By Beatrice E. Rangel
Two cities will become November 2020's history mile markers: Philadelphia and Lima.
Both indeed became the political epicenter of presidential dilemmas that unfolded quite differently, underlining the diverse nature of democratic architecture in the U.S. and in Latin America.
But they also revealed the reasons behind the perennial underdevelopment in Latin American.
In Philadelphia, the process of counting votes for the U.S. presidential elections was contested by the President of the United States who is seeking re-election. Accordingly, his representatives filed law suits to suspend counting of about 9,300 mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day in Pennsylvania -- a state the represents 20 electoral votes.
The Federal Appeals Court rejected the notion. The decision was based on the justices observation that there was "vast disruption" and "unprecedented challenges" facing the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic that justified late arrival. In the words of Chief U.S. Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith, the court upheld "a proposition indisputable in our democratic process: that the lawfully cast vote of every citizen must count."
The court decision is based upon a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision to accept mail-in ballots through Friday, Nov. 6, on account of COVID 19 and concerns about postal service delays. The law firm representing the Trump campaign has filed about 15 more suits in Pennsylvania.
Both political parties as well as the citizenship await the court decisions. Whenever courts decide, the citizenship will abide -- grudgingly or in exultation.
In Lima, on November the 9th the Peruvian congress decided -- for reasons that are not at all clear -- to remove President Martin Vizcarra.
Vizcarra would be a caretaker president, having been elected vice president in 2016 as running mate to Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. In 2018 Kuczynski resigned after losing several battles with a fragmented congress that sought to create a government stalemate that would lead to early elections.
Vizcarra took over indicating his lack of desire to present himself for reelection in 2021, kept independent from political parties and led reforms against corruption while promoting enhanced efficiency for the judiciary.
Given the fragmentation of Congress and the inclination of congressmen and women to receive handouts which Vizcarra was not inclined to distribute, relations between the executive and the legislative power were rather tense and led to government paralysis.
In the aftermath of what he described as a "factual denial of confidence" against his government, Vizcarra dissolved Congress on 30 September 2019. He immediately convened legislative elections. Elections were held on January 26, 2020, and the outcome did not improve governance in Peru as fragmentation became more acute and parties that could be considered as his allies came out as a minority.
As Vizacarra's pressure on corruption increased, members of congress who are being investigated or prosecuted saw the writing on the wall and coalesced to depose Vizcarra.
Human Rights Watch has described Vizcarra's removal as "a serious threat to the rule of law in the country."
Needless to say, the Peruvian people doubted the merits of the congressional decision. And to show dissent, they have taken to the streets of Peru for the better part of the week following the ill-fated congressional decision.
Events in Philadelphia and in Lima shed light on the reasons behind the lack of development plaguing Latin America.
It boils down to the absence of rule of law.
This want explains the obstinate presence of economies of exclusion; the pervasive mistrust of citizens of the state- thus their perennial cheating; and the lack of innovation and self-assurance among citizens.
Because contrary to what most Latin American leaders believe, "the rule of law is not a mere adornment to development; it is a vital source of progress. It creates an environment in which the full spectrum of human creativity can flourish, and prosperity can be built," as the UN Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor aptly pegged it.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 José Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.