Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Failed US Meddling in Latin American Elections

Tim Gill has an article in today's Washington Post about U.S. meddling in Latin American elections. He notes U.S. officials participating in some manner in Venezuelan, Bolivian, and Nicaraguan elections, pointing out that supporting the military is not the only, or even main, avenue. There are strategy meetings, funding, etc. for opposition parties.

The interesting thing is that the U.S. failed in all three cases.

The failed efforts in these three countries against different popularly elected candidates show that the United States hasn’t stopped trying to undermine leftist Latin American leaders. But even failed efforts undoubtedly generate conditions more conducive to a pendulum shift to the right. And indeed, we have recently witnessed leftist governments displaced in Argentina, Brazil and Honduras.

Now, at least part of the conditions for the pendulum shift are also corruption and economic decline, but it would be fascinating to think about how to isolate the effect of meddling itself. It would be tough.

I wonder whether, even when looking at the U.S. for comparison, that a broader effect is decreased support for democracy itself. Faced with a flood of negative stories, rumors of manipulation, etc. voters simply see elections themselves as less legitimate.

We could also hypothesize that it prompts the targeted leaders to be more authoritarian. We make fun of Nicolás Maduro for paranoia, but he does have reason to be paranoid. As Tim shows, there is ample public evidence of meddling and we do not know what is also being done covertly.

His concluding point, though, is important whether or not the meddling succeeds. We are outraged at Russian interference, yet casual about interfering elsewhere. Why? Because we're exceptional and always do things for the right reasons. And that's a big part of the problem.


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