The Latin American political life is gaining momentum.
We are witnessing some serious political purges. Just last month the vice president Gabriela Michetti announced that 2035 Senate employees are getting the sack. She also made known her intention to form a committee that will review the personal records of all the permanent employees. This, Michetti elucidated, will strike a hard blow against La Campora, an Argentinian political youth organization formed and controlled by the Kirchners.
The Venezuelan former opposition, now finding itself in power, faces a moral and legal dilemma: how to proceed in respect to the former establishment. If they succeed at removing Maduro, what to do with him and his supporters? Should they pardon the former enemies and work side by side at rebuilding the country? Or prosecute the Chavists and all the corrupt leftist bureaucrats in general? What would bring about the long-need Greater Good: justice or good will?
This question, by the way, is by no means limited to Venezuela. More and more often I hear the people question the decisions of Macri administration. “Is it really necessary to chase them all the way to hell? Is it really so important to throw the Kirchnerists out of the civil service and other positions of importance, now that the Main Villain (i.e. Cristina herself) is no longer sitting on her throne?”
This question is not so much of the actions, which are, usually, of transient impact, but more of a philosophical conundrum. Framed carefully, it turns into something like “Does losing the vote automatically remove the former officials from real power?” And, even more importantly, “Does it give them amnesty in regard to crimes committed while in power?”
The UN, the international courts and other similar pillars of democracy are, as is their wont, conveniently vague on the point. If pressed, they would hum and haw and admit that there are certain cases when, if it can be proved that specific individuals were personally responsible for torture or gave out orders for murders and so on and so forth, then, yes, these can be put before the judge. Maybe. But not on a general basis, and not down to the level of the bureaucrats or policemen… not even the corrupted officials, or the cops guilty of arresting and torturing the enemies of the state, or the leaders of the youth organizations, or the militant warlords, oh my.
It’s ironic, in a way. This approach plays right into the hands of the corrupt dictators and their corrupt minions. Here’s why. If a dictator is ousted, the opposition finds its hands tied as the “humanitarians” and the “human rights protectors” guard the thieves and murderers against any attempt on their sacred privileges. But if a similar coup puts a dictator on top, he can do whatever he wants, without any regard for the opinions of the same “guardians of justice”.
The classic argument pattern here is Knight vs. Dragon. A knight, having defeated the dragon, should not behave like one – the opposition, having taking the power legally, cannot behave like its predecessor. Here is what I think of this contention.
After Pol Pot’s bloody genocidal regime collapsed, many of his Khmer Rouge followers remained in positions of power. They changed their spots, in a way, and were recognized as ‘moderate’. Their plunder, looted from their victims, voraciously gathered during their years in power, allowed them to purchase comfortable political positions. They were not prosecuted. As a result, Cambodia today, though no longer ruled by a Communist dictator, is still dirt-poor, completely corrupt, without hope of recovery.
After the fall of USSR, the KGB officers, the apparatchiks (functionaries), the judges and the lawyers, and many, many more have not been either prosecuted or summarily sentenced to years of hard labor. As a result, Russia, after its brief liaison with freedom during the 90s, is still ruled by Soviet bureaucrats, who have destroyed the freedom, ruined the economy, turned the country into an internationally despised outlaw, and are hard at work demolishing education and devastating culture.
These are the facts. Now let’s analyze them.
The main trait of a corrupt, authoritarian or totalitarian government is its inherent tendency to grow into every possible niche and area of the governed state, from economics to education and from security to culture. That’s because, unlike a normal, i.e. democratic and lawful, government, it has no responsibility to those it governs; its only care is to itself. Even formally deposed it keeps influencing and controlling the country’s life: the state educational systems; the worker unions; the police and the army; the banking system; and more. In other words, it is like a virus which lies dormant in your spine but which can, at a moment’s notice, wake up and take full control of your body. Just because it’s dormant doesn’t mean it’s dead.
Never confuse the democratic election in a healthy country with what needs to be done to deny power to a corrupt dictatorship. The first means actual change of the ruling group; the old boss stand aside, the new one gets control. The second, unless managed carefully and ruthlessly, means a formal and nominal change, but the power is left in the same hands it was before. This is what the “humanitarians” and the “liberals” cannot get through their heads: they are so wrapped up in their ideals that they allow themselves to be fooled by the words instead of deeds.
The people for whom rationality and prosperity are more important than the pleasing rhetoric understand this quite well. They know it’s not nearly enough to just take the reigns of government out of the hands of those who, having ruled for a decade or two, have gutted the country, filled their pockets from the national budget, privately own a quarter of real estate and industry. For one thing, it is a matter of principle that they answer for their crimes. For another, and a more practical point, there is a significant risk of their coming back in four or eight years. Power is a matter of property – and they have enough of that. Even formally deposed, they still have the potential for governing which they support using the criminal and/or corrupt structures of power. They have abused the trust of their citizens and the ideas of wealth redistribution.
Kirchner’s model of governing was not totalitarian; it was not even truly authoritarian. It was just criminal and corrupt. If allowed to go on for four more years, Argentina would have degenerated into Venezuela – for that oppression and poverty is the unavoidable end of all socialist regimes.
Cristina and her cronies had years to plan ahead. Not only did they grow rich and bought lots of properties, but they had also created a state-controlled youth organization, whose intended role is that of a placeholder, a leftist shadowy power-in-absentia; La Campora, like Quebracho, was to ensure the country stays on its socialist course even when Kirchner herself is no longer setting it personally, and, if all else failed, to drive towards a revolution. Already the Camporists are busy distributing manuals of correct thinking, correct news reporting, correct ways to oppose the government. In half a year they will move on to street fighting. All in the good cause of ‘proving’ to the Argentinians just how badly they misvoted.
So, to get back to the original topic, when Michetti is throwing the Camporists out of their positions of power, she is not ‘consolidating her own clique’, as the liberals would have you believe; she is just being methodical about political cleanliness. She purges the structures which should, by definition, serve the people, of the totally corrupt individuals whose only goal is to bring Kirchnerism back to power.
Beyond that, any shrinkage in the amount of government employees is always a nice bonus, because there is no other structure in any country so unwieldy and prone to cause more problems than it solves.
It is my experience, as well as this whole planet’s, that the corrupt leftist regimes, such as Soviet or Kirchnerist or whatever, never go away on their own. Unlike the short story by Stephen King called “Sometimes They Come Back”, of the darkest and most dangerous political forces it would be more aptly said: “Usually They Come Back”. So be on your guard – and never confuse ruthlessness with cruelty.
Kitty Sanders, 2016