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Trump’s Lies: A Lesson for the Media

Donald Trump lost the U.S. presidential election, but he still prefers to live in the alternative world that his own propaganda has created for him. In this bizarre universe, he is considered an invincible hero of mythical proportions who decides what is right and wrong, what is false and what is not. In truth, Trump first lied that he won the election and then for days denied his undeniable defeat, but in the trumpworld, the leader is still considered the winner. This fanatical denial of reality is a key essence of Trumpism.

We need to think about the causes that made it possible for the United States to produce, elect, and now fire a leader who presented such a disastrous right-wing populist combination of denial of science regarding the Covid and racism, violence, corruption, and failed positions and actions in terms of economics, politics, health, climate change, taxes, and income inequality. A key part of the explanation is the lies. In short, a fundamental cause of Trumpismo’s success was that the Trumpistas manufactured, circulated, and sold lies and many Americans bought these lies.

The manufacture of disinformation will be remembered as the trademark of the history of Trumpismo.

The manufacture of disinformation will be remembered as the trademark of the history of Trumpismo. But we must not forget that an equally significant lesson is that Trumpism succeeded because real news has been constantly minimized in the media by the amplification of government propaganda.

As a candidate in 2016, and before that, Trump used “birtherism” (racist lies claiming that President Barack Obama was not born in the US), and other conspiracy theories to present himself as a key political player. As president, he reached a whole new level of propaganda with his falsehoods about minorities, immigrants and, last but not least, the Coronavirus.

Thus, of all the things that have been said about Donald Trump, the comparison with one of the most infamous liars in history, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, remains the most extreme and yet the most accurate. The reason for this is simple: Trump is lying through fascist propaganda techniques.

In explaining why Donald Trump lies so much, President-elect Joe Biden recently resorted to a proper historical comparison, saying that Trump lies “like Goebbels”. You tell the lie long enough, you keep repeating it, repeating it, repeating it, and the lie becomes common knowledge. Like many historians of fascism and populism, I believe Biden is correct, although, as I explain in my work on the history of fascist lies, Goebbels never said that repeating lies was part of his strategy. In fact, like Trump, he believed in the lies he fabricated.

To be sure, most politicians lie, but as a liar, Trump plays in a different league. From a historical perspective, there is no doubt that Trump participates in a tradition of totalitarian lies that have nothing to do with the conventional lies of traditional politicians on both the left and the right. And here Biden’s criticism is correct.

Trump lies like a cult leader.

Trump lies like a cult leader. He believes that his lies are in service of a larger truth based on the faith that he himself embodies. The history of fascism presents a multitude of cases of such liars who believe and want to change the world to fit their lies, from Benito Mussolini to Adolf Hitler and many other dictators and ideologues.

There is a chronology of totalitarian lies. The fascists increased and dominated the fabrication of lies after years of being in power. The same thing happened with Trumpism and the paroxysm of the lie reached its peak in the last days with the lies about fraud and illegal votes.

But the real news is that Trump will no longer be able to manufacture and spread lies from the White House. And at least these days, there is no longer a news cycle centered on Trump. The media circulation of Trump’s lies was commonplace for the past four years, but this has changed with Trump’s defeat. But will the media learn the lesson and not put Trump’s propaganda above all else in the coming weeks, months and years?

This lesson also applies to Trump’s allies on a global scale. Like Trump, post-fascist populists like Jair Mesias Bolsonaro in Brazil or Narendra Modi in India have lied for many years, most recently about the coronavirus, and like Trump, have used it as an excuse to promote their totalitarian vocations. It is not by chance that repression and violence increased in the United States, India and Brazil at the same time that these countries became the most affected by the virus.  Biden is right, Trump has lied like Goebbels. If this lesson is not learned and fascist-type lies are uncritically circulated, democracy will again be threatened by future forms of Trumpism.

Photo by Gage Skidmore at / CC BY-SA

*Translation from Spanish by Emmanuel Guerisoli

What is happening in Peru?


I am writing this article after the swearing in of Manuel Merino as President of the Republic of Peru on November 10. Let us recall that in July 2016 Pedro Pablo Kuczynski assumed the presidency, for a period of five years, but resigned in March 2018, in view of the imminent declaration by Congress of the vacancy of the office of President invoking his “permanent moral incapacity” (Article 133 of the Constitution). The first Vice President, Martín Vizcarra, assumed the presidency, but the confrontation with Congress did not cease, which triggered its constitutional dissolution in September 2019 (and the resignation of the second Vice President, Mercedes Aráoz) and the holding of new legislative elections in January of this year. It is this Congress that has declared Vizcarra’s “permanent moral incapacity”; while the second Vice President had already resigned from the post, the next in line of succession was the President of Congress, now President of the Republic.

Let’s start analyzing things from the most immediate and try to get to the bottom-line implications. On the morning of November 9, the day on which the second motion of vacancy of President Vizcarra would be voted, the forecast was that it would not be approved. The first motion, on September 18, received 32 votes in favor, 78 against and 15 abstentions, and in reality, things had not changed substantially in those three weeks.

these are serious allegations that certainly deserve a thorough investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office, but are still in a preliminary phase.

At first, the media had reported several complaints about the irregular hiring of professional services in a ministry that allegedly involved President Vizcarra himself, and then others about the alleged payment of bribes to him while he was Governor of the Moquegua region between 2011 and 2014. In the latter case, these are serious allegations that certainly deserve a thorough investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office, but are still in a preliminary phase.

Considering that general elections have already been called for April of next year, and that according to opinion polls 95% of those interviewed agree that Vizcarra should be investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office and end his government (October survey by the Institute of Peruvian Studies), and that key parties had announced that they would vote against the vacancy, there was some calm regarding the outcome of this vote.

However, somewhat unexpectedly, the ambition of short-term power ended up taking precedence, and so a vote was reached in which the vacancy reached 105 votes in favor (19 against and 4 abstentions). The changes of position and the high vote obtained are the result of a kind of political agreement, a kind of parliamentary “repartija”, which will be expressed in President Merino’s Council of Ministers, and in the appointments of officials that are planned for the coming weeks and months.

Despite the fact that the declaration of a vacancy by Congress has a very dubious constitutionality in the framework of a presidentialist regime, based on an exaggeratedly elastic and risky interpretation (because of the instability it implies for any president without a parliamentary majority), Vizcarra announced on the night of November 9 that he would leave office.

This decision could have been influenced by the fact that a challenge to the constitutionality of the Congress’ decision would not have prevented President Merino from being sworn in the next day; something similar, but in the opposite direction, occurred with the dissolution of Congress in September 2019: the congressmen denounced the unconstitutionality of the dissolution, but the legal resources they filed (and which they eventually lost) could not prevent its closure and the calling of new elections.

If we look at things from a broader perspective, it could be said that this episode is part of a series, begun in July 2016, with the election of President Kuczynski. On that date, when looking at Peru from a political angle, it could have been said that the most striking feature of the country was the remarkable continuity of market-oriented policies, begun in the 1990s, despite the victories of candidates with critical discourses of neoliberalism, such as Alan García in 2006 and Ollanta Humala in 2011. And of the remarkable, by Peruvian standards, democratic continuity since 2001, despite the extreme precariousness of its parties, the non-existence of a party system proper, and the scant legitimacy of political institutions.

What has changed? First, the deceleration of economic growth, which has been evident since 2014, cracked the neoliberal consensus, which had been fairly cohesive up to that point. Second, Fujimorism, which had been a “guarantor” of the market economy in 2006 and 2011, changed profoundly after losing the 2016 presidential election, in which it obtained an absolute majority of parliamentary representation. What was perceived as an opportunity to launch a “second generation” of market-oriented reforms, turned into a growing confrontation between the executive and the legislature, which led to Kuczynski’s resignation, and then to the dissolution of Congress by Vizcarra.

The election of the new Congress in January of this year, in which the government did not present any candidates or obtain any representation, seemed to calm the waters relatively

The election of the new Congress in January of this year, in which the government did not present any candidates or obtain any representation, seemed to calm the waters relatively (a Congress with a short mandate, in which a certain fragmentation of the vote and the predominance of moderate positions prevailed) but the Covid-19 quickly changed the panorama: Peru was one of the countries in the region that had been hit hardest by the epidemic, both in terms of health and the economy, which encouraged the development of populist (and rather demagogic) positions in all benches, which generated a growing distance from the executive branch.

Thus, initiatives that had not been seen in Peru in the last thirty years began to appear in Congress with broad consensus, openly challenging the pro-market consensus that distinguished Peru in the context of the region. A reality was revealed in which parliamentary representation is very individualistic, populated by multiple particularistic interests, some of which are linked to sectors that are very opposed to any attempt to change the status quo.

This type of representation, on the one hand, found a brake on the policies of the Vizcarra government, and on the other, was affected by some of its reform initiatives. With all its limitations, Vizcarra promoted a judicial reform, a political reform, an educational reform, which generated resistance in conservative sectors and also with some corruption networks. In addition, there are sectors close to Fujimori that lost out with the closing of Congress last year. President Merino now represents this constellation of interests.

It is this confrontation that distanced the Congress from President Vizcarra, and that made it fall, without tools to face an opposition majority. Thus, we are not only facing a temporary crisis, but the possibility of witnessing the beginning of the end of a longer cycle, started thirty years ago.

What will come in the immediate future? Unfortunately, there is not much room for optimism regarding President Merino’s administration. And we can only cross our fingers so that the 2021 elections, which are being held in the midst of great dispersion and uncertainty, will generate a result that will allow the next government a minimum of viability to face the challenges left by the health emergency, the need to reactivate the economy, and institutional reconstruction.

*Translation from Spanish by Emmanuel Guerisoli

Socioeconomic Factors and the COVID-19 crisis in Latin America


Far from generating opportunities, periods of crisis generally reveal structural problems that, in normal circumstances, can go unnoticed. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused the greatest economic and social crisis in the last century. In this context, Latin America has been one of the most affected regions. According to estimates by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), per capita GDP at the end of 2020 would equal that of 2010 , 2.7 million businesses are expected to close, unemployment would reach 44 million people and extreme poverty would reach levels similar to 1990. 

In addition to the economic aftermath, Latin America is one of the world’s territories with the highest human loss rate. According to information from Johns Hopkins University, as of 28 October, the total number of Covid-19 confirmed cases amounted to 44 million people and 1.17 million deaths worldwide. Of these, 11 million cases and 394,000 deaths correspond to Latin America and the Caribbean. In other words, the region accounts for 24.95% of cases and 33.8% of reported deaths, with some nations being the most affected. 

For example, the countries with the highest number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants are Peru, which has 106.9 (first in the world), followed by Bolivia with 76.4 (fourth), Brazil 75.4 (sixth), Chile 74.9 (eighth), Ecuador 73.7 (ninth) and Mexico 71.2 (tenth). In addition, Mexico, Ecuador and Bolivia have high levels of fatalities (deaths/confirmed cases) with 10.0%, 7.7% and 6.1%, respectively. It should be noted that these figures contain a degree of inaccuracy, as thousands of infections and deaths cannot be confirmed due to limitations in the use of Covid-19 tests. 

some socioeconomic variables reveal characteristics that are typical of the Latin American reality.

However, what factors could explain these figures? The answer is extremely complex. On the one hand, there are subjective causes that impede their adequate measurement. Of them are idiosyncratic factors, such as lack of knowledge of the disease’s scope, inadequate behavior in line with authorities’ guidelines, lack of credibility in light of decisions made by the political power and, among other, people’s attachment to close social relationships. On the other hand, there are  elements that allow a more objective analysis in order to establish possible causes for this humanitarian crisis. More precisely, some socioeconomic variables reveal characteristics that are typical of the Latin American reality.

The following indicators reflect the vulnerability of that group of nations most affected. Peru has allocated the lowest spending on health in South America (4.9 percent of GDP) between 2010 and 2018. The nation also maintains the second place in the region in terms of vulnerable employment (50.9 percent of total employment). It has inadequate processes to control corruption and maintains low effectiveness in government spending, according to the World Bank’s Governance Indicators. 

In Bolivia, the access to basic services is the most precarious in South America (as measured by the Human Development Index); vulnerable employment is the highest (58.1% of total employment); 39.9% of the population lives in poverty; the number of hospital beds per 10,000 inhabitants is 11.5 (data to 2015). 

In Brazil, income inequality is the largest (with a Gini coefficient of 0.53 in 2018) and access to education is highly unequal (23.8 in 2018), while in Ecuador control measures against corruption are practically non-existent, according to the World Bank’s Governance Indicators. This was exposed by the several corruption cases in the management of resources allocated to public health during the current health emergency. 

In Mexico, health spending is the second lowest in Latin America

In Mexico, health spending is the second lowest in Latin America (5.6% of GDP between 2010 and 2018). In Chile, despite being the economy with the highest per capita GDP and highest Human Development Index in Latin America, 16.8 people out of every 100 inhabitants are over 65 year old; also inequality in income distribution is one of the main causes of social discontent in the Andean nation in recent years. The information presented corresponds to the latest available data from ECLAC, the United Nations and the World Bank.

Although no economy has been able to avoid human losses, the latent singularities in Latin America have contributed to deepen and magnify the pandemic’s effects. Vulnerability in the labor market, insufficient systems to control corruption, inadequate allocation of resources to education and health, precarious access to basic needs, the passivity of public policies and acute income inequality have been ingrained problems in these societies. 

However, the harshness with which the pandemic has struck these countries requires collective action. At a local level, the role of the state in establishing policies to achieve a more just society is instrumental. At a regional level, it is essential to establish a real integration project with common objectives that could mitigate similar crises, even if this implies a partial loss of sovereignty. Inaction in the face of this complex social and economic situation would surely cause similar tragedies.

Photo of Eneas in / CC BY

ECLAC respected but not heard

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the main United Nations body for the region, is an institution with deep roots in the history of economic and social thought. Since its establishment in 1948, its reports, working documents, meetings and conferences have played an important role in the thinking and actions of technical and political cadres in leadership positions. 

From 26 to 28 October of this year, ECLAC held its first virtual session.  All the protocols were normally developed under the presidency of Costa Rica, which succeeded Cuba in that role. Obviously, the online sessions, with the usual occasional difficulties of sound and synchronization, did not have the same impact as the face-to-face sessions. It did not look the same. But not only because of the lack of luster and energy that comes with doing things through a screen, but also because of a certain distance between the spirit of ECLAC and the political moment the region is going through. 

The official document presented, entitled “Building a New Future: A Transformative Recovery with Equality and Sustainability,” represents the organization’s effort to structure a basis for the meeting’s debate and resolutions. This is one of the essential purposes of the document.

ECLAC calls for combining the response to the crisis unleashed by the pandemic with a recovery of sustainable development with equality and environmental awareness.

In the text, ECLAC calls for combining the response to the crisis unleashed by the pandemic with a recovery of sustainable development with equality and environmental awareness. Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena, in the foreword, argues that the costs of inequality have become unsustainable. Equality is not only an issue of inclusion and human rights, she argues, it is also a way to sustain income and aggregate demand. being underage and needing to buy liquor or get into a club, there are likewise a few perils while utilizing a phony ID. In this blog entry, we will investigate the best phony ID sites for 2023. We’ll likewise give a few hints on the most proficient method to recognize a phony ID site and what to do in the event that you get found out with a using fake id services in 2023.

The text thus recovers ECLAC’s founding principles and refers to the need for a “development proposal based on the welfare state, technical change and the productive transformation associated with environmental care, which strengthens equality and democracy as the most precious legacy of modernity.

The report calls for a “social pact” and places ECLAC’s thinking on the side of those who believe that the 2008 crisis marked the beginning of the end of neoliberalism and adds that the pandemic has made this crisis even more evident. “The crisis of 2008 first, and to an even greater extent, the crisis of the pandemic, put in check myths that limited the space of ideas and public policies… Some years ago, equality and economic efficiency were considered to be contradictory…

Today there is a growing consensus that inequality is the enemy of productivity, learning and innovation.

Today there is a growing consensus that inequality is the enemy of productivity, learning and innovation. A few years ago, industrial policy was anathema; today there is broad agreement that it is key to reducing technology gaps, diversifying exports, and decoupling GDP from emissions.

The report develops its ideas and supports them with arguments, data and evidence. However, the low reception is evidenced by the fact that the resolutions of the thirty-eighth session write, laconically, that the Commission “takes note of the document Building a New Future: A Transformative Recovery with Equality and Sustainability and welcomes the integrated approach to development that has characterized the thinking of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean since its creation” and “recognizes the relevance of the issues examined and shares the general tenor of the conclusions offered by the document”.

The somewhat dry language is not unusual in the United Nations. However, what is striking at this instance is that in addition to this cold and laconic reception, there is a lack of synergy between the report and the so-called “Political Declaration on Sustainable, Inclusive and Resilient Recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean”, which is being formulated on behalf of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and High Representatives of Latin America and the Caribbean.

This Declaration is much more focused on the response to the Covid 19 pandemic than on the issues of recovery of sustainable development, with equality and greater State participation. Both in terms of redistribution and regulation. And there is a strong interest by the Member States in greater financing, whether through foreign development aid or any mechanism involving suspension or cancellation of debt.

On the other hand, the concepts of “social pact” or “welfare state” are not used and although there is talk of fiscal space and stimuli through public spending and investment, there is no allusion to redistributive policies. Nor is explicit reference made to the type of productive transformation that must be implemented to achieve a green economy, blunting the calls to renew the commitment to Agenda 2030 and its three pillars, the economic, social and environmental. 

At a time when the region is losing instances and spaces for multilateral dialogue, it would be a pity if what we identify as a lack of synergy were to mean that the governments in office are losing the capacity to understand the relevance of ECLAC or simply do not want to show that they disagree with it. At the same time, it would be unfortunate if the same technical teams and the pool of experts that bring ECLAC’s work to life were to lose interest in the lack of echo of its recommendations and become convinced that a new political cycle is all that can be expected.

There has always been a gap between ECLAC’s thinking and the public policies of governments, but this gap widens from less to more, depending on the time. Nevertheless, an effort must be made to find better points of contact, both from the perspective of the internal changes that ECLAC itself can make and from the perspective of greater openness to ECLAC thinking on the part of decision makers.

*Translation from Spanish by Emmanuel Guerisoli

Foto de la Cancillería del Perú en / CC BY-SA

Biden’s Triumph, Trump’s Legacy

We’ve heard and read various analyses of the issues that contributed to the results of the most closely contested and polarized election in U.S. history, an election that kept the entire country and the world on the edge and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Among these issues are the U.S. electoral system, which uses indirect voting, meaning that the popular vote at the national level doesn’t reflect voters’ composition by state, who are the ones that finally elect the president in the electoral college. In addition, early voting by mail, massive in this case due to the pandemic, made the count more cumbersome and complex. Finally, the electorate’s polarization, fostered by a leader who made a mockery of the foundations of the liberal democracy.

The U.S. bipartisan tradition has always had a dual tension: Democrats and Republicans gravitate around two political cultures and their leaders are in charge of moderating them when competing for the presidency. However, everything changed with Donald Trump, who kicked the chessboard, radicalized the game and enhanced the populist factor, acting as the leader of the American people that despise traditional politicians. 

For this reason, the Trump vs. Biden contest was transformed into a crossroads with a different color, nearly existential, in which deeper and more fundamental questions were put to the test. The two sides that competed for the soul of “the deep America” in these elections showed a striking parity of forces. There was no clear winner or a resounding defeat, and it is now possible to see this in the future composition of the Senate and the House of Representatives, with notable parity and diversity. The difficulties that delayed the counting and hence the election of who has finally won the presidential race have left some lessons to learn. 

something that has to do with what distinguishes–or should distinguish–democracies from oligarchic or autocratic regimes: The uncertainty principle.

For now, something that has to do with what distinguishes–or should distinguish–democracies from oligarchic or autocratic regimes: The uncertainty principle. Predictable rules, uncertain results. Something that must be resolved quantitatively, counting each vote, and counting again, should there be any doubts. 

But even if this becomes complicated, as happened with this election, a qualitative dimension occurs in the final resolution. Leaders’ reaction to this forced lengthening of the count; people’s activism on the streets and near the voting centers demanding respect for the popular vote; the role of the media; social media replicating or neutralizing fake news and other contested facts; the partisan lobbies and judicial intervention ultimately tarnishing or guaranteeing the validity of the count. 

All the levers of a democratic republic are put under maximum tension, reflecting the interests at stake, the intentions to safeguard or manipulate the results, to give credit or to dismiss allegations of fraud. But too are the checks and balances that avoid the imposition of a contradictory outcome to respect the popular will, expressed with the vote of the majority and minority. How about trying your luck? Best rated online casinos with easy filtering by country will help you do that. This principle of uncertainty bothers those who–like Donald Trump–believe they know, in advance, for whom the majority would vote. And when they don’t know it, they only find an explanation in deception or error. 

A presidential election can also be a therapeutic experience of democratic restitution for a society like the American

A presidential election can also be a therapeutic experience of democratic restitution for a society like the American which has been split in two, at least. The collective reconstruction of “We The People” –the registered formula in its preamble– with which the constituents wanted to embody a principle of unity within extreme diversity. The American people is this what everybody witnessed during this week: splintered multi-colored mirrors of a kaleidoscope that doesn’t stop spinning, making it extremely difficult to reduce to a unity, which means electing a President. This is one of the legacies left by Donald Trump, the little president who thought he was the emperor of the (still) major world power, to his successor, Joe Biden.

*Translation from Spanish by Ricardo Aceves

Foto de Gage Skidmore en / CC BY-SA

The Strategy: To Delay and Delegitimize

The elections in the United States have their citizens, and the rest of the world, on the edge. At the time of writing this column (Wednesday afternoon), not only we don’t know who will win the presidential election, but it is highly probable that we won’t know it for a couple more days. Why does a country with so much economic and technological advantage take so long to produce electoral results? The answer is twofold. The first has to do with the country’s electoral rules. The second, with the particular conditions of these elections.

The United States is the only democracy in the world that elects the head of the executive branch with an electoral college. Each of the 50 states (and the District of Columbia) has assigned a number of electoral votes. However, there are some exceptions. Generally speaking, the candidate who wins a majority of the popular vote in a given state takes all the electoral votes in that state. It is impossible to know who will win the election before enough states have their votes counted, so that one candidate wins 270 of the 538 available electoral votes. 

In addition, the United States doesn’t have a national electoral authority. Each state has its own authorities, which –depending on state rules– can be elected by popular vote, selected by the governor or state legislature, or composed by a bipartisan commission. Electoral authorities at a state level have vast powers. These individuals, or bodies, decide the requirements and mechanisms for voting (i.e. type of identification, registration documents, vote by mail, etc.), the timing of accepting votes (i.e. whether to vote early or not, whether to register on election day or not, etc.), and how votes are counted (i.e. before the election, on election day, etc.). 

The United States today suffers from extreme polarization.

Questionable from a theoretical and democratic point of view, however, neither of these two institutional conditions had been particularly problematic, in terms of election results, until the year 2000. The country, however, has changed a great deal since then. The United States today suffers from extreme polarization. Republicans and Democrats are seen as enemies. Elections have become zero-sum events in which the victory of one is equivalent to the disappearance of the other. 

This polarization has had two consequences. First, Americans are increasingly divided geographically. The vast majority of states are either solidly Democratic or solidly Republican. This has concentrated the electoral run in a limited group of states (in this case Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin) and, more recently, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, and North Carolina.) 

Second, and perhaps more seriously, polarization has amplified the intensity with which election results are lived, generating perverse incentives aimed at throwing the rules of the game off balance in competitive states. In past elections, states such as Texas and Georgia (traditionally Republican, but where Democrats have improved their chances of winning) have implemented restrictive ID laws that make it more difficult for young people and minorities to vote. They’ve also closed polling stations in mostly Hispanic and African-American areas (whose votes usually favor the Democratic Party), and removed significant numbers of voters (mostly Democrats) from the voter registry.

A similar imbalance has occurred with postal voting. To limit the spread of the coronavirus, there was a major push  to allow more people to vote by mail this year. The pandemic’s politicization, however, made it clear that it was the Democrats, not the Republicans, who were going to take advantage of these changes, triggering a series of political and legal battles over mail-order voting eligibility and the conditions for counting those votes. 

The Democrats, on the one hand, tried to expand mail-vote eligibility, increase the deadlines for counting votes (i.e., counting votes that arrive after November 3) and design rules that would speed up the counting of those ballots. Republicans, on the other hand, tried to maintain limits on mail ballot eligibility, shorten deadlines for counting votes and protect rules that would delay the counting of those ballots.

In the past, how mail ballots were counted in states where this was a small  practice has been irrelevant. They were not enough to move the needle in those states. This year, however, the number of absentee ballots grew significantly. In 2016, there were about 65 million absentee ballots. This year, it is estimated that there will be 92 million. In the three major states for this election –Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan– the vote by mail increased 2807%, 797%, and 277% from 2016, respectively. It is impossible to know who won in these states until the vote by mail is counted, although polls and other election data suggest it is mostly Democratic.

the strategy of the Republican Party and Donald Trump has been to delay and delegitimize.

With this in mind, the strategy of the Republican Party and Donald Trump has been to delay and delegitimize. The initial trend in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan was in favor of Donald Trump. That trend, however, is based on votes received in person on November 3 (mostly Republicans) and doesn’t count (yet) those received by mail (mostly Democrats). 

The Democrats have a real chance of winning in at least two of those three states. Following the line of other presidents with authoritarian tendencies the current leader declared early Wednesday morning that he had won all three competing states, he established that any change in the trend was fraudulent and asked to stop the counting of the votes. 

What happens from now on is uncertain. If Joe Biden wins two of the three states that define the election (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or Michigan) and stays in Arizona and Nevada, he will get the 270 votes he needs to win. That doesn’t mean that Trump will accept those results. It is very possible that the president will decide to sue them by prolonging the decision even more. 

This is bad news for American democracy. Four years of co-optation and attacks by the president and his allies have weakened key institutions of the American democratic framework. If the courts rule in favor of the president, they will deepen the delegitimization created by the increasingly partisan and abrasive process by which the last few judges have been nominated. If they rule against President Trump, his supporters will take him by word and believe that the Democrats have stolen the election. A Biden victory would cut off an authoritarian populist like Trump (and that’s a good thing) though, but any of these scenarios will exacerbate the democratic problems facing this country.

*Translation from Spanish by Ricardo Aceves

Photo by Gage Skidmore at / CC BY-SA

The Problem Isn’t Trump

Notwithstanding the final outcome, the election tie that has been revealed is not a temporary phenomenon. The protagonist of Trump’s resistance is not the White House’s tenant of the last four years. The real agent, even if Biden sounds like the constitutional winner, is that sector which for decades has been considered an abnormality. The stark reality is that the general perception abroad of the United States failed to understand the message of 2016. It may not yet understand it now. And worse, it will never understand it, if attention is not paid to the peculiarities of this society, dramatized by Trump.    

As soon as the glory of winning World War II faded, America’s apparent national cohesion disappeared. One side continued to believe that it had monopolized the soul of the country, founded on exceptionalism, “the lighthouse on the hill.” But some warning signs began to appear with the repression of the so-called Hollywood communists.

Nixon called it the silent majority.

With the dissidents silenced already in the 1960s, the Kennedy assassination wasn’t considered a danger to the national consensus. But a buried feeling called in to come out of the closet. Nixon called it the silent majority. It remained silent during the Vietnam tragedy. It conveniently drugged itself with the satisfaction of the end of the Cold War and of history.

Only then had a handful of novelists wondered –like the supporting character in Conversation in The Cathedral, Zavalita–: “at what point did Peru get screwed up? Some bold commentators would dare too late to allude to the reaction to the sinking of the Maine in Havana, which impelled the United States to spread throughout Latin America, irritating Cuban patriots. The consequence half a century later was the Castrist Revolution. 

The Washington establishment barely flinched and believed it had recovered following the end of the Cold War and also “of history”, according to Fukuyama’s mythification. But that ephemeral glory did not manage to hide the internal problems that successive American presidents were unable to correct. Imbalances, discrimination, marginalization, discomfort, and basic discontent were detected by the appearance of defects in the American dream. 

The problem was that the victims were no longer exclusively the traditional losers (Blacks, Hispanics, native Americans), but also the components of society’s intermediate layers. In addition, components of the economic elite had been added, which seemed to be not content with the tax advantages they had enjoyed. They also wanted to control the political future without getting involved in electoral contests, an ordinary function that they left in the hands of professionals.     

The election result is a clear picture of three Americas. Each in its own way, believing it has the right to be “great again,” according to Trump’s slogan. It was already noticed with Obama’s second election: the potential electorate had been sharply divided into three. 

One third of them have stayed at home, always.

One third of them have stayed at home, always. Another third has voted for the various Democratic Party options. The remaining third has historically taken refuge in the Republicans, supported by a sector that doesn’t seem to respond to concrete partisan lines. Now it has equipped itself with all the paraphernalia that has captured half the vote in the recent elections.     

But the novelty of the last decade, after the defenestration of the traditionalism of the Bushes and similars, is not the appearance of Trump. The news is the protagonism consolidation of that third that Trump has awakened. It is not a temporary phenomenon. In fact, it has existed since the founding myth of the United States was questioned by that third that has remained dormant and shy in its protagonism. 

Like a sleeping princess, it lacked only the kiss of a brave prince, unbound by partisan convention. It doesn’t matter that the princess has behaved like a witch for the other two thirds of the electorate. That peculiarity didn’t matter to Trump, who captured the role of the prince. 

Whatever the official outcome of the election, the truth is that this previously-hidden America will continue to lurk (even more so if Trump wins). It will push for the abandonment of traditional US alliances, it will reject any scheme of regional integration (barely reduced to a pragmatic new NAFTA), it will continue to reject re-entry into UNESCO, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and it will not even pragmatically take advantage of its privileged place in the UN.

In the military front, it won’t know how to use wisely the “soft” power of military superiority, playing dangerously with the abandonment of NATO, it could get involved in dangerous operations in the Middle East, fatally mistaking its useful allies. The continuation of the gamble of unconditional support for the current Israeli government would be a gamble with no benefit.  Any miscalculation with China and Russia lead to a high price to pay, especially in the face of America’s society fed up with war excursions that don’t return any social benefits and only fill in the graves available in Arlington.

But in the event of an effective victory for Biden, the agenda that the new president must address would precisely include the latent and permanent presence of the silent America. In that scenario, he won’t be able to avoid a spectacle of social destruction, the division into irreconcilable factions and the urgent installation (with residence permits tending to sublimate into citizenship) of enormous groups of immigrants. 

Outside the country, it must be reliably understood that the new U.S. government won’t be radically different from what is considered essential in the practically immovable American interests. Biden will have to respond to the demands not only of its voters, but also of the country’s reasonable interests and the consequent pressures of its society. 

Europe, for example, must understand that the demand to its governments for a stronger involvement in the defense of the continent is not simply an impulse of the current U.S. leader, but not a reconfiguration of the military framework. American society will also continue to pressure its government to obtain legitimate benefits from trade agreements. Therefore, it will be necessary to achieve a mutually beneficial equilibrium.

Finally, Latin America will have to make an effort to present a minimal common front if it wants to obtain new advantages, not based on arbitrary decisions in a temporary fashion. In dealing with the United States’ government, be it with Biden or Trump, a division will always be detrimental, especially to the interests of the Latin American citizens.

*Translation from Spanish by Ricardo Aceves

Photo by JSmith Photo at / CC BY-ND

Macondo’s nightmare or the peace that couldn’t be

This November marks four years since the signing of the Peace Agreement with the FARC-EP. Four years that, even in terms of the dimension of the violence and the internal armed conflict, seem, undoubtedly, many more. It is clear that the signing of a peace agreement is always a complex issue, with many nuances, with undeniable misgivings and expectations at stake. Even more so, if we speak of the longest-running armed conflict in Latin America. Thus, what is truly complex is maintaining the commitments, developing the transformations that these imply and overcoming the structural, political-institutional and symbolic conditions that for more than five decades endured the violence.

Inevitably, one could think that the Peace Agreement signed by the FARC-EP, and which for a good part of the academic community is the most complete, on paper, of the last thirty years, was based on a myth that surpassed any glimpse of future reality. Even more so in the land of Macondo as Colombia is. In other words, even if after the presidency of Juan Manuel Santos the best conditions had been provided for its implementation, we would possibly be talking today about differences between what was agreed upon, what was foreseen and what was implemented.

he first great saboteur of the Accord has been the same Government of the ineffable Iván Duque.

Or as a good friend told me just a few weeks ago, between the peace that could have been, the peace that should finally be and the peace that, unfortunately, is being. As is to be expected, it does not play in our favor -where I include all of us who truly yearn for the overcoming of violence in Colombia- that the first great saboteur of the Accord has been the same Government of the ineffable Iván Duque.

A Peace Accord, as former Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzón once confessed to me in a private conversation, “is an agreement between losers”. Expressed in more academic terms, it is the negotiated solution, based on cooperative exchanges, the result of the fact that the opposing parties have been unable to respond unilaterally to their interests within the framework of the conflict. In the case of Colombia, the Accord integrated historical demands of the FARC-EP, such as rural reform; aspects common to all peace agreements, such as political participation or transitional justice; and, likewise, conditions of the Government, such as the surrender of arms or collaboration in the mitigation of the drug business and its impact on violence.

In this case in particular, the current Colombian Government has emerged as the main impediment to the desired implementation of the Accord. That is to say, according to all the monitoring reports, including that of the Kroc Institute of the University of Notre Dame, there are elements that have barely begun to be developed, such as integral rural reform or the mitigation of the problem of illicit drugs, whose levels of compliance are less than 5%.

the same Executive did everything possible in Congress to avoid the approval of the 16 seats that should give political voice to the territories most affected by violence

On the other hand, the same Executive did everything possible in Congress to avoid the approval of the 16 seats that should give political voice to the territories most affected by violence, and even the President himself invoked all possible objections to prevent the Special Jurisdiction for Peace foreseen in the Peace Agreement from materializing. He did not succeed, but in exchange he managed to defund it by more than 30%.

While all of the above is happening, the conditions that have endured violence for decades remain unchanged in one of the most socially (0.54 Gini Coefficient) and territorially (0.85 Gini Coefficient according to land ownership distribution) unequal countries in the world. Even so, coca crops still have an area that, according to the United Nations, exceeds 150,000 hectares. And in a State, traditionally, with more territory than effective sovereignty, the geography of the violence prior to the peace dialogue that began in Havana in 2012 is practically the same. That is, a peripheral violence, on departments that are mostly coca-growing, border, and that have lived behind the interests of a centralism at the service of the country’s political and economic elites.

With the exception of the department of Antioquia, which has a number of particularities of its own, the most violent departments in Colombia are exactly the same as they were a decade ago: Chocó, Cauca and Nariño on the Pacific coast, Caquetá and Putumayo in the south, and Arauca and Caquetá in the northeast. It is no coincidence that these same departments – with the exception of Arauca – are the ones that concentrate 80 percent of the coca growing area and where, for the most part, an even greater percentage of the poorly named FARC-EP dissidents are counted – while most of their members are not former FARC-EP combatants.

These dissidents are criminal groups numbering in the dozens and numbering more than 2,000 in all, which have fragmented and de-ideologized the meaning of the armed conflict under an even more complex logic, in which the old simplistic interpretation of violence has become completely useless

As if that were not enough, we must also add the Gulf Clan, in part, the heir to a paramilitary group that demobilized 15 years ago and has more than 1,800 members. It is true that it is very atomized and subject to the local dynamics of violence and crime, but it is especially rooted in the Magdalena Medio, Antioquia, and the Caribbean region.

The ELN is also present. A guerrilla group that lives fractured between an old political command in Cuba that continues to see the relevance of a negotiated solution to the violence and a new command, younger, more belligerent and also de-ideologized, that has taken advantage of a good part of the vacuum left by the FARC-EP -which was never occupied by the Colombian Public Force- to increase its territorial presence, its number of troops and its resources coming from illicit financing.

Given the circumstances, the result is clear. The Colombia that we were able to dream of four years ago is now a worrying dystopia where every day that passes, the desire for peace moves a little further away. Since the Agreement was signed, more than 230 ex-guerrillas of the FARC-EP and 700 social leaders have been murdered. In 2020 alone, there will be a total of 70 massacres and 278 people killed.

In essence, the responsibility lies with a government that has always been comfortable with the discourse of war, militarization, and the friend/foe logic, and where the electoral and political flow allows for the understanding of such dire figures for the country as that of Álvaro Uribe. However, times have changed. The demands and needs of Colombian society go beyond a narrow-mindedness that, hopefully, will end in August 2022, with the current government out of office. In the meantime, hopefully it will not be late enough that in a few years we will have to talk about the peace that could not be.

*Translation from Spanish by Emmanuel Guerisoli

Photo of the Presidency of the Mexican Republic at / CC BY

Dictatorships Never Lose

Reviewing Venezuela’s future, some possible ways out of the political instability and the dramatic social and humanitarian situation is not an easy task in light of an avalanche of daily news and decisions taken by Nicolas Maduro’s regime. Thus, in the wake of the announcement of “bringing Christmas forward”, the enforcing of the Anti-Blockade Law and the results of the investigation carried out by the United Nations Human Rights Council, it seems that the elections organized by the regime will likely take a back seat. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that each of its decisions and pronouncements are aimed at maintaining this process, which has been tailored to its own needs.

Perhaps the Chilean memory, where the exit from the dictatorial regime was through the ballot box, frequently clouds the political decisions of those who yearn for a peaceful and democratic way out of the Venezuelan crisis. But it is important to keep in mind that Pinochet’s exit was not only determined by an electoral process and that the situation in Chile at that time was very different from the situation in Venezuela today. 

We are dealing with a regime linked to drug trafficking that is facing numerous international pressures

We are dealing with a regime linked to drug trafficking that is facing numerous international pressures, which range from the economic to the responsibility of violating human rights. Faced with this reality, its incentives for a negotiated solution are few if not non-existent.

It is necessary to remember that since the arrival of the Bolivarian Revolution, more than 15 electoral processes have taken place. Of these, the regime was able to calculate precisely what movements were necessary to ensure its victory. Only in the few cases where it conceded an apparent victory, was it only to demonstrate a certain transparency and participation of the opposition. In those cases, however, the government already had a clear road map for dealing with these results and that they were not affected in practice. 

One of the clearest examples of this electoral manipulation was the 2007 Constitutional Referendum where, despite losing the consultation, the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) justified an amendment with the same purposes as the reform. And the second, the declaration of nullity of all the acts of the National Assembly (NA) elected for the constitutional period 2016-2021, by declaring it in contempt, which meant that the opposition would have a qualified majority.

These manipulations were achieved thanks to a constitution tailored to the Revolution, a product of the electoral bases established by the National Executive for the 1999 constitutional process. This process allowed Chavismo to obtain 95% of the seats with 60% of the vote. But, paradoxically, this structure now turns out to be too tight for their purposes, leading them to make a new call for a National Constituent Assembly, which besides being called and elected in an unconstitutional manner, is created with the purpose of usurping the functions of the NA.

This is how a new and fraudulent appointment of rectors of the National Electoral Council (CNE) is reached, as well as the suspension of the directives of opposition parties, without forgetting that previously the process of (in)validation of the political parties opposing the regime and a constant cleaning of the single government party would have been carried out. It is with this recent NEC that the legislative elections are called which are neither free nor fair, in the face of a non-existent division of powers and limited freedom of expression.

one of the most important points to consider is the limitations imposed and the persecution of any opposition voice.

That is why one of the most important points to consider is the limitations imposed and the persecution of any opposition voice. Pressure that had already been implemented by the government of Hugo Chávez, but that now, under the protection of the Law against Hate, for Peaceful Coexistence and Tolerance — which in addition to being issued by a National Constituent Assembly that does not have the power to do so — is used to suppress any obstacle to freedom of expression. And since it is not enough to eliminate any dissident pronouncement to the actions of the regime, it is applied in a discretionary manner and its sanctions are completely disproportionate, with the penalty for intentional homicide being much less than that imposed for alleged incitements to hatred.  

This being so, there are no minimum conditions for considering an electoral process of this nature, taking into account that it is one of the many actions exercised by the regime to seek to legitimize its permanence in power before the International Community.

All of these are more than enough reasons to not doubt that one is facing a dictatorship that by its nature will not be willing to depart from power, and even less so by way of elections. 

*Translation from Spanish by Ricardo Aceves

If Trump Wins, There’s a Danger of an Authoritarian Drift

Within a context of a global crisis, Jorge Luis Borges asked himself in 1939, what the effects of a Hitler victory would be. His answer didn’t leave any doubt of the dimensions of the evil that would come. “It is possible that a German defeat would be the ruin of Germany”, sustained the great writer. He added, however, that “it is indisputable that Hitler’s victory would be the ruin and degradation of the orb”.

Borges, who in those times introduced himself as an Argentinean and Latin American anti-fascist intellectual, committed to the world in which he lived, was not afraid of embarking on an exercise of predicting the effects of a Hitler’s triumph.

Keeping the distance with Borjes’ times, in these days of racism, authoritarianism and planetary crisis it is necessary to ask what will happen to the American democracy in the near future and what the global effects will be.

Despite the polls, the failures, and the constant misinformation, it is still possible to consider that Donald Trump could win the U.S. presidential election.

Despite the polls, the failures, and the constant misinformation, it is still possible to consider that Donald Trump could win the U.S. presidential election. And while it is clear that the effects will not be the same as Borges thought for Hitler –the ruin of his country and the absolute triumph of hate and intolerance– a Trump victory would legitimize an increase in his authoritarianism and xenophobia.

Before making an exercise in counterfactual history on the totalitarian effects of a pro-fascist triumph in Washington, in the style of the excellent attempt made in Philip Roth’s novel The Conspiracy Against America –and an exercise that we professional historians are forbidden to do– it is necessary to think about the continuities and ruptures between past, present and future.

In terms of continuities, it is clear that a Trump triumph will fix, and continue to justify, his international allies, including Narendra Modi in India, Jair Mesias Bolsonaro in Brazil and Viktor Orban in Hungary.

The U.S. government will continue to congratulate its leaders and consolidate its attacks on the independence of the independent media, on minorities and on the constitutional democratic system as a whole.

Likewise, the Trumpism that increased repression, disinformation, verticalism and racism in times of elections will continue to be a model to follow for extreme right-wing populists in countries like Italy, Colombia, Bolivia or Spain. The denial of the role of science in the management of the pandemic will also continue, which will undoubtedly continue to increase the deaths from the virus. And, finally, scandals and corruption will continue, being endorsed by the vote.

In terms of ruptures, many analysts and experts on dictatorships and populism, among whom I count myself, raise the possibility of a Fujimorist path as in Peru (self-coup), Madurist in Venezuela (progressive destruction of democracy’s last vestiges) or a different fascist danger, albeit related with those of the past.

This means, democracy’s destruction from within and establishment of autocratic forms with dictatorial features, in the sense of attacking and closing institutions, phagocytizing the “check and balances”.

This would entail the elimination of that great source of democracy which is the American public sphere, with its discussions, its publications, its independent media and investigative journalism, its universities, its books and its acceptance and promotion of what is different.

It would be eliminated by fanaticism, intolerance in addition to that very American mixture of religious fanaticism and idealization of millionaires and of excessive consumption. Specifically, it is that idea of America that brought Trump to the White House.

Philip Roth’s fictional hypothesis of a nearly absolute denigration of American democracy and democratic culture cannot be dismissed beforehand either.

Philip Roth’s fictional hypothesis of a nearly absolute denigration of American democracy and democratic culture cannot be dismissed beforehand either. Borges himself would later write about the desolation of a future in which Hitler’s legacy and his gas chambers were part of everyday’s life. Both Borges and Roth adopted an anti-fascist perspective to draw attention to the dangers of totalitarian futures and counter-factual histories, and at this point in our present, there are similarities as well.

Facing Trump are Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and with them a coalition of left, center and right (which includes various members of the Republican party). This coalition is trying to defend democracy from its enemies.

Biden himself sustained that he decided to run for the presidency after Trump stated there were “good people” among neo-Nazis at the infamous Charlottesville march in Virginia in 2017. These American elections and their global effects are particularly not so far from the world of fiction that writers like Roth and Borges gave us to frighten us a little. But also to make us think about a future in which intolerance, inaction and apathy can bring us. On Trump’s side, there is the danger that a future of authoritarian fantasies could become real. On the other side, is the promise of a recovery and strengthening of democracy.

Foto de Gage Skidmore em / CC BY-SA

*Translation from Spanish by Ricardo Aceves