By Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Like everything in our age that comes to life, lives a short while, and is soon transformed into a sensational novelty or a worn out fad, the extraordinary carousel of Latin American heads of state that Carter gathered in Washington is already beginning to fade into the past.
I say "extraordinary" because it is not
often that a president invites ten other presidents to a political party
celebrating the victory of a common ideology symbolized by the promise to
restore the Canal to the Panamanians. It is reminiscent of the way the
Congress of Vienna celebrated the victory of the doctrine of legitimacy common
to all of
"Extraordinary," too, for another reason: In
our age of State omnipotence every president lives practically drowned in his
work. Everything is expected from the government and the government must
provide everything, but the governors do not have enough hands to take care of
everything that requires immediate attention. Further, besides being immediate,
every problem is dramatic, since any problem that goes unattended in our age of
precarious equilibriums can become a drama. Thus, it is difficult to understand
why the American government wanted presidents from places like
It is just as well that President Geisel, courteously delegating the duty of representing him in the ceremony to Vice-President General A. Pereira dos Santos, remained here in Brazil dealing with our problems while the Foreign Ministry declared, with its traditional elegance, that Brazil saw the treaty as a matter pertaining to third parties and had no reason to intervene.
I mentioned the Congress of Vienna. How many elegant, witty, subtle, mystical, or even colossal or half-barbarian personages does this reference evoke? To the sound of waltzes, persons pass through our memory for whom the Tribunal of History, and perhaps the Tribunal of God, has, in general, been severe: Talleyrand, the incomparable Metternich, Castlereagh, the Baroness of Krudner, or Alexander I who, accustomed to the rigors of the Russian winter, sent for snow from Switzerland in order to shave. Without a doubt, this review of personalities brings with it a connotation of good taste, refinement, and finally, a sense of civilization to which our age is little accustomed.
We will not make here the comparison between the host, Jimmy Carter, and so many of his guests and the Austrian host, Francis I, and his. Let each one do it according to his own taste and in his own way.
I limit myself to commenting on the comparison that has been made between Metternich and Kissinger. I think it shows well how far our world has come since then; and, the direction has certainly not been an upward one.
But, the comparison between Metternich and Kissinger
also seems dated; Kissinger, like everything else, is also fading into the past
where, according to our contemporary mentality, even the immortal are buried.
Let's turn now to the matter of the
While Carter watched his carousel in
Although, according to the treaty, Americans will only
leave the Canal after twenty years, what plans will the crafty leader of
neighboring Cuba be scheming to aid the discontented Panamanians get rid of the
Americans sooner? How many attacks, how many traps — or better, how many deals
— will the Cuban tyrant contrive to remove the American presence in
From Castro's point of view, the immediate beneficiary
of the treaty was
One can easily imagine, then, Castro's cat-like smile
when he received this telegram which Omar Torrijos,
on his way back to
The Panamanian dictator gathered up, in a telegraphic synthesis, every kind of possible courtesy for Fidel's joy; he affirms that his friendship with Fidel is "as usual," that is, just like it was when the cruelties of "La Cabaña" were the most frequent and the worst; he wants Cuban progress, but only "under the direction" of Fidel. Concerning the name "Fidel," which from the bitter experience of nearly all Latin Americans, means assaults, injustices, guerrillas, and finally, colonialism under the Russian boot, Torrijos affirms with remarkable case that it is a symbol of "sentiments of anti-colonialist dignity." As one sees, Torrijos' telegram is like butter on bread and honey on butter for Fidel!
If this were merely the personal view of Torrijos, perhaps the telegram would not be so serious. But, as every politician today knows, the Panamanian Chief-of-State would not have sent his telegram if it would have harmed his base of support, the men of confidence to whom Torrijos wants to hand over the government when he has no other alternative. This means that there is a current in Panamanian opinion which supports Torrijos and wants him to applaud Castro.
With many fewer trump cards than this, the Cuban
leader threw his people into
(From “Crusade for a Christian Civilization”, Sept.-October 1977)