Chile and Colombia spearheading regional democratization efforts

After the attack on Brazilian institutions, Chile’s President Gabriel Boric was quick to highlight rising threats to democracy. He and his Colombian counterpart, Gustavo Petro, requested a special meeting at the OAS to tackle the issue. With the geopolitical stars aligned, something might actually come of these efforts.

Chile’s President Gabriel Boric was among the first to condemn the assault on Brazilian institutions and demanded consequences.

Shortly after radical supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro ransacked the Supreme Court, Congress, and the presidential palace, Boric tweeted the actions constituted a “cowardly and vile attack on democracy.”

The evident return of political violence also concerned Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla turned mayor turned president of Colombia. During Petro’s visit to Chile, just one day after the events in Brazil, the topic was high on the list. Both Petro and Boric requested an extraordinary session at the Organization of American States to debate the attack and actions to prevent similar events.

“There can be no nuances. These actions are unacceptable, the silences complicit as well, and they cannot be relativized or ignored. Our region must have a clear position on this,” Boric told journalists.

Leftist alienation

Chances are these efforts would go somewhere. Although Latin America is nowhere near as integrated as the EU, major countries Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina are led by leftist leaders whose interests converge. The US, moreover, has never been friendlier to – and more dependent on – these countries.

China is still making inroads and Washington can’t afford to alienate major actors. Hence, the OAS might actually achieve something. Hitherto, it was seen as a tool to mold the region to US interests, often tipping the scale in favor of right-wing governments.

But the US security state, sending the CIA, told Bolsonaro clearly to not try anything funny. Lula has also received a lot of international goodwill and is seen as an ideal partner.

So the stars are aligned. Neither Chile nor Colombia can strengthen regional democracy and integration on their own. But they deserve credit for recognizing the seriousness of the situation and might have set the stage for a more democratic and integrated region.

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