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OPINION
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Latin America looks for its place

Citizens are being asked whether to renovate or revolutionize the politics of the southern land mass

One of the books published on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the first Spanish Constitution in 1812 is Era cuestion de ser libres (Or, It was a question of being free) by Miguel Ángel Cortés and Xavier Reyes Mattheus, which draws interesting parallels in the evolution of Hispanic political liberalism on both sides of the Atlantic - at a time when Spain, like its ex-colonies, is seeking to redefine its place in the world. Political liberalism had to fight long and hard to establish itself in these lands in the last two centuries, history on both sides of the pond being studded with numerous dictatorships -- a period which may not yet be at an end. Latin America is feeling its way toward redefinition -- populist or revolutionary, often under the term Bolivarian. Here in Spain, the national disaffection of Catalonia is more than just a daydream. Practically the only thing everyone agrees on is the structure of the soccer league.

At least three conceptions, mutually incompatible, face Latin American citizens. One, which could be called "renovation," aims to stabilize the post-European version of America, with a number of nuances such as the substitution of the Atlantic by the Pacific as the sea of the future, and China as the mechanical hare leading the race to modernization. Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Chile are the big exponents of this redefinition.

A second bloc aims at what might be called "innovation," although its followers prefer the stronger term of "revolution." These are the Bolivarians: Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, under the nebulous aura of Havana, which, bent on creating "21-century socialism," though without entirely eradicating an "obedient" liberal capitalism, seem to want to impose what has been called an "auto-exotic idea" of themselves. The instrument for the establishment of this socialism would be "participative democracy" by means of which Hugo Chávez hopes to gather all the reins in his hand, without however dismantling structures of a democratic nature such as parties, elections, and a certain margin for freedom of expression.

And lastly, a genuine revolution resting on the voice of the ballot box, as proposed by Evo Morales in Bolivia, comprising the reinvention of the indigenous persona -- a construct that denies the consequences of racial mixture, especially in the Andean world, during the colonial and post-colonial epochs. Some of its protagonists may even feel "the vanity of self-hatred" toward white or only half-indigenous people - which the reader may easily observe in figures such as the Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera, a white Bolivian who has been trying fairly hard to "go Indian."

If the conservative Spanish statesman Antonio Cánovas del Castillo (as the book points out) said that "politics is the art of applying that part of the ideal that circumstances make possible," what Chávez aims at is creation well above all these circumstances, and Morales, destruction of the circumstances that make it impossible. The Hispano-European legacy that endured with some retouching in the case of renovation becomes, in the case of revolution, a legacy to be stamped out.

This book is a discourse very much in the political-literary pamphlet genre: an unrestricted apology for political and economic liberalism, written in defense of Hispanic Eurocentrism, contrary to all multiculturalism, and aspiring, finally, to see the triumph of liberal ideas on both shores of the Atlantic. A book germane to these times, when in the upcoming Venezuelan elections the "renovation" of Henrique Capriles faces the "innovation" of Hugo Chávez, and when in Europe the exacerbated neoliberalism of recent years must have something to do with the ongoing economic disaster. A parallelism of action-reaction runs through the whole Spanish-speaking world.

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