Maybe a year or so ago I spent some time complaining about the loose use of the terms “left” and “leftist,” especially in the media but also in academia. Thankfully, that has changed a bit over time, as the differences between all the supposedly leftist presidents has become clear, so I tend to see less of the lumping together. The focus now is on
Let me take Daniel Drezner’s recent article in Newsweek, however, as an example of some analytical issues that still need resolution. He notes correctly that both Rafael Correa and Evo Morales are trying to bypass the elected opposition, though of course we’ll have to see what happens with the Bolivian recall vote (which he does not mention).
He, likemany others, now uses the catchy term “democratator.” The origin of this term is, I think, Guillermo O’Donnell’s “democradura,” by which he intended to mean “hard democracy” but can also be seen as a combination of “democracia” and “dictadura.” The essential argument is that elections occur, but executive power is highly centralized, perhaps even in a single individual, and opposition is suppressed.
So far, so good, but the devil is in the details. The article is about authoritarian governments, but he compares
Then, after citing Chávez as a “democratator,” he then also uses him as an example of the potential democratic future of the world. The money quote is “the Venezuelan people rebuffed their democratator's wishes.” But if they rebuffed him, and he accepted it, and everything goes on, is he in fact a “democratator”?
As readers of this blog know, I have all sorts of concerns about the abuse of executive power in Latin America, though at the moment I think we should be more concerned about