The inhabitants of Macondo have awakened. And it has not been because of the attraction that gypsy gadgets can generate, but because of the arrival of an unexpected bug that has shown them that they are treated as second-class citizens by their elites. The comparison with the famous story of García Márquez is made by the Latinobarometer of 2021, a report that for 25 years has measured the political and social pulse of Latin America. This year the study concludes that the convid-19 pandemic has put on the mobile phones of every poor person on the continent the image of another world where people are treated with greater dignity, with access to better public health, social assistance, protection . “The increase in Internet connection produces a social revolution by teaching the most illiterate of the citizens of the region that they treat them badly, that they are discriminated against, that they have rights and that they can claim them,” the report states. In short, the covid has reinforced the dislike of Latin Americans with politics, has increased social discontent and has put in check some elites unable to end inequality.
In addition to a wake of death, the pandemic has added 50 million poor people to a region that already had the highest percentages of inequality on the planet. Latin America accumulated 20% of the covid infections in the world and 30% of the deceased, which has shown, according to the report, the weakness of Latin American states to face events that put their populations at risk. But it has also opened the eyes of its citizens. “The pandemic ends up being a lesson in humanity and democracy, the right to be treated as equal, since each person observes how societies function in other latitudes. For the first time en masse, the citizen becomes aware of his condition and learns what to do with it ”, states the Latinobarómetro. The discontent is confirmed by the widespread rejection of the performance of the elites and a drop in half in the approval of the rulers throughout the region.
“The virus spread in the region when democracy and governments were at their lowest intensity … Disenchantment with politics continues to deepen, despite the apparent success of the emergence of small segments of the middle classes as a result of growth in the first decade of the century. There was enormous political naivety in thinking that the emergence of these middle classes would be simultaneous with the end of inequalities. On the contrary, it produced a greater contrast with those who were left behind, who are the majority, and intensified the pressures to move forward. Most of the region today is located in the lower class ”, reads the study, whose conclusions are based on the results of more than 20,000 interviews with citizens of 18 countries between October and December of last year.
Not everything is red balance. The Latinobarometer highlights the region’s advances in the freedom of its citizens, the strengthening of democracy and its institutions, and the alternations in power in a region that for much of the last century was ruled by dictatorships and autocracies. Now, 16 Latin American countries remain a democracy, where citizens make active use of freedom of expression and show their discontent with the rulers, to the point of achieving a change of course or their resignation. This is what has happened in Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia or Peru. There are two countries, however, that have regressed to the point of becoming “dictatorships,” as defined by the study. The Latinobarómetro pays special attention to Nicaragua, where, it says, President Daniel Ortega has established a “sultanate” made up of his family members, who control power. “Nicaragua goes from the right-wing dictatorship with Somoza to a left-wing dictatorship of the one who overthrows it, with a brief democratic period between the two,” the report analyzes.
“The ‘sultanate’ of the Ortegas – he continues – began to be built in 2017, when he appointed his wife Rosario Murillo as vice president. Ortega ruled from 1979 to 1990 and then from 2007 to today. In his fourth and last election, in 2017, of dubious legitimacy, like Morales in Bolivia, he did not want to leave. The election was definitely the farce of a family dictatorship. In total, Ortega has been in power for more than 30 years, and he is the Latin American leader who has served the longest as ‘president’. Several Nicaraguan generations do not know another president of their country ”.
Ortega has unleashed a brutal crackdown on dissent since June, imprisoning seven presidential hopefuls, journalists, activists and businessmen and forcing tens of thousands of Nicaraguans into exile. The president aspires to repeat his mandate in the November elections, which have been denounced as illegitimate by human rights organizations, the United States and the European Union. The other country in perpetual crisis is Venezuela, “with a more classic populist dictatorship than the Nicaraguan one,” according to the report, which also shows concern about the institutional crisis unleashed by President Nayib Bukele in El Salvador or Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. “The pandemic has not created any dictatorship in the region: those that exist today were present before the coronavirus arrived. But it has accelerated and made visible situations of inequality and poverty that were previously much more hidden. It has exposed the weaknesses of the States, with sick health and social security systems, the weaknesses of the elites and party systems ”, concludes the Latinobarometer.
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