The following is based on an article written by the author for use in the Republic of Colombia trying to contextualize for a Colombian audience the nature of the actions recently brought against former president Donald Trump by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. It contrasts Mr. Trump’s current situation with the similar experiences of Colombia’s current president, a left wing progressive, when he was the mayor of Bogota and a probable contender for the Colombian presidency (which he obviously won, but only after intervention by the Interamerican Human Rights Court, an institution to which the United States does not subscribe).
The recent indictment of former President Donald John Trump by a grand jury convened and controlled by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg seems very confusing to foreigners, primarily because reports in the traditional United States lack both context and objectivity, and, further, admittedly, because the former president’s personality is so abrasive, self-centered and unpleasant, that it is difficult to feel compassion for him. However, as indicated in the introduction, for Colombians, some analogies involving their own recent experiences are useful.
One, involves a political leader who shares Mr. Trump’s aggressive personality, Carlos Felipe Mejía Mejía, a former senator from former president Alvaro Uribe Velez’s ultra-right wing political party, the Centro Democratico (a favorite of the United States’ Deep State), and the other (again as mentioned in the introduction), involves the experiences of current Colombian president Gustavo Petro’s in the face of abuse of the Colombian legal system by his opponents, to prevent him from participating in electoral politics. Mr. Petro’s struggles were successful only because, unlike the United States, Colombia respects international law and human rights and accepts the decisions of the Interamerican Court of Human Rights, an institution established through the Interamerican Convention on Human Rights, which the United States has refused to ratify (that tribunal found the abuse of the legal system to bar Mr. Petro from political activity illegal). Mr. Petro had been removed from office as mayor of Bogota and barred from future political by the national procurator, a political opponent, pretty much in the manner Democratic prosecutors in Georgia and New York, as well as in the Department of Justice, are seeking to convict Mr. Trump of crimes in order to render him ineligible to engage in political activity, especially with respect to the presidential elections scheduled for 2024.
The following is pretty much how I explained the current situation in the United States to a Colombian audience:
Former president Donald Trump has just been indicted by a grand jury organized by a county attorney within New York City on 34 felony counts. They all have to do with a payment pursuant to a legal settlement and non-disclosure agreement seeking to put an end to accusations by Mrs. Stephanie Gregory Clifford, a former porn star using the name “Stormy Daniels”, to the effect that Mr. Trump had spent a night with her when, although married, he was a private citizen.
Normally, Ms. Clifford’s demands would have involved the crimes of blackmail and extortion and she would have been the person facing criminal prosecution, but the current case is, for purely political reasons, different. The truth is that the alleged crimes attributed to Mr. Trump have never existed in American jurisprudence and, rather, involve an “innovation” by the Manhattan District Attorney focused on the way in which the expenses were reported by Mr. Trump’s employees, i.e., not as donations from Mr. Trump to his own presidential campaign, but as business or personal legal expenses, paid to his attorney, who had paid them to Ms. Clifford. Indeed, the agreement was between that attorney and Ms. Clifford, for the benefit of Mr. Trump.
If settlement and non-disclosure agreements were a crime, then many American politicians would (or should) be in jail, especially major Trump adversaries, but that doesn’t seem to matter. It also doesn’t matter whether he is eventually found innocent. The mere accusations (indictments are only accusations, after all) are expected to have the desired impact. An electoral victory in 2024 for someone more in accord with current neoconservative politics in the United States.
So, why the current situation? After all, Mr. Trump is clearly a neoliberal capitalist very much in the mold of many of his political opponents. Well, because “very much” is apparently not enough, especially when it involves rejection of traditional neoconservative tactics.
Former President Trump currently leads presidential preference polls for the 2024 presidential elections in the United States, and that is intolerable to the Democratic Party and to traditional Republicans, not because of his alleged immoral personal conduct, that’s a matter between him and his wife, but because Mr. Trump disagrees with current policies concerning the conflict in the Ukraine, because he wants to end NATO, which he perceives as anachronistic, and also, because he believes that the huge expenditures on “defense” spending, on military bases in other countries and on interventions in foreign affairs should be reduced considerably, with the savings used to improve domestic infrastructure, lower taxes charged to US citizens and reduce the national debt to zero.
For the powers that actually control the American state (which President Dwight David Eisenhower warned against when he alluded to “the military/industrial complex”), that would be intolerable given that such industry “earns” billions of dollars in profits every year. Thus, as was the case for current the Colombian president (prior to intervention by the Interamerican Human Rights Court), Mr. Trump’s opponents are seeking to destroy him politically through constant and consistent abuse of the legal system, abuse orchestrated by Democratic prosecutors in several states, especially in New York and Georgia, as well as in the Department of Justice; prosecutors using all the resources available through the United States criminal justice system (an oxymoron) to convict Mr. Trump of offenses which would make him ineligible to run for or hold public office.
In the case of Colombian President Petro, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights prevented his political opponents from denying the Colombian people the right to elect the candidate of their choice as president, but nothing of that nature exists with respect to the United States, purportedly the land of the free, and Mr. Trump is at the mercy of judges and prosecutors appointed by his political enemies, and a press that hates him. Not an enviable position for Mr. Trump, but also, not an enviable position for those Americans, perhaps a majority, who see him as their champion. The United States is currently more polarized than it has been since 1859, and we know what happened then. This situation is likely to make matters even worse, but then, that’s a future problem and as Louis XV is alleged to have proclaimed: “Let the flood come, as long as I’m no longer here”, which it did. From this author’s perspective, the issue is not whether Mr. Trump is a good or decent person, he is not a Trump supporter nor does he intend to vote for him, but in a democracy, a real democracy, what is happening to Mr. Trump should not be tolerated.
It should be noted that the author tried to post a Spanish version of this article on Facebook, but it was immediately banned, allegedly for violating the community guidelines against nudity. Judge for yourself what this article has to do with that subject, and then ask yourself what is happening, and why.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2023; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He is currently the publisher of the Inannite Review, available at Substack.com. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). However, he is also fascinated by mythology, religion, physics, astronomy and mathematics, especially with matters related to quanta and cosmogony. He can be contacted at email@example.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at https://guillermocalvo.com/.