By becoming the leader of the most powerful country in the world, Donald Trump empowered and legitimized authoritarians around the world. It did so through a media use of lies and autocratic practices that had echoes of the ones perpetrated by fascists during the crisis of democracy of the interwar years of the last century.

But now that Trump is gone, what will happen to those who follow his recipes for violence, lies, racism, authoritarianism and militarization of politics and legitimize themselves through it?

In Latin America, the followers of a purely Trumpist policy do not intend to change course and are even more explicit in their defense of autocratic models through the use of the great lie of saying that they are democratic.

Keiko Fujimori

The most recent case is the presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori in Peru, who in a Bolsonarist and Trumpist key combines her idea of establishing a "democradura" in hes country with preaching against a nonexistent enemy, "gender ideology." Like Trump and Bolsonaro, Fujimori has a past rooted in accusations of corruption and nepotism but she masks this past with a message of law and order  and fighting corruption.

Nayib Bukele

Like Fujimori, the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele shares an autocratic impatience with the functioning of democracy but also disguises it in democratic robes.

What's more, Bukele preceded Trump in an attempt to occupy Congress. In February 2020, the Salvadoran caudillo ordered military and police troops to occupy the parliamentary building and when he entered it, and as Trump supporters would later do, Bukele prayed sitting in the chair normally occupied by the Speaker of Parliament. Before leaving the building, Bukele gave lawmakers a week to approve his proposals.

It is clear that Bukele had followed, and often anticipated, Trump's wannabe fascist recipe. Like Trump, Bukele used and abused social media to announce government decisions from Twitter and even communicated with members of his cabinet in this way. He also declared on twitter that "I am officially the coolest president in the world." On another occasion, he "ordered" citizens to go to sleep while writing a tweet at 2.46 am.

Matteo Salvini

Rather than being idiosyncratic, this novel use of the media landscape followed the Trumpist pattern and presented the country with alternative realities that were combined with planned attacks on the legitimacy of the free press. The same pattern we can see in Europe with Matteo Salvini use of the media as well as in post-fascist movements like Vox in Spain. They use lies about democracy, the past and disease to put forward a politics of hatred of everything that looks, behaves or is different to their own xenophobic sense of the national self.

The free press whose function is to give information to the public becomes a key target of this hatred because it presents real data that does not correspond with populist propaganda.

Jair Bolsonaro

A radical example of this hatred is Bolsonaro in Brazil who coughed around journalists when he positive for Covid-19, and also used, and continues to use, violent, homophobic, and misogynistic slurs when addressing journalists or referring to independent media.

Two reports by key press freedom organizations concluded that 2020 was the most dangerous year for professional journalism in recent Brazilian history and the Bolsonaro government was the main source of the attacks. The use of violence against dissidents is presented in the context of Bolsonaro's reactionary calls to change the Brazilian people according to traditional religious and gender norms and to arm the population to avoid the fantasy danger of a future leftist dictatorship.

After storming Congress, Bukele justified his actions by claiming that he was not a dictator. Like Trump and Bolsonaro, Bukele equated freedom and the sacred with his ability to assault institutions at the request of the people and even identified his attacks on democracy and the independent press with his defense of "freedom of speech" and democracy.

In Peru, Keiko Fujimori explained that “Mano dura means reestablishing the principle of authority, to bring order. It means that things get done. But it does not mean authoritarianism ”. Hes personal and family history show that it is difficult to frame Fujimori’s ideas of law and order and repression within the democratic tradition.

This type of distortion of authoritarianism, which also presents itself as a defender of democracy, has a sad and old history that goes from Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Pinochet to Bolsonaro and Trump. In 2019, Bolsonaro celebrated the 1964 coup that led to the military dictatorship in Brazil and claimed that that dictatorship had established democracy, even arguing that it had not actually been a dictatorship.

Trump's dictatorial plan to reverse the results of the presidential elections through violence exerted by armed citizens was also presented as a "defense of democracy."

In the framework of the collapse of the traditional Latin American, American and European political elites, these new leaderships turn elections into plebiscites based on lies about the functioning of democracy.

As philosopher Hannah Arendt argued, politics and lies always go together, but in fascism lies increase both quantitatively (fascists blatantly lie) and qualitatively (fascists believe their lies and attempt to transform reality to resemble their own lies). In this context, leaders like Bolsonaro, Bukele and Fujimori take up the trumpist torch and turn their lies into a serious danger for democracy.

© Riproduzione riservata