The Latin American Time-Warp

Below is an excerpt from a speech by Óscar Arias, the former president of Costa Rica, at the Summit of the Americas, Trinidad and Tobago, April 18, 2009. It was translated from the Spanish by our South American correspondent BG:

Forgetting something …

When one goes to a Latin American university, it still looks as though we are back in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s. It looks as though we forgot that something very important happened on Nov 9th, 1989, when the Iron Curtain in Berlin fell, and the world changed.

We have to accept that this is a different world, and I truly think along with all academics, all thinkers, all economists, and all historians that the 21st Century belongs to the Far East, not to Latin Americans. Regretfully, I have to agree with them.

While we are debating over ideologies, over all manner of “isms” (Which one is best? Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Liberalism, Social-Christianism…), Asians have come across the most realistic “ism” for the 21st century, the one called “pragmatism”.

Just to mention but one example, we should remember that when he realized his neighbors were getting rich fast, Deng Xiaoping paid a visit to Singapore [to President Lee Kuan Yew] and to South Korea, and upon his return to China, he told his good old Maoist friends: “No matter whether the cat is white or black, the only thing that is relevant is that it knows how to chase rats.” Had Mao been alive then, he would have fallen dead again, listening to Deng saying that “The truth is: becoming rich is glorious”.

And as the Chinese have kept sticking to this since 1979, with a mean growth rate of between 11% and 13% every year, pulling 300 million inhabitants out of misery, we [Latin Americans] find ourselves still commenting about ideologies we should have deep-sixed a long time ago.
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