Monday, October 18, 2010

Argentina is a chaotic and impoverished nation

2010 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa, once a candidate for the Presidency of his home country, had some rather harsh words to say about Argentina when he gave an interview to the Perfil newspaper back in 2009.

Speaking with the Argentine daily’s journalist, Ceferino Reato, Vargas Llosa said that ‘Argentina had turned from being a prosperous nation into an underdeveloped, chaotic and impoverished country.’

He praised Argentina for being one of the first countries to eradicate illiteracy, and for having created an education system which was once an example to the world. But went on to say that ‘he always gets confused when he’s asked about Argentina. It’s an indecipherable country. A country that was democratic when three quarters of Europe was not, and one of the world’s most prosperous societies when Latin America was a continent suffering from severe hunger and backwardness.’

Presidents Cristina and Nestor Kirchner
He was also very critical of Peronism and the leadership-marriage of Peronistas President Cristina Kirchner and husband, former president Nestor Kirchner. ‘How can it be that a couple like the Kirchners are governing the country?’ he asked.

Vargas Llosa answered himself with the frankest of frankness. ‘Was there some dramatic war? Was Argentina invaded? No. It’s just that for half a century the Argentines have made the worst choices and continue doing so regardless of experience. And that is Peronism. Peronsim is to choose badly, and to persevere with the mistake despite the catastrophe after catastrophe that has summed up the modern history of Argentina.’

Juan Perón was the democratically elected President of Argentina from 1946 until 1955 when he was deposed by a coup. After years of Argentine instability he returned from exile in Spain to be re-elected for the third time in 1973, and his third wife Isabel Perón took over the presidency for two years after his death in 1974. After the ensuing years in which even the word Peronsim was banned, the Peronist party returned to power in 1989 and the Kirchners have been presidents since 2003.

But when Vargas Llosa asked himself why Argentina, with its cultured people and natural resources is not a country of the first world, his answer was once again blatantly bloody frank, ‘because the Argentines have not wanted it. They have wanted to be poor. Argentina has to recognise that nobody has made them that way. They have done it.’

So despite the Nobel Prize winner’s fond memories of his first visit to Argentina when he marvelled at the country’s cultural level and middle classness in a society where there were no poor people in the Latin American sense of the word; his opinion has certainly changed, and is one that is probably shared by the vast majority of the educated and extremely anti Peronist class in modern day Argentina.


  1. Sounds ok, but is it true? Is Chile better off? Maybe now, with a top dollar paid for copper. But Peru? Bolivia? Paraquay? Uruquay? And most of Brasil.... South-America is poor. Is it not too easy to just blame Peron?

  2. Very interesting article, even more so as the criticism - and that is what it can be called - comes from someone of such high standing. Populism is rarely compatible with diligent running of the state, rather just propping up the leader and avoiding serious issues. But Argentina is a democracy: to elect populist leaders comes at a price.