Editorial, Widespread crisis of legitimacy

In good times, politicians perceived as having done good things can get away with pompous displays. These aren’t those.

Crisis of legitimacy

In Brazil, an already convicted and unelected acting president was shown accepting bribes on national television. His public approval ratings in single digits, his hold on office was saved by a committee of politicians who are mostly also facing corruption charges.

In Venezuela the opposition held their “alternative referendum” and if Nicolás Maduro can make the legal argument that it counts for nothing, the political argument that enough people voted against the president’s constitutional nullification process to win any legitimate election ought to sink into his head. Yes, Venezuela has foreign enemies involved and thugs among the opposition, but Maduro owes the Venezuelan people a recall referendum, which would end his presidency. Not that this would solve his country’s main problem, which is a totally oil dependent economy in a time of low oil prices.

In Argentina a scandal-plagued President Macri is trying to put his predecessor in jail on dubious charges, but his ability to do anything good or bad is crippled by a weak economy.

Chilean President Bachelet, a socialist, has a son with corrupt and acquisitive values that most socialists take as disgraceful. She was not a party to his corruption, but she also presides over a weak economy and has seen her party and its alliances shatter. The old Chilean paradigms seem to be irreparably broken.

How many ex-presidents does Peru have in jail? The count may vary. And is the United States still harboring Alejandro Toledo, or has he fled elsewhere? They say that Burkina Faso can be lovely this time of the year, but there are American troops there now so maybe Toledo should try Tadzhikistan or Laos instead.

Half of the presidential slate put together at the US Ambassador’s Residence for the 2009 Panamanian presidential election is in a Miami jail cell, mailing out instructions to political armies that are mostly not there anymore. The other half is an ever less popular president, not because he’s not a nice guy and not because he doesn’t mean well, but because he’s part of a constellation of political forces blocking any real accounting for the corruption that is and has been strangling Panama.

Do its US sponsors have a new anti-corruption plan for the death squad regime in Honduras? Mostly it’s soccer crooks who are affected. Those who hire hit men to kill opponents of their hydroelectric dams, are immune by virtue of their importance to some big picture somewhere.

Will the Mexican political aristocracy finally collapse in the face of another AMLO challenge? The United States might back another fraud against the former mayor of Mexico City, except that nothing backed by the United States is acceptable to Mexicans these days.

And the US government under Trump? ‘Nuff said.

Sure, there are a few places in the Americas that seem to be in some sort of normal state. Canada and Uruguay have their problems, but seem to be going about their business in reasonable and orderly fashion. If most of the Caribbean countries don’t jump aboard the gunboats that Trump would have the OAS send to Venezuela, it’s not those little countries that are acting unusually or against their own interests.

The main problem is the failure of neoliberalism, the world economy globalized on corporate terms. The secondary problem is that no truly viable alternative appears to be catching on. China seems set to step into the vacuum. Say what he might about the Monroe Doctrine, Donald Trump isn’t in a position to do anything about it. (Yes, he does owe a lot of money to a Chinese bank, but the worse impediment is that he has alienated most Latin Americans in a way that no previous US president has been able to do.)

So, what do to? Any solution must come from ourselves, as individuals, as communities, as nations, as sister republics working together.


Bear in mind…

To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth… is potentially to have everything.
Joan Didion


Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith.
St. Francis of Assisi


Democracy is not something that you believe in, or something that you hang your hat on. It’s something that you do, you participate. Without participation, democracy crumbles and fails. If you participate, you win, and the future is yours.
Abbie Hoffman


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