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Citizens in favor of rewriting the Chilean constitution celebrate while awaiting the official results of the referendum at Plaza Italia Square in Santiago, Chile on October 25, 2020. (Photo: Alejandro Olivares/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Citizens in favor of rewriting the Chilean constitution celebrate while awaiting the official results of the referendum at Plaza Italia Square in Santiago, Chile on October 25, 2020. (Photo: Alejandro Olivares/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Progressive International Launches Global Observatory to Defend Democracy

"Democracy is a fragile plant," said Noam Chomsky. "Today the threat is severe from a resurgent proto-fascist right. The formation of this observatory should create a badly needed barrier to these destructive tendencies."

Kenny Stancil

Stressing that the institutions designed to ensure fair elections are failing—and have even been complicit in right-wing coups—Progressive International on Monday launched a new global observatory with the goal of protecting democracy amid a worldwide assault on popular rule by authoritarian forces.

"Around the world, democratic institutions are under attack," David Adler, Progressive International (PI) secretariat, said in a video promoting the coalition's new effort. "From Narendra Modi in India, to Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, authoritarian leaders are getting organized to rig the rules, capture the courts, and criminalize dissent."

However, added PI secretariat Aline Piva, "the organizations that claim to defend democracy are unfit to address this global crisis."

The Organization of American States (OAS), for example, has abetted the obstruction of democratic elections in the Western Hemisphere, including several interventions in Haiti and in Bolivia, where the OAS in 2019 "provided cover for a bloody military coup against the government of Evo Morales on the basis of manipulated statistics," Adler and PI secretariat María Ortega wrote Monday in a statement.

Although democracy is also under threat in the United States—where former President Donald Trump's oft-repeated lie that the 2020 election was stolen has coincided with Republicans' growing embrace of authoritarianism and political violence—"the Biden administration continues to put the U.S. on the wrong side" of what Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called a "democratic reckoning" in the Americas, argued Adler and Guillaume Long, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and former foreign minister of Ecuador, in an essay published Monday in The Guardian.

"The launch of the Progressive International Observatory is a source of hope here in Brazil and around the world."

Adler and Long noted that Blinken recently "lavished praise" on the right-wing presidents of Ecuador and Colombia, who have engaged in anti-democratic repression, and the U.S. remains a "leading member" of the OAS, which "is no longer a credible observer of democracy in the Americas—particularly under [the] present leadership of Luis Almagro, which has been described as the 'worst in history.'"

Brazil's former foreign minister Celso Amorim told Adler and Long that "the world is currently going through a very worrying moment, where attacks on democratic institutions happen with frightening frequency. The creation of an international electoral observatory—popular and non-partisan—will fill an important gap in defense of democracy and human rights."

Given the failure of the U.S.-dominated OAS to protect democracy, PI's Ortega said in the video, "the time has come to build an alternative: an institution with the technical skills, legal expertise, and international reach to combat disinformation, to challenge persecution, and to provide real-time defense of democratic institutions."

"Over the past year," said PI secretariat Varsha Gandikota, the organization "has mobilized to the frontlines of authoritarian aggression"—sending delegations of data scientists, trade unionists, and parliamentarians to Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Turkey, and Brazil.

As a result, PI has "earned," in the words of Adler and Ortega, "a reputation with anti-democratic forces around the world."

According to the pair:

At the CPAC conference in Brazil back in September, extreme-right Colombian senator María Fernanda Cabal called the Progressive International a "group of convicts" for our successful efforts to beat back Keiko Fujimori's coup attempt in Peru. "Don't let the Progressive International believe that they are going to do what they did in Peru," she said to the Brazilian audience. "From now, we are going to start writing down the names of electoral observers."

Despite intensifying attacks on popular rule, Piva noted in the video, international solidarity has helped secure "major triumphs." Those include the restoration of democracy in Bolivia, where socialist President Luis Arce was elected last year to replace the brutal far-right regime that ousted—with the help of the OAS, the support of the Trump administration, and the use of violence—Morales, and the election of Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, another socialist whose victory was delayed for weeks due to his right-wing opponent's attempt to delegitimize and overturn the results.

"In Peru, our team of data scientists helped refute the claims of electoral fraud with which Fujimori attempted to annul tens of thousands of votes and steal the election," wrote Adler and Ortega. "Now, we are building from these victories to launch a global observatory—and we are inviting you to build it with us."

"From organizing delegations to preparing investigations," the secretariats explained, "the PI Observatory will ensure greater transparency, integrity, and accountability in our democracies."

"Democracy is a fragile plant," PI Council member Noam Chomsky said in a statement. "Today the threat is severe from a resurgent proto-fascist right. The formation of this observatory should create a badly needed barrier to these destructive tendencies."

Adler and Ortega emphasized that "the timing of the launch is critical." PI is currently preparing to travel this month to Honduras, "where candidates face daily assassination attempts as their prospects for victory rise," and Chile, where "reactionary forces" are threatening to undermine the citizen-led campaign to rewrite the neoliberal constitution imposed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's military junta.

"The stakes are even higher in the year to come," the pair added. "Elections in Colombia, France, and Brazil promise to shape the political trajectories of entire continents for years to come."

São Paulo's former mayor Fernando Haddad said in a statement that "Brazil is at a critical juncture."

"Now more than ever, we need an institution to observe, protect, and defend our right to free and fair elections," Haddad said. "The launch of the Progressive International Observatory is a source of hope here in Brazil and around the world."

In its new video, PI made an urgent appeal for financial support to "help build an observatory with the strength necessary to defend democracy around the world."


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