The Common Good

Electoral Double Standards in Latin America and Beyond

Thankfully, the crisis in Honduras may be reaching a political resolution. (Though as GP contributor Andrew Clouse observes on the ground in Honduras, the people--as opposed to the politicians--have more comprehensive demands.) But one factoid that's annoyed me throughout this crisis: Right-wing critics of Zelaya accuse him of wanting to amend the Honduran constitution to seek a second term. This, they claim, is one step toward Hugo Chavez strongman status. But meanwhile, in Colombia, a far more right-wing President Alvaro Uribe has awaits a potential third term after overseeing successive changes to that nation's constitution. So maybe I'm just not reading the right sources, but have Zelaya's critics leveled the same accusations at Uribe for seeking multiple terms? Especially given the level of repression--including illegal wiretapping of political opponents--Uribe and his security apparatus have committed.

Of course, no one will confuse Uribe with Chavez (or Zelaya), but can critics of Zelaya be honest enough to admit that it's his politics they oppose--and that democratic principles are playing second fiddle to other interests? Or does the fact that Uribe is "our s.o.b." change one's opinion about the legitimacy of those ever-increasing term limits? The underlying problem in all of these countries, according to one Colombian friend of mine, is caudillismo--and the fact that whether right- or left-wing, such a style of leadership remains popular throughout much of Latin America. At least the Obama Administration and every other country in all of Latin America condenmed the coup when Zelaya was ousted earlier this year. Which is more than could be said for the Bush Administration, which didn't immediately condemn the coup that temporarily removed Chavez from power in 2002, and only did so after Chavez was restored to office.

But speaking of presidential double-standards in international elections: The Obama White House has congratulated Hamid Karzai for his "victory," but massive vote fraud is still massive vote fraud. I'm still waiting for the Facebook and Twitter campaigns for "Where's My Vote?"--Afghanistan edition. Again, maybe I've just missed it, but where are the voices comparing the fraudulent election in Iran to the fraudulent election in Afghanistan?

Let me be absolutely clear: I am not comparing the characters or policies of Zelaya, Chavez, Uribe, Ahmedinejad, or Karzai....today. But it's clear that there's some selective criticism going on. Maybe that's just the way of the world, but I have yet to hear a mainstream journalist compare Zelaya to Uribe (rather than Chavez) when it comes to seeking multiple terms or draw parallels between election fraud in Afghanistan with what took place in Iran. Maybe I need to broaden my sources.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the Web Editor for Sojourners and a photographer whose work can be seen at www.ryanrodrickbeiler.com.

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