German Foreign Minister: We Decide What’s Democratic!

Posted by John Rosenthal

In an interview published today, Die Welt asked German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier whether increasing populism and nationalism in Latin America present a problem for continued cooperation between Europe and the region. The context for the question is this week’s EU-Latin America summit and, more specifically, the decision by Bolivian President Evo Morales to nationalize Bolivia’s natural gas resources. Here is Steinmeier’s response:

I don’t think so. German foreign policy pays close attention to developments in Latin America. We observe that in particular countries there are very different political tendencies. But beyond the question whether these are more on the Left or more on the Right, what is decisive for us is that the governments come into being through free and democratic elections, that government policy is democratic and consistent with the rule of law, and, in particular, that human rights are respected. Considered with a certain detachment, we have also to note: nowhere in Latin America today are the results of elections called into question by the military or through the pressure of the street. In this sense, really decisive progress in the democratic consolidation of Latin America has been achieved.


As previously discussed here on Trans-Int, two successive Bolivian Presidents, prior to the election of Evo Morales, were driven from office precisely by the pressure of the street. Foreign Minister Steinmeier can hardly be unaware of this. As likewise discussed in the same article, Morales himself came to power by "quasi-legal" means: i.e. with the continuing menace of "the street" playing an obvious and decisive role. While still in the opposition, Morales once suggested that in order to avoid a law being passed with which he disagreed: “If it is necessary we should set fire to the Congress, even if they say we are attacking democracy.” (For context and reference, see "What’s Ahead in Bolivia: Getting to Know Evo Morales".)


As for populist and nationalist tendencies in Latin America, apparently they are not troubling for Mr. Steinmeier so long as the unwanted foreign interlopers are merely identified as "gringos and Jews". For Evo Morales on the latter, see again "What’s Ahead in Bolivia".



(Note: for incidental background, see "The European Commission: We Decide What’s Freedom of Speech!")


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