Hugo Borsani is a Uruguayan political scientist, professor at the State University of North Fluminense – UENF (Brazil), PhD in Political Science from the University Research Institute of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and editor and member of the portal’s coordinating team. Latin America21.
what is portal “Latin America21”?
Latin America21 is a portal of content, analysis, and opinion of experts and specialists. They are generally academics who produce articles that are published in Latin America21, also in the online editions of the main newspapers in Latin America, in the case of Uruguay we publish in El Observador, and they are articles produced basically on topics of politics, economy and society. The idea is to make a link between the academic world, although not exclusively academic, because there are also journalists and people who work in non-governmental organizations, but basically it is the academic world and the general public. The intention is to bring our analysis capacity to a world where there is diversity of information, but sometimes there is a lack of quality in that information. This lack of quality is part of the problem in contemporary societies. This group is coordinated and devised by a Uruguayan journalist based in Spain named Jerónimo Giorgi, and there is a team of colleagues from different countries who are in coordination and more than 300 columnists, who are the ones who produce these articles, who go through a certain editing obviously, so that they arrive with a clear and direct language. Academics sometimes do not have that habit. The portal began with Jerónimo (Giorgi) in 2017, then the others were incorporated, and today there is the publication of one article per day and sometimes more when the topics are hotter, and around 15 newspapers in the region who publish our articles. It is a platform for analysis and plural opinion, there are different points of view, both within the coordinating team and among the columnists, and we defend representative and liberal democracy. We defend human rights and freedom of expression. This is a characteristic that we try to maintain and take care of.
What we are trying to do with this index is to focus it on the quality of government management, not so much democracy, although it is also incorporated into our research, but the quality of management, how these governments are being led in the different aspects of public policy, and all those aspects that involve government management.
Are you currently working on building a government quality index for the governments of the continent?
It is called the Government Management Quality Index. Many will know that there are so-called democracy indices, for example the one published by The Economist magazine every year, and there are others in the academic world that measure the ranking of how democracy is in countries. We know that Uruguay is always among those who have the highest points in the consideration of democracy. What we are trying to do with this index is to focus it on the quality of government management, not so much democracy, although it is also incorporated into our research, but the quality of management, how these governments are being led in the different aspects of public policy, and all those aspects that involve government management. That is where the originality and innovation of this index goes, which is being built through the opinion and perception of experts, both academics, political scientists, sociologists and specialized journalists from each country. The idea is to measure governance in 18 Latin American countries. The objective is to elaborate a ranking and at the same time, provide a series of analyses. The questionnaire is addressed to academics and journalists, and is being constructed, from a theoretical point of view, by a well-known Italian political scientist named Leonardo Morlino, who works theoretically and empirically with the issue of the quality of democracy and based on a dimension , which is the perception of consumers and in this case of citizens. There are other indices that measure this perception of democracy, a well-known one is “Latinobarómetro” for Latin America. We address ourselves especially to people who study and elaborate, it is a small but specialized circle. One of the objectives is precisely to make that comparison, that is, to compare our index with other broader ones that consult the public. The idea is to measure how governments are developing. Obviously there are questions that have to do with the quality of democracy and how the institutions work. You can have a very good government, very good rulers in a country where, however, the situation is very complicated. The focus is the management of each government, it is an index that is intended to be annual, that is, to see precisely how this evolution is going.
In the year 2019, the outbreaks began in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, from there, although it comes from before, there is a strong call to attention that things are not good at all, and there is a loss of credibility in the eminently political institutions and in democracy as a whole.
Does everything indicate that it will be published in 2023?
Yes, the idea is that in the first half of 2023 it can be published and disseminated by all means.
Do you think there is a decline in the credibility of democracy even in countries like Uruguay?
Yes, all known indices indicate that. In addition to “Latinobarómetro”the index of the organization was published “International Idea”, which also shows that loss of confidence and even loss of the very quality of democracy. In the year 2019, the outbreaks began in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, from there, although it comes from before, there is a strong call to attention that things are not good at all, and there is a loss of credibility in the eminently political institutions and in democracy as a whole. Let’s think about what happens in Brazil, a group of people, relatively important, calling for a military intervention, after the electoral result (Lula da Silva’s victory). In electoral terms they are minorities, but they are not few. These groups mobilize and express themselves against the institutionalized regime, there is a growth of parties with rhetoric that is highly critical of the traditional functioning of democracy. There are criticisms of the division of powers, that the one who won has to govern by doing what he wants. They maintain that the functioning of democracy is very slow and very complicated. Another indicator that seems interesting to me, in the last five years, of the 18 elections that have taken place in Latin America, in 14 there has been a change of government, and of those 14, in 13 there have been changes of political orientation. Political alternation is important and healthy, but sometimes, when it is widespread, when the government fails to be re-elected and goes to a government opposite the one it was in, this indicates the difficulty and dissatisfaction of the population with all types of government . Because it has even been passed from left to right and vice versa. This shows the difficulty in being able to minimally satisfy the majority of the population. The fragmentation of society, and therefore, of the political system, is very great, and where the blockades are important. The electoral results are divided, they are polarized, this polarization is an indicator of great dissatisfaction. Despite the dissatisfaction, there is a certain resilience of the democratic institutions. The attempted coup in Peru, which was quickly controlled by the institutions, as well as the situations experienced in Chile and before in Ecuador, all came about somehow through institutional mechanisms, which shows that at the same time there is a “mattress” important defense of the institutions. However, the onslaught is constant and cannot continue without minimally satisfying the population. If this dissatisfaction continues to grow, perhaps those institutional solutions that existed for these situations will not be able to be resolved in the future. So, it is an issue that must be addressed, and the governments and the opposition must be very aware of the risks.
The center of concern for Uruguayans continues to be the economic situation and insecurity. Can these concerns extend to the continent?
The economic situation is the main reason for dissatisfaction, there is the question of security, I think there are other important elements in the other countries and to a lesser extent in Uruguay, which is the question of corruption, corruption is a weighty factor very strong in the discredit of the institutions, in some countries the phenomenon of immigration has affected strongly, it is the case of Chile and Colombia, and the difficulty of the countries in solving the problem. These issues are shared concerns, and all these situations, despite the change of government, cannot be resolved, it even seems that they are deepening, all factors that influence this discredit of the institutions. In other words, to the economic situation and security problems, I would add the problem of corruption.
The economic data that emerged as a result of the transition show a country in a very serious economic and financial situation, and the social situation is very bad. Lula will have to deal with a large part of the population, which does not recognize the legitimacy of his government, a minority group that continues to camp and ask for the intervention of the army.
In Brazil, days after the assumption of Lula da Silva again, a clear change of political sign, how is the situation?
It is a very important change for Brazil and for Latin America, we believe that it will be a normal transition, it is not known if Bolsonaro will pass on the presidential sash or not, which is a tradition here. There are times that he implies that he will do it and other times that he will not. Perhaps the most radical supporters, who have not recognized Bolsonaro’s defeat and who do not recognize the elected government, will be controlled. There are no fears, but the situation is complex, because the country is very divided, polarization implies rejection “the other”. In Brazil, a democratic front won, of which the Workers’ Party is the main part but not the only one. Precisely, the victory as given by a narrow margin, those other supports that Lula received were essential to win. These supports make the formation of the new government complex. It is a broad front, of many parties, with a lot of support, it even incorporated some parties that had been supporting Bolsonaro, parties that supported Bolsonaro during his government and that now in the elections did not support Bolsonaro, but neither did Lula. They are parties that are traditionally with the government, with any government. Lula had to expand the number of ministries, to accommodate and obtain the support of those parties, and that makes the formation of the new government difficult. Although many charges remain to be defined, the ministries of economy and foreign affairs have already been defined. From a political point of view, the government knows that the situation will be complex, the government has parliamentary majorities but it needs broad bargaining power, I think Lula has it, but it is important to know that we are not in 2003, it is 20 years later , the economic situation in Brazil is completely different. The economic data that emerged as a result of the transition show a country in a very serious economic and financial situation, and the social situation is very bad. Lula will have to deal with a large part of the population, which does not recognize the legitimacy of his government, a minority group that is still camped and asking for the intervention of the army, it is a mobilized group, last week in Brasilia they committed acts of vandalism Vehicles were burned, there was even much damage. It’s a major problem, it’s not going to interfere with the government, but it will require some kind of action. The government will have to act very carefully.