Leaders of the people

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By Emir Sader / Source: Pagina12 / The Dawn News / February 24, 2016. The right is obsessed with destroying the figures of the great popular leaders of our time. Argentina and Brazil, among others, have seen this obsession target the historical figures of Perón and Vargas, as if their leaderships had weakened democracy instead of strengthening and legitimizing it.

The right believes that the left can only come into power through charismatic leaders, or “populists”, as they say, that arrive there through deceit and policies of concessions that are irresponsible from the macroeconomic point of view, and, according to them, sacrificing the interests of economy in favor of their reaffirmation as political leaders. There are even absurd theories that affirm that Argentina entered a historical period of decadence with Perón, instead of highlighting the formidable democratization of society that took place under peronismo.

Now that Latin America is going through processes of social democratization again, that oppose the worldwide neoliberal hegemony, the right is hell-bent on attacking the leaders of those processes, as if the processes depended only on the particular person that leads them. The attacks on the public images of Lula Da Silva, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa, and Cristina Fernández, according to the right, would suffice to prevent those countries to continue on the road to social democratization.

Must we really ask ourselves whether Argentina was more democratic with the military dictatorship or with the neoliberal governments or with the Kirchner? Did the state have more legitimacy and prestige when it was ruled by the military or with the market dictatorship, or when the rights of the people were reaffirmed?

Was Bolivia a better, more stable, more democratic country under the ruling of the white-skinned dynasties that ruled over a mostly-indigenous country, or was the prestige of the country and the popular support never as great as with Evo Morales?

Brazil used to be the most unequal country in the most unequal continent. Is it a better, less unfair, more integrated country, that allows people to live much better? Or was it better when the markets and big private corporations ruled without opposition?

Is Ecuador living the best moment in its history now with Rafael Correa or when it was governed by the oligarchies that represented a privileged minority?


These popular leaders have strengthened democracies in these countries, because they have included the great majorities, affirming their rights, legitimizing the states, because those majorities now feel represented by those governments, and because those countries have seen the greatest periods of stability and political continuity under the leadership of those politicians.

What characterizes those popular leaderships? They directly represent the aspirations of the majority of the population, which was relegated by traditional politics and its corrupt ways of choosing representatives, and by the power of money and private media.

The right only manages to create leaders based on strength, that use force and repression as in the times of the dictatorships. Or Presidents with ephemeral prestige, based on short-term economic plans, promoted by media marketing until the inevitably fall in disgrace and their names remain associated with the worst in politics.

Meanwhile, popular leaders manage to confront the corporate mechanisms that the right has in its power (Congresses elected by hugely-financed campaigns, monopolistic media, great private enterprises, among others) to express, directly, the needs of the population that was excluded by the right’s mechanisms of power. That’s why they gain such a tremendous popular support, that no leader of the right has.

Leaders that are strong with popular support, with the legitimacy of their governments, make more solid democracies and don’t hurt them. The right is obsessed with campaigns that seek to tarnish the memory of leaders such as Evo Morales, Cristina, Lula, Rafael Correa, because they don’t have real arguments against them. They know that a people without leaders, without self-esteem, without a patriotic feeling is more vulnerable to defeatism, which is what the right wants to impose on our countries and peoples, and take back all the accomplishments that were obtained under the leaderships of those leaders of the last few years.

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