A 'sátrapa' in the presidency of the United States

Trump, the sátrapa, has strengthened his desire to replace foreign policy with military policy, which is a risk for Latin America and the world.

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According to the Academy of the Spanish Language, a sátrapa is understood as the "person who governs despotically and arbitrarily and who makes ostentation of his power". There is no more accurate common noun to define the current US president. It is a peculiar type of a despot. This type of ruler was more commonly observed in fragile states with dependent comprador bourgeoisies from the era of the Development & Security doctrine (1950 to 1980). This was the time when the US sponsored coups and preferred militaries close to them in the face of the possibility of a communist threat, rather than reformist democrats. Some textbook examples are Fulgencio Batista from Cuba (1940 to 1959), Rafael Leonidas and Héctor Trujillo from Dominican Republic (1930 to 1960) and the Somozas, father and children, of Nicaragua (1934 to 1979).


We will attempt to explain how (1) a character such as the current US president, closer to the Ugly American of Eugene Burdick and William Lederer, than to a president in the service of freedom and democracy, capable of antagonizing his own and others, was elected, and 2) what kind of government he can implement. One possible explanation for the first question revolves around the mass of voters in the United States who went to the polls, ignorant, xenophobic, racist, homophobic and class conscious. The other citizens do not seem to have voted massively against him. For the second issue, aside from arbitrariness, the problem is that as head of state of the world's most influential country, he must be tolerated by the world's political leaders, assimilated by the internal administrative structure of the United States Government and, sometimes, even be stopped. That is what checks and balances are about.


Trump is a sátrapa in the position of President without the stature of a Head of State nor the knowledge of the interests of the State. He has shown he has not the slightest idea of the implications of a US President saying one thing or another, and is not interested. His statements are usually after a round of golf, in one of his clubs, usually accompanied by his wife and daughter. Puerto Rico and North Korea are cases in point.


Another feature of his satrapía lies in how he considers the press as generator of fake news if in opposition, while the loyal and loyalist generates good news. In his simplistic polarized world of good and evil, he himself is the force of good and all the rest is evil. However, in no level has his diplomatic bravado and bluster, historical ignorance, search for impunity (in the absence of his tax return presentation and numerous investigations of his business and political relations with Russia) and contempt for the public become more serene. He, for his part, is becoming increasingly violent in his rhetoric.


In order to rule, a sátrapa proceeds to empty the Government and installs his family in the checkpoints; the sátrapa governs with his family, for his family and in the family. In the US case, this emptiness is seen in the numerous and growing vacancies in the American Executive Branch. Despite this, he has not had the strength to push any of his campaign promises nor complete all positions in the executive branch. The White House Council of Economic Advisers, the Department of Commerce's Manufacturing Council, the Environmental Protection Agency, senior positions of the State Department, are all vacant, and numerous positions of representatives and bodies of advisers of the State apparatus have either not been named or not ratified.


Under these conditions, the possibility of democratic political management of economic, military and social problems is difficult. Faced with the modification of NAFTA with Mexico and Canada, – the future of 26.5% of global GDP! – the US does not have a full blown Council of Economic Advisers, nor is the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy confirmed, nor the Director of the National Office of Drug Control Policy. Trump dismantled the Strategic and Policy Forum, whose members are the directors of transnational firms such as Boeing, General Electric, IBM, Tesla, JPMorgan, Intel, Ford, Dell, Walmart, among others.


Just as the talks of the world's most important Free Trade Agreement have implications for the rest of the global trade and production structure, the emergence of a sátrapa in the US executive has begun to have implications for the rest of the world. The radical right found moral support in Trump, as was seen in the march of Charleston, Virginia. Globally there has also been observed the rise of right-wing radical forces after Brexit in Britain; of the neo-Nazi party Alternative for Germany to the German Parliament; the ultra-conservative vote in Austria, the growing support for Marine Le Pen in France. However sátrapa he may be, he has the command of the US executive branch and the military.


Trump, the sátrapa, has strengthened his desire to replace foreign policy with military policy, which is a risk for Latin America and the world. The regional response of Latin American governments, to arbitrariness in trade issues, to military interventions, to pseudo humanitarian aid and “democratic” incursions will be vital.


(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop and the authors).


- Oscar Ugarteche, a researcher with IIEc-UNAM / SNI. Coordinator of the OBELA Project

Armando Negrete, OBELA Project



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