Thursday, July 27, 2006

Book on Latin American authoritarianism

Authoritarianism in Latin America-dictators, despots and tyrants.
by Paul H. Lewis
This book ( published in 2006) gave some clues to my quest to understand the genesis of authoritarian rule in Latin America.

Latin America has been the victim of all kinds of dictaorships and laboratory of political and economic adventures. The continent has suffered dictatorship of Spanish monarchy, local caudillos, military dictators, one-party rule, two-party rule, oligarchic and corporatist regimes, marxist rule and leftist and rightist regimes. Trujillo of Dominican republic, Noriega of Panama and Somoza of Nicaragua epitomised latino dictatorship.

The author has gone into the roots of this authoritarian tendency. It starts off with the mother country Spain, which colonised most of Latin America. At the time of discoveries and colonisation, the Spanish became aggresive, fanatic and intolerant , having come out after seven hundred years of fighting with the Moors. Those Spanish who ventured out to Latin America carried this miltaristic and religious baggage with them. They had grabbed as much land and assets and fought to retain or expand them ruthlessly and had no pity for those who were not of their faith or colour.

Let us not forget that Spain and Portugal were the last dictatorships in Europe under Franco and Salazar till 1975 and 1970 respectively. One could not have expected anything better from their colonies.

One of the reasons for dictatorship and social disequilibrium in Latin America is racial. The only way in which the white colonisers could rule over majority mestizos( mixed blood) and native Indians was through dictatorship. In a democracy they would have lost to majority rule, as it has just happened in Bolivia. Although 65 percent of the Bolivians are native Indians, they were always ruled by a white minority until 2006 when Evo Morales was elected.

The racial factor is illustrated by a decree issued by Francia, the Paraguyan dictator ( called as El Supremo ) in 1814, under which white men were prohibited from marrying white women. Why? because when he fell in love with a white woman, he was rejected by the woman's family on the ground that he had mixed blood. Eventually, he got both the fater-in -law and the husband of his sweetheart killed after tortures.

Cruelty to opponents has remained as a part of the dictorships. The opponents could be from another race, political party or ideology. Thousands of people were jailed, torured, exiled, displaced and killed in the name of national security and ideology. The cruelty reached its height when the Argentine generals threw leftist prisoners from planes into the sea.

Latin America has now come out of military dictatorship and is consolidating the democratic instituitions and values. Although there are still residual authoritarian tendencies in the behaviour of some rulers who have managed to be despots within the framework of democracies, the power has passed to the masses irreversibly. This is the insurance for democracy and hope for the future.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Playboy Brazil reports on India

The June 2006 edition of Playboy magazine of Brazil carries a feature on India. It gives 13 reasons that make Indians smarter than the Brazilians. Nothing new. They have listed out english proficiency, competitive spirit motivated by the large population, aptitude for maths and science, spirit of enterpreunership,creativity and self-confidence. The most interesting reason given is that there are 300 million gods who are manning the callcentres and helplines to come to the rescue of Indians in response to pujas and prayers.
The feature gives five reasons which make India poorer than Brazil. This includes poverty, poor infrastructure and illiteracy.

This report is part of the recent trend of India coverage in Brasilian newspapers and magazines. But the Playboy report is the most effective one in Brazil where the local edition sells over 250, 000 copies. And the decision makers and opinion makers read Playboy more seriously.

One distinguishing feature of Playboy Brazil is that it is read by more women than men. They read it to keep abreast of the tastes and preferences, weaknesses and whims of men. Armed with knowledge and skills, the Brazilian women goes hunting and conquering men. The Indian men need to watch out... they have been exposed ... they should be prepared for the attack from Brazil.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ecuador calls.... monsoon rains

The Ecuador Foreign Minister was here with the monsoon rains.

monsoon ...
moist earth..
sprouting plants
clouds waiting to burst
sudden showers
tree branches
dripping water


the heart opens
love springs
feet in the air
romance mists the eyes
poetry waiting to burst

watching the monsoon rains from the balcony
reminded me of the words of Jorge Carrera Andrade, the Ecuadorian poet

Ecuador mi pais, esmeralda del mundo
novia vestida siempre de domingo
quisera besar todo el cuerpo verde
tus cabellos de selva"

Ecuador my country, emerald of the world
like a fiancee dressed always in sunday best
love to kiss all of her green body
and her wild hair.

One of the main exports of ecuador is flowers. Being close to Equator and with microclimates Ecuador produces some special flowers luminescent with unique colour combinations

Dr Francisco Carrion, was in Delhi 17-19 July. First-ever visit of a foreign minister of Ecuador to India. He invited Indian companies to enter the oil and gas sector of his country. ONGC Videsh (OVL) signed a MOU with Petroecuador. The virgin market of ecuador offers opportunities for Indian business in pharmaceuticals, chemicals, textiles and engineering and manufactured products. India can import timber and minerals besides crude oil

Ecuador has opened an embassy in delhi since 2005. The energetic and dynamic Ambassador Carlos Abad is working hard to add content to relations and promote business.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

visit of Argentinian delegation

Buenas Aires donde el tango nacio
tierra mia querida

Quisera poderte ofrender
todo el alma en mi cantar

This tango by Carlos Gardel was my welcome remark to the Argetinian delegation at the business meet organised by CII at Taj Mansingh Hotel on 5 July

Argentina.. the land of ...Pampas and patagonia... Evita and Che Guevara... Julio Borghes and Julio Cortazar... beefsteak and red wine...

Finally... the Argentinians also came.
I am saying finally because all the other countries of Latin America had taken initiatives to engage India and exchange visits of ministers and business delegations. Argentina was the last.

But the Argentinians made up for the delay. Their delegation was one of the biggest to come from the region The foreign minister was accompanied by a 20 member official delegation and 40 businessmen. The delegation included the governor of Rio Negro, a charming lady minister ( laura) of Mendoza and a member of Parliament.

The delegation was enthusiastic, serious, sincere and pleasant in their negotiations and talks with us. This came as a pleasant surprise to many Indians who had heard so many jokes about Argentinians.

The business event was successful. The Argentinian business delegation included some serious companies including those who wanted to export and do joint ventures in nuclear medical equipments, turbines for hydroelectric plants and cranes. The Indian response was overwhelming.

The Charming Minister of Mendoza Laura made a presentation on bz and investment opportunities in her province. The Indians who were already inebriated with the mendoza wines found the opportunities irresistible. Oil, mining and railways offer immediate opportunities for project contracts and investment.

The visit has laid the foundation for a new paradigm in relations and business. The Argentinian exports to India in 2005 were 746 million dollars and our exports 269 million. This could double in the next three years.

So the time has come for India to tango with Argentina !