Univision anchor Jorge Ramos recently invited to his Sunday talk show, Al Punto, an extraordinary young libertarian activist who is capturing the imagination of increasing numbers of people throughout Latin America, following a powerful speech she delivered that went viral. Her name is Gloria Alvarez, and she delivered a stemwinder of a speech at an Iberoamerican youth conference, in which she denounced the scourge of populist politics in Latin America.
In introducing the telegenic young Guatemalan leader to the audience, Ramos featured excerpts of Alvarez’s blockbuster speech, seen by more than one million viewers, in which she pointed out that populism begins by “dismantling institutions little by little, rewriting constitutions to accommodate them to the whims of corrupt leaders” and later that “populism loves the poor so much that it multiplies them…in order to continue receiving their votes by providing any particular material object the people may need at a given time.”
In her interview with Ramos, Alvarez located the origin of modern-day populism in the aftermath of the historic collapse of Communism in the early 1990s, and the Left’s resulting necessity to play the “democratic game” in order to obtain and wield power. In this context, Alvarez explained, what populism does “is to promise, and to manipulate, economic necessities and above all justice…to come and say to people, ‘I’m going to help you get ahead. You’re bad off because someone’s well off, and I’m going to balance that out.’ “It gives people a false sense because…when they receive their material need…they feel like ‘well, at least I got something, at least this is mine.’”
Populism, of course, is a phenomenon that is not only limited to Latin America. It is also in evidence in today’s United States, the world’s leading counterweight of economic and political liberty vis-à-vis socialism.
Perhaps here the Constitution is not rewritten, nor are our leaders as corrupt as elsewhere, but the phenomenon of “dismantling institutions little by little” is seen when judges are appointed according to their ideology, in order for them to legislate from the bench; when public funds are used to rescue private institutions that are said to be “to big to fail”; or when the Nation’s Chief Executive, in his use of Executive Orders, usurps the role of the people’s elected representatives, to cite only a few examples.
During the interview, Ramos asked Alvarez about U.S. policy with the countries of the region. Alvarez responded by saying that what countries throughout the region need “are sources of jobs, opportunities for people to acquire the skills they need in order to be productive and get ahead. I don’t see how through political meddling or international aid we are going to be able to rescue populations that need to work for themselves and empower themselves.” In addition, it is also worth pointing out that political meddling and international aid often aim to change the culture of its supposed beneficiaries, in order to align it with a radical leftist agenda at the social level.
Gloria Alvarez maintains that, on the contrary, “the Guatemalan has to have a sense of dignity, and has to see the government not as a father or a guarantor of economic objects, but rather as an arbitrer.” The same can be said of all inhabitants of the Americas, from Alaska to Patagonia, because, to quote Alvarez once again, “the worst damage that populism does is that it robs people of their dignity, it takes away from people the sense that they can move their own lives forward.”