Sunday, December 4, 2016

Is Donald Trump the First American Caudillo?

By Omar G. Encarnación

r those of us who study Latin America, it has been fascinating to watch the gradual but certain Latin-Americanization of U.S. politics. The latest and most compelling sign yet is the rise of Republican presidential contender Donald J. Trump, whose braggadocio, demagoguery, and disdain for the rule of law puts him squarely in the tradition of El Caudillo(loosely translated into English as “the leader” or “the chief”), a mainstay of Latin American politics. Although difficult to define, the phenomenon of caudillismo is easy to trace through Latin American history. During its golden age—the nineteenth century—the typical caudillo was a charismatic man on horseback with a penchant for authoritarianism. Early caudillos such as Argentina’s Juan Manuel de Rosas and Mexico’s Antonio López de Santa Anna ruled their countries by the sheer force of personality as they sought to negotiate the rough-and-tumble world of politics of postcolonial Latin America.
It was the postwar years, however, that produced the most enduring symbols of caudillismo. Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, in office from 1930 until his assassination in 1961, came to embody the caudillo as a racist, narcissistic, virility-obsessed, and self-aggrandizing despot. Indeed, Trujillo’s capacity for glorifying himself might make Trump blush. He renamed the capital city of Santo Domingo to Trujillo City, changed the name of the country’s highest mountain from Pico Duarte to Pico Trujillo, and held parades and celebrations for his own commemoration. January 11, for example, was declared “Day of the Benefactor.” Little wonder that Trujillo’s best-known biography bears the title of Little Caesar of the Caribbean.
Another iconic postwar caudillo was General Juan Domingo Perón of Argentina, who reinvented the type by infusing it with a pronounced nationalist-populist streak. During the apotheosis of Peronism, 1946-1955, Perón harnessed nationalist rhetoric to create an intimate connection with the working class while pursuing an economic program intended to realize Argentina’s potential for grandeza(greatness). He also repressed the press and the opposition whenever they criticized his policies, going so far as to send political enemies to prison and shut down the opposition newspaper La Prensa.
Heirs to Perón’s legacy include Argentina’s Carlos Menem, Peru’s Alberto Fujimori, the late Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Chávez’s successor Nicolás Maduro, and Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s current president. Like Perón, all of these leaders struggled to maintain the institutional façade of democracy while dramatically subverting civil and political freedoms. In turn, the latest generation of caudillos has pioneered and mastered the use of social media to bond with the masses and to render conventional means of political organization, especially political parties, almost obsolete. They have stretched executive power well beyond its limits and shown remarkable ideological fluidity in their economic policies. And they have exploited the anger among the poor toward globalization and neoliberalism. In doing so, these caudillos provide a more appropriate point of reference for understanding the causes and consequences of the Trump phenomenon than the overblown comparisons that have been made to European fascist leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini, and even the populist former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Read the rest here.


  1. Why does the right and left always compare someone they disagree with to a socialist dictator? Hitler and Mussolini, and now Hugo Chávez. General Juan Domingo Perón destroyed a county with a standard of living close to the western world with socialism.

    1. @Anonymous,

      Juan Peron's policies were actually not that different fundamentally to what El Señor Presidente Trumpo has in store for us.

    2. What planet are you from?

    3. Please give examples and references so I can try to understand this comment. I apologize for the previous post.

    4. "When Perón became president on 4 June 1946, his two stated goals were social justice and economic independence"
      I could argue that the number one reason Trump was elected is American people with parents born in the USA are tired of SJW's and cultural Marxism.

    5. @Anonymous,

      --- I would argue thet [...] [the] American people with parents born in the US are tored of SJW[...]

      ... While obviating the "economic independence" part which was the staple of Peronista policy?

      Talk about obfuscation.

  2. Caudillo? Total BS. Components of the pro-Trunp vote were:
    1) A middle finger to the GOP for what it did to Ron Paul.
    2) The corruption of Clinton Inc.
    3) The policies of letting mass immigration of people who do not have the same concepts of society and goverment. Yes, and one of the imported ideas by those immigrants is of the patriarchal government, possibly lead by one of the types being complained.

    At worst, Trump will be no different of what we have been foisted upon. At best, we will lessen some foreign military entanglments.

    Look at the imported and Democrats, they are more likely to go for a caudillo.

    1. @JaimeInTexas,

      --- Yes, and one of the imported ideas by those immigrants is of the patriarchal government ---

      Didn't El Presidente Trumpo demonstrated he is patriarchal government with the Carrier deal?

      --- At worst, Trump will be no different of what we have been foisted upon. ---

      Oh, you haven't seen anything yet.

  3. Because the Wenzel-Weld libertarians are Democrats in disguise. "Get 'em OUT!"

  4. Sure would be nice if we could wait for the 1st 100 days of DT's rule are over before we start all these Trump = Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol-Pot, Pinochet, Franco and company posts.

    Meanwhile in the real world the senate has just passed The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act which sounds to me like students will no longer be allowed to criticize Israel or Jews if it becomes law.

    1. @FormerLibertarian,

      Looks like El Presidente Trumpo is not going to wait that long to show us his "influence".

  5. "Is Donald Trump the First American Caudillo?"

    Geez what a stupid rhetorical question. The guy isn't even President yet and leftarians are already claiming he's a composite of Hannibal Lecter, Jeffry Dahmer and every chicken shit Latin American dictator of the last 100 years. That's it, Trump is really Ronaldo Lecter-Dahmer-Peron.

    For a Caudillo to rule there must an absence of effective political opposition and a resort to systematic political oppression to ensure that none develops. In fact Trump will be the recipient of unprecedented political opposition (some of it quite violent as we have already seen) from the entire spectrum of the permanent establishment in both parties as well as the MSM, academia, a large swath of the Globalist business elite and every jacked up leftwing street thug with a penchant for political vandalism.

    In fact, even if it were possible for Trump to rule as a "Caudillo" he would hardly be the first. He will have been superseded by Dishonest Abe Lincoln, the war mongering, racist, megalomaniacal strongman president. Honorable mention for that title must also go to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a man who became basically El Presidente For Life. Don't know about you but that sounds pretty Caudillo-ish to me.

    Wenzel, are you just trolling us to get more page views or do you really give credence to these ridiculous, over wrought, handwringing, tone deaf articles penned by hysterical, supercilious left wing academic frauds who have an amusing tendency to project their own vices onto their percieved enemies.