Headline: López Obrador is bigger threat to liberal democracy than Bolsonaro
Sub-headline: Mexico’s new president will be unconstrained by institutions, unlike his Brazilian counterpart
The opening descriptions of the winners in their respective elections , in which each is described as ‘maverick’:
On Saturday, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a maverick leftist, will become president of Mexico and launch what he has called the country’s “fourth transformation”.
A month later, Jair Bolsonaro, a maverick conservative, will become president of Brazil and begin what he claims will be a radical reforging of society and the economy. With his crudely misogynistic and racist comments, divisive nationalism and praise of the dictatorship, the former army captain is often labelled a “Tropical Trump”.
Of course, this is The Financial Times, and the headline gives the game away, in the most vulgar reductive term ‘Left is Bad’: especially since this newspaper and its hirelings have a penchant for swooning in the presence of a Right-Wing ‘Strong Man’. Although Mr. Rathbone does not shy away from Bolsonaro’s loudly proclaimed murderous intent, to those who fail to qualify as within the exclusive Family of Men! Women are in his World View submissive to male power, but on the question of race, Brazil’s population is a mixture of the Indigenous, Blacks and Europeans. Bolsonaro’s racism is antithetical to Brazil’s actuality. Mr. Rathbone then begins his essay with the observation that Obrador And Bolsonaro are ‘throwbacks’:
The two leaders are part of the epochal changes that are sweeping Latin America’s two biggest economies. Although from opposite ends of the political spectrum, both are also throwbacks to an age of caudillos, or populist strong men, that the region had seemingly left behind. Who though is the bigger threat to liberal democracy? Almost certainly “peace and love” Mr López Obrador rather than “lock ‘em up” Mr Bolsonaro.
The real threat, as Mr. Rathbone proclaims rather that argues it, is that Obrador will be ‘institutionally unconstrained’ in his use of his presidential power, while Bolsonaro will be ‘institutionally constrained‘. The evidence offered by the impeachment of Rousseff , the appointment of the utterly corrupt Temer, barred from seeking elective office for eight years, and the jailing of Lula make the notion of ‘constraint’ ring as hollow as it is! Given the utterly corrupt character of Brazil’s political class, as demonstrated by the events of Brazilian political history: the 1964 Coup is the most obvious historical lesson that ‘constraint‘ has been in the past subject to political violence! Mr. Rathbone’s surmise is that the reader of his essay does not have access to other sources of information on Brazil, like Glenn Greenwald’s first hand reports on Brazil at The Intercept!
In his final paragraphs of Mr. Rathbone’s near Bolsonaro apologetic and Obrador muted hysteric are nothing if not predictable:
He has also said Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro is “welcome” at his inauguration, despite his regime’s record of human rights abuses and theft.
Mr López Obrador, by contrast, will be able to implement his vision of change. Arguably, he also needs to concentrate power in order to improve policy co-ordination and so rid Mexico of corruption and improve the lot of the poor. Yet success is only likely if this concentration is part of a new institutional approach of due process and increased transparency, rather than personalised discretion. Worryingly, it has been more of the latter, so far.
None of this is to gloss over the potential for reactionary illiberalism from Mr Bolsonaro. How he responds should protests erupt over painful economic reforms is vital. Yet if Mr Bolsonaro goes too far astray, Brazilian institutions such as markets, media and the military will hold him to account. His problem is a lack of political power, not a surfeit.
Call this paragraph what it is , in American Corporate jargon ‘Cover Your Ass’!