Osmel Ramírez Álvarez
HAVANA TIMES — In recent days, Dilma Rouseff was officially impeached from her presidency in Brazil and Nicolas Maduro is trying to dodge a direct popular vote which threatens to remove him from office in Venezuela. The first president was subject to a Political Ruling or Impeachment and the latter has a recall referendum on his tail. Having the option to remove public figures from their roles if they don’t fulfill their duties is a crucial mechanism for any democracy.
The impeachment of Dilma, or any president, should be subject to popular vote, even after a political ruling considers her unfit to carry on. The country’s people should have the last say because they are sovereign, regardless of whether statistics show their support or rejection. I sympathize with representative democracy but when critical issues are being handled, like this one, it should be the people who directly make the decision.
Dilma’s offense is serious and it can’t be justified by the fact that her predecessors did the same thing with impunity, almost as the norm. We should reproach her for this, there’s no doubt about that. However, if you take a look at how democratically elected presidents around the world rule today, and half of the criminal severity used against her were applied, not one of them would remain in their position. Likewise, if you applied half of the media war which this leader has been subject to, they would have zero popularity.
I advocate for freedom of expression because I live in a country where a political elite controls and runs all national media. I know what this control of the media and its consequences are very well. In Brazil, just like almost anywhere else in the world, a right-wing elite controls and influences this same media power in a really harmful way for real freedom of expression and democracy; not on the same scale as here in Cuba, but still at an alarming rate. Dilma was a victim of this, that’s a fact.
Political interests for getting rid of her weighed more that her true shortcomings. It’s a great hypocrisy because you have more than enough fingers on your hand to count the Senators who were really irreproachable among those who voted against her. Nearly all of them are being investigated for corruption and those who aren’t, well you can imagine! Word has it that by removing Dilma from power, they have more of a chance of remaining unpunished. So, who ended up winning with the outcome of this political ruling, corruption or democracy?
When a president can be impeached just with a political ruling and where the majority of the Judges are also members of the Legislative Authority, if they have a minority in this State Power, they can be impeached not because they’re looking for justice but because they’re looking out for the dominating faction’s political interests. Undoubtedly, this is a democratic pothole. Therefore, as well as a political ruling, I believe there should be a recall referendum too.
In Venezuela, thank God!, this channel already exists for calling for impeachment via a recall referendum. Congratulations to Chavez and all those in the constituent assembly who approved such a democratic process. It’s a shame that this same Constitution doesn’t make clear and draw out an exact process for how this right should be put into effect, avoiding the President’s own manipulation so that it does not take place.
When dealing with such a long presidential term (6 years), fixed dates should be established and shouldn’t be left to the Electoral Body to decide. I also think that this should be accessible through two channels: on request by two thirds or more of the National Assembly or on request by a certain percentage of voters, however, avoiding the formal mechanisms that allow stalling manouevres, like what is currently happening at the moment. There’s no doubt that the Venezuelan recall referendum model has democratic cracks which mean it’s only viable if the President himself, who is to be subject to a popular vote, makes it so. A paradox.
I stand with the Left in their suffering because it’s my political inclination by conviction; however, I’ve never hid their mistakes or tried to justify them. Dilma’s impeachment, if it serves as an example of a firm hand being taken against the shady operations of Brazilian politics then it’s more than welcome! However if it is just a political plan to protect even shadier operations carried out by the inquisitors themselves, then it should be condemned.
In Maduro and the Chavists’ case, I have no doubts about it: knowing that they have very little popular support and that they would lose a recall referendum right now, they have plotted with both electoral and judicial powers to invent tricks which mock the Venezuelan people’s constitutional right. It’s worthy of rejection, it doesn’t matter if you belong to the Left or the Right. All you need are morals and democratic values to disapprove of that which attacks the people’s rights.
We are witnesses of two simultaneous examples of political manipulation of democracy which mock the general public’s right to decide whether these leaders continue by direct vote. The Right has done this in Brazil, according to laws and even with a proven “crime”, but with the obvious stain of political partialism and double standards. On the contrary, the Left is doing this in Venezuela and is denying its people what the country has fought so long for with desperate acts.
Disrespecting their people and destroying democracy, even though they falsely act in the name of democracy itself, isn’t politics, it’s committing a crime. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Congressman, a Senator or a President who does it. “Yes” to impeachment of a president, but when decided by the people; “no” to the anti-democratic and opportunist use of impeachment.