Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Discussing Latin America - Political Parties in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Argentina

I was already thinking about Yann's post about Nicaragua's municipal elections from last week, and it, combined with a story at the New York Times about the divisions among current and former Sandinistas who are fighting over the role of the party, raised an interesting set of questions for me. Basically, those two posts/articles got me thinking about political movements/parties based on the "icon-ization" of a particular figure/hero/leader. I've been trying to figure out exactly what role(s) such a figure might have on political parties and party identities, how the timelines of mythification and division over the hero's supposed "vision" (which is often contested among the individual's followers) play out, etc.

In thinking about this, I was able to come up with three countries off the top of my head to whom this political scenario applied currently or in the past: Nicaragua with the Sandinistas; Argentina with Peronism; and El Salvador, with the Frente Farabundo Marti para Liberacion Nacional (FMLN).

In addition to these three countries with current political parties based on a single figure, there was also the case of Cuba with Jose Marti, but I think that, while Marti was particularly important to daily politics in pre-1959 Cuba, the ways in which Fidel has shaped Cuba over the past 50 years have resulted in Cuba being an outlier from El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Argentina - there just isn't a struggle over Marti's thought in political life in Cuba today. It seemed possible that Venezuela could apply to this, as well, but I wasn't really sure it did merit a comparison to Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Argentina (though further discussion may convince me it does). I didn't think it was in the same category because Chavez's "Bolivarian project" doesn't seem on the surface to include much debate over what Bolivar "wanted" for Venezuela. Although Sandino, Marti, and Peron were/are all symbols, too, the use of Bolivar seems almost purely symbolic, rather than evoking an ideological debate over the meanings of his views.

Anyhow, in all of these efforts at comparisons and contrasts, while I know a decent bit about Argentina and Nicaragua, I know virtually nothing about the case of El Salvador and Farabundo Marti. I e-mailed Yann, asking him several questions for discussion, and we've decided to move the discussion to the blog. He and I will be addressing each other here on this particular question, but we invite others to please join in in the comments. We don't really have any expectations as to how long this will last - as long as the conversation is worth having, I guess. However, Yann and I hope that this is also the beginning of a series of dialogues over Latin America between Yann, myself, and others here at the blog, and that this series of "Latin American discussions" can perhaps even become a semi-permanent feature of the blog.