation of politics and of the parties, which they continue to attack.

They may have different faces – Marina Silva in Brazil, Luis Lacalle in Uruguay, Henrique Capriles in Venezuela, Mauricio Rodas (the mayor of Quito) in Ecuador, Sergio Massa in Argentina – but they all try to represent themselves as “new,” as persons who would renovate politics. They all have behind them the large businesses and their mercantile interests, as against the public interests  and the social rights gained in these years. They have international alliances with the United States as a central reference point, as opposed to the politics of regional integration and south-south exchanges.

The experience of Sebastián Piñera in Chile was a first attempt of this kind, with a businessman with success in the private sphere as a supposedly better governor for the state. His passage through the executive branch demonstrates how these new faces reproduce the old programs of the traditional Right and end up failing.

Significantly, the alternatives of some strength that are offered in the progressive countries are all to the right of the governments, confirming that the forces who lead these processes target the Left and part of the center. In all these countries, ultra-left groups have never managed to organize alternatives, leaving that role to be played always by forces of the Right.

Since the smooth, level path of military coups, in the style of past decades, is no longer possible, the Right turns to the electoral process, with great publicity apparatus, taking advantage as well of the private communications media as their essential weapon.

What success they may have depends, always, on errors by these same governments. The most prominent of them is the failure to democratize the communications media, which allows the Right access to a great weapon. But there are also errors in economic policies, with their effects on social policies (a fundamental bastion of prestige and support enjoyed by these governments). So when social policies fail, sometimes because of inflation as well, popular support is lost.

In the elections this year and next, some of these conservative attempts will bring all their forces into play, as in the cases of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, while in Bolivia everything indicates that these forces are already defeated, even before the final phase of the electoral process, which should lead to the re-election of Evo Morales.

Brazil is a significant case because of the influence the country has on the international stage, as well as the mass of their energy reserves for the future. The candidate, originally an environmentalist, is cast as the new Right, attacking Brazil’s foreign policy directly, as well as the extent of its hydrocarbon discoveries, and offers the traditional theme of the Right, supported by all the private media, of independence for the Central Bank.

The way progressive forces can neutralize these conservative attacks, disguised as “new,” is by moving forward in the democratization of the communications media, as well as through re-adjustment of economic and social policies, not to move backward but to advance on the road to victory in Latin America, in which the processes of integration have to win, finally, the goal always proclaimed by its governments, but never pursued effectively. That is the road of economic development, with income distribution, of the leadership of the state and of regional integration as a priority and of south-south exchanges.

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