Dictatorships — real and fantastical — are run with a penchant for corruption over legality in order to achieve personal gain for the members of their administration. The fictitious dictatorship of President Don Santos Banderas in Ramón del Valle-Inclán’s Tyrant Banderas is not immune to this inherent corruption. Banderas and the people who work with and under him are all motivated by the promise of personal enrichment and, in turn, do not act in the best interest of the republic.
President Don Santos Banderas unethically uses bribery as a political force to weaken the revolutionaries that threaten his power. Banderas recognizes the threat of a revolution backed by logic when he states that “there are men of learning among the revolutionaries, whose brains should be ticking on behalf of the fatherland” (Valle-Inclán, 16). To neutralize this threat, he relies on the corrupt concept of “silver bullets” to separate the intelligent population from the uneducated, lower classes. A silver bullet — bribery — is just as powerful in eliminating Banderas’ opposition as a literal bullet. With it, he offers the intellectuals elite political positions back in the country of Spain; he quite literally removes them from the revolution. Without intellectual citizens to support them, the lower classes do not have the resources to contest Banderas’ administration.
The relocation of the intelligentsia to Spain ensures that the revolutionary cause does not have the brainpower to succeed and overthrow Banderas’ administration. He makes no attempt to meet revolutionary demands in order to protect the power that he has as the president. In describing this situation to Don Celestino, Banderas says “only silver bullets ensure the finest victories” (Valle-Inclán, 15). For Tyrant Banderas, a victory is not for the people he governs but instead for his own personal gain. Each day Banderas finds a new way to manipulate the breadth of his power so that he won’t have to relinquish it. There is no other motivating factor behind his silver bullet initiative other than his own thirst for political power.
In the city of Santa Fe, the practice of journalism is manipulated to invalidate revolutionary ideals. Banderas instructs his underlings to censor the news despite a whole framework of ethics that exists to regulate journalism. When a reporter submits his objective notes for review the publisher tells him “you lack political insight! We can’t say ‘the audience greeted Advocate Sánchez Ocaña with a standing ovation’” and then proceeds to instruct him on exactly what the publication is allowed to say (Valle-Inclán, 40). The political insight that the publisher refers to is knowing to discredit the success of the democratic assembly even if it means that the truth is skewed. On the same token, it will keep the tyrant happy.
Banderas censors news outlets in order to protect his own administration from the spread of revolutionary rhetoric; journalists obey him in order to keep their income. The act of reporting on a legitimate political assembly as though it were a “circus act” invalidates the legitimacy of its cause and paints it as a scene to be laughed at and entertained by (Valle-Inclán, 41). It does not portray it as a credible, serious political stance. Censorship prevents more of the masses from joining the revolutionary cause and opposing the tyrant. Journalists wish to write freely, but fear punishment if they do. They obey Banderas in order to protect the income that they get from working despite their wish to respect ethics. Money blinds them to the ways in which they are abusing their role as distributors of truth. Banderas’ corruption leaks through to the people beneath him because of his unrestrained tactics for securing his dominance.
General Banderas further hinders the efforts of the diplomatic corps by appealing to the financial interests of the members of the Spanish colony. He warns the Spanish investors that “revolution means ruination for the big Spanish landowners” (Valle-Inclán, 17). In this case, ruination means the loss of financial investments. Banderas writes to these investors before the leaders of the diplomatic corps can present their grievances. The diplomatic corps never stands a chance at appealing to them when money speaks louder than humanity.
Despite having heard the humanitarian issues that the diplomatic corps wants to address, the members of the Spanish Colony use their power only to protect their money. They agree with Banderas’ claim that “the interests of the Spanish community run contrary to the utopian schemes of diplomats” (Valle-Inclán, 18). Instead of acting to protect the welfare of their colonists, the foreign diplomats implement policy that protects them and the banks that their money is stored in (172). They are blinded by their own personal protection in the same way that President Banderas is blind to the suffering of his citizens.
Don Santos Banderas abuses his power for personal enrichment through outright illegal actions, navigation of gray areas, and consistent secrecy. He weakens the revolution by seizing its brightest minds, dulls its popularity through censorship, and blocks its success by diverting foreign support. People throughout the administration’s hierarchy ignore its corrupt foundation for their own financial profit, but no corruption is as complete and ruinous to democracy as that of Tyrant Banderas.