Monday, March 4

Aznar, two former Mexican presidents and the judge who imprisoned Lula: “liberals” in Madrid against the “backsliding” of the left

The International Foundation for Freedom, sponsored by the writer Mario Vargas Llosa, seeks to defend democracy and the rule of law, according to its founding principles, with which politicians from the Latin American and Spanish right-wing identify, also defenders of the influence American. The foundation has just turned 20 years old, and concern is spreading among its patrons: the Latin American left is recovering positions, the presence of its North American friend is fading, and populism (those of a political sign other than its own) threaten the liberal project. To exchange impressions on the matter, the association brought together three former presidents in Madrid: the Spanish José María Aznar and the Mexicans Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000) and Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), as well as Brazilian judge Sergio Moro, applauded in his day in those circles for imprisoning another president, Lula da Silva. Everyone agreed that the picture is black.

Just arrived from Chile, Aznar gave a few brushstrokes of his vision of current affairs. Thus, technological progress and digitization present opportunities, but they have allowed that “human beings have never been so manipulable”, in vague reference to misinformation. The former president briefly referred to the Ukraine War as a “cruel conflict” that had not been experienced in Europe for decades, except for some “problems in the Balkans”. “There is a real and certain risk of extension of the conflict,” he warned, without elaborating on the role of Spain and NATO in the matter. There was no space in his intervention to explain whether he would be in favor of possible bombing by the Atlantic alliance, as he came to suggest with respect to Lebanon in 2006, although the times and the contenders are different. He also referred, almost in passing, to the post-pandemic economic crisis, more severe in Spain, in his opinion, due to “the bad policies that are practiced”, in general.

After Aznar, Ernesto Zedillo intervened, who was president at the same time as him, in the mid-1990s, and with a similar privatizing desire, focused on the railways, in his case. The former PRI president, who closed a period of 71 years of uninterrupted government of the party, pointed out that Latin America is mired in a “lost decade” and veiledly charged against the current Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with whom he has had bitter confrontations on account of the management of the coronavirus crisis. Thus, he said that populists come to power democratically, but slide down a slope that successively leads to “authoritarianism, fascism and dictatorship.” Regarding Ukraine, he defended that the Russian invasion is on the way to “genocide”, but conceded that “there are other guilty parties, who have decided at times to deviate from international law”. Aznar, a great defender of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 against the UN Security Council, did not take the hint.

Felipe Calderón was a political rival of Zedillo, after whose mandate “full democracy began in Mexico”, once the electoral law was reformed that allowed the PRI to be evicted from power. With a key speech on Mexican internal politics, he assured that, on the contrary, democracy in his country “is about to fall” due to the electoral reform proposed by the government. He then went on to criticize the defects of the current Executive, and compared Hitler and Mussolini’s access to power by electoral means with that of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. He also lamented the lack of cohesion of the Latin American right, compared to the left. “They have the São Paulo Forum; we, if it is not for Vargas Llosa, we do not meet, ”he joked.

Judge, minister and senator

Judge Sergio Moro, now a senator, before Jair Bolsonaro’s minister (whom no one called a populist during the conclave), later confronted him and now again a supporter of his presidential campaign, recalled his role in the Lava Jato operation and his efforts to imprison Lula da Silva. He spoke in Portuguese, after excusing himself for not mastering Spanish and offering to use English, which caused coughing in the audience (the announcer Federico Jiménez Losantos was among those present).

Of his controversial jurisdictional action, he defended that it was not a ‘lawfare’ operation or judicial war, as his detractors reproach him, but a legitimate attempt to tackle corruption that was aborted by “the Executive, Congress and part of the judiciary” , referring to the country’s Supreme Court, which blamed the former president for lack of impartiality in its investigation. “There is a risk of setback,” he said, he too. That is why he supports Bolsonaro, “despite his strong disagreements” with the current head of the Brazilian Executive. Also because, like the attendees today, he is a “liberal” who does not believe in the “bureaucratic and statist” vision of his political rival. The speech closed with unanimous applause.