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El Comercio, Ecuador

Gringo” Democracy

By Sebastián Hurtado Pérez

The virtues of a "gringo" democracy are a far cry from the circus that some Latin American democracies have become.

Translated By Norma L. Colyer

12 February 2013

Edited by Hana Livingston

Ecuador - El Comercio - Original Article (Spanish)

While traveling through the U.S., I could not stop following two important U.S. political events. Both of them say a lot about democracy in that country.

The first was the second “inauguration” of President Obama. The ceremony is religiously observed every four years in strict adherence to certain constitutional rules and political traditions that are more than 200 years old.

Although some complementary activities have been incorporated into the ceremony, the U.S. “inauguration” essentially requires the newly elected president, before taking office, to swear to “preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.” This formalism is so important that after the 2009 inauguration, President Obama had to repeat his oath because he accidentally changed the order of the words. This year, while leaving the ceremony, he turned to take one last “mental photograph” of the crowd gathered outside the Capitol building, knowing that this was the last time he would be elected president.

Such solemnity and respect for rules and procedures marks a sharp contrast to what happens in some Latin American countries, where a certain president was allowed to assume duties after refusing to swear to defend, much less preserve, the constitution that brought him to power. Another was allowed to begin his term whenever his health permits and to continue “ruling” from a foreign country. Both have actively sought to extend their leadership beyond the period for which they were originally elected.

The second event was last year’s appearance by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in front of a legislative committee to answer for the deaths of U.S. diplomats in Benghazi. Whatever the outcome of that summons, what is important is that the prestigious secretary of state attended the legislative hearing without hesitation and answered their questions in front of all the press.

It would not have occurred to President Obama to argue that the significant electoral support he just received validated any and all actions of his administration. He did not avoid exposing his secretary of state, one of the most popular leaders in the U.S., to a “media circus.” Nor did it occur to him to say that, since the Republicans lost the election, they had no authority to question his administration.

A mostly white society twice electing a president of color is just one example of the virtues of a democracy like that of the “gringos.” It is a far cry from the “circus” that some Latin American democracies have become.



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