This week, with an election looming ahead, protestors in a certain country were picked up and loaded into vans by secretive agents of the state. The country’s leader, a brash man fond of the pomp and ceremony of military parades has given every indication that he will not be giving up in upcoming elections, even in the face of his flagging popularity, and pushback against his dismissive attitude to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a plummeting economy. To be clear, the country under question is Belarus where currently protestors in the capital, Minsk, are in upheaval against the crippling rule of the man described as Europe’s last dictator, Alexander Lukashenko.
Lukashenko has been in power in Belarus for the last quarter century, increasingly consolidating his power the way that all dictators do – clamping down on the free press, creating increasing hurdles for opposition politicians to contest elections, and brutally suppressing protest action. In recent weeks, lead competitors for the presidential elections slated for next month have either been arrested on trumped up charges or conveniently been told that their registration documents for participation in the polls fell short of legal requirements. A recent online poll, while not precisely scientific, showed Lukashenko’s popularity at a ludicrous three percent, a rating critics say is based largely upon the leader’s initial dismissive reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic, with him describing infection as a mere ‘psychosis’ and recommending a strong shot of vodka to cure it.
The country’s leader has given every indication that he will not be giving up in upcoming elections, even in the face of his flagging popularity, and pushback against his dismissive attitude to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a plummeting economy. To be clear, this country under question is Donald Trump’s United States of America where currently different sections of the country are in upheaval against police violence against African-Americans in countrywide Black Lives Matter protests.
Written about events in Portland, Oregon, in the country that has been represented as – and in the past justifiably so – a beacon of democracy, this article published yesterday in the UK Guardian yesterday could easily have been written about the events in Minsk:
“The arrival of the federal officers, drawn from several agencies including the US Marshals Service and the border patrol, fleetingly sent a wave of alarm through the demonstrators after men in camouflage began snatching people off the streets in unmarked vans. Those detained said they were dragged into the courthouse without being told why they were being arrested or by whom and then suddenly let go without any official record of being held. It smacked of police state tactics.”
While resistance – most notably by a groups of women, mostly mothers, linking arms to protect other protestors – has seen a retreat from the shadowy government forces, Trump has proclaimed the crackdown a success and intends to expand the programme with Chicago the next place on the list slated for what New York Times opinion columnist labeled in her most recent column, published two days ago, “Trump’s Occupation of American Cities [Has Begun].”
This sort of action, measured next to both Trump’s sliding in the polls against Democratic contender Joe Biden and his recent statements this week that he was unsure whether he would leave office if he lost, calls into question not only the fabric of American democracy but the legitimacy of America’s standing as a policeman for global democracy.
In his presentation to the special meeting on Guyana’s elections held two days, Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro said that this country faces two pathways in the near future – Democracy or the Abyss. Whether it is Alexander Lukashenko’s successfully entrenched quarter century dictatorship in Belarus or David Granger’s clumsy four-month attempt at a coup, democracy globally may very well find itself in danger of being dragged into the abyss of authoritarian rule by the sheer gravitational of the current descent of America. In the elections slated for this November, American voters are going to have Almagro’s stark choice before them as well – Democracy or the Abyss. What that choice is will have implications not only for them but for the rest of the world.
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