The Colombian Senate has passed a resolution to approve a referendum to see whether their constitution should be modified. Their goal: to allow popular president Alvaro Uribe to be reelected. At this, the opposition left the senate and boycotted the vote, which I have always held as an idiotic thing to do in a democracy. This allowed the 102-member body to pass the resolution with 56 votes in favor and two against.
This is terrible news for Latin America; it does not matter whether Uribe’s government is left or right-leaning. The “will of the people” that socialists everywhere use as their mantle, is fickle and easily swayed. The people must be protected from their government, and also from their own foolishness.
Term limits are a very wise thing to have in a constitution. An incumbent president is very hard to defeat. Should he or she be corrupt, and not above fraud to remain in power, they become almost impossible to defeat. Then the opposition is weakened, and democracy becomes a farce, as it was in the Soviet Union, and is in Cuba, and to a lesser degree, in Venezuela. Communist nations always held elections and had an active legislature; the difference was that only the ruling party was allowed to participate.
Now the supporters of Chávez and Zelaya can gleefully pounce on their opponents and call us hypocrites. Some have already begun pointing out the Wall Street Journal and Anastasia O’Grady’s silence on the issue. She has been one of the brave few journalists to publicly approve the decisions of the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court in removing Manuel Zelaya.
I hope those who have defended Honduras would join me in speaking out, judiciously defending democracy even against presidents who may be worthy of reelection, to protect us from present and future autocrats unworthy of it. We must silence our critics by speaking more wisely than they do.
Image by Daniel Horacio Agostini, used with a Creative Commons license