Jun 02, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – This newspaper first editorialized about the situation on Belarus almost a year ago, in the centre of our own storm of democratic destruction here in this country. In that leader, titled “Democracy or the Abyss”, the case was made that the ‘gravitational’ pull of the breakdown of democratic institutions in the United States of America had implications for countries like Guyana, at the time four months into an attempt by the then David Granger administration to steal the elections that it had decisively lost, and like Belarus, where President Alexander Lukashenko was gearing up for his own elections by decimating political allies.
As was noted then: “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.”
The argument then was that if the indicators that Donald Trump were not willing to leave the White House were to be proven correct, and if he were successful at doing so, the world would be facing, by sheer virtue of America’s global influence, a stark choice that Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro said Guyana at the time was facing – during a special OAS meeting to consider the attempted rigging of elections here – Democracy or the Abyss.
Of course, in the end, both Trump and Granger would eventually capitulate, Granger after five months of insanity and misinformation and Trump after fomenting an assault on the Capitol. While both have had their perpetuation of the Big Lie of their being cheated reduced to the theatre of doomed court cases and petulant distraction, Lukashenko in the middle of a primarily democratic Europe (the European Union was a key player in preventing the theft of elections here last year) has actually expanded his control after actually succeeding at rigging his own country’s elections in August of last year.
As we noted, when we focused directly on Belarus under ‘Europe’s last dictator’ in a subsequent editorial of February this year, a notable feature of the shadow over Minsk is that it presents itself as relatively mild shade. In contrast to the accepted mythos of brutal dictatorship, Lukashenko’s methodology is deliberately tepid. Protestors are given a few days in jail as opposed to decade long sentences. People are not being summarily executed but are beaten with non-life threatening injuries. His biggest targets, artists and journalists, are given less jail time for “undermining national security” than young people here in Guyana are given for possessing small amounts of marijuana, like the two women journalists who were sentenced a few months ago to two years in prison for simply live-streaming a protest. This is perhaps why Belarus’ president had escaped the sort of international censure he has escaped so far, selling himself as Dictator Lite, particularly at a time when democratic nations have been flirting dangerously with despotism.
This paper had warned, in that editorial, that “Unfortunately, in Belarus, what has so far prevailed is the abyss, one that is deepening and widening by slow but sure degrees, swallowing up dozens and dozens of brave people and grinding them under the teeth of Lukashenko’s repressive state machinery.”
Since then, things have gotten, as we predicted, worse. Last week, Lukashenko sent a fighter jet to force a Ryanair – a European Airline – flight to land in the capital of Belarus, Minsk, where his security forces then arrested a popular dissident blogger, Roman Protasevich. Days later, Prostasevich appeared in court, clearly beaten into subjugation. Teens have been arrested and imprisoned for speaking out against the government, poets and singers have been beaten, and yesterday, activist Stepan Latypov, arrested and on trial for his social media activity, cut his own throat with a pen during a court appearance. Now, Lukashenko has restricted his own citizens from leaving the country after the relatively tepid international condemnation in the wake of the Ryanair flight fiasco. Belarus is an atrocity waiting to happen, as if the cancer that has been creeping over the country in the past several years has not been carcinogenic enough. The country is, as the world watch, descending into the abyss and each unfathomable step downwards is going to make it all the more harder to emerge unless some serious intervention takes place.
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