Democracy and freedom in America: a feat with great challenges
SANTO DOMINGO – It has been 524 years since Christopher Columbus arrived at what for the Europeans were a new world very different from what the inhabitants of the other side of the Atlantic knew. This world, as we know from freedom in American history, after the subsequent colonization carried out by Spanish, French and Portuguese has been known since the nineteenth century as “Latin America” in reference to the mother tongue of the Romance languages spoken by these three colonizers and who are now the majority in the 20 republics that make up this region adorned by paradisiacal landscapes as well as cheerful people and culture. But sadly, in these five centuries of existence that began with the establishment of the colony in country, the Dominican Republic, our region has not been characterized as precisely the one with the greatest freedom. On the contrary, during most of that time we have been under the despotic yoke of the colonizers first and of the local authoritarianism in their military and civil versions later.
Despite the fact that the Latin American joint population is around 700 million people, which calls for inevitable differences, there is much that unites us and authoritarianism is part of it. According to the freedom in America essay, all our countries without exception have seen their destinies led by men or groups of men for whom democracy had very little value, to say nothing at all. For decades, the term “The Perfect Dictatorship” has been coined to refer to the Institutional Revolutionary Party of Mexico and its particular control over Mexican politics that so many have wanted to replicate in their countries with doses of magical realism that look like characters in a novel.
Although there have been undeniable advances in democracy, the words of Thomas Jefferson still resonate when he warned that the price of freedom is his eternal vigilance. Except for the exceptional case of the relic of the regime that remains in force in Cuba, classical totalitarianism has known how to adapt with the passage of time and what it feared in the past, elections, today used as an instrument of legitimacy. Beyond the fact that these elections are often at the mercy of an officialdom that does not distinguish between the government and the governing party, that legitimacy that they boast of having won at the polls, they lose it day by day when their actions are constantly harassed political, economic and individual freedoms.
It was the icon of nonviolent struggle, Mahatma Gandhi who said that “An error does not become true through propagation multiplied in the same way that truth does not become error when nobody sees it. The truth still stands even when there is no public support. The truth stands on its own. ”
Those of freedom in American society who believe in freedom have had to face the reality that this is not always welcomed. It is extremely complicated to face a vast history of authoritarianism that undeniably affects the political culture. During years working with the International Foundation for Freedom (FIL), I have traveled several countries working with a wide network of people who have not given up despite all the attacks.
Our Argentine friends of the Freedom Foundation did not give up when we were greeted with stones at the 20th Anniversary of this organization in Rosario during the boom of Kirchnerism, and today we see how what only a year ago seemed impossible today is reality with a government that in a short time has shown to reject authoritarianism wherever it comes from. The Venezuelan friends of CEDICE, whom I had the honor of accompanying on their 30th anniversary in Caracas, did not surrender despite all the government harassment and today we see how the Democrats hold a qualified majority in Parliament and the exit is closer and closer. A new Latin American dawn is approaching and we should not give up. These changes should serve to fill us even more with energy to keep fighting.
Freedom in America today: moral and cultural community
In Latin America, human rights have been invoked as the limit of what is allowed to minorities in power. Despite this, regional thinking seems to coincide with the liberal counter majoritarian idea of fundamental rights, which promotes a particular vision of democracy, in which the scope of the political debate would be limited by rights. For many, this clearly reveals that classical liberalism does not approach democracy as a noble activity, but as the option of less bad government. To illustrate this argument, in line with freedom in America examples, the liberal view applied to freedom of expression, a right especially related to democracy, is questioned. It is argued that the liberal view, according to which freedom of expression is based on the protection of personal autonomy, does not notice that the exercise of the right can hinder the expression of others. Thus, freedom of expression itself can interfere in the establishment of an open and plural democracy. The option before the liberal position states that, to a large extent, the contours and content of rights should be subject to political debate, an idea that seems to clash with the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights, which adopts a position extremely strict against the restrictions of freedom of expression. This shows that in the region democracy is viewed with distrust, and that the challenge of an open and pluralistic debate as the best way to protect human rights is pending.
Latin America is a moral and cultural community, which is a substantial part of the West; although there are those who want to deny the region these characteristic values.
The effective participation of Latin America in the Western world depends mainly on the will of the Latin Americans themselves. Western values are a sure path to democracy, prosperity and real progress. For this, it needs stable democracies that rely on solid pillars.
There is no reason why the countries that make up Latin America cannot be among the most prosperous nations in the world. They face obvious challenges and undeniable opportunities. Spain, the United States and the other western democracies must make a firm commitment to freedom in the region.