President Trump's scuppered impeachment may provide a cue to regional leaders working to undermine their own democracies.
BOGOTÁ — A crucial decision for the world (and yes, that includes Colombia) has just been taken by the United States Senate. President Donald J. Trump has been cleared of the charges brought against him in the House of Representatives' articles of impeachment. Those charges included obstruction of justice and pressuring the Ukrainian government to find compromising information on a possible Trump rival in coming elections, former Vice President Joseph Biden.
There were hopes there would be enough honorable Republicans to vote for Trump's removal from office, but only Utah Senator Mitt Romney did so, as the remainder preferred to mind their Trump-voting constituents, and not jeopardize their reelection, even if some believed Trump had committed serious offenses.
A license Made in USA to argue for any measure that serves their ambition.
This decision establishes an ethical precedent in the world's most powerful democracy, with grave repercussions for other states. It means that from now on in democracies, it will be considered acceptable, if it is somehow deemed to be in the public interest, for a president to resort to any trick to get ahead in an election. That is what some Republican senators argued without blushing. Among those jumping for joy: Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega and our own, dear Álvaro Uribe, Colombia's former President, who tried his hand at bugging politicians and intimidating judges. They have a license Made in USA to argue that any measure that serves their ambition is good for the nation!
In Colombia the danger is not of the sitting president, Iván Duque, trying to stay in power. He lacks the political fuel to carry on. The danger is that Trump's triumph will embolden the pro-Uribe hordes to intensify their bilious discourse and disdain for liberal values and social equality. Uribe's movement knows it only flourishes among fearful people, which is why it is as sparing as possible in peacemaking. It advised the president to name defense ministers who know nothing about security. It exhorted the army chiefs to direct their intelligence agencies at its critics, not the country's growing criminal gangs. It backed a foreign minister who wanted to limit the UN Human Rights chief's mandate.
Yet even as Trump emerges a winner from his impeachment battle, he still has to fight in November's general elections. If the Democrats win, those regimes that consider a democracy whatever mechanisms ensure their own power could no longer safely look to the United States.