Peru's Nobel Prize Winner Mario Vargas Llosa In Lima To Promote Liberalism
In the Spanish-speaking world, one of the great public speakers is Mario Vargas Llosa, the 2010 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and so it was with great pleasure that Rainforest Cruises had the chance to witness him talk in public at the University of Lima. The occasion was a seminar organized by the International Foundation for Liberty (IFL), of which Vargas Llosa is the Chairman, entitled ‘Latin America: Opportunities and Challenges’.
As well as his litany of literary work, many of them celebrated as classics of Spanish literature, Vargas Llosa has had an interesting, and sometimes bumpy, political journey.
Mario Vargas Llosa on Liberalism:
Like many middle-class, Latin American intellectuals of the 1960s, he was attracted to Marxism and the Cuban Revolution as a young man.
He publicly split with the Cuban leadership in 1971 and gradually, he has moved to the right of the political spectrum since. He espouses ‘liberalism’, a very nebulous term, which includes under its banner ‘neo-liberalism’. This is an economic doctrine, which believes in free trade, minimal government interference and subsidies, and the power of private enterprise and the free market to generate wealth, to the benefit of all citizens.
With these ideas as the central tenets of his manifesto, Vargas Llosa fought and lost the 1990 Peruvian Presidential election. Poorer voters were scared by his promise of austerity measures; and yet, his vanquisher in the election, Alberto Fujimori, adopted these same economic policies, almost to the letter.
While the Fujimori government of 1990 – 2000 was repeatedly labeled a ‘dictatorship’ during the IFL seminar, the same neo-liberal philosophy was promoted by a heavyweight collection of compelling speakers, which included six former heads of state. Rainforest Cruises was certainly encouraged to see Latin American intellectual and political leaders thinking internationally and advocating cross-border cooperation, as the preservation of the Amazon Rainforest is a global concern and challenge.
What was striking, though, was the absence of a discussion of environmental issues in the day’s speeches.Although the themes were not Amazon-specific, economic and social decisions taken at the highest level are inevitably going to have an impact on this huge, underdeveloped and sensitive region.
Rightly or wrongly, the Green movement has traditionally been allied with left-wing thought; whereas neo-liberalism has been closely tied to big business and conservative elites. Wealth generation – especially by the extractive industries that proliferate in the region – is often detrimental to the environment, and it is a little naïve to think that private enterprise has the ethics or know-how to self-regulate in environmental terms.
Without wishing to get involved in political bandstanding, the seminar did serve as a further reminder that sustainable tourism is one of the very few tools of development that generates wealth and employment while, at the same time, preserving the environment.