Democracy has long been considered as the most legitimate form of government, associated with factors such as equality, political representation, civil rights and citizen participation. However, political tendencies that oppose democratic values such as human rights, respect for multiculturalism and the environment have emerged without hindrance within systems of democratic governance.
This has resulted in Hindu nationalism in India headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Trump’s conservative populism in the United States or the right in Brazil represented by the president, Jair Bolsonaro, emerging within consolidated democratic system.
Together, these regimes pose profound challenges to the values of democracy. In addition, support for these heads of state is worrisome as it reveals that their conservative thinking is in tune with vast segments of society.
Narendra Modi, who is hostile towards the Muslim minority in India, achieved re-election for a second term as prime minister last May. Modi has remained in office despite suspicions that he was responsible, directly or indirectly, for the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002, when he was head of the state government, in which more than a thousand died people, most of them Muslims.
His anti-Islamic stance coincides with that of his party, the Bharatiya Janata (BJP) implies Hindu supremacy over the cultural expressions of minorities. Since his first term in as prime minister from 2014 to 2019, attacks on Muslims have increased, in particular lynchings of people who have eaten beef, a taboo within Hinduism, encapsulating the idea of inflexible Hinduism that the BJP seeks to impose.
At the same time, his second term is now defined by warmongering over the issues of Jammu and Kashmir, a region that had special status revoked within the Indian federation until August 2019. This has led to hostility towards the Kashmiri population, who are mainly Muslim, and to disputes between Indian and Pakistan – both of whom possess nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, the victory of Donald Trump in 2016 highlighted the political turn to right at the global level. His government is markedly authoritarian and has negatively impacted on key issues such as freedom of expression, the environment and the human rights of migrants.
His irresponsibility in the face of the global climate crisis was revealed in 2017 with the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement, which aimed to address with climate change. However, immigration policy is the most controversial aspect of his government in relation to Latinos and Muslims in particular.
As experts have pointed out, Trump's idea of making the United States great again reflects a post-fascist approach (different from historical fascism but with a similar basis on similar racial hatred), seeking to purify the population and remove non-white immigrants.
The obsession about the construction or expansion of the wall on the southern border between the United States and Mexico; the policy of separation of families crossing the border; the overcrowding of migrants in cages in deplorable conditions; the pressure on Mexico to become a holding third country are pillars of Trump’s anti-immigrant policy.
Alongside these, his hostile speeches stigmatize migrants who go to the US for protection from war, misery and other difficult circumstances in their home country.
Jair Bolsonaro extravagantly vindicates the dictatorship in Brazil and has also revealed racist, misogynist and homophobic biases. Despite this, he managed to become President in January 2019, with support from the beef, bullet and bible sectors of the Brazilian congress.
These agrobusiness, evangelical groups, and lobbyists, for the relaxation in gun law, groups have a conservative agenda on social and economic issues, coinciding with the president's own agenda.
Bolsonaro’s policies towards indigenous communities particularly stands out. He attempted to modify the powers of the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), which had responsibility for defining and demarcating indigenous territories. This is now done by the Ministry of Agriculture, a department of government that favours agrobusiness over the protection of ethnic groups and their environment.
This shows how the indifference towards ecological catastrophe particularly since the huge fires in the Amazon lands coincides with a failure to protect the indigenous people and their territories.
These governments show that democracy can be destroyed from within especially when there are sections of the population that support antidemocratic policies, as in the cases of Modi, Trump and Bolsonaro. Both precarity and aspiration have provided favourable to the hate speech they represent, including the idea of migrants as dangerous.
The consequences of the hate speech they endorse give rise directly to the tragedies that occurred in El Paso, for example, in August this year.
Therefore, ideas of white supremacism in the United States, of Hindu supremacism in India or the contempt of ethnic groups in Brazil when linked to the vision of an economy and a social welfare paradigm that, in theory, is violated with the arrival of certain groups allows leaders to rethink the notion of human rights and unfortunately results in accumulation of wealth in the most privileged groups.
Thus, right-wing government is not only a conservative critical vision of progressive agendas, but it also involves damaging the human rights of vulnerable groups and promoting social tension with open attempts to cancel any expression of solidarity and empathy.
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