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Reply #3: One other thing: How did they achieve honest election systems? [View All]

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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-17-09 02:40 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. One other thing: How did they achieve honest election systems?
Edited on Tue Feb-17-09 02:55 PM by Peace Patriot
This is quite an interesting topic. I think that a certain professional class of Latin Americans and others deserves a lot of credit. The poor, the lower class, the workers, indigenous tribes and various social movements deserve almost sole credit for the grass roots organization that first began to transform the South American political landscape. Epic struggles like those in Bolivia between Bechtel Corp. and the poor water ratepayers, or legendary events like the tens of the thousands of poor people in the slums of Caracas who poured out of their hovels to peacefully defeat the U.S./Bushwhack-supported coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002, are clearly the bedrock of the revolution. However, without transparent vote counting, their struggles would likely have resulted in repression, bloodbaths and no progress--as has happened so often before.

Transforming election systems into honest and aboveboard systems also takes time. And it takes people with professional knowledge and experience, and political clout, to re-organize a voting system and make it transparent and accountable. This work began more than a decade ago. The Carter Center is perhaps the most famous for it. But there is also an OAS election monitoring group, and EU election monitoring groups, and others (like the NAACP from the U.S.). All have been active in Latin America. They don't just pop up suddenly on election day and pronounce everything okay from visual evidence alone. They work in these countries, at the invitation of the government, sometimes a year in advance of a major election. They work on constitutions and election rules. They work on educating election officials and the public. In fact, they generally won't monitor an election where this preliminary work has not been done.

These are generally middle- to upper-middle class people--former election officials, city council members, mayors, lawyers, public works managers, etc., who help create transparent election systems, who study such systems closely and first-hand, and who advise the process all along the way. They are not peasant farmers, or urban street vendors, or poor slum-dwellers, on the whole. They are well-educated and pretty well off. Also, their activities in Latin American countries could not have occurred without some elements of the rightwing political establishment concurring. Someone has to invite them in. And, prior to the election of a leftist government, who is that?

So something has happened in South America to cement the interests of the progressive middle class with the poorest of the poor (the majority). Both deserve credit and admiration. I have toyed with the thesis that it's the Catholic Church--in its more "liberation theology" aspect. Social justice--and activism toward social justice; solidarity with the poor--is perhaps the most important tenet of this progressive form of Catholicism. Bishop Fernando Lugo--who was just last year elected as the first leftist president of Paraguay--is a good example of this nexus of the Bolivarian revolution (the coming to power of the indigenous majority), leftist (pro-people, anti-corporate) politics, democracy and liberation theology. He was a bishop for almost 20 years and lived all that time with the poor (not your purple-robed, mitred crown kind of bishop; he wears sandals and work shirts), and he ended up being the only figure around whom Paraguay's very fractious political parties could rally, to oust the corrupt, entrenched rightwing Colorado Party. But, interestingly, the Colorado Party--which ran Paraguay for 70 years, including one period of heinous dictatorhip--had already joined the Chavez-inspired Bank of the South, and had rescinded their non-extradition law (Paraguay had been notorious for harboring fascist fugitives) and their law immunizing the U.S. military. So, something was afoot in Paraguay even before Bishop Lugo was elected. Maybe just pragmatism (Paraguay was by then surrounded by powerful leftist countries--Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina). But it could also be that Bishop Lugo had gotten to some of their consciences about abuse and exploitation of the poor.

Lugo is a fascinating figure in South American politics. He's good friends with the other leftist leaders--several of whom have been demonized by the Bush Junta and our corpo/fascist press. When he was elected, Evo Morales sent him this message: "Welcome to the Axis of Evil."

I don't know that there is a comparable figure in our current scene. Martin Luther King would be comparable, if he were still alive (i.e., the combination of religious inspiration and political action). In any case , Latin American Catholicism doesn't explain Jimmy Carter, or many of the other election group members, whose religious backgrounds I don't know, but I would guess would be quite eclectic, including non-religious and even anti-religious views.

One final thought: The achievement of honest, transparent elections is not complete in Latin America, by any means. El Salvador still has serious problems of rightwing corruption in the election system. Mexico's last presidential election was probably stolen by Felipe Calderon (close to Bush) in a deal to privatize Mexico's oil. Peru still has serious problems. And Colombia is a fascist disaster area, where thousands of political leftists, union leaders, human rights workers and others have been murdered by rightwing death squads. The so-called president, Alvaro Uribe, got his term extended by bribing a legislator to vote in favor of it. The legislator is now in prison for this, and Uribe is still 'president.')
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