An Argentine sociologist’s shameless defense of the authoritarian left

While Chile’s president-elect and the incoming foreign minister have been consistent critics of human rights violations in Latin America, a prominent Argentine sociologist accuses them of coddling up to the right. Atilio Borón represents a sector of the left that’s fine with dictatorship if at least superficially opposed to imperialism and capital. Aside from being simplistic, his comments are damaging to interrogations of power under capitalism.

After Nicaragua’s Ortega-Murillo dictatorship started bogus trials against opposition members, such as former Sandinista guerrilla Dora María Téllez, convicted of conspiracy to damage national integrity, different opinions about the injustice soon flooded in.

One opinion came from Chile’s future Foreign Minister, Antonia Urrejola, and president-elect, Gabriel Boric, who have repeatedly condemned human rights violations in Nicaragua, calling it shameful.

Boric’s consistent condemnation of Nicaragua’s state terrorism and his unlimited defense of human rights, whether in Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Israel, the US, Russia, China, Venezuela or elsewhere, placed a target on his back and fanatical groups, left or right, are trying to defame him.

They haven’t forgiven his criticism of authoritarian leftist governments in the region, and certain progressive intellectuals even suggested he is moving right and toward the US.

Read more:

Who is Chile’s president-elect Gabriel Boric?

Argentine sociologist Atilio Borón has perhaps been among those who contributed most in this slander campaign against anyone who questions the authoritarian left, having often acted more as a spokesperson for certain governments, rather than a critical thinker with a social sciences background.

In response to Boric saying that Venezuela’s political experience had failed, as it led to a mass exodus and an unprecedented humanitarian regional crisis, Borón – with a tone of intellectual superiority – recently tweeted, “the inexperienced president needs classes in Latin American history, cultural colonialism, imperialism and international relations. Professors show up at La Moneda palace, Santiago, Chile, after March 11. Bring reading materials and a lot of patience.”

A sad response from Borón, who gives off a whiff of by-the-book Stalinism, defending oppressive, dogmatic regimes, which have only benefitted the ruling elite.

It comes as no surprise then that Borón went as far as saying, after the protests in Venezuela in 2017,  that “the only sensible and rational attitude President Nicolás Maduro’s government can adopt is to go ahead with a forceful defense of the institutional order in force and swiftly mobilize his armed forces to crush the counter-revolution and restore normalcy to public life.”

In other words, he explicitly called for state terrorism, the same way the right-wing in Chile or Colombia has, by fabricating a domestic enemy to justify repression and human rights violations.

You could say that the US’ historic intervention in the region can’t be forgotten and that huge oil reserves in Venezuela are strategic for its imperial policies, but arguing from there that the CIA or other US intelligence services are behind any criticism of these governments is a flawed line of reasoning.

Justifying Ortega

Borón has no problem justifying everything Ortega and Murillo have done in Nicaragua, despite the dictatorship reaching an agreement with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (unlike Venezuela), and although it is a patriarchal government against women’s rights, prohibiting any form of abortion, even when the woman’s life is in danger.

Key figures of Chile’s Communist Party, such as Camila Vallejo, Karol Cariola and even Daniel Jadue, who have also condemned political persecution and terror policies in Nicaragua, have understood this. Yet, Borón has made a point of saying that they are only doing this to look good against the status quo and win votes from the right.

Luckily, many critical voices in the region oppose Borón’s conservative fairytale of the left. He only simplifies very complex political processes, denying the chance to question what really matters, which is the concentration of political and economic power, beyond the ideologies they proclaim and wherever they are.

One of these critical voices, Eduardo Galeano, warned in an interview in 2013 of the need to recover the meaning of words, after the Ortega government upheld the therapeutic abortion ban, although abortion was legal for decades under right-wing governments when women’s health was at risk and in cases of rape.

We are all crazy, Galeano said at the time.


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