Home Argentina economy Jorge Castañeda on AMLO and the resilience of dictatorships

Jorge Castañeda on AMLO and the resilience of dictatorships

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No to foreign intervention. Daniel Ortega, Raúl Castro and Nicolas Maduro. Cartoon by PxMolina / Confidential

“We must continue to put pressure, but without having any illusions. Dictatorships have proven to be resilient.

By Carlos F. Chamorro (Confidential)

HAVANA TIMES — Former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda has stressed the importance of maintaining political pressure on the dictatorships of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. At the same time, however, he warned of “the resilience of these dictatorships, so repressive, and ready to accept all kinds of economic deprivation as long as they remain in power. Meanwhile, many Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans simply prefer to leave their country,” and engage in mass emigration.

In an interview with Confidentialthe Mexican political expert and professor at New York University analyzed the conditions that Mexican President Lopez Obrador set for the Summit of the Americas, insisting that he will only participate if Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are invited to the regional high-level meeting which will take place in Los Angeles from 6 to 10 June.

Twenty-nine countries, including Mexico and Argentina, have condemned the takeover by Nicaraguan police of the OAS offices in Managua, ordered by the Ortega regime, and the violation of diplomatic immunity that this entails. There were no votes against the resolution, although Honduras, El Salvador and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines abstained. What does this vote of condemnation mean politically?

I believe that Ortega’s raid on the OAS headquarters in Managua was so outrageous that even countries like Mexico, Argentina or Bolivia could not abstain or oppose the resolution of condemnation . In that sense, the resolution and the fact that so many countries voted in favor of it was a step forward.

However, I would not confuse the favorable vote on this very particular subject with the possibility of invoking the Inter-American Democratic Charter against Nicaragua. I keep thinking the votes just aren’t there for such a resolution.

This week, Ortega judges completed the cycle of bogus trials and guilty verdicts against 53 of the political prisoners currently in jail. Political prisoners were sentenced to terms ranging from 8 to 13 years in prison. Can the countries of the Americas or the European Union exert effective political pressure against the Ortega dictatorship outside the OAS, since the OAS as a hemispheric body cannot influence this crisis?

They have done it before: the European Union has pressed, and the United States has also imposed sanctions or condemnations, but it seems that the Ortega dictatorship is simply not vulnerable to this type of measure. They simply ignore them and go ahead with their repressive dictatorial practices. Apparently, they don’t feel obligated to heed that kind of condemnation, or even punishment. This is the problem of a dictatorship which is ready to accept anything to stay in power. They are able to do it.

AMLO, Biden and the Summit of the Americas

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Amador (AMLO) has said he will only attend the upcoming Summit of the Americas if Biden invites the dictatorships of Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela. This requirement has led other presidents, of various stripes, to advocate for a policy of non-exclusion. What impact could the possible absence of certain Latin American presidents have on this summit?

I see it in terms of hierarchy. The absence of Mexico and Brazil from the Los Angeles summit – the latter for reasons that have nothing to do with Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela, but rather the personal whims of President Bolsonaro – l he absence of these two great Latin American economies would certainly weaken it. And everything seems to indicate that these two countries will not be present. On the other hand, there are small countries [who are also threatening to stay away], some of the Caribbean communities of Caricom, plus Honduras, Bolivia; it’s not that they aren’t important, but of course the absence of Honduras, for example, or Bolivia, doesn’t have the same impact as that of Mexico or Brazil.

In my opinion, what remains unresolved is what Argentina will decide, what Chile will decide. Everything seems to indicate that President Fernandez [of Argentina] as well as President Boric [of Chile] will go to Los Angeles, and that will help Biden a bit. However, it is a fact that this is a very serious blow for Biden. It won’t have much of an impact on US domestic politics because it’s focused on other things right now. But, yes, it again reinforces the impression that Biden has generated for a while, since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, of incompetence and incompetence.

What will be the underlying theme of this Summit? For some, it will be the non-exclusion of Latin American countries. For others, the main subject is the democratic agenda, or the impunity of dictatorships. What, in the end, will prevail?

I think there will be a debate about whether or not Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela should have been invited to the summit. Of course, Mexicans [will bring this up], even if Lopez Obrador himself is not present. He will have his little fit, his personal anger, demanding, “Why didn’t you invite my little friends?” It’s logic. However, I don’t think this issue will take too long at the summit, because I imagine what many countries want to talk about, especially the United States, is migration, supply chain issues and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which will not be over by then. I think these will be the main topics of the summit, not so much if the Cuban, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan dictatorships have been invited.

With the vacuum of American leadership in Latin America and the presence of China, which is very strong economically – Is there a way for Latin America to arbitrate or influence the political crisis of these dictatorships, beyond the objection that Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were or were not invited?

There is no common meeting ground. The most serious, the disaster, is that everything has been tried during all these years, especially in the case of Venezuela. I don’t know how many times negotiations have been attempted there, with the mediation of the Dominicans, the Norwegians, the Spaniards. They tried to overthrow Maduro with more or less outlandish schemes, and more or less serious ones. Nothing worked. Nor was there an overture in Venezuela to celebrate democratic elections under international observation. The problem is that nothing seems to work. In the case of Cuba, it is obvious that nothing worked. Obama’s overtures have brought no overtures to Cuba. We have seen this before. With Nicaragua and with Venezuela, everything has been tried but there has been no change. I thought we were doomed to a sort of perpetuation of the status quo, until perhaps biological inertia had its effect.

The resilience of dictatorships

Indeed, dictatorships have shown a kind of resilience. On the other hand, some elements reveal great fragility and raise questions about their long-term viability. This is what we see in Nicaragua; that’s what we see in Cuba, from the point of view of the economy. The question is whether there is a strategy to get out of these Latin American dictatorships in the medium term, because clearly there is no short-term solution.

I don’t think there is any in the long term either. I insist: everything has been tried. Improving the economy of these countries – if it were possible – wouldn’t bring any change either, I think. Tighten them more? Well, [that won’t work] Is. I don’t see how Cuba’s economic situation could get any worse than it already is; and I don’t think Venezuela can be any worse than it was a few years ago when it really hit rock bottom, although things have improved a bit in recent months.

The problem is that the regimes in these countries are so repressive, so cynical and so brazen that they are prepared to accept all the economic deprivation, all the hardship, the shortages, everything, as long as they can maintain themselves able.

Meanwhile, people – Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, Cubans – prefer to leave. Six million Venezuelans have left; huge numbers of Cubans are leaving. I think that in April the Cuban emigration has already reached the levels of emigration observed during the Mariel exodus of the 80s; the current exodus certainly far exceeds the levels of emigration on small boats in 1994. And in the case of Nicaragua, you know how many Nicaraguans are fleeing the country.

Dictatorships crumble from within, under external pressure that conditions relief on the restoration of democratic freedoms, in order to bring about change. This is what happened at the end of the 1980s with the Chilean plebiscite and the Pinochet dictatorship. Can external pressure help restore democratic freedoms to produce change?

In any case, it is better to maintain this pressure than to release it, but without having any illusions. I think that at this point, it is better to face the facts and conclude that it is very difficult to force these three dictatorships to open up and respect freedom: free political prisoners in Nicaragua, Cuba , in Venezuela too, but above all in Nicaragua and Cuba; respect the freedom of the press and of assembly, the freedom to demonstrate; hold elections without fraud. It has proven very difficult to achieve this, with carrots or sticks, because these are dictatorships that have sufficient repressive capacity to impose their will and not give in to pressure, internal or external.

Can these dictatorships endure and prove viable in the long term?

They already have. Who would have thought in 2013 that we would celebrate Nicolas Maduro’s almost 10 years in power? Or that Raul Castro would be 92 and still be in power in some sense? Or that for Daniel Ortega, his own health is perhaps the only obstacle to his perpetuity in power? We must take note of this tremendous resilience and continue, but without having too many illusions.

Lea más entrevistas aquí en Havana Times.