In the midst of the bleak world political scene, which unfortunately has spread to our continent, there are only two “little countries” with a long democratic tradition that stand up for the defense of individual freedoms, human rights and a free market economy. . They are the only ones who escape the evident and unfortunate setback of democracy in the continent. We refer to Uruguay and Costa Rica. They are the champions of our Latin America. According to the most recent Intelligence report of The Economist magazine, referring to the index of democracy in the world, Uruguay appears as the most democratic country in Latin America with a score of 8.61 out of 10, followed by Costa Rica with 8, 16. Thus, Uruguay ranks 15th among full democracies in the world and Costa Rica ranks 18th. Norway leads the ranking with 9.81 points. The US is among the countries with “imperfect democracies”, which is not surprising given the enormous contradictions that the country suffers and that have called into question the quality of its democracy with a questioned Justice, with a press ideologized and an economic situation never before seen in the last 50 years. We have to be truly proud to be able to count on these two democratic beacons on our continent, which we hope can transmit their influence to other countries in the region. with an ideological press and an economic situation never before seen in the last 50 years. We have to be truly proud to be able to count on these two democratic beacons on our continent, which we hope can transmit their influence to other countries in the region. with an ideological press and an economic situation never before seen in the last 50 years. We have to be truly proud to be able to count on these two democratic beacons on our continent, which we hope can transmit their influence to other countries in the region.
And the same claw has been shown by these two “little countries”, incredibly, in international football in their eventful and hard-fought playoffs until they can play the next World Cup in Qatar, 2022. They have proven to be true titans with their own limitations of small countries, to achieve success with “the Uruguayan charrúa claw” and “la pura vida tica” thus crowning their hopes, just as they did in international politics, as the defenders of democracy in our continent.
I confess that I am a fan of both countries, by birth and by a long and happy professional stay of many years in the other.
Key figures for soccer success in the case of Uruguay have been Luis Suárez, with 15 years of international professional experience, nicknamed “the gunman” for his habit of celebrating his goals, and on the other hand the Tico Brayan Ruiz, nicknamed “la Weasel” with a 20-year professional career. Both star players have agreed that they would retire from football after the end of the next World Cup.
In national and international politics, Uruguay has had to fight and suffer more than its Central American partner in its relentless quest to maintain its traditional democracy. He had to put up with a bloody military dictatorship that was the result of the intervention of the Tupamaro guerrillas, supported, financed and trained in Cuba, who wanted to destroy the democratic foundations of the country. Fortunately, pressured by public opinion, the ruling Military Junta decided to call a plebiscite, which it lost and accepted, giving way to a return of the best libertarian traditions of the country that we know today, under the mandate of President Lacalle Pou. The Uruguayan president is supported by a coalition of the country’s traditional parties, which fortunately is working, despite the difficulties of governing that the opposition party, the Broad Front, and its strategic ally, the powerful trade union center of the so-called PIT+CNT, from the extreme left, and which still today refuse to accept that Cuba and Venezuela They are dictatorships. Symptomatic in this regard have been the statements made by the vice president of this powerful trade union center, José López, to a well-known independent journalist who asked him a few days ago if there is freedom in Cuba, to which the trade union leader replied that he believes there is, but that “it is a different democracy, with a different freedom, but restricted, but there is freedom.” This trade union political group, like the Broad Front party, as soon as it can put spokes in the wheel of the country’s progress. And let’s not forget that this opposition brings together almost 40% of the electorate. President Lacalle Pou and his coalition government have had to fight hard to carry out a modernization of the Uruguayan State, being fiercely fought by the Opposition that managed to call a plebiscite that fortunately a few weeks ago the Uruguayan president was able to win by a narrow margin. from 1%. This is how the government will finally be able to implement 135 new articles, grouped in a project that was renamed the “Urgent Consideration Law”, and which will further modernize the country.
Not so dramatic is the situation in Costa Rica with its long pacifist and libertarian tradition, and which has in its history a little known and outstanding fact. It is about the Central American homeland war and the enormous service rendered by the then president of the country, Juan Mora, back in the years 1856 and 1857, by uniting the neighboring countries under his command to fight against the mercenary army of the so-called filibusters, that he had the covert support of the North American government of that time and that he tried to subjugate the nascent Central American republics to obtain cheap labor. Mora fought valiantly and was finally able to expel them. There, the foundations of the Tico democratic spirit were laid, which continues to this day, together with its optimism expressed in the slogan that characterizes the country “Pura Vida”.
In recent years the country’s economic situation has deteriorated greatly and stagnated due to bad governments. The last president was defined by the population as “an irrelevant and corrupt president” being investigated by the Attorney General’s Office. Also calamitous and corrupt was the Administration of his predecessor Luis Guillermo Solís. Let us remember that Costa Rica, faithful to its democratic tradition, managed to imprison two former presidents in its recent history, an unusual act in Latin America. These are Miguel Angel Rodríguez, who was president between 1998 and 2002 and former Secretary General of the OAS, and Rafael Angel Calderón, in command of the country between 1990 and 1994. Both were sentenced to five years in prison. and shared adjoining cells in a state prison.
A few weeks ago, since May 8, a new president took office. The chosen one has been Rodrigo Chávez, a renowned economist, who was Minister of Finance between 2019 and 2020. The economist carries a black mark on his resume because when he was a World Bank official he was suspended and sanctioned for acts of sexual harassment, something he emphatically denies. Let us hope that now Costa Rica resumes a sensible economic policy for its population and can reinforce its long democratic tradition. A first step taken by the new president is already noteworthy. He decided to stop the attempts of Castroism to filter communist ideology in the education of his country. Chávez obviously receives a Costa Rica with a seriously affected economy. He will also have to deal with widespread corruption, rising unemployment,
With their democratic credentials, these two Latin American countries face the alarming setback of freedom in our continent. In their environment they find more and more countries that fall into governments of a totalitarian nature and others that are on the way to becoming so and others with systems of failed democracies, such as the cases of Mexico and Argentina. Mexico with a president practically in the hands of the powerful national and international drug traffickers and Argentina that crumbles daily towards an abyss due to the Peronist and Kirchnerist mafias that have taken over the country and have morally corrupted and economically destroyed it. We witness a continent disenchanted and abandoned by the United States,
Mario Vargas Llosa is right when, in a speech delivered at the University of the Republic in Montevideo, he affirmed that many times the peoples make mistakes when voting and when they vote badly they vote against democracy. Hopefully, in the near future, many countries in our Latin America will not vote badly and will follow the example of Uruguay and Costa Rica, champions of democracy on the continent.
José Antonio Friedl Zapata
Political Scientist – Latin Americanist – Independent Journalist
Author of several books on Latin American themes
“The opinions published here are the sole responsibility of their author.”