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(Peter Power/Peter Power/ The Globe and Mail)
(Peter Power/Peter Power/ The Globe and Mail)

At the Editorial Board

Mexico's Carlos Fuentes, on the record Add to ...

What will be the difference between PAN and PRI strategy with regards to the drug war?

In the past, the PRI has negotiated with the drug lords, and set one against the other. And they fought each other. The PRI played politics. What will the next president do? It is up for grabs.

In the past, you have spoken of the sense of defeat in Latin American culture and literature. You speak of the illusion of progress. Can you update us on your views?

If you have an idea of democracy in progress, you always expect more. You don’t expect more of a tyranny. Since the 1980s, what has happened is the culture of Latin America has manifested itself as one continuous enriching reality. Since the Columbus adventure, we have had a continuous culture without interruptions. Our political and economic life is full of interruptions.

We need to bring the values of continuity inherent in our culture to the political and economic processes in the country.

How is the region doing?

There is a gain in democracy in Latin America. The Cardoso/Lula governments were fantastically important in proving you could have social advancement with democratic means. Brazil is the giant of the region and is resented by many Latin Americans. It is one of the great powers now. It is now right up there with China and India. And playing a major role, which hurts them a bit.

You cannot stop the growth of Brazil, it is impressive. But it has a hinterland that is not developed. Mexico has lost the pre-eminent role it once had.

What about Argentina?

In 1910, the Encyclopaedia Britannica predicted that the two major powers would be the U.S. and Argentina. Not so. Argentina has a small population, immense land, capacity for three harvests a year, navigable rivers, great plains. But it has spoiled everything. I love that country, its literature, music people. What went wrong?

Argentina grew faster than any other country in Latin America. Sarmiento educated the people, the flow of immigration was gigantic and they built a great country.

When the Perons arrived in power, Argentina had a strong economy. It had fed Europe during the post-war period, Argentine meat and wheat. The Perons threw the money away in populist measures. And Argentina went bankrupt and they have not recovered since. Tragic story. This country spoiled its own chances through foolishness and demagoguery.

What about Colombia?

President Juan Manuel Santos is very intelligent. He is doing a new kind of politics and saying "I am your friend." He reached out to Venezuela. He made the army, which was very brutal, I’m only sending people from their home town to their home town. So they know everybody and everybody knows them. He has done a lot of good things in short time.

What about Peru?

Pres. Ollanta Humala in Peru is good news. He tends to be a president in the Lula Brazilian model, centre-left moderate government. Bolivia is in trouble with its own people. Chile has a good democracy and economy and is the first country in which discontent has flowered. So you have good and bad news, but I’m confident we will be able to join the cultural reality to a better political and economic reality.

What about Venezuela?

[President Hugo]Chavez is dying, and I don’t know what will happen after Chavez.

He has propped up governments with oil money. What becomes of Cuba with Chavez gone? Chavez keeps Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua afloat. If he dies in power, it’s one situation, if he dies after an election and loses, it’s another. What will the miltiary do? He has destroyed political life in Venezuela. You don’t know what will come next.

Canada’s current Prime Minister has made Latin America an important foreign policy initiative. Is that noticed?

No, it is un-noticed. There is a great sympathy in Mexico towards Canada. A lot of Mexican migrant workers come here. If we are going to have a good relationship in the future, it is up to you. It is the way you treat the Mexican migrants workers.

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