Although the rise and pre-eminence of clerical factors to power is not a novelty in world politics, especially in regions of the world such as the Middle East, the rise of Protestantism, or more specifically, Evangelicalism, playing a leading role of politics has particularities and is a process that some might consider striking and in some cases dangerous.
The religious leader of "The Gospel Changes", Javier Bertucci, has broken into Venezuelan politics in the context of a crisis of political and institutional order, in unison of a strong economic situation. According to several pollsters such as Datanalisis, Hinterlaces and Consultores 21, Bertucci would obtain no less than 10% of the votes in the May elections. A result that would place its political forces in the third place of the Venezuelan electoral composition, which could be considered positive for a new political group, which would also obtain this result by forcing its way into a consistently polarized political context in Venezuela.
On July 2, 2003, Bertucci was arrested and later charged by the Venezuelan authorities with charges of "aggravated smuggling and conspiracy to commit a crime." This is outlined in a note prepared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that investigated him for his direct involvement in the so-called "Panama Papers".
According to that investigation Bertucci leads a business network based in Panama, Miami and Venezuela, as evidenced by documents that were part of the "Panama Papers" filtration in which 370 Venezuelans, including the pastor, used the Mossack Fonseca law firm to hide assets in tax havens. Bertucci was benefited with precautionary measures and, as is common among anti-Chavez leaders, he seems to have jumped into the electoral arena to protect his figure and circumvent the law.
On the Protestant (Evangelical) question in Latin American politics
There are countries for which the presence of Protestantism in politics is not new. The USA is the most emblematic case of this as a result of British influence and the process of colonization and occupation of North America, undertaken by Protestant clerical factors that saw in the new world an alternative to the old Europe that outlawed the various religious groups belonging to this sect and that had been considered quite "conservative".
There are differences to be weighed in the moments and in the characteristics of the rise of Protestantism in the politics of the continent. Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Canada and many others in the world that have had presidents or prime ministers belonging to some Protestant sect, such as Baptists or Anglicans (Trump is Evangelical, according to Vice President Pence), in Latin America this phenomenon is being presented differently.
For the tradition of leaders of Protestant religion in Europe and America, religion is an accessory component that accompanies the figure of leaders who in theory would exercise lay governments. In Latin America the phenomenon comes from the hand of the same churches and the very presence of "God" as a factor of political campaign and government exercise.
The case of Brazil is representative. Protestantism in the political leaders managed to penetrate transversally the politics beyond the parties to the point where, just at the time of a coup d’état by parliamentary means to Dilma Rousseff, within the framework of this debate the presence of deputies and senators who openly legitimized their coup conspiracy and dismantling the Brazilian institutionality "in the name of God".
A narrative that was also peppered with phrases alluding to corruption, but which was also preceded by the positions of parliamentarians in debates, openly against the formulation of policies for the sexediverse community, positions against abortion, the legalization of marijuana , and this is just among other topics. Discussions that take place in different latitudes of the world and that are not possible in Brazil because of the great power of the Evangelical entourage in politics.
This phenomenon is also present in Central America, especially in Guatemala, Costa Rica and El Salvador. This is where a share of political prominence is composed of followers of the evangelical faith in its various denominations.
One of the causal factors of these phenomena is the exhaustion of the traditional systems of political parties, accompanied by the crisis of representativeness characteristic of the presidential and parliamentary systems in this region of the world. Instances that cyclically opt for crossroads and changes in political cycles, where one party and then the other go and come in government instances.
This model has a tendency to wear while there are no shocks and consistent transformations of the political fact and that is also susceptible to the disappointments of corruption, economic crises or poor governance.
In those gaps left by the traditional parties, it has found a space for the regional Evangelical leadership. A contradiction, if we understand that it is precisely the religious leaderships of Protestantism that are regularly pointed out of situations that are not new to politics like corruption.
As is well known, the Protestant ethic and the configuration of Evangelical clerical structures developed the incentive of tithe for the benefit of pastors, which mathematically has resulted in the accumulation of countless riches for many of these religious.
Javier Bertucci is another on that list. A television man in Venezuelan, he is accused of accumulating enormous wealth at the expense of his faith and with a criminal record that seriously questions his position as a neat man in politics. The presidential aspiration on the part of the "Man of God," as some of his followers call him, is indeed a novelty in Venezuelan politics.
Politics, religion and Latin America
Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, it seems, is one of those de facto leaders who seems not to bother anyone, understanding that he has been in power for more than 30 years and has not been overthrown by the US. Perhaps the penetration of US oil companies in that country has something to do with it.
In any case, Museveni, an Anglican Protestant, has become known as one of the most controversial figures in politics precisely because he has faithfully followed his religious postulates from the government. Although he may be religiously devoted, he is politically obscene.
Recently a decree was annulled by the parliament of his country in which, against all international legislation, criminalized homosexuality. Generating with it mass arrests and persecutions against the sexodiversity community of that country. Now Museveni has proposed the prohibition of oral sex to consider it an affront imported from other cultures, because as a good conservative notes that "the mouth is only to eat".
The Protestant question in the politics of Latin America is accompanied by the cult, the Evangelical mass and the set of political promises that are resemantized around the Evangelical Christian doctrine as an exercise of government. Or what Bertucci would answer as "the government of God in Venezuela" as the central proposal of his mandate. A political obscenity that can irritate the growing atheist mass or people who simply have the common sense not to delegate politics to "God", because "I've never seen it" or because "he is not the one who should take care of those things".
In any case Bertucci has said that his eventual government will be the worst for any struggle in the causes of abortion and sexodiversity. Movements that are continental and that are mainstreaming political discussions in all countries of the world. It promises a neoliberal, business and Evangelical government. But he has also said that he will incorporate “God” into Venezuelan education. It seems that now there is someone who really wants to indoctrinate the children and it is not Chávez.
Evangelical churches are instances that have developed efficiently and accelerated in Venezuela, especially since the second half of the twentieth century. Given the clientelist practices that are developed in these religious retinues. Yes, it is patronage that in one instance someone favors another by religious affiliation.
That is why the promotion of Evangelical officials to institutions has been common, which later, suspiciously, is filled with more Evangelicals. Even cases like these have been reported in Chavez-era, where there was a defense minister, Gustavo Reyes Rangel, who appeared in a video making movements identical to those of a convulsion and speaking in an unbreakable language similar to proto-Aramaic (speaking of tongues) when receiving the "touch of the holy spirit".
This has been the case of Brazil, where the presence of Evangelical leaders in middle political spaces only served for the promotion and incorporation of other Evangelical leaders, hijacking the political scene at the expense of political parties that function as churches and churches that work as political parties. Generating rigorous practices of exclusion to other shades and styles of politics, and on the other hand, with efficient use of the "flock" in fanatizing the policy from details such as "put to pray" officials (believers or not) in institutions or execrate who declares himself "non-believer" or of another religion before any governmental instance.
The spread of ultra-conservative positions is another serious issue, in a Brazil that far from polishing its policy for supposedly having "men of God", is degraded right now in the framework of an institutional dictatorship, the judicialization of the anti-drug policy figure of Lula de Silva and the accelerated deterioration of the juridical framework, with Evangelicals in leading roles and in the first line executing the dismemberment of the State.
Brazil has known the promotion of the maximum profit of the private company, with Evangelical sponsorship and at the expense of the looting of resources. This was analyzed a couple of centuries ago by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. For the Protestants, their position on money is diametrically opposed to the Christian apostolic and Roman logic that proclaims that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven". For Evangelicals, profit and accumulation are traits of the “blessings of God” on earth. Hence, many Evangelical followers are not bothered by the blessings with which their pastors live thanks to the tithe.
In Brazil this has resulted in business and Evangelical hands, functioning as a binomial, supporting one another for mutual benefit. Well, in reality, as in Venezuela, "The Gospel Changes", in Brazil the Evangelical churches are really companies with great communication readiness.
In Brazil this has resulted in business and Evangelical hands, functioning as a binomial, supporting one another for mutual benefit. In fact, as in Venezuela, "The Gospel Changes," in Brazil Evangelical churches are really companies with great communication skills that interact as factors of politics and are at the same time lobbying factors of large companies and conglomerates that manipulate institutions. and the legislation to taste.
An example of this is that in the framework of the dictatorship of Michel Temer, supported by the Evangelicals, they have modified the Constitution to freeze social spending in the next three decades and severe modifications have been made to labor legislation and pension and retirement systems, producing retrograde situations in the rights of the population and in benefit of the big business factors close to the structures of the Brazilian government.
On other issues, the Evangelical community is openly a follower of Zionist Christianity. The idea of a "new Jerusalem" in heaven also passes through the constant allusions, references and promotions to the State of Israel, which we know has been consecrated as an instance transgressing international law and militarily very aggressive. All American Protestant leaders have legitimized and sponsored the power of Israel, contributing to their practically becoming an uncontrollable political factor in one of the most sensitive and unstable areas in the world.
The risks of placing religious leaders in positions of power, or accessing positions on the shoulders of their followers, lie in the placement of dangerous ingredients of doctrinal bigotry to politics.
Historically they have been marked by intolerance and the imposition of beliefs in the exercise of government. Something that in essence is an affront to the modern, secular states, which come precisely from Henry VIII of England, who in order to marry for the second time had to separate the crown from the Church. It is not necessary to remember that data. Understanding that the particularities of the personal life of Enrique VIII moved to the world politics and that obeys to reasons of common sense.
Translated by Paul Antonopoulos.