16 April 2022 ~ 1 Comentario

The Third Generation

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

The one to blame is the third generation. “Industrious father. Millionaire son. Spendthrift grandson,” Álvaro sentenced. It was a conversation among four people in which there was almost total agreement. Peruvian Álvaro Vargas Llosa, Argentine economist Gerardo Bongiovanni, Cuban Linda Montaner – my wife – and this unfortunate scribbler.

In Spain, in Chile, in Peru, apparently the same or something very similar had happened. The mystery must have some explanation. The three countries have suffered a great deal to achieve democracy and a certain relative prosperity, but all three have opened the door to the most delusional left. Let’s start with Spain.

Spain

The transition to full democracy began at the funeral of the Caudillo, as Franco was sometimes called. Fortunately, almost everyone was willing to betray his words. Many former Francoists thought that Europe had to be approached by singing something different from “Cara-al-sol”. The communists forgot the “they shall not pass” slogan. The socialists sang a decaffeinated version of The International in a chorus, along with the Germans. The army had grown accustomed to taking orders from the high command. And the Church stopped saying Kyrie eleison and showed its most open and modern face. For this they had the support of King Juan Carlos and his squire Adolfo Suárez.

The Spanish probably did not complete their transition until the governments of José María Aznar (1996-2004). The circle was closed. It was the right wing, but sensible and stripped of any authoritarian temptation. Later came the denial of the virtues of those years of wine and roses, illusions and dangers. It began with Zapatero, but it was highlighted by Sánchez. It was the third generation.

Chile

Something similar happened in Chile. General Augusto Pinochet ruled for 16 years, starting in November 11, 1973. In 1988 the plebiscite was won by the opposition (56% for No to Pinochet and 44 for Yes). In 1973 a military coup had removed Salvador Allende from power.

Lawyer Patricio Aylwin won the 1989 elections. He was nominated by the Christian Democracy. Faced with the economic and social chaos caused by Allende, he had been a supporter of General Augusto Pinochet’s coup in 1973, but he was disgusted, like many Chileans, by the human rights violations committed by the military and the intelligence services.

Senator Aylwin had won with 55% of the votes at the head of the Concertation. The concertation was an alliance of center-left parties that included the DC, the socialists, the social democrats and other small forces that brought Allende to power in 1970.

After Pinochet and Aylwin, within the Concertation, came the Christian Democrat engineer Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle. He was followed by social democrat economist Ricardo Lagos, and socialist doctor Michelle Bachelet. Later on, it was Sebastián Piñera’s turn. It was the first time that a conservative – but not a Pinochet follower – candidate won.

The latter did not help him much when he returned to power in 2018. Indeed, in October 2019, a year and a few months after Sebastián Piñera had returned to the presidency, thousands of Chilean rioters threw overboard the notion that the country had come of age.

Up to that point, most Latin American observers – and myself among them – thought that Chileans had developed a political and economic model based on the market, on a reduced but sufficient public spending, on obedience to the law, on an intense international trade, and on seriousness and good sense.

We didn’t think about the third generation. The percentage of poor had dropped from 46% to 8%. The Gini coefficient fell by almost 10 points. Chile was no longer one of the most unequal nations on the world and its income distribution was similar to that of the United States.

We’ll see how the new ruler Gabriel Boric behaves. He has already begun his term. He is 35 years old and belongs to the third generation. I don’t feel too optimistic.

Peru

The case of Peru is different. Many Peruvians, the most alert ones on economic matters, always aware of their southern neighbors, had seen the case of Chile with great interest. Perhaps it was time to repeat the Chilean model.

I remember the 1990 campaign. Peru came out from the disastrous government of the first Alan García. It seemed that Mario Vargas Llosa was going to easily win the presidency. At that time, regarding the elections, Alberto Fujimori was a completely unknown candidate. In the debates against Vargas Llosa during the campaign, it seemed that the novelist had won widely, but Fujimori won by 62% compared to the writer’s 37%. Vargas Llosa was hurt by the campaign that accused him of being a “neoliberal” that intended to rule for the rich and whites. It wasn’t true, but that was the general perception.

As soon as he was in office, Fujimori took some liberal measures, mixed them with others from the recipe book of “crony capitalism,” especially corrupt privatizations, staged a “self-coup” against Congress in 1992, and managed to overcome the economic crisis that had left the first Alan García.

Fujimorism, which is authoritarian, which makes it anti-liberal, has created a great confusion in Peru, which has resulted in the discrediting of liberalism, and perhaps the rise to power of Pedro Castillo, a teacher who has perhaps been supported by the third generation, that of the spendthrifts, according to Álvaro Vargas Llosa. At least he was nominated by the most recalcitrant Stalinism.

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