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Neofascism in Latin America

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

The observation was made by Spanish essayist Fernando Díaz Villanueva: ''Latin America is reinventing fascism.'' It's true. His comment was made after mobs were sent into Ecuador's Parliament by President Rafael Correa a few days after he was inaugurated. The police did not protect the legislative building, and the deputies had to flee in a hurry.

The newly installed leader wants a new constitution and a new Parliament so he can dictate at will the measures that, according to him, would swiftly put an end to injustice and poverty in that South American country. Correa, who lacks the support of legislators, has the backing of 80 percent of the population, while Parliament is the nation's most discredited institution.

In fact, it is not at all infrequent that societies despise the Parliament members they themselves elected. A parliamentarian is the quintessential politician, and no profession on Earth has a worse reputation. Juan Perón of Argentina used to say, and with reason, that ''when one enters politics, one throws his honor to the dogs.'' How true.

In England -- a country that invented the modern parliament, imposed limits on the unrestricted authority of the monarch and fostered the revolution of freedom -- only 25 percent of the population has a good opinion of its legislators. That negative perception is summarized better than any poll by a saying that's popular among Britons: "Legislators and diapers need to be changed frequently for the same reason.''

In the early 20th century, the Western world was shaken by the War of 1914. As a consequence of that terrible disaster -- triggered by an unbelievable chain of miscalculations, in which several tens of millions of people died and three empires collapsed, the Russian, Turkish and German -- Western societies witnessed the emergence of the fascist phenomenon.

Some charismatic leaders -- primarily Benito Mussolini, the most colorful of all, and later Adolf Hitler -- were supposed to put an end to the disorder created by the liberal democracies and the market economy. Those were the main enemies, the factors accused of provoking The Great War.

Later, those leaders added communism to the list, without forgetting that both political forces came from the same socialist trunk and anti-Semitism, a centuries-old aberration that picked up strength like a killer hurricane until it became the most horrifying and unjustifiable Holocaust mankind has recorded.

Obviously, the circumstances in Latin America do not resemble those in Europe after 1918, but they do have something in common: frustration in the face of the persistent poverty among a substantial part of society, disorder and state inefficiency, the lack of opportunities and generalized corruption.

Who are the culprits in this situation? According to the neopopulists or neofascists intent in propelling ''21st century socialism'' -- Correa, Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales and Fidel Castro -- the responsibility falls on the liberal state and the republican design, with its separation of powers and market economy.

They want to demolish it (they did that in Cuba, 48 years ago) to build a strong state upon the ruins, led by a vigorous caudillo who will dictate the laws, control the judges, direct the economy, make order out of chaos with an iron fist and make us happy at the point of a baton. In a word, fascism.

It is a pity that these fascist-style neopopulists don't realize that the 30 most prosperous nations on Earth are in fact ruled by law, that they are based on the existence of separate powers and limited by the law, that their economic systems are guided by respect for private property and the market, whereas the 30 poorest and most unhappy nations are satrapies governed by enlightened caudillos full of good intentions, willing to impose prosperity and justice at the point of a sword.

Lamentably, the neofascists are oblivious of the catastrophes that their destructive predecessors provoked. They will repeat history.

©2007 Firmas Press

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