JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I'm Joanne Myers, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I'd like to say what a great a pleasure it is to welcome to our Public Affairs Programs one of Mexico's most renowned intellectuals, the preeminent historian and literary figure Enrique Krauze.
Mr. Krauze is also widely recognized as a judicious political observer, a skill he brings to all his writings, and no more so than in his latest book, entitled Redeemers: Ideas and Power in Latin America, which he will be discussing this morning.
Latin America has been of vital importance to the United States almost since the birth of our nation, and the significance of this relationship has only increased in recent decades. After Canada, this region is the largest foreign supplier of oil to the United States and a strong partner in the development of alternative fuels. It is the United States' fastest-growing trading partner. It is also the largest source of U.S. immigrants, both documented and not. All of this reinforces deep U.S. ties with the region—strategic, economic, and cultural.
But even though we share all this, Americans seem less familiar with our neighbors than we should be, and mutual understanding between us is lacking. For example, in most Latin American countries today there is a push towards democracy. But, even so, many in North America often ask, "Why has this process proved to be such a struggle?"
In Redeemers, Mr. Krauze reveals how politics and words became entwined, which influenced the continuing passion for revolution in Latin America. This, in turn, helps to explain why the commitment to revolution was much more popular than here to support democracy.
This narrative is about ideas. And, as Mr. Krauze explains, ideas are his main protagonist, and he expresses them through lives of 12 figures, the redeemers—hence the title of the book—who for him provide an understanding of Latin America today. The cast of characters he has chosen as the vehicles for these various doctrines represent history, revolution, and literature.
They include, but are not limited to, such familiar names as Eva Perón, Che Guevara, Hugo Chávez; and imaginative writers, such as Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and the Nobel Prize-winning poet Octavio Paz, among others—all who, through the illuminating pen of our speaker, provide insight into our neighbors to the south.
Mr. Krauze argues that the ideas that arose during this time, whether from 19th-century liberalism to revolutionary commitments or back again towards a more democratic version of liberal thought in the 20th century, are the ideas that most influenced and formed the modern Latin American political mind and, ultimately, moved it into the modern age.
As a region that is shaping its future far more than it shaped its past, understanding how this balance of ideas continues to affect Latin America and how its nations will define themselves as they relate to the rest of the world is information about our dynamic neighbors which we should not and cannot ignore.
Please join me in giving a very warm welcome to our very distinguished guest.
We are so happy you are here, Enrique Krauze.
ENRIQUE KRAUZE: Thank you very much. Thank you so much for this invitation. Thank you, Joanne, and thank you to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.
The best way to talk about the book is I would like to explain how I did it, because it is not an academic book. It is not a book that I thought of and then started from the first page to the last. There are some books that are done that way, but not this one.
The story goes back 30 years ago, when I met Isaiah Berlin in Oxford. I had read his books and I admired him immensely, particularly his books on the Russian thinkers. I went to see him in All Souls College in Oxford.
He had told me in the beginning, "I can only give you 15 minutes." He gave me three hours.
I had this wonderful, delightful, unforgettable conversation with him. It was all about how/why do these characters appear in Russian history. I was trying to listen to him about what happened in the 19th and early 20th centuries in Russia in order to understand our parallel situation in Latin America.
He told me something: "There is nothing that makes more powerful, and even dangerous, ideas, than to take them seriously, and Russia has taken ideas seriously."
Maybe some of you had the luck of going to Lincoln Center and seeing that wonderful Stoppard three-part beautiful play, wonderful play, that was called The Coast of Utopia. I saw it. It was putting Isaiah Berlin's books and also E.H. Carr's books on the romantic revolutionaries onstage. Of course I dream of having Redeemers onstage.
That was the first seed, to be able to write a book about Latin America's intellectual, literary, and political figures that were inspired by ideas, by revolutionary ideas, like Herzen and Bakunin and Belinsky, and Tolstoy himself, and Marx, and all those revolutionaries that Isaiah Berlin depicts and Stoppard plays beautifully in The Coast of Utopia. That was the first seed, I guess.
But meanwhile, for many years, I was the deputy editor of the magazine Vuelta. The editor was Octavio Paz, Mexico's Nobel Prize poet and a man of ideas, who had been a revolutionary in his early years—I mean never a revolutionary in arms, but he went to the Spanish Civil War, he was in the brigades, and he was a Marxist. As he says in his memoirs, "When I was young, I wanted to be a hero, a revolutionary, a redeemer." That's where I took my title, a redeemer.
In every generation in Latin America, it seems we have had that idea of redeeming the people. So we have had in every generation these students or teachers or thinkers or writers or politicians and leaders who have dreamt of redeeming their people.
I was working with Octavio Paz for 23 years in that magazine Vuelta. That had a very important role, I can now say surely, in criticism of the Latin American authoritarian and military regimes, but also the guerrilla movements and the revolutionary regimes in Nicaragua and in Cuba.
We were also always believers in liberal democracy, when to believe in liberal democracy in Latin America at that time—and even now, but at that time more—was truly being in the minority, because the majority of people in academia, in the intellectual circles, were still believing that the road to freedom and prosperity and justice should be revolution. So it has a tension between social revolution and liberal democracy.
Octavio Paz died in 1998. I founded a new magazine, called Letras Libres, in that same year. It is being published in Mexico and in Spain. That's where I began to write—not biographies of Mexican intellectuals and Latin American and Mexican politicians, but of Latin American leaders. I was approaching the ideal of Isaiah Berlin.
The first pieces that I wrote, essays, were on—you might remember in the 1990s there was this revolutionary Indian uprising in Chiapas. It was called the Zapatistas, with the very famous masked man, the Subcomandante Marcos, and there was a bishop, Samuel Ruiz. I wrote long pieces, trying to understand the very interesting and strange combination of Marxism and indigenism that was embodied by the Subcomandante Marcos; and then also, this prophetic figure of the Bishop Samuel Ruiz, who was a representative of the theology of liberation, which has been a very important intellectual current in Latin America, theology of liberation. I had those two essays.
Then something less dramatic happened. It is the rebirth of Che Guevara and Eva Perón in the movies and in books. Suddenly, you had three important biographies of Che Guevara and you had Madonna doing Eva Perón and books about Eva Perón. That was at the turn of the century.
Those first pieces were written for The New York Review of Books. The second pair of essays were written for The New Republic on Eva Perón. I immersed myself for a few months in trying to understand this very strange woman who wanted to redeem—they all had that—she wanted to redeem the Argentinean descamisados, how she called them, "the shirtless ones." And of course Che Guevara, who didn't only want to redeem Cuba or Latin America; he wanted to redeem the cosmos, the universe. Before him, only Saint Paul spoke about the "new man." So I wrote two pieces on each.
And then something difficult happened in Mexico, which was the 2006 election, six years ago. We had a candidate, whose name is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who was the front runner until the very last moment, and who is still now again running. But then, six years ago, he was incredibly popular and he was ahead in the polls with ten points a few weeks before the election.
I was scared of the possibility to have in Mexico a redeemer in power. I wrote an essay and I called him "the tropical messiah." Why tropical? Because he is from the Mexican Caribbean. But the word "messiah" was not completely ironic. He truly felt that he was going to be the savior of Mexico, and many Mexican people talked about him as "the Mexican messiah."
Mexico has had many problems in its political life, but we have not had a redeemer. A redeemer has politically—I'm not talking religiously; I'm talking politically—two aspects which are very dangerous.
One is the cult of personality. The perfect redeemer is Hugo Chávez, obviously. The amount of attention that he receives—let's put it this way: the way he identifies the history of his country with his own biography. Like Carlyle said, "There is no history, only biography of great men." He is the "great man." So we were going to have a president with all the power and the cult of the people revering him. I was very scared.
Aside from that, López Obrador had a very dogmatic view—still has—of what Mexico should do, which is nationalism, sovereignty, this kind of ideology that was very useful and important in the 1930s, in the last century, but it doesn't work anymore.
I wrote that piece. He didn't win, only for 200,000 votes, a tiny difference. But that's another story.
I was so impressed by the phenomenon of the masses and the leader that I spent a few months in Venezuela. I wanted to write a book on Hugo Chávez. I did it, I wrote a book on him, and I called it El Poder y el Delirio [Power and Delirium]. The last chapter of this book is a synthesis of that book on Chávez.
So I had then, by the year 2007, the pieces I have been telling you about. Mario Vargas Llosa, my dear friend, had written his memoirs, and I wrote a long piece on his memoirs. Then, Gabriel García Márquez wrote his own memoirs, and there was this biography on García Márquez. I admired both García Márquez and Vargas Llosa. But I do not admire García Márquez's reverence for his personal redeemer, who is of course Fidel Castro.
So I tried to understand why his fascination with Castro. I think Márquez is probably, with Borges and Paz and Vargas Llosa, the greatest writer in the Spanish-speaking world since Cervantes. But, at the same time, García Márquez has this incredible reverence for Castro. He has worked for him.
I noticed that in the biography that was written by an English biographer there wasn't any mention of the five-volume journalistic work of García Márquez. That has never been published in English. So I read them and I found that the biographer in a way was concealing that part which was not very convenient, which was all that laudatory prose in favor of Castro. I wrote a piece, again a biographical piece on García Márquez and on Vargas Llosa.
Now we are in the year 2009 and Harper Collins, my publisher, is pressing—"We are short of time. You have to finish this book." And what do I have? I have a collection of biographies; that's all I have at that moment. I needed a connecting personality, a connecting tissue. I needed something that could bind the whole book, not only a set of parallel lives or biographies.
I found it in my own mentor and friend Octavio Paz. There I was. I discovered that what I had to do is to put Octavio Paz in the center of the book—that's what I did—because he had the most extraordinary life, intellectually speaking.
He was born in 1914, at the height of the Mexican Revolution, and he died in 1998. So all the revolutions of the 20th century touched him—the Mexican Revolution; the Russian Revolution, which he admired immensely (he read all of the classics of the Russian revolution); the Spanish Civil War; the Cuban Revolution, towards which he began to have some critical stance; the Sandinista revolution; the Central American and the South American revolutions; all the guerrilla movements in Latin America; and then, at the end, the Zapatista revolution in Chiapas. So he lived through them all.
But the most amazing thing about Octavio Paz is that I understood, beginning to study the man with whom I had worked for 23 years, that his father and grandfather had had even more amazing personal stories.
The grandfather had been the most rebellious liberal fighter in 19th-century Mexico. He was a liberal in the way Mexicans and Europeans use the word "liberal," which is not exactly the way you use it here. We use it in a strictly political sense: the person that fights for freedom, liberty, rule of the law, and democracy. The grandfather, Ireneo Paz, was a liberal rebel. He fought against the French invasion and against the people that were the conservatives in Mexico.
And then, Octavio Paz's father was the secretary of Emiliano Zapata and the envoy of the famous mythical hero of the Mexican peasants, Emiliano Zapata. He was the envoy of Zapata in the United States. He had a very tragic life. He ended up in Los Angeles, alone and isolated, even alcoholic, the father. But he was a Mexican revolutionary.
So you had a rebel in the 19th century, a Zapatista revolutionary in the Mexican revolution. Octavio Paz was bound, it was in his DNA, to become a Russian revolutionary, more revolutionary than his father and grandfather.
This story seemed to me a fascinating story because it spanned all through the century, from the 19th century to the end of the 20th century. The grandfather had been a liberal democrat against the monarchies, the French invasion of Mexico, against the conservatives and the church; then, the father, a Zapatista revolutionary; and then Octavio Paz. I had two centuries in the lives of three men with the last name of Paz—which means "peace" of course. But if there's one thing that those three men did not have in their lives, it was peace. They were warriors, they were fighters, they had this passion.
Now, Octavio Paz, the man I met in 1976, was completely disappointed with the beliefs that he had cherished so much in the 1930s and 1940s. He had believed in the socialist experiment. His story is not unlike Daniel Bell's story, whom he liked, or Irving Howe, or George Orwell, or Kristol. It is a story we know, of people who believed in the 1930s and 1940s in the socialist dream and had then begun to slowly be every time more disappointed with it.
So in the 1970s he came back to Mexico, after a long stay in Europe, and we did this magazine together, Vuelta. Vuelta ran for 23 years, every month, a monthly literary intellectual magazine, not unlike The New York Review, Partisan Review, The New Republic, something like that. It was a wonderful battle in favor of liberal democracy and criticizing these two extremes, the military regimes and the guerrilla and the revolutionary fighting.
So then I thought I was going to write 40 pages on Octavio Paz, and I wrote 250 pages. I wrote them in three months, just like that, because I had it inside. It was highly autobiographical, that's what I'm trying to say.
So, you see, I wrote this book from the end to the beginning. Now I had the central chapter on Paz. I had the connecting personality.
Then I had to go even back in time and say who were, in my opinion, the main intellectual prophets of this revolutionary passion in Latin America, the passion for revolution. I found four prophets, all by the name of José, the four Josephs of the Latin American revolutionary gospel.
One was José Martí. I think he is probably the most lovable, likeable, and endearing Latin American that has ever lived. The book starts by saying the history of modern political ideas in Latin America started with a New Yorker named José Martí, because he was a New Yorker. He was born in Cuba. He is of course the great hero of Cuban independence, although he did not live to see that independence. José Martí fought against the Spanish dominion of Cuba. As everyone knows, Cuba was the last bastion of the Spanish empire until the Spanish-American War.
He suffered prison, he was jailed. Then he wandered, as a Wandering Jew, through many countries in Latin America—Mexico and Venezuela and Guatemala. He couldn't find a home. Where did he find a home? Here in New York.
If you want to read the most wonderful chronicles of life in America in the decade of the 1880s in the 19th century and early 1990s, you should read José Martí. He wrote about everything—about Coney Island, about boxing, about elections, about the wedding of President Cleveland, about the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty, about Central Park. He is the most wonderful modern writer. He wrote all those dispatches and he sent them to La Nación in Buenos Aires and to many other places. He was a correspondent here. Aside from that, he was a wonderful poet.
He had a personal drama, which is this: he was married to a woman who did not understand him—not uncommon. They had a son, whom he adored, of course—not uncommon either. But the woman wanted José Martí—"Why don't you come back to Cuba, forget all those crazy ideas, and become a lawyer? You're a lawyer, aren't you? You're a lawyer. Settle down. We have a wonderful house. I have money. My father has money. Come back."
But she was talking to José Martí, and José Martí had revolution in his mind—revolution in the sense of freeing Cuba from Spain. He was plotting. He was the head of all the Cuban exiles in New York. He was writing and giving speeches everywhere.
So she took the little boy with her, and Martí could only see him for a few days in—I don't know—maybe 12, 13 years. He wrote the most beautiful collection of poems for kids, called Ismaelillo. Absolutely moving pieces of a father longing for his son.
Why do I tell this very moving story? Because in the book you will not find only revolutionary ideas. You will find real people suffering real problems and tragedies, exactly as in The Coast of Utopia, where you have ideas in Marx and Hegel and Herzen, and you have treason and passions, and this one falls in love with the other one, and he adores his friend but he's in love with the wife, and all that. So these personal stories about family and love and friendship and loyalties are the core of the book, because people that have these ideas and passions don't have them just—ideas are not like clouds; they happen to real people.
So Martí was having this tragedy in his life, this drama. At one point I think he felt so isolated, and it was such an unbearable thing that he truly said, "What can I do? I have to liberate my country." He ended up being the main leader of that revolution. He went to Cuba. He was killed at the very beginning of the war, three years before the Spanish-American War.
But he foresaw three things. One, he didn't want Cuba to remain a colony of Spain, that's for sure. Second, he didn't want Cuba to become a colony of the United States. Then, third, he didn't want Cuba to be dominated—and he said that and it's there in a letter—by one caudillo, one man who would feel as a redeemer of his country and to rule over as a kind of benign tyrant. He was making a clear picture of Fidel Castro.
This very moving figure, a figure that I love very much, as you can see, is the first prophet of the book.
Then comes a man very much less known. Martí, you can read him—there is even a Penguin book, a companion of Martí's chronicles and poems, in English, beautifully translated [Selected Writings]. The second one's name is José Enrique Rodó, a Uruguayan teacher, professor, philosopher.
He wrote a little book, a tiny book, called Ariel, based on Shakespeare's The Tempest. But what he said there in that tiny book— it was written and published in the year 1901, two years after the Spanish-American War—and what he said there is that in America we have two civilizations, two cultures, Anglo-Saxon American culture and Latin American/Hispanic heritage and culture, and that they were opposing.
This is a caricature. It is a much subtler book, as you will find, very nuanced, very well written. But what it said in essence was, "We cannot be reconciled." I think that little book was like the gospel of Ibero-American nationalism.
If you go to Argentina or to Chile—less Chile, but Argentina and Uruguay—you will find a very strange brand of anti-Americanism, people that haven't set a foot in the United States because they are closer to England or to Germany or to Europe. But they have this kind of cultural contempt towards the materialistic America which is in the north, Anglo-Saxon materialism. So to put it in a caricature, "We in Latin America have the spirit, you have material. What you care about is money and things and we care about spirit and poetry and literature and these things." It was very influential.
When you listen to Che Guevara, he was of the upper class in Argentina, truly upper class, even a bit of the aristocratic class. So why the hatred? It was this kind of cultural hatred. It's not the same thing as in Mexico or in the Caribbean where towards the United States there hasn't been ideological hatred. It's more practical—the presence of the Marines or things like that.
In 1960, when I was in high school, I read the book. The professor of literature told me, "The first book we have to read of course is Ariel." I remember that. Still a kind of textbook of explaining how we in Latin America were a more spiritual, higher, classic civilization.
The third one is José Vasconcelos, who was probably the most famous Latin American thinker and philosopher, a Mexican, the secretary of education in the first half of the 20th century. No one remembers him now, but he was very important, José Vanconcelos. He was like a redeemer in the sense that he brought education, books, and culture and spread them all through Mexico. It was like a cultural Renaissance.
If you have been in Mexico and you have seen the murals of Diego Rivera and Orozco and Siqueiros, the man who invented Mexican muralism is José Vanconcelos. Those murals were meant to be the pictorial gospel for the people, for the people to see themselves, This is a story of Mexico and the working classes and the peasants and the new reign of social justice that we are building.
The fourth redeemer is a Peruvian writer and editor, who was José Carlos Mariátegui. Immensely influential in Latin America. He died in 1931. He managed to write a prophecy on the blending of indigenism—he came from a country like Peru—or Bolivia and Ecuador—where an indigenous population is much more present than in Mexico by far.
Indigenism—that is to say a will to go back to the original indigenous roots and institutions—and culture and Marxism. Believe that his magazine, Amauta, is one of the most—he published Amauta from 1927-1931 when he died. Believe me, had I been alive at that time, I would have been a follower of Amauta, an indigenous Marxist. He introduced not only Marx; he introduced Freud to Latin America, and the modernists, and he was the first to translate Eliot—true modernism, literary vanguard, and socialism. That is not strange—it happened also in the United States—you had both things: the belief in revolution plus vanguard literature.
Well, after writing about those four prophets plus Octavia Paz in the middle, then I had these parallel lives, Vargas Llosa and García Márquez, Eva Perón and Che Guevara, and then Samuel Ruiz and Subcomandante Marcos, I made a synthesis of my book on Hugo Chávez and I put it at the end of the book.
Marx used to say—repeating Hegel he used to say—that great characters in history appear twice. The first is the real character and then comes the caricature.
Well, I think Chávez is a caricature of Castro, but he is a caricature with oil and billions of dollars. I went there, and I was amazed by how he is a sorcerer and a showman—I mean he is Colbert and Jon Stewart and Letterman and Leno all together. He recites for seven hours at a time—he used to, anyway, because now he is seriously ill.
He hated my book, of course, and he even admonished me on television, saying, "I think you've misunderstood completely this country because you say this is about power and you say this is about concentration of power, a cult of personality and power. This is not about power. This all is about love. Chávez loves the people and the people love Chávez. So I warn you"—and he said my name—"please come back and look, I'll show you around, how people adore me. And I adore the people."
We laugh, and I laughed, but it's also very sad because of the amount of waste. The waste of wealth, $800 billion of wealth, that he gave away. The way he destroyed the PDVSA [Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A], the important oil company that was exemplary, and the way he damaged so severely the Venezuelan democracy that was the work of a man that is probably the most important and brave democrat in Latin America, who was Rómulo Betancourt. He truly almost destroyed it.
But still, the legacy of democracy is still there, and now we have a candidate of the unified opposition, and if Chávez survives his illness, he will have a very important opponent.
So I would end up saying simply that this book wants to be a contribution for the democratic life of Latin America and a criticism of the revolutionary passion. Though I understand that passion in all these figures, it wants to be a requiem for the Latin American passionate revolution. I am afraid that since so many young people still believe in it, it is a premature requiem.
I am ready for your questions.
Questions and Answers
QUESTION: Susan Gitelson. Thank you for a most fascinating account of unusual redeemers.
There is one country that you didn't mention.
ENRIQUE KRAUZE: Brazil.
QUESTIONER: Exactly, Brazil. And, as you were saying at the end, Chávez may pass from this Earth, and Castro is not doing so well either.
ENRIQUE KRAUZE: We don't know. Don't count on that.
QUESTIONER: You would know better. Up on high someone is pulling the strings, whatever.
So the question is: What are the prospects for a more pragmatic approach, where revolution may not be necessary any longer? And Brazil would be the model, where there are pragmatic politicians who are bringing this great country into its own finally, because everyone knows it has resources, it has wonderful people at the Amazon. But the question always is: In Latin America where is the progress, where is the future, where is democracy?
ENRIQUE KRAUZE: If I take three or five.
JOANNE MYERS: All right. So we'll take Mr. James over here.
QUESTION: Robert James. I'm a businessman here.
Is there really a difference in the political messiahs from Argentina or Venezuela or Cuba and the same dictator messiahs from Germany or France or China or Libya and so on? Aren't they all just looking for power and in getting their power they bribe their followers and nomenclatura to keep the power, and then justify it with what, a theory that nobody believes in finally?
QUESTION: Thank you very much for your presentation. My name is Eduardo Ulibarri, the Ambassador of Costa Rica here.
I wonder if you could comment a little bit about the interaction between institutions and institution-building in Latin America and redeemers. I am coming from a country that has no redeemers in its history, and probably that is due to the strength of the institutions. So do you see for the future the possibility of having stronger institutions and weaker redeemers?
ENRIQUE KRAUZE: I didn't put Brazil in the picture because I do not believe that Lula or Dilma or Henrique Cardoso were redeemers. I think that they are more like President Lagos or President Bachelet in Chile. They are lucky countries, Brazil and Chile, and of course Costa Rica, that can have left-wing-leaning leaders but democratic leaders that act with utmost respect towards the rule of law and democracy and within an institutional framework. That's what happened in Brazil.
In Brazil you have the really wonderful thing of having an intellectual, Henrique Cordoso, who had been in the 1960s very far left, he was a radical, and then he was a kind of convert. He understood that the world had changed, that he was wrong in so many ways. He wrote his memoirs. He changed and he put the country in the way of—yes, there are some very important social problems—but within the framework of institutions and of democracy.
And then Lula took over. He is very popular but he is not populist and he is no redeemer.
I use the word "redeemer" intentionally, because there is a certain religious aspect in all these men in the way they speak, in the way they connect with the people, and they appeal to the people over the institutions, getting rid of the institutions and touching them directly.
Yes, like the—and now I go to your question—like the Europeans—we don't have to mention their names—like the Europeans in Germany, in China, and in Russia. I would argue only that our Latin American redeemers have been far less murderous, first of all. They have done harm, of course. They are very theatrical. They like their people to love them.
Cuba is no joke, of course, nor was Perón, nor is Chávez. But Chávez himself—you still have elections in Venezuela, and you still have weak institutions but you have them, and most probably I would say, it is true that democracy, luckily, I hope—through democracy there is alternation of power. This you didn't have in these countries.
The Catholic element plays here somehow in the way that these are Catholic countries. When you understand, for instance, Che Guevara, the myth of Che Guevara—I discuss this in the book—you understand it through the idea of how these Latin American Catholic countries built the idea of a saint. He has become a saint. That's what I can say.
It is as old as humanity, the tyrant. But these are not tyrants. These are people that appeal more as demagogues that take power. I would say that the only thing is that they believe in social redemption, they stick to power, but they are less murderous.
As to institutions, of course when I was in your country, when you invited me a while ago—Costa Rica is never in the news because Costa Rica is the good news, and newspapers don't care about good news. There is some good news on Mexico. I could speak about that some other time. Believe me there is some good news about Mexico too.
For instance, we don't have redeemers in our history and we won't have them. And we are a democracy, after all. But we are not talking about Mexico now.
Costa Rica and Chile have something in common, even Colombia in a way: a long constitutional republican tradition, elections. That is a source of strength.
I was talking to the Ambassador of Chile to the UN and he agreed. Countries with weak institutions and weak democratic culture and history are more prone to have these kinds of redeeming figures than countries with a tradition of elections and to have parliamentary life and free speech and a free press.
This is Chile since the 19th century and this is Costa Rica too. So we envy them. We used to see them when we were at the height of the hegemony of the PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party] in Mexico—we used to think: "Oh, those Latin American countries, we are better. Look, we are growing, we have order, we have peace, we have growth, because Father PRI and our imperial presidents every year are like our father figures. They look out for us. It is like having a president, all-powerful monarch, every six years." But no, Mexico does not have the institutional strength that these countries that we are mentioning have.
JOANNE MYERS: We are going to take another round of questions. I have one from Facebook here: "What evidence do you have that the U.S. attitude toward Latin America is changing?" Then we'll continue here.
ENRIQUE KRAUZE: Evidence?
JOANNE MYERS: Yes, that the U.S. attitude toward Latin America is changing. Maybe you have none, but that's the question.
ENRIQUE KRAUZE: Did I talk about evidence?
JOANNE MYERS:It's not a court of law so it's okay.
QUESTION: James Starkman.
Just a simple true-or-false question: Redeemers and social revolutionaries should be seen through the lenses of (1) colonialism and anti-colonialism, (2) dictatorship, and (3) labor exploitation and capitalist excess, and that once in power the redeemers and social revolutionaries find that economic socialism fails compared to capitalism.
JOANNE MYERS: Another one. We're going to take three. Ron?
QUESTION: Thank you. I'm Ron Berenbeim.
With regard to the question of evolution to institutional maturity, where do you put within the spectrum of importance, if at all, the issue of a country coming to terms with its past? I'm speaking specifically in terms of Argentina and Guatemala. There may be other examples of this too, but those are the two that have been in the news recently.
JOANNE MYERS: One last one. Richard?
QUESTION: Richard Valcourt, International Journal of Intelligence.
The iconic image of Che Guevara plays into the religious redeemer aspect of Latin culture. What impact has Marxism/Leninism had, rather than democratic socialism, on that caudillo/redeemer aspect of Latin Culture?
ENRIQUE KRAUZE: Okay, the United States. The U.S. attitude has changed of course, in the sense that we are not in the Cold War. Even when Chávez brings out and talks about "el imperio (empire) conspiring," I think not even his viewers believe that there is about to be an invasion at any moment.
The trick that he learned—that's what he is saying, a caricature from Castro—he wanted to be the Castro of the 21st century. He adored Castro and Che Guevara, and he wanted to be both together like a synthesis of them in the 21st century. He is staging a completely anachronistic experiment of centralized socialism in the 21st century. It obviously is not working and won't work. But even they don't believe the United States—
But on the other hand, I don't think the United States has a wise policy towards the region. It's simply, I understand, we all understand, the United States has been immersed since the year 2001 in so many problems in the global arena and in the Middle East, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now the rise of China, and now the internal problems and whatever—no time for Latin America.
But it would have been wonderful for the United States to have a different kind of approach, just to acknowledge that for the first time in 200 years we have a democratic Latin America, if you take Cuba out.
Okay, Venezuela is a strange case, but still you are going to have—so in that sense isn't that wonderful news, that the whole of Latin America, the idea of Bolivar and of the founding fathers—I mean the whole America? Monroe didn't want anything else. To have the whole of America being on the side of liberal democratic values. We are there, but I don't see the news in The New York Times, not even in The New York Times.
So yes, I hope the next president will leave some space in order to rethink the region and to see that he has problems in the left, he has problems if he looks west and he looks east. But he should look north and south too. That's one thing.
When redeemers come to power, these kinds of redeemers that believe in social revolution, I think they stick to the old libretto of Marxism of some kind. You see that in Venezuela, and there are some things of that in Nicaragua and in Bolivia, some things, with variations—in Bolivia much more indigenous. But you see that in their rejection of capitalism. They stick to the idea that we can build a different kind of socialism. But it is not working.
The very good news of the region is the success of Brazil, the real success and the perceived success of Brazil—because of course Brazil has many problems but huge resources. But we all are turning our heads towards Brazil. Look, it has become such a star on the international stage, such a powerful—and it has had three socialist presidents in a row. So there must be something good in that socialism as opposed to Chávez socialism.
So what is that socialism? It is democracy with macroeconomic responsibility and with a social vocation to attend the poor. I think that is the right recipe and it is a consensus every time more in Latin America. I don't know if I understood well, but I can elaborate later with you a bit.
Argentina and Guatemala—I speak about Latin America, but Latin America is all these countries, and every country is different. I just want to say that Argentina is a puzzle. They are fixed in the past. And now Cristina [Kirchner] has organized an Institution for the Right Revision of History. Argentina is a country where for every Argentinean you have two psychoanalysts, and it's a country in bad need of a national psychoanalyst.
Guatemala is another matter. It's Central America. That's another matter. It is trying. That doesn't have to do with redeeming and political ideologies. It is now the problem of crime.
Just to end up, you touched in a way on my definition. I think a redeemer—that's why I called it a redeemer—is a combination of two things. You could say it's Carlyle plus Marx. Carlyle is the famous 19th-century—completely forgotten now but not in Latin America—19th-century historian, a Scottish historian, who wrote the "theory of great men in history." Now, in history people are not important. The importance is "the great man."
In the life in Latin America—you have to just listen to Chávez—the great man or great woman—plus a doctrine. This doctrine generally has been a kind of revolutionary Marxism. If you have that cocktail together, you have Fidel Castro.
Fidel Castro is not in the book because I would have had to write three books this thick in order to write his biography. But all through the book he is the figure that is still revered somehow by students and professors in many places in universities in Latin America. That's very sad.
I wrote this book because I once remember someone saying "The last Marxist on Earth will die in a Latin American university." So, since I want that to happen soon, I wrote this book.
JOANNE MYERS: I thank you for giving us a Latin American version of To the Finland Station.