The Duque government has decided to use the Madrid Book Fair to invite writers not because of their literary or intellectual quality but because of their degree of abjection to a regime that has more than 77% disapproval.
That attitude so typical of autocratic governments was made clear in the clumsy press conference that the Colombian ambassador in Madrid gave to the Spanish media. He left exposed, without any hesitation, what the selection criteria had been to choose the writers who are going to go to the Book Fair in Madrid, among whom – look at it – it seems that President Iván Duque himself will also be there.
The fact that the Colombian president was chosen by a mysterious selection committee, unknown to anyone, as one of the authors representing the Colombian letters is also suspicious. Duque is going to present the second volume of his book on the orange economy in which I imagine he talks about how his government has strengthened the cultural industries. I have not read the first or the second volume, but I do know that we are not facing a work that will go down in the annals of history. Such an orange economy has been a fiasco because it has dedicated itself to financing only those cultural industries that are profitable for being mass-consumed, to the detriment of those that are not. I speak of theater, dance and musical expressions that reflect our ancestral culture and that traditionally the Ministry of Culture, today practically dismantled, promoted.
For all the above, the warning made by the ambassador at the beginning of his peripatetic press conference is even cynical, in which he confessed that the selection of the guests had been very careful because the Government wanted to prevent “a literary fair from becoming a a political fair ”.
Let’s get serious: if one of the guests at the fair is the president himself, from the outset the fair is already a political fair. But also, the fact that the president is on the list of authors chosen by a mysterious committee of the Colombian Foreign Ministry shows that the selection criteria were not literary but political.
The argument that the Government tried to make a selection of “neutral” authors so that the “conversations were pleasant” is also very far-fetched, which is to say that they did not want either major controversies or counterpoints. “Neither for one side nor the other,” said the ambassador at the press conference. “I like García Márquez because I like him, not because he is from the left or from the right, or I like Neruda because I like what he transmits without asking me about his ideology. They have tried to have very neutral things where the literary side of the work prevails ”.
Requiring a writer, even in a veiled way, not to get involved in politics when he is a guest at a book fair is an act of censorship. As disgraceful as requiring a journalist to only ask the questions that the interviewee wants to answer. That of imposing a category of neutral writers so that criticism and questions do not surface is not only an insult to the intellect but also leaves all Colombian writers in a bad way, especially those who were selected for the Madrid fair. It turns them into compliant, docile, and harmless feathers that are neither fu nor fa. The ambassador does not know, but the literature is not neutral, or neutral, or anything he wanted to say. With good reason, many of them, upset by the government’s statements, gave up going to the fair, or decided to pay for the trip out of their own pocket.
The ambassador also failed to set an example for García Márquez to show that good literature does not feed on politics. It is enough to read Gabo’s work, which the ambassador has obviously not done, to understand that Gabo wrote with his soul in politics. If he lived, he probably would not have been invited to this fair because he would not have classified. Gabo was not lukewarm nor was he a neutral writer.
It is clear that behind all these tricks is the fear of a president with serious governance problems, who fears criticism and who has wanted to make a selection of writers to go to the book fair in Madrid with the hidden intention of that they cannot express their opinions about what is happening in Colombia. Duque does not want them to talk about his shame in Madrid.
Let it not be known that in his four years of government the murders of social leaders increased and that the massacres returned. And that the economy, be it orange or not, is in intensive care. Do not talk about the excesses of the police against young people who protest, or how these abuses of human rights have been allowed with the unfounded thesis that they are guerrillas disguised as disgruntled youth. Nor is there talk of its corruption scandals, such as the one that has its minister Karen Abudinen among its sticks, who delivered a millionaire contract to build internet points to a consortium made up of several of the corrupt who stole the advance of the avenida 26 de Bogota 20 years ago. Her insistence on keeping her in office has produced a reaction at all levels to the point that her surname Abudinen has been accepted by the RAE dictionary as one of the new verbs –abudinar– that has been created in the popular speech of Colombia. to refer to stealing and cheating.
Although the ambassador has retracted these statements and apologized to the selected writers for calling them “neutral” authors, few believe it was a blunder. Appealing to the neutral and apolitical is a very Colombian way of censoring the intelligentsia and setting a limit that in Colombia is not even imposed on public officials who are the only ones who cannot participate in politics.
In short, what the Government wants is to use the Madrid fair to do politics and take advantage of this space for literary reflection to show its own figures, its own fictions, and try to convince the unwary that democracy in Colombia is in good health . The Government was the one that politicized this fair. And, deep down, what he wants is to prevent some writers, considered by the regime as ‘Castro-Chavistas’, from watering down the self-propaganda he has mounted in Madrid. That is Duque’s real literary work, putting together that country fiction, not the volumes about the orange economy.
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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.