Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla did not move a muscle while Mario Vargas Llosa developed his strange theory about how important it is to “vote well”, not just vote as people believe. The president of Andalusia stared at the writer trying to unravel the intentions of the guest at the Popular Party convention. He did not dare to make the slightest gesture of support or rejection. It is like when a politician hears a journalist ask what they call a trap question. Anything you say or do is going to get you in trouble.
The repertoire of international guests has caused several of these situations in the convention that the Popular Party celebrates this week. The most frequent message: democracy is only real if ours win.
It was not a slip. Pablo Casado has decided to import for the appointment all the polarization and rancor that characterize Latin American politics in recent decades. For the president of the PP, it has not been a problem, because that is the type of confrontation he wants for Spain. It is also the message most used by José María Aznar since the times of the Government of Rajoy. While in Europe the analysis of the media focuses on the attacks on liberal democracy that Donald Trump and his European co-religionists have carried out in Poland and Hungary, the PP now only looks at Latin America and sees heirs of Chavismo on all fronts, which would show that the left wants to end freedoms.
All parties believe that it is a mistake to vote for the others. We are frequently reminded of this in electoral campaigns. Not so many are convinced that their defeat will spell the end of democracy, the universe, and everything else. That is the problem for Vargas Llosa, who has not yet overcome the defeat of Keiko Fujimori in Peru’s presidential elections.
In July, the Atlantic Forum – organized by the foundation he presides over – offered a day of debates in Madrid in which the highlight was the denunciation of the fraud in the scrutiny that at that time was giving victory to the leftist Pedro Castillo. For this, Daniel Córdova was invited, who was minister for 23 days in the Government of Martín Vizcarra in 2018. He said he had irrefutable documentary evidence that Fujimori had been robbed of the victory at the polls. On the day the recount gave Castillo an advantage of 44,000 votes, Córdova said that “we have detected 200,000 falsified votes.”
The electoral court rejected the demands made by Fujimori’s supporters. The final result awarded Castillo the victory with 44,263 more votes than the daughter of former dictator Alberto Fujimori (50.1% -49.8%). The OAS, the US and the EU validated the scrutiny and confirmed their confidence in the work of the electoral authorities carried out under very difficult conditions due to such a tight result. There was no shortage of a call from one hundred retired officers from the Army and the Police to forcibly prevent Castillo from taking possession.
In Madrid, Vargas Llosa lamented in July that the Latin American right-wing campaign against Castillo was not succeeding. He complained that most of the international media described the socialist candidate as someone “close to the poor” and did not fuel the allegations of fraud.
The failure of the operation to prevent Castillo’s victory has not discouraged the PP. He invited former Minister Córdova to this week’s convention, probably at the suggestion of Vargas Llosa. The controversial phrase of the writer in the convention – “the important thing about an election is not that there is freedom in those elections, but to vote well” – has its origin in what happened in Peru. Voting freely is a mistake if it leads to the defeat of the right-wing candidates in Latin America.
The Friday day of the PP convention, which took place in Cartagena, offered another guest adherent to Vargas Llosa’s thesis. Former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana started his speech by accusing former President Juan Manuel Santos, the conservative politician who signed the peace agreement with the FARC in 2016, of having accepted the suspension of the use of glyphosate in the eradication of coca crops at the request of The guerrilla. In fact, Santos put an end to aerial spraying in 2015 after the recommendation of the WHO and the Supreme Court of Colombia for the damage they caused to health and the environment. The current president, Iván Duque, signed in April a decree to start again fumigations.
Pastrana also resorted to the conspiracy theory widespread in the Latin American right, whereby all the mobilizations and candidates on the left respond to the initiative of the São Paulo Forum, an international conclave that began in 1990. According to politicians such as the Colombian Álvaro Uribe or the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, it is an instrument to “destabilize the entire continent.” Its most important public role is more a thing of the past and now it is no more than a ‘think tank’ that brings together politicians and left-wing intellectuals.
Venezuela’s economic collapse since 2014 has not stopped the right wing from considering it the origin of all evils. On the occasion of the last elections in Peru, Pastrana said that “there are serious indications that Venezuela has its hands in the Peruvian electoral system.” Not even the US State Department bought that idea from him.
The guest of honor at the Cartagena convention was former Mexican President Felipe Calderón. Casado praised him with passion, highlighting his reforms in the economy of his country and how he managed to “improve security.” The latter must be news for Mexicans. Eight days after assuming power, Calderón, from the conservative PAN party, launched a war against drug trafficking using the Army for the first time on a massive scale in security tasks. Then began a carnage that has not stopped yet. During his six-year term in office, some 60,000 people were murdered, most of them at the hands of drug traffickers, and there were 27,000 disappeared.
Some successes in arresting cartel leaders had a dramatic reversal. Criminal organizations became smaller and competed with extreme violence to secure control of the most profitable routes for shipping drugs to the United States. New groups such as Los Zetas were born, founded by ex-military and former police officers, who stained the north of the country with blood. There was a dramatic increase in reports of torture and extrajudicial killings committed by the Army. Human Rights Watch documented 249 disappearances of captured people by soldiers who later denied having detained them. The organization admitted that it was a far lower number than the real one.
Calderón boasted in his intervention in Cartagena about how the number of Federal Police agents increased to 30,000 and their cleanliness was ensured with a system of “confidence control examinations” that included the use of the polygraph. They should have extended it to the top of their government.
The architect of this modernization was someone of the maximum confidence of the president. Genaro García Luna, Minister of Public Security, held that position throughout the presidential term. A year after leaving power, the American magazine Forbes put his name on the list of the ten most corrupt Mexican politicians. An important narco had reported from jail that the former minister had been on the payroll of the narcos for ten years. He replied that it was “a disinformation campaign”.
Today García Luna is locked up in a North American prison – he was arrested in Dallas in 2019 – and his trial will be held at the end of October. The one who was Calderón’s right arm is accused of drug trafficking and of accepting millionaire bribes for years from El Chapo Guzmán, leader of the Sinaloa cartel, to allow the shipment of tons of cocaine to United States territory.
A regular guest of the Popular Party and Vargas Llosa has not appeared this week at the convention. Former Argentine president Mauricio Macri has stayed in his country and this Friday it has begun to glimpse why. A judge has called him to testify as a defendant for October 7 and has prohibited him from leaving the country. He is being investigated for his relationship with the illegal espionage of the families of those who died in the sinking of a submarine in which its 44 crew members died in 2017.
The last thing the PP lacked was that his accusation had been known while Casado was passionately praising him during the convention.