Like so many in my generation, I was marked by the military coup in Chile (1973) with the direct involvement of the CIA. We rebelled against the military dictatorships of the Southern Cone and Central America in the seventies and eighties, full of illusions and collaborating with the Sandinista Revolution.
We denounced the massive violations of human rights and the policies of the United States in El Salvador and Central America, fighting for the revolution and for a democratic political solution to the conflict. I never imagined that a good part of the left in my country, Latin America and Europe will reach such a degree of complicity, by action, but also by omission, with dictatorships like the those of Venezuela and Nicaragua four decades later.
It was my friend Elena Flores, former secretary of international relations of the “Partido Socialista Obrero Español” (PSOE- Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) led by Felipe Gonzalez, who in January of 2004 in Caracas corrected me when I identified chavismo with the left. “They are not left,” she spat out, “they are fascists.”
History proved her right. Chavismo became a narco-dictatorship, military-fascist, kleptomaniac, and one of the worst “socialist” failures in history. The embezzlement of the leadership exceeds 600 billion dollars…, 300 billion according to the former minister of planning of Chavez, Jorge Giordanni.
By the mid-nineties, Daniel Ortega transformed the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) into a private instrument at his service for his return to power, eliminating the governing bodies and purging the “party” of the most prominent democratic Sandinistas, his most bitter critics now turned into his main enemies.
In alliance with the International Monetary Fund and big capital that made possible high growth rates, macroeconomic stability and taking away the opposition’s support, he created the “perfect dictatorship.”
Thus he came to control the judicial and electoral systems, the executive and legislative powers, and most of the media outlets, until the accumulation of grievances for a decade finally exploded in protests and his answer was: more than 300 killed, hundreds of political prisoners and generalized repression.
Without the $4 billion dollars given by Chavez and the organization of youth shock groups led by Rosario Murillo, the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship would not have been viable.
This week, with a decade of delay, the Council of the Socialist International (SI)—which brings together the social-democratic and democratic socialist parties of the world—expelled the FSLN for violations of human rights and democratic values.
The SI also acknowledged the efforts of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido “to lead a transition democracy, supported by the legitimate National Assembly,” calling for an urgent celebration of new elections that must be “monitored by a new, fully independent and impartial electoral authority…accompanied by the release of political prisoners,” rejecting “categorically any form of foreign military intervention for regime change.”
In the SI congress, the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sanchez, declared “whoever speaks of socialism and freedom and responds with bullets and prisons to peoples’ desire for freedom and democracy is a tyrant not a socialist.”
His statement was similar to our remembered Guillermo Manuel Ungo, a former Vice President of the Socialist International, who used to say, “you cannot be a socialist without being a democrat, or a democrat without being a socialist.”
I understand the reasons for the support of Cuba and its affiliate parties of the so-called ALBA Axis after many billions of dollars… But I cannot get over my astonishment and indignation, that democratic socialists, social-democrats and the democratic left continue to support such dictatorships. Possibly to keep a job in the government, preserve their historical left identity and avoid the trolls and massive smear campaigns accusing them of being “lackeys of the empire, the CIA and the coup-monger right…”.
Felipe Gonzalez took a clear and courageous position from the start, Luis Almagro, former foreign minister of Mujica and member of the governing Frente Amplio Uruguayo, has made all the difference in leading the denunciation, the political-diplomatic initiative and revitalizing the OAS in one fell swoop. Others have done it in a more modestly from our own spaces of analysis and opinion.
It is time for the non-fascist and not Marxist-Leninist left to be on the right side of history, publically condemning these outrageous dictatorships with which—literally—we have absolutely nothing in common. A great honor!
*This article was also published in La Prensa Grafica of El Salvador.