Wednesday, December 1

Latin America: The snake that bites its tail | Opinion

Cuban residents in the Dominican Republic demonstrate in support of protests against the Cuban regime.
Cuban residents in the Dominican Republic demonstrate in support of protests against the Cuban regime.RICARDO ROJAS / Reuters

The dictators that we met in the past in Latin America called for astonishment at their excess and for all that they had as characters in drama and comic opera; were left in spoken portraits ranging from Tyrant Flags from Valle Inclán to Kill the lion scored by Jorge Ibargüengoitia when we have the information.

The tyrant who orders to close his country to isolate it from the world is in I, the Supreme by Roa Bastos. Dr. Francia makes power the sole reason for his existence, and only death is capable of taking it away from him; reincarnates in the solitary leader, locked in his own labyrinth of solitude, in The Autumn of the Patriarch by García Márquez when we have the information.

They are dictatorships that history engenders since the founding of the American republics, caudillos, intoxicated with the ideas of the enlightenment and that turn liberal ideology into an oppressive nightmare. Saviors of the country by force, which becomes an effective substitute for reason.

The ideals become pretexts for the tyrannies that drag the ideological rags of the 19th century and populate the first half of the 20th century. Like Estrada Cabrera, the obscure provincial lawyer of Guatemala, the dictator of The President of Asturias, archetype of the presidents of the banana republics, as they were baptized by O. Henry in Of cabbages and kings, novel written in his exile from Honduras.

Presidents forever who die in bed, or are overthrown by coups that become the substitute for the ballot box. And the deposed flee with suitcases full of dollars in the company of their lovers, opera or cabaret singers. History seen as an operetta, or as vaudeville, as O. Henry teaches. His republic of Anchuria will then be all the republics of the Caribbean. Leónidas Trujillo, Fulgencio Batista, Anastasio Somoza, Marcos Pérez Jiménez.

The next wave of dictators, those who leave their barracks to assault power in uniform of fatigue, are sheltered by Kissinger’s doctrine of national security. They are those who seek to save the homeland from communism, defenders of Western values, just like their predecessors, all creatures of the Dulles brothers; but now it’s about organic gorillas.

Nobody now remembers Geisel, one of the presidents of the long Brazilian military dictatorship, because he does not enter the canon of myth. They were replaceable. There are no novels about Videla, Bordaberry, Pinochet, but rather about the consequences of their sinister reigns; to begin with, the thousands of disappeared thrown into the sea from airplanes, or buried in clandestine cemeteries.

Premeditated methods of control and extermination are imposed on the individuality of these tyrants. Nobody portrays them in the solitude of the presidential palaces. They are atrocious figures, but they do not spark the imagination. Masterpieces of a nameless machinery, which kills ready in hand.

The second half of the century opens with a new mythology, that of the triumphant revolutionaries who come down from the mountains to redeem the peoples of their past of oppression and misery. But this mythology proposes as a new ideological support the implantation of a system in which electoral democracy is dispensed with. Right-wing dictatorships falsify the vote, or desecrate it through the coup d’état. Left dictatorships consider it one of the evils to be abolished. Proletarian democracy instead of bourgeois democracy; instead of corrupt parties, a single redemptive party.

The 20th century closes with the armed revolutions of Cuba and Nicaragua, in one way or another turned into tyrannies without a deadline, and that, when they exhaust their redemptive discourse, resort to repression under the guise that the organized people defend themselves. same when he punishes all dissent with sticks and bullets. Opinions contrary to power, become treason. The party is the country.

And in this mold of already dying romanticism, the socialism of the XXI century is manufactured in Venezuela. It does not start from the triumph of an armed revolution, but from the old coup, which is given a redemptive tinge, and it is demagoguery that conquers the popular vote, under the same redemptive discourse. The old populism that we knew in the figures of Getulio Vargas and Juan Domingo Perón is embodied in the figure of Hugo Chávez.

As the romantic aura of the heroic guerrillas turned into caudillos dissipates, and history begins to recognize them only as tyrants, because there is no longer a distinction between dictatorships of the left or of the right, Dr. Francia begins to resemble Fidel Castro , and Ortega becomes the simile of Videla. They are already fictionalized before, or they are not novel.

Chávez becomes in memory a fairground magician offering colored waters, he and his successor, who is his caricature: but more than his figure of “eternal commander”, Venezuelan novelists are attracted by the stream of misery and ruins that leaves behind his project, a country devastated as after a war that was never fought, more than against defenseless citizens, victims of demagoguery.

And the snake doesn’t stop biting its tail.

Sergio Ramirez is a writer.


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