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Mario Vargas Llosa: ‘For the First Time in 62 Years, Cubans, in the Height of Desperation, Have Taken the Streets’

Vargas Llosa: "Por primera vez en 62 años los cubanos, en el colmo de la desesperación han salido a las calles"


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Writer Mario Vargas Llosa reflects on the political and social course that his native continent, Latin America, is following, where democracy “is very much in passing” and political acrimony hinders progress.

“Unfortunately, in Latin America hatred still prevails among political differences and that prevents us from establishing the systems of coexistence that are essential for a country to progress,” he said in an interview with Efe news agency in a restored mansion in the colonial quarter of Quito, Casa Gangotena.

The 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature received on Monday from the hands of Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, a fellow colleague and personal friend, the medal of “merit in the Order of Grand Cross” for his contribution to the promotion of literature, a decoration that at 86 years of age is given to him by the new government of a neighboring country, which not long ago reviled him for his political convictions.

In the interview, the thinker uninterruptedly reeled off the main ills that, in his opinion, afflict the region.

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“The pandemic has been truly tragic for Latin America, the countries are going to be much poorer than they were”, he said, before criticizing the poor functioning of the health systems, which has not prevented the strengthening of the State as “the great provider of all needs”, “what the socialists and extremists want”, “a backward ideology.”

Universal Latin American

Lasso has described him as a “universal Latin American” who has defended the same human principles throughout his career in a region, Latin America, where “being a liberal is an act of rebellion.”

The author of “Fiesta del Chivo” (2000) and last exponent of the Latin American “boom”, however, does not see all is lost because just as democracies are fragile, he also highlights the cracking that some dictatorships are suffering.

“For the first time in 62 years, Cubans, in the height of desperation, have taken to the streets”, something that, he assures, has not been a surprise for those who, like him, expected it, although “for many others who believed in the socialist paradise it was”.

He also mentions the case of Ecuador, where last May Guillermo Lasso, of the center-right and liberal party, took power after two decades of socialist governments, an example that he hopes “will be followed by many Latin American countries”.

Ecuador, “one of the smallest countries in Latin America”, will be “big and powerful with Lasso in power”, if “they let him turn it into the country he has in his dreams”, said the writer in his speech.

Clutching a wooden stick, Vargas Llosa believes that, “unfortunately in Latin America that good direction has not been taken”, and that “the worst thing that can happen to a country in this period is to look for ghosts, instead of improving things by following a sensible, realistic line.”

A tireless critic of authoritarian governments and voluntarily exiled in the 90’s after the rise of Alberto Fujimori against whom he fought in the polls, he maintains that his support for Keiko Fujimori in the last elections in Peru was “a lesser evil for me, without any doubt” to prevent the coming to power of the current president of Peru, the communist Pedro Castillo, from whom he “does not expect anything.”

Vargas Llosa defends Sergio Ramírez

He reiterated once again his denunciations of the persecution of his colleague Sergio Ramirez by the Nicaraguan regime of Daniel Ortega and recalls that precisely the writer “had withdrawn from political life, he had dedicated himself to writing.”

“He is the most decent person, absolutely transparent,” he says, and that it is “abject, cowardly, and rogue on Ortega’s part to persecute him.”

The author of “The City and the Dogs” (1962), or his essay “The Call of the Tribe” (2018), where he epitomizes liberalism as the most advanced form of democratic culture and respect for human rights, concludes that the figure of Latin American writer can hardly distance himself from politics.

“The literary vocation puts one in contact with major political problems”, in an inhospitable territory where “democracy is a very transient thing, it is very much in passing.”