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 Europe after Bonaparte had fallen!

"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 Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile — presidents who certainly never placed Panama's rights to the canal among their most pressing preoccupations — to gather together for the signing of the treaty.

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 Panama Canal. The great personage of the Washington ceremony was neither Carter nor any of those who were present; rather, he was someone who was not there. This absentee personage was Fidel Castro, not so much as an individual but as a personification of the agility, the perfidy, and the strength with which Russia, the master and lover of deceit, continues swallowing up the Caribbean.

While Carter watched his carousel in Washington, the U.S., to the amazement of all the world, proceeded unperturbed in the long process — going where? — of concessions and humiliations in which the greatest super-power keeps cowering before the long-bearded tyrant who dominates tiny Cuba. While the tyrant casts the shadow of his beard and extends his grasp over remote Africa, Jimmy Carter doesn't seem to notice! He merely continues turning his carousel in the apotheosis of his human rights policy.

If Cuba's Russian puppet has already spread his guerrillas throughout vast areas of South America and now sends them through the more distant expanses of Africa, one must suspect that he fully intends to gather up the Panama Canal, a political "plum" so near his grasp.

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 Panama so he can control the Canal?

From Castro's point of view, the immediate beneficiary of the treaty was Panama, but the intermediate beneficiary was Fidel himself. This is logical, since for him to think otherwise he would have to deny his whole past and all of his dirty and triumphal present.

One can easily imagine, then, Castro's cat-like smile when he received this telegram which Omar Torrijos, on his way back to Panama, sent him: "Returning to my country and flying over Cuba, I salute you with the usual friendship. I want the Cuban people, under your direction, to continue their march towards progress. In Latin Amer­ica your name is associated with sentiments of dignity that have been channeled to root out every vestige of disgraceful colonialism."

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 Angola, a much smaller "plum" than Panama and much more distant. Let the reader draw his own conclusions.


(From “Crusade for a Christian Civilization”, Sept.-October 1977)