The Blog

When Peace Means War

"The defence of democracy", "In the name of peace", "liberty" and "freedom of expression" are terms thrown about by nations, mainly those ruling the roost and tilting to the right, as easy shows of moral self-righteousness rather than expressions of any genuine sentiment or action.

"The defence of democracy", "In the name of peace", "liberty" and "freedom of expression" are terms thrown about by nations, mainly those ruling the roost and tilting to the right, as easy shows of moral self-righteousness rather than expressions of any genuine sentiment or action.

The law or human rights are imposed or adhered to with selective rigour, thus pulling into question the very meaning of such notions. To Latin America, International Courts and Bills of Rights composed by the west have done more harm to democracy than good. Still, ignorant and from afar, panels of judges and journalists gage and condemn defiance to the legislative status quo with the same legal measuring tool many in Latin America now consider a redundant guideline to what is good and what is bad.

Criticism towards a legal system naturally invites a great deal of polemic. I say naturally because most people have taken it as a natural condition the laws that guide our societies, although legal institutions and their premises should be as open to questioning and judgment as the very subjects they persecute. The more traditional resistance to IMF and World Bank philosophy can be expected on behalf of many nations as the usual kafuffle that precedes the implementation of any given neoliberal policy. Mass protests in the streets, strikes and popular uprisings, all these can be ignored and eventually stifled with the help of media groups and intelligence officers. However, resistance to the law, well, that is just unacceptable.

The United States, as well as the European Union both like to use legal arguments when things aren't going their way, and when they do, they use it with a self-appointed supremacy that laughs at any possible case against it. But more cunningly, they employ the law´s importance in irregular bouts, deciding when it is appropriate and when it is not. The urgency the UK is suddenly expressing with regards to the persecution of Julian Assange while he takes refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy could be taken a lot more seriously as concern for a dangerous criminal on the run if the UK had a better track record when it came to convicting felons. In order to invade the embassy, British officials have ransacked their bureaucratic draws in order to find some loophole in topsy-turvy international law so as to permit their illegal entering of the embassy. I believe the criteria was different when the UK granted Chile´s dictator, Augusto Pinochet, asylum, despite the man being responsible for the deaths and disappearances of thousands of political dissidents and innocent civilians. Where was the law or its moral vigour then?

This is just one example amongst countless but one is enough to conduct the basic argument: the law is used when it suits. Aware of this custom, this year Venezuela announced its withdrawal from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a decision that of course caused international uproar. "If this isn't proof the man is a dictator (referring to the country´s president Hugo Chavez), then what is?" the general clamour went. Nonetheless, the resolution to withdraw from the court was based on profound democratic values rather than on some dictatorial whim. The same court, responsible for keeping safe a number of right wing paramilitary groups who have pillaged innumerable Colombian villages, approved in 2002 Pedro Carmona Estanga as Venezuela´s new president. The thing is, Carmona had been illegally placed in government after the illegal coup of a democratically elected president. Chavez was kidnapped from the presidential quarters only to return three days later after the new and illegitimate government failed to quieten the outrage the majority of Venezuelans felt and manifested in the streets. Chavez has since declared the court not worthy of carrying the name that it does. To have an institution of this nature rule over a country is to allow the manipulation of internal affairs in the name of external interests.

Nonetheless, the noble crusade to defend democracy (and so on) continues its mission. Capriles Radonski, the opposition candidate to defy Chavez in these upcoming elections is all about peace, apparently. Mass yoga gatherings, where yummy mummies from the affluent east of Caracas place their mats to meditate together for the outing of Chavez are also, apparently, all about the Zen. Funny then that Capriles is all tied up and in bed with Colombia's ex president, Alvaro Uribe, who only recently admitted to have been plotting a belligerent attack on Venezuela, in, sigh, the name of democracy. All the while, Capriles continues to be advocated by the United States and the European Union because he uses the term peace every other word.

As a result, to the minds of many today in Latin America, this appropriation of concepts and the violation of their true meanings inspire little confidence in semantic argumentation. Actions are what count, and actions, always, speak volumes louder than words.