Staunton, February 20 – Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime fits somewhere between that of the notorious Rafael Trujillo of Dominican Republic in the 1950s and the Maximato period in Mexico (1928-1934), when Plutarco Elias Calles, known as el Jefe Maximo -- ‘the Maximum Leader” --ruled but was no longer president, Tatyana Vorozheykina says.
The Moscow political scientist who specializes on Latin America tells Zoya Svetova of MBK News in the course of a 4,000-word interview that what this means is that “a state in the generally accepted sense of a system of public institutions in present-day Russia is in practice lacking” (mbk-news.appspot.com/sences/mezhdu-truxilo-i-maksimato/).
Instead, the Latin Americanist says, “in its place has been set up a layered system of private power based on control over the executive power and the most profitable economic sectors by one and the same group of people.” There have been numerous Latin American regimes like that, and recognizing Russia’s similarities with them is instructive.
Two things set Russia apart, Vorozheykina says, despite all the commonalities of the combination of personal power and economic ownership in the absence of a genuine state: None of the Latin American countries has been an empire, and none of them has a totalitarian past with which it must cope.
But those pale into insignificance, she suggests, when one considers both the absence of the institutionalization of the regimes in both places because of the personalization of power in the hands of one individual and the tight nexus between personal property and ownership of key economic assets.
No analogy is perfect, of course, the scholar continues. “But it seems to me,” she says, “the level of uniqueness and extraordinary character of the Russian authoritarian regime is in many ways being exaggerated.” And that may be especially true in the way it comes to its end, she suggests.
A military coup of the kind Latin America has had many of is “impossible” given the leader’s use of the security services to monitor the army and the absence of a Russian tradition of coups. And the alternative to that, Latin America suggests, is rising pressure from below that leads part of the elite to conclude that concessions are better than resistance.
That is what happened in Brazil and Chile, she says; and it is possible that is what will happen in Russia. “A peaceful nonviolent transition to democracy will become possible when the authoritarian regime recognizes that its base is contracting in a serious way and that opposition democratic and social movement shave become so powerful” that suppressing them violently won’t work.
“Under these conditions,” Vorozheykina continues, honest elections can take place followed by a constituent assembly that will adopt a democratic Constitution.” That is a far better option than a violent collapse which in most cases in Latin America and in Russia results in a rapid restoration of much of the status quo ante.