"The rift" in Argentina: Democracy Under Threat

Sunday, October 09

By Paloma Doti


In Argentina, what began as dinnertime arguments over lunch and fights between friends, on  September 1st became the attempted murder of the nation's vice-president as she was returning home to a group of fanatics on national television. The country was one missed bullet away from an assassination attempt in the midst of democracy. 
When did the existence of a diversity of opinions turn into the formation of hatred, intolerance and violence?

The "rift" is known as the division in the country resulting from extreme political polarization among the people. Each side of this rift accuses the other of being wrong. The media encourages the demonization of those who think differently rather than democratic debate. Kirchneristas vs Macristas in Argentina or Democrats vs Republicans in the United States: the names change, but the phenomenon does not. It is not different from what happens in other countries: there is extreme polarization between right-wing parties and parties leaning towards more progressive or left-wing ideas all over the world. In Argentina specifically, this hatred and separation escalated to the event that occurred earlier this month, which serves as a symbol of a democracy threatened by extreme intolerance. 

In Argentina, politicians propose to "close" the rift. Although this sounds hopeful, and even more so for a society tired of social conflicts, ending the division of opinions means that only one voice is heard, and therefore, that another one is being silenced. The assassination attempt on the vice president was also an attempt to close the rift. Democracy is synonymous with thinking of the other. If I eliminate someone other than myself, then there is no democracy. 

Democracy has a contradiction: while freedom of expression needs to be encouraged and allowed to exist, this freedom that can lead to the formation of extremist groups that do not respect democratic principles can lead to the end of the system. In other words, the very pillars of the regime can cause it to collapse. That is why the only way to keep it standing is to give the enemies of democracy room to debate and train ourselves to be able to respond to them. Censoring those who are different, accusing the other of being wrong and not listening to them, only feeds the extreme polarization that in one way or another ends up on one side of the rift imposing itself on the other and thus destroying democracy.

To defend the will of the people, human rights, equality, justice, freedom of expression, and all the values that make democracy a system that requires us to want, decide, judge, and develop our human reason as much as possible, we must rise to the occasion.  A better and more tolerant world requires its citizens to listen to each other and to be predisposed to unceasing debate.

Diversity of opinion not only has to exist but is mandatory for the representation of the people to exist and to foster innovation and improvement of our societies. To respect the will of the majority, we must first debate and talk among ourselves to find it. In Argentina we are one step away from exercising democracy in its fullness, there is a diversity of opinions, what is missing is to build a bridge between the two sides of the rift, for which only one material is needed: dialogue. 

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