Interview with Mario Benedetti

This is part of an interview that Ana Anabiarte did for "El Universal" with Mario Benedetti where he gives his opinions about the EZLN and the recent incidents in the Japanese embassy in Peru.

Mario Benedetti is a Uruguayan writer. Born in 1920, he belonged to the critical literary movement called "the 45 Generation". He went into exile for more than a decade a now lives in Montevideo again. At his 76 he recently published "Andamios" (Alfaguara, Madrid).

Mario Benedetti is considered a political writer and also a poet with one of the largest number of love poems in Latinamerica.

He will visit Mexico next September.

Madrid, 10th of May 1997


We are almost reaching the year 2000. What perspectives do you think can it bring us ?

If humanity keep going in this way it is going straight to suicide. I am an incurable optimist and I have hope that there will be a moment when positive changes will start to take place. People get tired of being hungry, not having a place to live, living in absolute poverty, but changes are not going to come from above but from below. They won't come from revolutions and armed struggles, they are very implausible at the moment, but from movements; trade union movements, social movements...

Why do you think actual/current revolutions are implausible ?

Because they are almost suicide. The only guerrilla movement that is really plausible, and it's worth following is the one in Chiapas. They are a unique guerrilla. Every other guerrilla wanted to take power in an authoritarian way, trying to impose solutions they said where going to benefit the people. The EZLN just want the Mexican Constitution to be equally implemented for every single citizen and that seems to me something formidable. Besides I think this is a reachable goal.

Do you think is the only guerrilla with possibilities of generating a change ?

Yes. They are obtaining more influence among ordinary folk because people know they are not defending armed struggle. What they are putting on is hyperdemocratic, much more democratic than what is currently going on in the country. To generate changes without spilling blood is an exceptional matter and this is happening at the same time that tonnes of corruption are appearing in the Mexican government. Theses are two complementary things in order to generate changes.

Do you think Mexico is ready for these changes ?

I think it is getting ready because the country is changing.

Besides the unpopularity that PRI is harvesting is something evident.

That's not me saying that, it 's the surveys.

What is your opinion about subcomandante Marcos ?

He is a very intelligent chap with his feet on the ground. As you know I chose his name for one of my characters in "El cumpleanos feliz"(The happy birthday). I don't know him personally, I was invited to the gathering that took place in the Lacandona jungle but when they sent me a list with all the precautions one had to have because I'm allergic and I have asthma I thought : If I go I'll die. Therefore I sent them a message excusing my absence.

How is Zedillo dealing with EZLN talks ?

So far with tact but I imagine he is getting lots of pressure. Sometimes one arrives with the best of the intentions and then they get spoiled because of the pressure. My impression is very provisional, though, we are very far away and the information is very bad.

History in Mexico will be divided into before and after Chiapas ?

I am absolute sure.

From what is Mexico suffering most ?

From corruption because it generates more poverty. Corruption there is almost an institution. In other countries corruption exists but it has another style. I say in Mexico a bribe is the equivalent to a tip. Tips "a posteriori" (after) and corruption "a priori" (before).

I'd like you to comment on the Tupac Amaru attack on the Japanese embassy in Lima.

The Tupac Amaru movement is not a cruel and bloody one like Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) was. They always had more respect for human life but their attack on the embassy was destined to fail. I am not a supporter of kidnapping but I do not defend the way Fujimori acted. In every war when the enemy holds up a white flag life is respected and he did not do so. The guerrilla people had more respect for their hostages than the army for the guerrilla.

Besides talks had already started...

That was the worst. The Cuban and Dominican Republic governments agreed to admit the guerrilla people as refugees and in the middle of all this they came to kill. However voices in Peru have begun to criticize government's attitude.


You will have a long task now promoting your book. What is your next project ?

I am writing a book of poems and when I finish it I'll write a book of tales. I never mix types and when I finish a work I let it rest for a while and then I correct it. As Juan Rulfo said the best critic is an axe.

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