During his time as ambassador -in the Netherlands, Switzerland and UNESCO-, Homero Aridjis (Michoacán, 81 years old) had the opportunity to get to know closely the upper echelons of the PRI governments of the 60s and 70s. “Adolfo López Mateos, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Luis Echeverría, José López Portillo. I treated all of them a lot as an ambassador and as a Mexican intellectual ”, he says about the double facet that brought him closer to the corridors of power“ in the Latin American tradition of Pablo Neruda or Octavio Paz ”. Poet, narrator and essayist, his latest book, Pawns are the lifeblood of the game (Random House), is a fictionalized journey through those years through a alter ego from Aridjis himself, who reviews from his home in Mexico City the Mexican news in electoral times.
Question. How do you analyze the role of intellectuals today? Has the president also polarized the cultural field?
Answer. There are intellectuals, columnists who try to express their opinions and are attacked. Because the Mexican political system is not used to criticism, to self-analysis. There have always been intellectual courts, in the 1960s they were called the right left, which always acted in accordance with the government. The folly was that of the lazy, the students, peasants, workers who tried to change the Mexican political system and almost always paid with their lives with atrocious persecution of themselves and their families. They passed in the eyes of the intellectuals as naive.
P. What would be the wise and the foolish today?
R. The Government has made the lists. Attack those who criticize and reward those who collaborate with them.
P. How do you see the cultural policy developed by this Government?
There is no cultural policy in this Government. There are fingerprints and blunders like that of the consuls of memory, blaming Spain and the Vatican. Everyone who knows history knows that there were several stages: Columbus dedicated himself to exploration, Cortés, to the conquest, and I appreciate the friars very much. Especially to the so-called 12 Franciscan apostles. They were very humanistic people who carried out a spiritual and ideological transformation that laid the foundations of Mexican culture. Vasco de Quiroga brought the first copy of Moro’s Utopia to Michoacán, to my land. The Purepecha communities still call him nanny Vasco. It is ingrained by generations and generations. While politicians, for example, are not respected.
P. How do you see Michoacán with the chronic problem of violence?
R. The problem is coexistence with the narco. An organized crime problem that has no solution at the moment. Tierra Caliente has become a route for drug trafficking. As in the war in Vietnam or Cambodia, it has become a strategic territory for crime. There are indications that drug trafficking entered very strongly during the PAN government. It was when the Chinese ships with synthetic drug precursors began to arrive at the port of Lázaro Cárdenos. Lázaro Cárdenas became a criminal port.
P. Local chiefdoms are often also involved
R. Yes, they are sustained by corruption and crime.
P. What solution is there for Michoacán? What do you expect from the elections?
R. More of the same. A sick person is dying. I saw possibilities for change with Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, but I was very disappointed when he told me that the drug traffickers are the ones who put the politicians. They no longer buy from officials, they put them in.
P.What do you think of López Obrador’s security policies? On the one hand, militarization and on the other his discourse of going to the origin and trying to tackle poverty and exclusion.
R. It is a mirage. Going to the roots of poverty and violence is like going to Cain and Abel to see how envy and fratricide began. They are truly naive exits. When someone is seriously ill or injured, efficient medicine must be applied. It is a problem of strategy, of analysis. Mexicans in the US go to work and respect the laws and are good workers. Why not here? Because here their work is not respected or appreciated. You have to change your attitude, you have to respect people. There are rapacious businessmen and grotesque politicians.
P. He does not believe that López Obrador has managed, at least at the level of discourse, to connect with those popular layers that are the majority in Mexico.
R. Yes, there was a hope of change through him because he had a popular, egalitarian discourse and with a very Mexican language. But López Obrador has been distorted by his lust for power. That is the danger I see, that it destabilizes Mexico because of its ambition for power. Because there are unknown political forces. López Portillo said it: “don’t wake up rough Mexico.” That is the danger. There is a rough Mexico that is in a latent state of violence and there is a danger that López Obrador could wake it up. That is why you have to follow the legal course of things, elections, paying taxes and not allowing abuse. Because Mexico is used to the culture of abuse.
P. Jorge Zepeda said in a recent column that the president has sent the institutions to hell, but has ultimately respected them over and over again in decisive moments. Do you agree?
R. I think the problem is that it opens many fronts and that, as in war, is dangerous. Because the consequences are not known. It alarms me because Mexico is in a very serious moment because of the real power of the drug traffickers and that is a danger. And then there is the problem of the military, who have always been respected in Mexico and have not been tempted by coups. But it is necessary to watch that military leaders do not appear. And also violence against women. Mexico has become a femicide country. We have to overcome the criminal problem with pragmatic and well thought out strategies, otherwise the situation will worsen with the remedies.
P. With your experience as an ambassador, how do you see foreign policy? The president hasn’t shown much interest
R. It is a huge mistake because the image of Mexico abroad is very weak. For things like the controversy of Moctezuma’s plume and the claims to Spain and Austria. Foreigners distrust this policy and consider it not serious. Foreign policy is not free, it is to strengthen the image of the country in cultural, social and economic terms.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.