By Beatrice E. Rangel
A great finale for the hurricane season has been the democratic storm abating the hemisphere.
Recent events south of the Rio Grande seem to attest to the awakening of a citizenship logic among the inhabitants of Iberian America. In Brazil 10,000 citizens took to the streets to protest after VEJA, the widely read current events magazine, published a report about corruption inside Petrobras.
The report included pictures of documents directly implicating former President Ignacio “Lula” da Silva and current president Dilma Rousseff. Planalto, the presidential palace, responded pronouncing a thorough investigation of the case. Protesters set a term for results and threatened with promoting impeachment should the government fail to comply.
In Buenos Aires, a network of aspiring democratic leaders expressed their discontent with preparations for upcoming gubernatorial and presidential elections.
In Mexico, parents of 43 missing students met with President Pena Nieto to let him know that they will not give up their protest and their nationwide vigil until the government solves the disappearance of their children.
In these countries, the public is not only following but clearly sympathizing with the protests and their leaders.
Leadership for these movements breaks the century-old Latin pattern whereby unfairness, mistreatment and abuse trigger public discontent; a leader then emerges to represent protesters; then the leader is co-opted by the misdeed perpetrators or by authorities that fear the unveiling of the truth will suddenly end their mandate.
To be sure, all three movements seem to have a collective leadership that aims at attaining a simple and direct goal and that has no intention to suspend action until such goal is achieved. For the first time in Ibero America, these movements seem to give more weight to long term progress than meeting short term targets.
And to add to our amazement, there is not a “move-over-to make-limelight-space-for-me” syndrome among the movements. Indeed the leadership is collective and end-oriented rather than fame seeking. I believe such progress lies in the fact that Latin American citizens are coming of age.
This process resembles that giving rise to a good wine. Grapes are crushed. Lay citizens in Latin America are routinely crushed by authority abuse; economic exploitation and social, ethnic or gender inequalities. Then comes fermentation. After decades or even centuries of suffering, civic movements form to demand what most constitutions indicate are their rights.
These movements have been routinely co-opted from the outside or corrupted from within. As a result, most civic movements see their leaders become part of the status quo or disappear from this world -- very similar to wine racking.
Then comes the ageing process where the fermented mix is placed in oak barrels. Lay citizens in Latin America lived for too long a time under conditions of darkness concerning vital information about how, why, and in favor of whom their authorities acted. But today, also like every good wine that absorbs in the barrel flavor, citizens in Ibero America have absorbed the information that constantly surrounds and informs them through printed and electronic media. They thus know far too much about what is really happening in their communities.
They also know that in order to secure their rights, they need to fight for them. And fighting they are!
Through the travails of these movements, Ibero American observers have now been able to positively test their hypothesis concerning organized crime-penetration of Mexico’s institutional framework; the emergence of a middle class movement in Brazil demanding accountability from its president and the presence of a potential Smartmatic moment in Argentina’s upcoming elections. This development is already triggering interesting policy shifts in the region.
On the northern shore of the Rio Grande, citizens made it quite clear that they are not particularly impressed by their red/blue leadership, as about 70% decided to skip voting. Those that went to the polls decided to give Republicans control over both houses of Congress to do away with excuses for gridlock and prevent their children from enduring another Ted Cruz moment on national TV. They further punished both parties by turning into independents to distinguish between republicans those that are true libertarians and cause-oriented leaders rather than insufferable hot air windbags. All in all the two constituencies are beginning to act as people who see themselves as part of a republic. Time to cheer!! Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet seriesBeatrice Rangel: Across Latin America, The Populist Beat Goes On!!
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Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.