The Lost Honor of Latin America's Hard Left
As right-wing dictators wreaked havoc on Latin America during the last century, left-wing movements played a major role in the struggle for democracy. At that time, such movements valiantly fought against the perpetuation in power -- continuismo is the Spanish word -- of dictators. They opposed military coups and became staunch advocates of freedom of expression and respect for human rights. Last but not least, imbued by a Marxist ideology they thought to be scientific, they claimed to be the heralds of an egalitarian society that the so-called laws of history made ineluctable.
For their commendable stance, the partisans of the Left paid a heavy toll in imprisonments, tortures, and deaths.
Today, though, one can recognize no principle or value, among those brandished by self-proclaimed progressive movements, that has not been ignored, sullied, or betrayed by the radical Left.
For starters, observe the hard-Left’s double standard with respect to continuismo. Leftists rebel against any re-election attempt of any political leader who is not to their liking. At the same time, they justify and applaud the longest and most tragic perpetuation of power in Latin America’s history, namely that of the Castro gerontocracy, as well as the continuismo of “21st century socialists” such as Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.
It has recently been the turn of Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, to cling to power by resorting to brutal repression and convening -- without respecting the procedures established in the Constitution bequeathed by his mentor, Hugo Chavez -- a constituent assembly whose sole purpose is to eliminate what remained of the separation of powers in Venezuela and to consolidate the country’s dictatorship.
Maduro’s initiative has been repudiated not only by opposition leaders but also by a large number of prominent Chavistas, as well as by a wide spectrum of regional and global players -- among others, the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. Even Switzerland, symbol par excellence of neutrality in international affairs, took a stand against the constituent assembly.
And yet the hard Left remains impervious to the destruction of democratic institutions in Venezuela. It has chosen to ignore or deny the electoral fraud that gave birth to the assembly in question -- a fraud that has been denounced by the British firm Smartmatic, the very company that installed Venezuela’s current voting mechanism.
The despotic nature of Maduro’s regime has been denounced by Venezuela’s attorney general, the long-time Chavista Luisa Ortega Diaz, and more generally by those within Chavismo who have departed from the country’s current leadership. But here, too, Latin America’s hard Left has turned a deaf ear to accusations.
The same double standard is at work regarding coups. Latin America’s radicals continue to cast their anathema on the overthrowing of any elected president who is not to their political standard. They thus vigorously denounced the failed attempt to overthrow President Hugo Chavez in 2002, as well as the eviction from power -- made in conformity with Constitutional provisions -- of pro-Chavista presidents Manuel Zelaya of Honduras and Fernando Lugo of Paraguay.
The same hard Left, however, has had no compunction about applauding whatever coup d’état is carried out by so-called progressive forces. It passionately endorsed the overthrow of constitutionally-elected presidents by left-leaning generals Velasco Alvarado in Peru and Omar Torrijos in Panama, and, of course, Hugo Chavez’s failed putsch in 1992 against President Carlos Andres Perez.
Now the region’s radicals turn a blind eye as President Maduro dismantles Venezuela’s constitutional order -- the very order bequeathed by their mentor, Hugo Chavez.
The hard Left’s double standard has, too, torn to pieces its alleged commitment to the advancement of social justice. Its members miss no occasion to condemn the inequalities that prevail in capitalist societies, but don’t say a word about the new, corrupted class that has unlawfully seized Venezuela’s riches. Never mind that the wealth of Venezuela’s new class largely ends up deposited in banks abroad or invested in firms and real state in the reviled “empire” (i.e., the United States).
What is more, when corruption scandals involving hard-Left leaders are brought to public notice -- whether through the so-called Panama Papers or through the probe being conducted by Brazil’s judiciary into the bribes paid by that country’s public works firm Odebrecht -- the far Left prefers to look away, presumably in order not to play into the hands of the “enemies of the revolution.” They hasten instead to denounce such revelations as “interventionist” moves.
No less obnoxious is the hard Left’s indifference on the social inequalities that exist in Castroite Cuba. Never mind that the country’s top officials enjoy living conditions that have nothing to envy those of the wealthy bourgeoisies of other Latin American countries. Meanwhile the average Cuban has to survive on the lowest wages in the region, aside from Haiti, and devotes every day to the search of foodstuffs, medicines, and other essential goods. Those inequalities are unashamedly ignored by Latin America’s hard Left.
Such denaturing of values has also besmirched the radical Left’s condemnation of violence against women.
Indeed, its leaders and militants never say a word against the beatings that the shock troops of the Castro regime inflict regularly to the Ladies in White, those courageous and defenseless women who take to the streets of Cuba’s cities, usually during the Sunday mass, to call for the freeing of the island’s political prisoners.
At the same time, they have the nerve of loudly vaunting the “anti-imperialist virtues” of Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, passing by in silence the sexual abuse accusations levelled at him by his step daughter Zoila America.
Regarding Venezuela, among the more than 300 women who have been detained for taking part in street protests, many have been subjected to torture. Five of them have denounced being submitted to humiliating skin searches while in jail. The hard Left does not care.
With their uncommendable attitude towards Latin America’s left-wing dictatorships, the region’s radicals have no authority whatsoever to set themselves up to give moral lessons of any kind.