Socialism in Latin America: a plan doomed to end in failure

July 5, 2019

By Eddy Montilla

A couple of decades ago, some Latin American countries decided to embrace some kind of pseudo-socialist ideas based on false promises and empty rhetoric coming from their political leaders that made people sleep deeper than a bad movie on TV. This situation happened in Venezuela with the populist leader Hugo Chávez, in Bolivia (Evo Morales), in Ecuador (Rafael Correa) and Nicaragua (Daniel Ortega), not to mention the perennial Cuba.

The socialist model implemented in those countries can be described as a bunch of good intentions with retrograde steps that can be confirmed when you see its final result: Venezuela, a country with the largest amount of proven oil reserves in the world where filling the tank of a car is practically free, has its inflation today projected to reach 8 million percent or more this year, for which it may receive one the most dubious honor that a country could bestow: to be one of the most miserable places in the world. Everything began with Hugo Chávez and reached the limits of the absurd with the country’s current President, Nicolás Maduro. As a result, a lot of people are in dire straits and more than four million Venezuelans have fled their country amid the economic and humanitarian crisis.

Rafael Correa did a better job in Ecuador than Chávez and Maduro in Venezuela, but his blatant attempt to silence the Press and constitutional amendments that eliminated presidential term limits were enough to end Ecuadorian democracy. In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega fought against the Somoza dynasty that ruled his country as a family dictatorship for decades only to become himself another modern dictator. Among these socialist leaders, “The Untouchables”, Evo Morales in Bolivia seemed to be the most successful one even though the price was too high since he undermined his own credibility and position by approving constitutional amendments so that he could seek a fourth term in office.

Latin American socialism found its failure in its fragile way of working and principles: leaders provide “fish” to the people, but they never teach them how to fish in order to be treated like a god by the poor. The lack of generational shift and leaders’ reluctance to pass the baton to others doomed their plans to failure from the beginning. Only Costa Rica (and dubiously Mexico in second place) has kept dictators away from its Government, which explains its solid democratic growth, not to mention its steady economic position. With so many examples to learn from them, we only hope that the region has understood and learned the lesson to bury the path followed by Venezuela, Cuba and other countries in Latin America because wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion

Copyright 2019 All rights are reserved.

Photo: By courtesy of Archivo Medios Públicos under the criteria of Creative Commons (Flickr, 7-6-2019).


Dominican Republic: the limits of the presidential reelection

July 1, 2019

By Eddy Montilla

Dominican Republic, like most countries in Central and South America has a fragile democracy prone to dictatorial regimes. Even though, Dominican people only remember “El Jefe” (The boss), Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, considered one of the bloodiest dictators ever in the Americas, and Joaquín Balaguer, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the truth is that the list starts with their first president: Pedro Santana.
In the United States, the only president who has served more than two terms was Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1940, he won the election for his third term. Later, he ran again and became the only president to be elected to a fourth term in 1944. After the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1951, nobody can serve more than two terms, which explains why democracy has been solid in that country while in the rest of the countries of the American continent, democracy goes dressed in rags.
Dominican Republic has enough bad examples of terrible dictators as to avoid presidential reelection since Trujillo did not match Hitler in Europe, Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, Idi Amin in Uganda in terms of cruelty, but his brutal regime was cruel enough to be compared to Francisco Franco in Spain or Francois Duvalier in Haiti. Any president needs more than eight years to put a country on the path of growth. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva did it in Brazil (2003-2011), and his good work turned into disgrace for himself and his country too only when he wanted to continue holding power in a direct or indirect way.
The Dominican ex-president Leonel Fernández, the person who was supposed to protect the country’s Constitution and democracy in the country’s modern era, was the first to set an undesirable precedent by letting constitutional changes so that he could stay in power. Dominican Republic will hold presidential elections next year and him, another ex-president (Hipólito Mejía) and even the ruling president (Danilo Medina) after eight years in power seem to be the ones who want “the biggest slice of cake” again. However, if you assess the job that all those presidents have done over these decades, the conclusion is unanimous: the poor are poorer or they did few things considering the country’s economic growth (the money they had to use for the people).
Dominican Republic has historically paid a high price due in part to the mistakes made by those who were in power in the past and pretend to return to it and stay there as long as they can. It’s time for a new generation of leaders in the country, something as difficult as a miracle because when it comes to presidential reelection, a lot of Dominican people have shown many times to be stubborn and sell their dignity and vote for a plate of pottage like Esau.

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion

Copyright 2019 All rights are reserved.

Ben is back (2018) and… Julia Roberts too!

June 25, 2019

By Eddy Montilla

Rating: 7.4/10

Directed by: Peter Hedges

Written by: Peter Hedges

Genre: Drama

MPAA: R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.)

Starring: Julia Roberts (as Holly Burns), Lucas Hedges (as Ben Burns) and Courtney B. Vance (as Neal Beeby)

Running Time: 103 minutes

Ben is back (2018) and… Julia Roberts too!

In Hollywood there are beautiful actresses without talents; you can also find talented actresses who are not so beautiful. In Julia Roberts, however, both points are harmoniously combined. To confirm it, just take a look at Pretty Woman (1990), one of the most iconic romantic comedies ever and, above all, one of the most oft-referenced and parodied romantic comedies that the world of film has seen until now, Pelican Brief (1993), I like trouble (1994), Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) and many others movies that were a sight for sore eyes because of her presence.

In Ben is back (2018), Julia Roberts (Holly Burns) brings the story of an indulgent motherly woman who is constantly struggling with her son, Ben Burns (Lucas Hedges), a young man involved in drug trafficking and consumption from head to toe. To talk too much about such kinds of plots is tantamount to working very hard for…free because the feeling of a mother for her son has no limits, going beyond the line of blindness and foolishness and that’s why we should focus our attention on Julia’s performance rather than the plot itself. By doing so, it is impossible to conceal delight just in the first minutes of the movie after watching Holly Burns’ face and her jumps of joy for the arrival of her addictive son, Ben, despite the fact that it is not the best for anybody. Her face reflects the greatness of the great.

Julia Roberts’ sudden changes of emotions are undoubtedly a masterly performance. You can get a better understanding of it when she takes Ben to a cemetery and asks him: “Where do you want me to bury you when you O.D.?”. It is true that the plot is too much predictable, but I still recommend you not to pay attention to those critics who look down and only see ground since Julia Roberts’ performance is good enough to enjoy the film.

Ben is Back (2018) and Julia Roberts too. Unfortunately, her generation of great actors will not be with us after a decade or so. They will be supplanted by those who look like fake gold chains: beautiful, but valueless. Get “your collection of good movies” now because when that time comes, those actors and their movies will be something like chaos, erosion, climate crisis and dark places hardly lit by some firefly.

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion

Copyright 2019 All rights are reserved.

Theresa May’s mistakes

June 21, 2019

By Eddy Montilla

When Theresa May was elected as Prime Minister in the United Kingdom three years ago, she really knew exactly how tumultuous her position was going to be. What she probably never imagined was that her political career ladder was going to come to an end without being able to move some few rungs up.

As the Conservative party leader, Theresa May’s main mission was to deliver Brexit. However, from the beginning, she struggled to get the necessary parliamentary support for the legislation that would let her implement the deal on the way the United Kingdom would leave the European Union. Like a Peter denying Jesus three times, her deal was rejected three times by the Parliament, finding clashes of opinion even inside her own party.

With a 4% margin of difference only, Brexit was itself a dividing matter for citizens, not to mention for politicians. The members of parliament (MPs) do not know what to do with Brexit in the same way that the English do not know what to do with their politicians. In that context, May opted for the wrong way: obstinacy, that is, Brexit or nothing instead of trying to negotiate with opposition leaders and, the most important thing, to get absolute power through consensus among the members of the Conservative party, something that she never could have. Nevertheless, that was not the mistake that tackled her, but the wrong idea of trying to walk over the footprint of the only female Prime Minister that the United Kingdom had had until now: Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990).

Theresa May seemed to want to emulate her female predecessor as the second “Iron Lady”, forgetting, perhaps, that the Iron Lady was as strong as anyone in front of people, but she was also as weak as anyone when she cried at home after a bad day. History will not judge Theresa May because of Brexit (probably, nobody could deliver it at that time and surrounded by those circumstances), but because of her inability to maneuvered “the car of the Conservative party” successfully.

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion

Copyright 2019 All rights are reserved.

Photo: By courtesy of G20 Argentina under the criteria of Creative Commons (Flickr, 6-21-2019).

Jesus´s ideas about miracles: Do they really exist? Can I make a miracle?

May 26, 2019

By Eddy Montilla

Distrust has become something quite familiar in people’s heart. It seems that we can’t help looking at the others with suspicion. We do not trust the other passenger sitting near us, the person who is just walking or the husband (wife) who went out with a friend. Jesus’s words usually had to come to us accompanied by some miracles precisely due to our constant distrust of people. Otherwise, it had not been necessary for him to turn water into wine (the first miracle attributed to him), to give sight to blind people (the blind man of Bethsaida, to heal deaf people or to reach “the impossible”: to raise people from the dead (Lazarus). Jesus performed a lot of miracles to make it clear that he was the Son of God and he gave power to his disciple to do the same, with certain restrictions, of course, perhaps to avoid abuse of authority, considering what James and John (Jesus’s disciples) wanted to do with those who did not welcome Jesus: “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

These days, there doesn’t seem to be any traces of similar miracles to a point that a lot of people question whether they really exist or they can be performed. The answer is affirmative: Yes, we can perform miracles, but not in the way that most people imagine. Observe the two contrasting views that usually emerge when people talk about this topic. Some say that a miracle is something built with your own hands while others say that it comes directly from God’s hands. In countries with religions different from Catholicism or in rich Catholic countries where faith in Jesus is openly dying day by day, the first idea seems to prevail. In other places (usually the poorest countries) where people pray with their usual fervor, the second idea has more followers. Nevertheless, in both cases the result is the same: Any group seems to end up well. For instance, think about all those “pragmatic” people in South Korea, Japan, Germany and France who commit suicide every year. They were told and taught to trust in their own hands and, at the end, their lives were as tragic as a pressure cooker wrongly covered. And what is the fate of a lot of people in Latin America (second group)? Well, they ask God for a miracle, sit and wait for it and… they die while waiting for it.

The reason for which miracles are practically nonexistent and our chances to perform them are quite slim can be found in Jesus’s stance on miracles. Note that Jesus usually asked the person who wanted to be cured if he or she believed in his power to perform the miracle. Sometimes, this context was so repetitive that it gave the wrong impression that Jesus could not do anything if the person in need did not show faith in him. The truth is that Jesus did not want to give everything to people in an easy way, that is, without seeing other people’s effort and commitment. Under this context, we get the answer: miracles do exist and they are the result of two interrelated things: your faith to ask for the miracle and your work to make it happen.

Based on the explanation mentioned before, make a mental exercise and think about the times you have combined both parts and you will clearly confirm the existence of miracles, even in different dimensions and sizes. But how about the moments when despite combining your effort and faith, you did not get what you wanted? Then, that was a good moment to reflect on what you were asking: in most cases, a mere act of egoism or it was not perhaps the best for you in the long run based on God’s plan notwithstanding your great reluctance to accept it. I have seen a lot people losing their somehow “conditional faith” in God when they did not get what they wanted after asking for it, a job, for example. The question here is… Will God take part in our human conflicts where a person (you) could benefit from his decision, but the others don’t? In many cases, we do not get what we want because it is unconnected with Jesus’s principles. Therefore, it would be wise to ask in the same way that Jesus did: “Father, if you are willing, XXXXX; yet not my will, but yours be done”. Our society lives difficult moments due to its moral turpitude and the high level of people’s indifference, which means that we really need more miracles than ever these days. You know how to get them now. Go for them for the good of your family, friends, strangers and even your enemies.

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion

Copyright 2019 All rights are reserved.

Let´s talk about movies: Green Book (2018) is pure art to be admired

April 17, 2019

By Eddy Montilla

Rating: 8.3/10

Directed by: Peter Farrelly

Written by: Nick Vallelonga, Peter Farrelly and Brian Currie

Genre: Drama, comedy

MPAA: PG-13 (Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.)

Starring: Viggo Mortensen (as Tony Lip), Mahershala Ali (as Dr. Donald Shirley) and Linda Cardellini (as Dolores)

Running Time: 130 minutes

“A friendship like that between a black man and a white man in the midst of the crisis for racial prejudice in the United States was highly unlikely”, “The information related to Donald Shirley being isolated from both, the black community and his own family is inaccurate”. I have heard these and other unfavorable criticisms about Green Book (2018), but after watching the film, my answer to them is very simple, but irrefutable: you can cover with shadows a small well-lit area, but not the Sun. Green Book (2018) is more than a story between a black classical piano prodigy (Mahershala Ali as Dr. Donald Shirley) and an Italian-American driver (Viggo Mortensen as Tony Lip) and their friendship, it is about a man’s commitment to fighting racism with the keys of his piano and another man who adhered to his cause when he witnessed his suffering. This film brings an almost perfect combination between the dramatic quality of some scenes and humor, something that was decorated with some strokes of action.

We know well Peter Farrelly and his brother for his comedies Dumb and Dumber (1994), There is something about Mary (1998) and others, but what he brought to us this time is something completely different, something that borders on greatness because with Green Book (2018), you will laugh and laugh again by only listening to Tony’s tone, not to mention his witticisms, especially when he’s writing his letters to his wife Dolores (Linda Cardellini). With Green Book, you will also have a lump in your throat after seeing the way he lived despite his talent and money, seeing the times he was brutally beaten and the makeup he used to hide his bruises.

I know that any good director or writer can get to this point. What really makes this film exceptional is the little details behind those general scenes usually made for the general public (the marked contrast between Shirley’s refined style of living and Tony’s earthy language and rough modals), details only reserved for good observers. Do not let pass, for instance, the moment when the car in which they were travelling stopped near a farm. Observe how those people working there looked at Doctor Donald Shirley and his sumptuous attire, the way the stood because scenes like that one turn Green Book into a pearl.

One of the most beautiful part of this movie is the surprising concatenation of events, something that can be savored completely when Donald Shirley and Tony were talking about the classic glass of whisky over the piano of a black pianist at first and what you will find out almost at the end of the film. Things like this one prove that Green Book’s success as the best movie at the 91st Academy Awards was not haphazard, but it was a work that displays expertise, like a beautiful elderly lady in needlework. Green Book is, in short, a crocheted film.

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion.

Copyright 2019 All rights are reserved.

Mexico: Should King Felipe of Spain and Pope Francis apologize for abuse during the Spanish conquest? No

April 15, 2019

By Eddy Montilla

When we see Latin-American presidents’ stance on political or historical issues, it is not difficult to know why that region has lived between shadows and penumbras for centuries with only few sun’s rays. The most recent example came when Mexican President Manuel López Obrador sent a letter to King Felipe VI of Spain and Pope Francis asking them to apologize for abuse during the Spanish conquest. With the benefit of the doubt at his favor, his action might indicate the presence of good intentions, but the way he tried to carry it out shows a lack of historical awareness and, above all, a lack of political tact.

Any student who has had a good history teacher knows that past events cannot be judged with our contemporary eyes since we are talking about different historical contexts and society’s levels of development. Atrocities and other actions done in the past are considered as barbarian acts today because we have grown enough as society to understand and reflect about it. Our society needed time to reach maturity on technology and social issues and that’s why we did not begin with a plane from the first moment, but with the invention of the wheel. Just 150 years ago or less, in many Western societies, a man had a wife and another woman, that is, two women living in different houses, whose children knew each other and got along well while their mothers never talked each other, perhaps, until his death. If we are talking about something that happened just 150 years ago, how does President Obrador pretend to judge in the way he did something that happened more than half a millennium ago?

Neither the King Felipe VI nor Pope Francis can be forced to say sorry for something that they did not witness or did not order to be done. Besides, President Obrador, the act of forgiveness should not be imposed, but it should willingly come from the heart of those who viciously have done wrong things. In any case, if the expression “We are sorry” should be said to some country in the American continent, those words should be for The Dominican Republic rather than Mexico since in South America and Central America there are, somehow, native people to this day while in the Dominican Republic all native people died and were killed when Christopher Columbus went to that Caribbean island.

Spain exploited its colonies during a period of time when the barbarity of such attacks was considered to be normal (France, Italy, Portugal and the United Kingdom did the same almost to the same extent), but Spain has also helped for decades Latin American countries and today, hundreds of thousands of people from that region live in Spain from where they provide economic support for their families. I am not defending Spain or what that country did in the past. I am just trying to be fair.

If in Mexico, the president Obrador and others insist on demanding apologies, all Mexican presidents that Mexico has had in the last decades (including President Obrador) should be on the front line to be the first ones to say “I´m deeply sorry”, considering the outbreak of violence and those thousands of Mexicans who have been killed at the hands of Mexican drug cartels: They had done nothing to solve that problem. Trying to escape from poverty, nobody can put exact figures on how many Mexicans have left their bones in the desert in their attempt to cross the border and go to the United States, looking for a better a life.

Finally, President Obrador does not seem to understand that politics and religion have traditionally walked along hand in hand. In a country well known for being fervently catholic, it is not wise to write a polemic letter against the Pope. It would be better for him if he did not touch that key (to go against the Pope), otherwise, his days as president could be a real nightmare.

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion.

Copyright 2019 All rights are reserved.

Photo: By courtesy of Bradley Web under the criteria of Creative Commons (Flickr, 4-16-2019).