Sunday, June 05, 2011

Two elections the same day give two visions of the world

Not only Peru was voting today, but also Portugal and in a way, for each continent, each election was as crucial.

In Peru, Humala, as expected won though by a little bit more than what I expected or hoped for.  That is, he will get somewhere between 51 and 52% if we are to believe exit polls.  A clear victory but not a decisive one and even less of a mandate.  A quick survey of results show that Keiko Fujimori did better in more economically and educated areas (like Alan Garcia did 5 years ago).  I am pessimistic because Humala is like Chavez, he needs a single vote more than the other side to think he can ramrod his ideas, wishes and fantasies over the country.  We can only hope that in Peru big mouthed Vargas Llosa will leave his comforts of Madrid, peerage and all, to live at least 6 months a year in Lima monitoring and defending Peruvian democracy.  In other words, we want Vargas Llosa to put up.

And yet, it leaves me with a bitter taste.  Not that Humala won.  He was not much worse than Keiko Fujimori who was no prize herself and failed to break free from her Fujimorista entourage the way Humala did from his leftist racist nationalist entourage for the campaign, to attract Toledo and Vargas Llosa.  Certainly she would have been on paper a much better president than Humala will be, but on paper, which does not win votes were emotions and symbols carry the day at the end.  She failed to produce the symbol that Humala, on the very last days produced by having Toledo attend his campaign closing rally.

No, my bitterness is the realization once again that in Latin America democracy is far, far from being entrenched and the main reason is that as a continent we do not value democracy (except for a few honorable cases).  We only seek the one that is more likely to give us what we need at the least possible cost for us.  The victories of people like Chavez, Humala or the coming one in Nicaragua by the rapist Ortega are victories based on the ignorance of the people and their non democratic nature in the end, their perception that only a strong leader, a cacique, will include them in the tribe that will provide them of the necessary goods they crave.  Let's not forget that in the first round, Keiko and Ollanta, both with very questionable democratic credentials carried more than 50% of the vote....  The Peruvian people made their choice then, not today.

Must we subscribe to the saying that countries get the government they deserve?

Across the Atlantic things were very different in Portugal.  Teetering on the verge of bankruptcy the country voted to punish the Socialist government that for 6 years led the people to believe that Portugal was on the fast track to progress.  It was not and tonight prime Minster Socrates resigned from any further political career.  That the right scored a large victory is not only a punishment for the social democrats, it is also an acknowledgment that the country is expecting a period of austerity, hard times ahead, and they trust more the center right parties of the country to carry it with more efficiency.

The Portuguese results could have gone otherwise.  After all with the pseudo European revolt exemplified with the "indignados" who are wrecking small shopkeeper at La Puerta del Sol in Madrid, upset Portuguese could well have voted for the green and leftist parties.  But they dropped also, by 4%.  The communist who are of an hereditary affiliation nature in Portugal retained their numbers.

In other words, earthy common sense Portuguese know very well that chanting for weeks in major squares of Athens or Madrid is not what will take a country out of recession.

In Portugal they consciously voted for hard work and tough years, in Peru they voted for reckless experimentation and "gimme!".  Let's compare GDP and Human Development Index evolution for the next three years.....


  1. Milonga9:21 PM

    América Latina siempre a la contramano de Europa. (Perdón que escriba en español, no consigo pensar a estas alturas). Y por acá no existe el voto castigo, o mejor dicho, el voto castigo es al revés. Cuanto peor te portas, mejor te va. La gente aplaude a lo corruptos... Las caricaturas de Weil en tu otro post lo dicen todo... ¡Lamentable!

  2. Anonymous10:27 PM

    "No, my bitterness is the realization once again that in Latin America democracy is far, far from being entrenched and the main reason is that as a continent we do not value democracy"

    It isn't so much that we don't value democracy as that we don't value politics. This means two things: (1) honest, hard-working people don't want to become politicians; and (2) the voters think that being a good politician in general and good president in particular is merely a matter of "saber mandar". They believe that knowledge and education have little to do with it, and even the kind of people who demand to read a dentist's college degree before letting him touch their teeth, will happily vote for someone who never finished high-school.

    The first point means that even when people want to elect a good, solid president, they simply won't find anyone running for president that fits the bill and, like in Peru in the last 2 elections, they have to settle for "the one who is slightly less likely to screw things up." (Though Alan Garcia didn't turn out as bad as everyone feared.)

    And the second point means that the few times when someone with some actual intellectual skills decides to run for office, he'll immediately be discarded as dull or boring or lacking leadership, and will never be elected for anything.

  3. anonymous

    Alan Garcia is actually rather educated and speaks, I think, three languages fluently. That he is, or was, crazy is another matter. Also Keiko is well educated and it showed in her interviews.

    Even Correa has a US PhD and a Belgian decent degree. Colombian and Chilean presidents are of course well educated and until Evo so were the Bolivian ones, just to mention the Andean states.

    Venezuela has been the exception as its presidents never had foreign degrees and few could boast of at least a decent local degree (Caldera was a lawyer, writer, Lusinchi a Pediatrician but CAP had no college degree)

    The thing is that education in a politician tends to be rather a negative in Latin American politics: "el es como tu" did not originate from spontaneous generation... Peru and Venezuela seeming to suffer quite a lot of that syndrome...

  4. Daniel:

    One angle I haven't seen brought up is what will happen to the exiled Venezuelans like Carlos Ortega and Manuel Rosales once Humala sits on the throne.

    I wonder if, all of a sudden, their asylum status will change.

    Any thoughts on that?

  5. Roberto

    Revoking the exile status of these people would mark IMMEDIATELY the subordination of Humala to Chavez, something that he might not want to risk so fast, the more so that Peru's stock market crashed today and had to be closed a few minuted after opening.

    I think they are safe for at least for the rest of this year.

  6. Anonymous,

    "It isn't so much that we don't value democracy as that we don't value politics."

    Democracy requires a set of values that are rare in Venezuela in general.There has to be a fundamental value for each person being equal under the law and as a daily premise, and each person's opinions should hold as much weight as the next.In Venezuela there is too much class consciousness for that.People are too impressed by OUTER credentials and not enough by the inner more essential ones.Then to top it off strongmen are very much admired as a part of the machismo culture.Strongmen have more importance than your average Joe which pretty much eliminates equality on all levels.

    example:A teacher's meeting in Venezuela basically consists of a bunch of sycophants yelling over each other for special attention from the boss.This is the most common occurrence and the epitome of a political , yet undemocratic situation.Boss is ALL.Second come the sycophants, and the ones left out are the ones trying to be considerate of the other.

    I would say that these characteristics have to change( in large part) before democracy can truly stabilize.

    But any improvement in the level of democracy would be welcomed after Chavez.

    When the inner Venezuela changes, the outer can change.

    I am hoping that some people may have changed some values after this horrendous experiment with Chavez.


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