A series of announcements aimed at Latino voters launched by a Democratic group has created a stir when comparing President Trump with dictators Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro and Augusto Pinochet. The comparison is exaggerated, but it raises some valid questions.
The announcements, announced by the Priorities USA Action, the largest Democratic Party super PAC, present videos of Venezuelan and Cuban immigrants, and circulate on Facebook, Twitter and Google.
The announcements begin with the message “What is a leader? An authoritarian, a demagogue, a dictator.” They show images of incendiary speeches by Chavez and Castro insulting and humiliating their political rivals, attacking the media and suggesting that they will remain in office beyond their constitutional terms.
Then, the ads show recent videos of Trump saying practically the same things, including a speech last year saying: “Under normal rules, I will leave in 2024, but we may have to go to an additional period.”
The ads are unfair
Equating Trump with Castro, Chavez or Pinochet is unfair, because Trump does not wear a military uniform, has not closed Congress, nor has he closed independent newspapers or television networks. And political comedians, who are generally the first victims of dictators, have record audiences imitating Trump.
But a February 14 article in the “Foreign Policy” magazine lists several worrying signs about Trump’s lack of attachment to the rules of democracy. The article, by Harvard professor Stephen M. Walt, argues that Trump is carrying out a slow-motion transformation to an autocracy.
Among the symptoms:
- Systematic intimidation of the media: Trump has repeatedly said that the main media are the “enemies of the people” and constantly tries to degrade and intimidate the press. That is one of the first things Castro, Chávez and Pinochet did: silence the independent media.
- Demonization of the opposition: Trump constantly insults and demonizes his political rivals. Last week, Trump said in Arizona that Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer is an “idiot” and a “jerk.” Trump nicknames his political rivals (“mini-Mike,” “the sleepy Joe,” “Pocahontas,” etc.), often mocking his physical appearance.Trump also often portrays his domestic rivals as anti patriotic, and as threats to national security. The same thing Castro and Chavez did.
- The creation of an external enemy: Trump began his 2016 presidential campaign by falsely claiming that there is an invasion of illegal aliens and that the majority of Mexican undocumented immigrants are “criminals” and “rapists.”In fact, illegal immigration has declined in the last ten years, and crime rates among undocumented immigrants are below those of Native Americans. But, like Castro and Chavez, Trump created the illusion of a foreign threat to energize his base.
- Unconditional Loyalty, politicizing public administration: Trump recently fired senior officials for declaring under oath that the president used US military aid to extort money from Ukraine to investigate a political rival of his, former vice president Joe Biden. Demanding the unconditional loyalty of public servants, even when it is against the constitution, is a habitual practice of dictators.
- Intervene the justice system: Trump’s public criticism of prosecutors and judges he doesn’t like has become so widespread that even his ultra-unconditional attorney general William Barr told ABC News that Trump’s tweets about pending lawsuits ” They make it impossible for me to do my job. ”Wald’s Foreign Policy article concludes that “the key point is that healthy democracies do not get sick or die overnight; gradually collapse, of a thousand small cuts, each of which seems inconsequential at the time.
The modern autocrats
That is precisely what happens in the autocracies of the XX1 century.
Contrary to what the notices of the Democratic action committee say, Trump is unlikely to become a Castro, or a Chávez.
But no one can rule out that, if he is reelected, Trump becomes a modern autocrat, like Vladimir Putin of Russia or Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. That is the real danger.
Translated from the article by By Andres Oppenheimer, El Nuevo Herald, Miami. Don’t miss the tv show “Oppenheimer Presents” on Sunday at 8 pm Miami time on CNN in Spanish. Twitter: @oppenheimera
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