Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Brazil vs Venezuela

19 April 2016


Sometimes democracy is really confusing. Take Brazil and Venezuela for example. The economy in both countries is severely affected by the fall in oil prices. In both countries, the power is in the hands of left. In both countries, people oppose that power. In both countries, right may win back power from left following a democratic change. In Venezuela, the left wing President refuses to give up power despite clear general election results. In Brazil, the left wing President refuses to give up power and accuses Parliament of a (democratic) coup. In both cases, the situation is very confusing.

I am inclined to choose different sides in both cases despite its many similarities. To me the situation in Brazil feels very different than the one in Venezuela. Despite the many similarities, Brazil feels like a democratic right coup while Venezuela feels like an undemocratic left coup.

The situation in Brazil is mostly about the wide-spread corruption in all layers of business and politics and also about the dire state of the Brazilian economy. The only person who is not charged with corruption is the Brazilian President, although her predecessor is. The majority of Brazilian parliament wants to get rid of her anyway and uses a weird logic to do so: the expectations in the country’s budget were too optimistic. Following that weird logic, most heads of state would need to be impeached. Ironically, more than 50% of all (left and right) politicians of that same Brazilian parliament are linked to corruption suspicions while the Brazilian President is not.

The situation in Venezuela is mostly about the extremely dire state of the economy. Following the 2015 general elections, the composition of the Venezuelan parliament changed from left to an almost constitutional majority for right (DW). Despite this democratic change, the Venezuelan President is desperately clinging on to the former power of extreme left with the help of the legal system. Democratic decisions of the right wing Venezuelan parliament are declared illegal by the extreme left President or Venezuelan judges. So far, the start of an impeachment of the Venezuelan President lacks a constitutional majority and his term may thus last to 2019.

The feeling of Power is genuinely addictive in politics. We see that in Russia through the flip-flop of the Russian President with the PM role in order to undermine the maximum constitutional term of the Presidency. To some extent, we also see a flip-flop in the USA by Bill and Hillary Clinton given the maximum constitutional term of the US Presidency. And to some extent, we also saw a flip-flop in Turkey between the roles of President and PM since 2000.

The quest for Power is always limited by death (Zimbabwe) and sometimes even by the outright ambition for absolute Power (Bolivia 2016). Even in politics, the (disputed) saying of Abraham Lincoln applies: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time”.

Parliamentary republics with an executive president – aka the Presidential system – seem to be at the heart of these democratic problems. Semi-presidential systems (eg, Germany) do not. Unfortunately, this quest for executive power (eg, CEO, President) also attracts “an intelligent person, characterized by a poverty of emotions, the absence of shame, egocentricity, superficial charm, lack of guilt, lack of anxiety, immunity to punishment, unpredictability, irresponsibility, manipulativeness, and a transient interpersonal lifestyle” – a.k.a. psychopaths (eg, ForbesFortuneTIME).

Explanation of the 2016 Brazilian crisis by Glenn Greenwald


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