La vocación antidemocrática / Oswaldo Barreto

The Antidemocratic Vocation

When we compare Chávez's regime with the regimes in South America that openly call themselves leftist, the trait that most radically differentiates it from them is its systematic effort to build an absolutist power at the expense of the deterioration, if not the frank destruction, of democratic institutions. This effective hoarding of all public powers within himself on the part of Chávez—which correlatively implies the loss of that power in those institutions that constitutionally should exert it—has never been manifested in Argentina, nor in Brazil, nor in Chile, as it is also not seen in the youngest of those leftist social democratic regimes, Tabaré Vásquez's in Uruguay.

In those countries the existence of independent public powers is not only the norm but a reality, as is equally a reality the respect toward other essential principles of a democratic regime, such as alternating leaders, the guarantee of minority rights and the search for consensus when deciding changes in diverse areas of public activity. And, correlatively, none of the presidents of those countries pretends to be the only leader with power, the regime's sole authority.

So now, if we stop for a while to look at this aspect of Chavismo, we find that not only does the antidemocratic behavior differentiate it from those other regimes, but it also gives it its true specificity in our country's political history. And it's not that antidemocratic regimes haven't existed before in Venezuela, since one can say there has never been a fully democratic one. What is radically new about Chavismo in this respect is that the assault against the principles and institutions which Chávez unquestionably leads has found decided and decisive support among wide sectors of the political world, and even an ample tolerance among all social sectors. Veteran political leaders, middle cadres, as they're called in the slang of militants, arrived from all political parties and all tendencies, have been the executors, the authors of this systematic assault against democratic institutions and principles. Without them, without their decisive support, Chávez would not have been able to impose all those measures which have resulted in the impoverishment of the country's democratic life, the permanent uncertainty we inhabit regarding the survival of public liberties and human rights.

And without the worship and the servitude those very polititians have given him, Chávez's pretensions of erecting himself as the sole leader would never have become a sinsiter reality. We find ourselves, in a single word, no longer facing a personal characteristic of Hugo Chávez, but rather the truly antidemocratic vocation of the regime he presides.

And it is worth asking oneself, to return to our point of departure: where could that antidemocratic vocation that characterizes Chavismo, and has not manifested itself in those other regimes, have surged from? A question that not only takes us back to our history, to our past or to our idiosyncrasy as a nation, but opens up uncomfortably toward our future.

Perhaps it is early, too early to consecrate ourselves to the task of answering this crucial question. But we think there is something that already makes itself evident and which can serve us as a guide to expedite our searches: all those regimes to which we have compared Chavismo have sprouted precisely from the ruins of dictatorial regimes, while this one we are living spreads its roots in the ruins of a democratic regime. For Argentines, Brazilians, Chileans and Uruguayans, the dictatorships, the regimes with antidemocratic vocations are very present in the collective memory and they wouldn't want to see them reappear for anything, hiding beneath any type of mask. Here, the immediate past invites us to correct the defects of democracy, even if that means using remedies that will end up killing it.

{ Oswaldo Barreto, TalCual, 14 October 2005 }

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