Enrique Krauze

The End of the Latin-American Dictatorship is Nigh

Is the age of the Latin American dictator over?

A win in Venezuela could herald a dictator-free Latin America—for the first time in 200 years

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Chávez the Unfriendly Ghost

What will happen to Venezuela now that the caudillo is dead?

What will happen to Venezuela now that the caudillo is dead?

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Undefeated

THE GREAT THEORIST Leszek Kolakowski once told the following parable: Two girls are racing in a park. The one behind cries at the top of her lungs, “I’m winning! I’m winning!” Suddenly, the girl in the lead quits the race and sobs into her mother’s arms: “There’s no way to beat her.

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All dictators, from Creon onwards, are victims.­ --Gabriel García MárquezI.Many years later, in the course of writing his memoirs, Gabriel García Márquez was to remember that distant afternoon in Aracataca, in Colombia, when his grandfather set a dictionary in his lap and said, "Not only does this book know everything, it’s the only one that’s never wrong." The boy asked, "How many words are in it?" "All of them," his grandfather replied.Anywhere in the world, if a grandfather presents his grandson with a dictionary, he is giving him a great instrument of knowledge; but Colombia was not just anywhere. It was a republic of grammarians. During the youth of García Márquez’s grandfather, Colonel Nicolás Márquez Mejía, who was born in 1864 and died in 1936, a number of presidents and government ministers—almost all of them lawyers from the conservative camp—published dictionaries, language textbooks, and treatises (in prose and verse) on orthology, orthography, philology, lexicography, meter, prosody, and Castilian grammar. Malcolm Deas, a scholar of Colombian history who has studied this singular phenomenon, claims that the obsession with language that was expressed by the cultivation of these sciences—their practitioners, Deas notes, insisted on calling them "sciences"—had its origin in the urge for continuity with the cultural heritage of Spain. By claiming "Spain’s eternal presence in the language," Colombians sought to possess its traditions, its history, its classic authors, its Latin roots. This appropriation, preceded by the foundation in 1871 of the Colombian Academy of Language, the first offshoot in America of the Royal Spanish Academy, was one of the keys to the long period of conservative hegemony—it lasted from 1886 to 1930—in Colombian political history.García Márquez’s grandfather is a prominent figure in the writer’s early novels, and he was no stranger to this politico-grammatical history. Colonel Nicolás Márquez Mejía fought in the ranks of the legendary Liberal general Rafael Uribe Uribe (1859–1914), one of the few caudillos in Colombian history. His story in turn inspired the character of Colonel Aureliano Buendía in One Hundred Years of Solitude. A tireless and hapless combatant in three civil wars, Uribe Uribe was also a diligent grammarian and a soldier in the civic battles between conservatives and liberals. During one of his stays in prison he translated Herbert Spencer, and in 1887 he wrote the Diccionario abreviado de galicismos, provincialismos y correcciones de lenguaje, or Abbreviated Dictionary of Gallicisms, Provincialisms, and Proper Usage, which seems to have been a moderate success.In 1896 the general stood alone in Parliament against sixty conservative senators. Finally the crushing majority left him no choice but—in his own words—to "give voice to the cannons." Uribe Uribe was the protagonist of the bloody Thousand Days War in 1899–1902, which ended with the signing of the Peace of Neerlandia. The signing was witnessed by Colonel Márquez, who, years later, would receive his former general at the family home in Aracataca, near the scene of the events. Uribe Uribe was assassinated in 1914. Two decades later, his lieutenant presented his eldest grandson not with a sword or a pistol, but with a dictionary. This tome that anywhere else would be an instrument of knowledge was, in Colombia, an instrument of power.Power would indeed come to García Márquez through the literary arts, but not in his wildest tropical dreams could Colonel Márquez have imagined the prodigious ars combinatoria that his grandson—whom he called "my little Napoleon"—would apply to that dictionary, the "almost two thousand big, crowded pages, beautifully illustrated" that "Gabito" set out to read "in alphabetical order, with little understanding." García Márquez won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, and his most important novels have been translated into many languages. With their extraordinary force of storytelling, their poetic charm, their prose so flexible and rich that at moments it actually seems to contain all the words in the dictionary, these books are read everywhere, and rightly. His hometown is the site of literary pilgrimages. In Cartagena de Indias, the walled port city where the young reporter García Márquez endured years of hardship, the taxi drivers point out the "Prize House," one of several that "Gabo" owns in cities around the world. The fond nickname reflects the popular sympathy that he inspires.

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The ideas that keep Hugo Chavez in power.

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Exorcisms

The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa translated by Edith Grossman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 404 pp., $25) "There are no limits to deterioration: it can always be worse." This observation by Alejandro Mayta, the disenchanted guerrilla fighter of Mario Vargas Llosa's novel The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta, who returns to his birthplace after many years, freed of ghosts but devoid of hope, came to mind in March, 1990.

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