“No, mi amor, dictador no sale con votos, esto se resuelve a plomo.”
How many times have you heard this canard? Whether it’s your crazy El Cafetal aunt or the nutter you follow on Twitter (but really, really shouldn’t), people who say “dictators never leave via the ballot box” are persuasive, obnoxious, and loud.
It’s a disarming statement actually, because it makes a lot of sense. Why would a dictator leave via the ballot box? Dictators don’t normally have elections anyway, right?
Yet the statement is demonstrably untrue.
Exhibit 1: Augusto Pinochet. He was a dictator through and through, yet he left via the ballot box. Sure, he only “sorta” left, and hung around for a long time, effectively holding considerable power even after ceasing to be President. But Chileans defeated him at the ballot box.
Crazy aunt: “No, mijo, this is not Chile. That’s a civilized country. This is a narco-state.”
Exhibit 2: Myanmar. This week, the world rejoiced upon learning that the beloved Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD won a landslide parliamentary election, paving the way for her party to select the new President. A transition is already under way, twenty-five years after defeating the military at the ballot box. And guess what? It happened in a military narco-state.
Crazy Twitter account: “You’re so iluso, pana, this is Latin America we’re talking about, not Asia.”
Exhibit 3: Alberto Fujimori. In the year 2000, Mr. Fujimori – by all accounts an elected dictator – got frisky with the Constitution, twisting it to allow him to run yet another time. He stole the vote, but the international community and internal spy dynamics meant his tenure unraveled quickly. Peru is now a democracy – a dysfunctional one, but miles better than what we Venezuelans have.
Crazy aunt: “The problem with Venezuela is the opposition that plays by the rrrrrrrégimen’s rules!”
Ultimately, facts are facts. Dictatorships don’t hold elections, but sometimes they do, and when they do, you better be there ready to pounce in case this is one of those rare instances where … the dictator leaves via the ballot box.
It happens. Not often, but it happens. This week’s Myanmar news remind us that the crazy aunt and the hateful Twitter troll … are wrong.
Make sure you bring this up today at your sobremesa, and tell us what crazy aunt said … and have a great weekend.