Times of great crisis, it is often said, are also times of great opportunities. This can be the case for economies: some fall while others rise. It is not so valid, however, as it relates to the reinstitution of political leaders and government officials: they go up and down and the average does not improve.
There is a crisis of leaders, political leaders. The world is not managed by a high grade of men. They are a "sub-species" of men whose origin is unknown, be it Chavez (Venezuela) or Rodriguez Zapatero (Spain, former) or Nestor Kirchner (Argentina, former) or Berlusconi (Italy, former), but whose bloodline is not stopping or letting any greater leaders step up. You get the feeling that this is a long transition with no end in sight as the problem is not so much with who is governing currently as much as with the lack of hope in any alternatives. The reason why (the Argentinian) Cristina Kirchner, (the Ecuadorian) Rafael Correa, (the Bolivian) Evo Morales, (the Nicaraguan) Daniel Ortega and Chavez continue to hold on to power can be found in their opposition. They have been divided, they have been weakened, and they have in some cases been cowards, collaborators and allies.
Barack Obama benefits from just this state of affairs. Despite the increase in fuel prices, unemployment and the slow economic growth — factors that would make any American President running for reelection shake — he will win simply because there is nobody to face him. The Republicans ought to ask Club Barcelona from Spain to help them put together some good players because, with the ones they have, it will be hard enough to score a goal, much less get to the White House.
Those "stars" that oppose Nicolas Sarkozy in France will also certainly work in his favor. Although he has much less merit than Obama, it is good to clarify this, because it is not enough for Sarkozy to strap on big boots and say something xenophobic and go out and attack the politics of ex-colleague and friend Rodriguez Zapatero — who anyone looks good next to — to continue in the palace.
Sarkozy's advantage is that the opposition is divided and does not know where to go or what to say. The Socialist François Hollande turns out to be a bit lazy — a Zapatero type, clearly — in getting what he wants from the dissatisfied party. And the candidate to the far left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, crossed the line and is said to feel inspired by Chavez, Correa, Lula and Cristina Kirchner. As they say in my town: "close up, hit the light and let's go." This man has declared that he "has focused interest in Chavez because of the revolutions in Latin America," adding that, "Chavez is closer to Correa" in his ideas of a "citizen's revolution."
What is there to say? Sarkozy, while the competition among this "sub level" has yet to start, has serious chances of continuing.
What is certain is that when the opposition gets organized and leaves all the petty politicking to the side, a sense of fear enters the authoritarianism and brings with it ideas of "destabilization and conspiracies." The authority knows what it has to lose.
It is a fact that in the countries of a region where there is strong, effective political opposition, like Brazil, Peru, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay, there is no discussion as to who are better off. When the opposition is effective, there is no authoritarianism because democracy is working. There is freedom of the press, balance of power and it all improves the economy. This is it: it is about a competition of players, in the big leagues.
The author is a Consultant Member of the Inter American Press Association and of the World Press Freedom Committee.