Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mexico facing "tremendous problems with mediocre candidates," says literary giant

Prize winning writer lashes out, accusing Felipe Calderón of diversionary tactics and calling Enrique Peña Nieto an intellectual "lightweight"

Carlos Fuentes is an internationally recognized novelist who has won numerous prizes for his many literary achievements. He's also one of Mexico's most popular writers. When it comes to Mexican politics Fuentes is not afraid of speaking out, as he did last fall in New York ( Yesterday he was even more blunt during a televised interview with CNN's Carmen Aristegui in Mexico City.

"What alarms me so much this year is that I see the problems we have here and the candidates we have here," Fuentes told Aristegui. "Between the challenges we're facing and the politicians there is an enormous gap." Mexico is confronting "extremely grave" domestic and international issues, said Fuentes. "We're trapped in a terrible situation, with tremendous difficulties and very mediocre candidates."

Fuentes argued that president Felipe Calderón had "committed a grave error" by waging open war against Mexico's drug cartels, and added, "I have the impression we have lost that war." He charged that Calderón's primary motivation for implementing the so-called National Security Plan in December 2006 was to divert public attention from that year's controversial presidential election, which Calderón narrowly won by less than one-half of one percent of the votes cast, the tightest such contest in Mexican history. In the 2006 election Calderón beat leftist PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is running again this year. Some López Obrador supporters allege election fraud, and still refer to their candidate as "the legitimate president of Mexico." Fuentes is an unabashed leftist, but has previously said that he has little confidence in López Obrador.

"Nobody wants to re-elect PAN," said Fuentes. "I have the sense that everyone's worn out with PAN and its style of government. I don't believe people will elect another one of their candidates this year."

As for Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, Fuentes characterized him as a " 'lightweight' not prepared to be president of Mexico," or to face its enormous problems and challenges. And he lambasted Peña Nieto's "public display of ignorance" at a public relations event last fall, where the PRI nominee was asked to name some major literary influences in his life. He referred to a book written by Fuentes himself -- but misidentified the author. (

Referring again to Mexico's leftist party, PRD, and its nominee with whom the author is plainly less than satisfied, Fuentes said, "The only possibility of (changing things) would be if some of the best minds in Mexico decide to support López Obrador, and get together with him, then there would be hope."

Despite the preoccupying nature of Mexico's 61 month old drug war, Fuentes emphasized that the country has many other issues on its plate as well. "We've fallen behind on things like infrastructure, education and public health, " he said.

The 83 year old author, who worked as a diplomat for many years and once served as Mexico's ambassador to France, published La Gran Novela Latinoamericana (The Great Latin American Novel), last year.

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