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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: Latin American Despair
"The strange thing about our culture is that, instead of correcting what is wrong, we give up our successes and insist periodically on our mistakes," say Latin American genius Carlos Alberto Montaner. "In Latin America each nation cultivates its uniqueness, learns nothing from its neighbor and the exchanges are practically nonexistent.”

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

Guy Sorman is a remarkable French thinker.

He recently published an article in Madrid’s ABC entitled “The future goes back in Latin America.”

It is a brilliant and desperate text. Well-meaning, but desperate. It says that in Latin America we have tried everything, and we have pulverized everything uselessly.

Liberalism in Argentina, from Alberdi and Sarmiento.

The enlightened despotism of Mexico with Porfirio Diaz and his “scientists.”

The statism with the Mexican Revolution of 1911.

The military dictatorships of Pinochet and Stroessner, and the civil ones with Somoza or Fujimori.

Communism with the Castros, with Chavez and Maduro, with the first Daniel Ortega (the second Daniel Ortega is a resurrected Somoza, but with more homicidal furor).

The strange thing about our culture is that, instead of correcting what is wrong, we give up our successes and insist periodically on our mistakes. It still reverberates, from time to time, the old Maoism in a wounded, but not buried, Shining Path guerrilla, although Mao does not exist in China beyond the rhetorical reverence.

It is amazing to hear from Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spanish political party “Podemos”, that he sees with envy what is happening in Venezuela, as if he were willing to repeat in his own country the terrible devastation that has occurred in the once prosperous oil paradise.

I remember a young woman from Guayaquil shouting at me, incensed, that “in Ecuador we need a couple of Tirofijo.” She was referring to the Colombian bandit who caused so much distress to his native country. The incident happened at the Catholic University of that city. The truculent girl – blonde, pretty, green-eyed, well-dressed – looked bourgeois.

Why did Argentines interrupt the dynamic road to development and prosperity that they followed until Hipólito Yrigoyen was deposed by a fascist-like military coup in 1930? In Argentina there were problems, but none prevented the country from being part of the First World in almost all aspects, but especially in education. That coup was the prologue to Peronism and the total collapse of the Argentine miracle that had begun with the liberal Constitution of 1853.

Why Fidel Castro was unable to understand that, in 1959, when he, his brother Raúl, Che Guevara and a small group of communists clung to the Soviet model and chose the path of totalitarianism, there were enough indications (for example, the German and Austrian miracles) that demonstrated the superiority of “liberal democracy” instituted by the economist Ludwig Erhard?

The Cuban leader was so ideologically blind that he was not even able to understand the example of his own father, Angel Castro, a humble Galician peasant, sly as a fox and laborious as an ant, who, at his death in 1957, bequeathed to his family a capital of eight million dollars, an agricultural company that gave jobs to dozens of people, a school, and even a cinema run by Juanita Castro, a contemporary of Raúl and exiled in Miami since the 1960s.

Sorman, who knows in depth the bloody history of Europe, rightly argues that “in Europe the ancient nations, very different from each other since many centuries ago, are gradually coming to an agreement on the best possible regime: liberal democracy.” While in Latin America “each nation cultivates its uniqueness, learns nothing from its neighbor and the exchanges are practically nonexistent.”

We are not able to perceive the leap towards modernity and the development that Chile has achieved. Chile is today on the threshold of the First World by a fortunate combination of market, private property, control of public spending, national savings – thanks to the reviled pension plan created by the economist José Piñera – and freedoms.

Why don't we correct the inconveniences and adjust what is worth saving instead of undoing everything and moving into the other direction of the pendulum, as AMLO promises to do in Mexico, terrifying the investors in the process?

The United States, which unwittingly created “liberal democracy” in 1787, when it promulgated the country’s first and only Constitution, grew little by little, modifying the course with each election, knowing the extraordinary importance of placing everybody under the rule of law.

Will the example of Chile take root? I don’t know. I hope so, but when one sees the destructive vocation of the left and the extreme right, we feel like Guy Sorman, in total and absolute despair.

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.


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