Category Archives: English

Democracy Decline, Multiculturalism and Global Immigration Crisis: Challenges of the Post-democratic Age

Prepared for delivery at the 98th Annual Meeting of the Southwestern Social Science Association
October 10-13, 2018, Orlando, Florida

The rise of nationalism, populism, xenophobia, and racism (ECRI, 2016) has dominated the political, social and economic debate, expressed in the critical approaches to unexpected political outcomes with unsettling social and economic consequences: Brexit (Norris & Inglehart, 2018) and the United States 2016 presidential election (Levitsky & Ziblatt, 2018; Mounck, 2018). Contributing to global anxiety is the decline of democracy registered in countries with a tradition of stable democratic regimes (EIU, 2018). From the threat of globalization to the perils of multiculturalism (Parrillo, 2009; Dalton, 2015; Gonzalez, 2016), anxiety spreads as fears of displacement by cultural diversity are amplified by the upsurge of immigration and its association to unemployment, low wages, crime, and terrorism. The global crisis of governance and democracy is deepened by the rise/consolidation of a populist/nationalist rhetoric (Hooghe & Dassonneville, 2018; Beltran, 2017), reshaping the world of politics with inadvertent synchronicity, from America to Europe, with a shared embrace for anti-immigration policies, EU-skepticism, and trade reversal decisions. A consensus is yet to be reached on the underlying causes of the current social unrest. The ongoing debate is centered on the financial burden and the cultural clash that immigration is considered to be triggering in Europe, adding to the growing multiculturalism that seems unrelenting in America. However, there is a lesser aspect acknowledged in the discussion, and that is the consequences of the erosion of democracy as a direct cause of social unrest and cultural antagonisms, resulting in cyclic crises represented by the breakdown of democracies (Linz, 1978) and their turn into authoritarian and populist regimes, provoking significant immigration waves. This paper addresses the association between the democratic discontent and immigration as an escape valve (Brown-Gort, 2016), and how this crisis is determining the social stance contemplating the multicultural background in a post-democratic world.

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VENEZUELA: A crisis within the crisis

The Venezuelan political crisis has rapidly evolved into a constitutional disaster, even as the Supreme Court seemed to be in damage control mode a day after its decision to dissolve the National Assembly unleashed a wave of local and international rejection. The very attempt to correct the subversion of the constitution itself was enough proof that the government had lost the capacity of pretending to follow the rule of law; a circumstance that many believe to have been preceded by a string of rulings with which the highest court has targeted the parliament with the intention to diminish its role, strengthening the Executive in the purpose to consolidate the revolution.

In the midst of a renewed intent from the OAS to address the Venezuelan situation, the government rejected Secretary General Almagro’s resumption of talks in the regional forum, with a previous meeting with the Foreign Relations Minister Rodriguez as an advance of what would be a belligerent encounter the next day with the new alternate Permanent Representative Moncada, who engaged in a heated confrontation, resulting in the suspension of the session without a vote. This was the background for the Supreme Court’s decision that would throw the regime’s carefully constructed argument of an undisputable democracy under the bus.

The immediate domestic and global backlash follows months of caveats from politicians, members of parliament and NGO’s over the increasing blockage of the legislative branch through the judicialization of politics, with the Supreme Court as the Executive’s instrument in the assurance of power. Since the opposition won the majority of seats in the unicameral parliament in a landslide election, the government was not shy of their intention to make it difficult for them to exercise the majority. The first, and pivotal argument for the government to obstruct the opposition’s majority, is the accusation of electoral fraud made against three indigenous members of parliament from the state of Amazonas. The decision by the parliament to approve their incorporation, and have the legislators take an Oath, prompted a quick response from the administration through the Supreme Court decision considering the legislative body to be in contempt until the three representatives were disembodied.

That was just the beginning of a string of rulings the Supreme Court had been issuing, undermining the opposition in its capacity to legislate. As the conflict worsened, the government had less hurdles to make agreements regarding the economy, principally the oil business, that otherwise would require the National Assembly to approve. The situation escalated as the deadline for a $2.8 bn bonds payment[1] due in April approached, and the National Assembly reminded Mr. Maduro that it would not approve any agreement to compromise oil business assets, and without their authorization, any deal would be regarded as void.

There is a widespread perception that the urgency for cash to cover the payments accelerated the court’s ruling, considering that the talks in the OAS had restarted, to strip the members of parliament from their immunity, following by the unstated dissolution of the National Assembly, the timing was the most unfortunate one, and perhaps the very reason for such a backlash. Immediately after the two sentences[2] were published, shockwaves in rejection to the rulings flooded social media -the main source of information in a country that lacks of free press- as well as international media outlets that openly criticized the move, branding it as a coup and characterizing the government as increasingly authoritarian.

Even as this attempt to wipe out the Opposition was not totally unexpected, the government precipitated the situation without apparently considering the impact it would have internally, and only two days after the sentences were made public, the country’s Attorney General voiced rejection to the highest court’s rulings, considering them to be a rupture of the constitutional order. The statement was followed by disbelief, distrust and astonishment with the confirmation of fractures within the political regime. The President had been silent, as were the rest of the branches of government, but on Saturday, the announcement for a meeting of the National Security Council pretended to ease the apparent entanglement, as the administration put it, it was just an impasse between two branches.

This setback did not change the fact that close to 50 rulings[3] disavowing the parliament’s authority are still in place –and were not even mentioned- as well as the ruling regarding the Executive’s power to negotiate without the National Assembly’s intervention. Therefore, the government’s image has been severely damaged, but not its ability to make agreements, which was the whole point of the Supreme Court’s ruling this past week.

Even if the government pretends to backtrack from this episode, the balance is negative, not only because they had to amend the sentences, but also because in doing so, they are again violating the law, showing the absence of independence of the Judicial branch. It was not a good week for the government, during almost two decades their effort was to build a flawless political model, and it took Mr. Maduro less than five years to throw away an enormous political capital, that in the absence of high oil revenue and charisma, has left chavismo with very little options to survive other than blatant authoritarianism.

The Opposition is in an excellent situation, where the government cannot keep defending itself as a victim while exercising an increasing anti-democratic behavior. Their actions need to be focused in underscoring the authoritarian nature of the administration. The steps to restore the constitutional order must consider all the rulings that contradict the independence of the National Assembly, until the Supreme Court does not comply with the Constitution, the conditions that characterize a breach in its ruling are in force and must be corrected immediately.




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Letter from a Venezuelan Professor

I started teaching college in Venezuela in 1996, as a young Political Scientist my goal was to get a tenured position, following the footsteps of my Father. It took me a while, starting as a Lecturer and after several years of waiting for the budget, until I finally reached tenure. The system back there is very different, most of the universities belong to the State, financially supported by public funding, although legally recognized as politically autonomous, which makes it very complex given that the resources allocated are insufficient (not only because of inflation), and the legal framework limits their capacity for self sustainment.


When my Father was a Professor, his business school sent him to study abroad, he earned an MBA from Tarleton State University, part of the Texas A&M system. In my case, I could barely afford to pay for my doctorate, fortunately by the second term I got tenure and had the tuition exonerated for the rest of graduate school. When he started to teach, being a College Professor was socially and financially a very attractive position, it was some sort of a life insurance. In my case, it was pure idealism to dedicate your life to a career with less and less possibilities of making ends meet.


The university I know is one with an eternal lack of resources, where we had to buy the books so students could have references, not having a decent Library in campus was a tremendous weakness. We had to support our own administrative work with buying reams of paper, ink for the printers, and even carry our personal laptops to campus. Well, that was until we started to get robbed inside the buildings. Our normal academic life changed for many reasons and in so many ways: we had to subsidize the education process in order to keep doing our jobs. This inevitably took a toll on all of us, it was not only the challenge to deal with adversity on a daily basis, in terms of the practical side of teaching, but also the violent political environment within the institution that made it unbearable to keep doing something you actually love to do. Every advance of the Chavez doctrine had an impact on all us; to teach Theory of State, or Types of government or Political systems, in these circumstances, always left us with a deep sense of absurdity. Keep in mind, I had students that didn‘t know any other president besides Chavez, the theory was the extreme opposite of what they were witnesses to. I had students question the concept of Rule of Law by simply exposing any random decision made by the government.


The sense of frustration grew even more with the obstacles the government set at any attempt by the universities to pressure for elections, in our own right to exercise our political freedom. The last time we had elections was in 2009, since then there has been a blockade by the government that seems to have reached the rest of the country‘s institutions. The lack of elections, and hence the renewal of authorities has sunken the university, and with it, those who used to make it possible every single day. As I try to find a way to rebuild my life abroad, I can‘t help but to ask myself if it‘s not clear yet how the destruction of Venezuela started with the education system. It makes complete sense. Education is the key to resist authoritarianism. I just hope it‘s not too late.

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Defending democracy by Timothy Snyder“>http://

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What went so wrong? About the electoral results of the 2016 elections

  1. The polls were wrong or we chose to look the other way? There is definitely a growing conviction that they were looking at a different situation, that they fell short in identifying a new democratic electorate. Now that we are listening to some legislators from Wisconsin or Michigan, there are  doubts being raised about how misleading it was to have taken the electoral results in those states in Obama´s 2012 election as a starting point for Clinton.
  2. The campaign turned from a plebiscite about Trump to a referendum against Washington. It was a risk that proved to be worthless to attack Trump in his moral and ethical behavior, but what was really effective was to make it a cause against the establishment, given that Trump not only was fighting democrats, he was also confronting rejection within the party he is representing.
  3. The political views and proposals, as opposing as they are, were second to the more dynamic discussion about the traits of both candidates. The central message of the campaign trail focused on how bad Trump was and why Clinton was the only resource to prevent a disaster, rather than the discussion of policy proposals.
  4. The outcome has created a backlash towards the media and its influence. And there is a lot of mea culpa in the MSM circuit of talk shows, there is perplexity in some, and frustration in others. There is a sense that media should do some soul searching and reflect on the role played during one of the most controversial and critical elections in recent times.
  5. There are concerns about the conservative shift of the future administration, and the possible loss of important liberal milestones such as abortion rights, LGBT rights. Those are legitimate concerns and the more support is brought to the cause, the more it will act as a retaining wall against the intentions of the government.
  6. There are some elements of populism that alarm the liberal grounds of American democracy. The constant reference to please the people, even if it implies ignoring legal procedures and structures, reminds us of not a few populist leaders.
  7. There is unease among Muslims, immigrants and other minorities. The aggressive tone during the campaign set the alarms and the consequences of a belligerent message are barely starting, it is not a matter of ideology, it is about freedom.
  8. There are great concerns about the economy and foreign relations. The stability of the global capitalist system depends on the American economy, thus, the decisions the new President has to make will affect economies around the world.
  9. Immigration, the war on terror, health insurance, student loans and college education are issues that have to be addressed beyond the promises made during the campaign. The challenge will be to deliver beyond ideological constraints, the signal will come from the appointments of the cabinet.
  10. The Supreme Court nomination will show the path that this administration plans to follow, the fear of a backlash in significant social conquests is of the utmost concern.

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