For most Brazilians, Latin America is as far away as Indonesia, on the opposite side of the planet. Nicaragua is one of those countries in our region that hardly anyone pays attention to. It doesn’t really care. This week, dictator Daniel Ortega, who has been in power since 2007, decided to fine-tune the electoral process scheduled for November. He sent to jail a series of pre-candidates who planned to challenge him in an election, let’s face it, no reasonable one believes in legitimacy. Even so, Ortega went into combat mode and, in addition to arresting opponents, also imprisoned his friends. People who fought with him during guerrilla times and who, after more than four decades of collaboration, decided to criticize the dictator.
For those who have no idea who Ortega is, the subject appears in the photograph that illustrates this column between former presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, both from the PT. Behind him is Guilherme Boulos, the star of the PSOL and the resistance camped in the trenches of Leblon and Jardins. The same image brings together what is most despotic, authoritarian and gloomy in the Latin American left. On the front line are the then president of Cuba Raúl Castro – currently retired – the Venezuelan Nicolás Maduro and coca grower Evo Morales, who presided over Bolivia between 2006 and 2019. The bald man next to Lula is Vagner Freitas, president of the CUT . Everyone went to Cuba to attend the burial of Fidel Castro, in December 2016.
A few months after this record, the Venezuelan tragedy, the one that is most familiar to Brazilians, would take on even more dramatic contours. Maduro used unrestrained violence to kill 163 people in actions to repress Venezuelans who took to the streets in 2017, asking for more than the right to fair and fair elections. They wanted absolutely basic things, including food. But in the 2018 presidential campaign, Boules he has not been averse to saying that Venezuela is a democracy.
In 2018, it would be Ortega’s turn to show that it can always get worse. He ordered a crackdown on protests against his government which resulted in a balance of 328 dead, in an interval of just three months of disturbances. The figures speak for themselves, but just for comparison purposes, in 21 years of military governments in Brazil they have been officially recognized 434 deaths and disappearances. An account that includes both sides of the dispute.
In Brazil, the comparison between Jair Bolsonaro and Hugo Chávez became commonplace. Every day there is a new ingredient to say that there are similarities between the two. A continuous effort to try to evoke the image of a notorious dictator as an example of what the Brazilian could be or could become. The comparison became even more appealing when a 1999 interview surfaced in which Bolsonaro, driven by endemic ignorance in Latin American affairs, hailed Chavez’s rise to power simply because the Venezuelan is a military man.
I may be wrong, but I don’t remember seeing, reading or listening to someone who appears in this photo calling the current government a pocketchavista. And I suspect why. They don’t because for them chavismo is no offense. Nor did Castroism or “orteguism”, if the term existed.
The fraternization with these dictatorships does not cause embarrassment. In fact, it is moved by admiration.
Conjecturing, just conjecturing, it should not, then, sound offensive to use terms like bouloschavista, lulorteguismo, boulouteguista or lulochavism. There would be no lack of possible combinations to define the affinities.
But of course it would be a great push-button. The same thing that is resorting to the easy way out of seeing Hugo Chávez mirrored in the actions of the Brazilian government without asking for those who actually lived the destruction of an entire country right next to Brazil what Chavismo is for real.
This week, the Organization of American States (OAS) passed a resolution condemning Ortega’s recent acts. The only votes against were those of Nicaragua itself, Bolivia and San Vicente and the Grenadines. Mexico and Argentina abstained. A less ugly way to tell Ortega. “We’re together!”. Venezuela only did not vote for the dictatorship, because in the OAS who has the power to vote is the parallel government of Juan Guaidó. If Maduro whistled there, Ortega would have one more ally for his crimes.
For a long time, I considered the photograph above as a monument to our backwardness. A piece from the museum of Latin American tragedies. But I was wrong. It’s a snapshot of the present. At the back, the big man with white hair, is Miguel Díaz-Canel, who replaced Raúl Castro as president. In front of him is David Choquehuanca, the current vice president of Bolivia, who has no problem with what Ortega is doing in Nicaragua.
More than the past and present, this can be an image of the future. This is Latin America. Many Brazilians forget, but they are also part of it.