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Knolwedge in Building Cathedrals

"We need a stronger economy oriented in the model of the EU (European Union) with its social components li9ke joint determination of the work force and collective wage negotiations.. The market economy is not an end-in-itself but a means for gaining social and individual prosperity. When the market becomes the enemy of the nations, the nations becvome the enemy of the market, as Lionel Jospin once said."
Knowledge in Building Cathedrals

For an Alliance between Europe and Latin America

By Carlos Fuentes

The Mexican author and diplomat reflects on a positive European-Latin American relationship and develops a new perspective on the Spanish Conquista

[This article originally published in: die tageszeitung, November 14, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.taz.de/pt/2003/11/14.nf/mondeText.artikel,a0019.idx,3.]

In his magnificent book "Europa al alba del milenio", Enrique Baron (1), delegate of the Spanish socialists in the European parliament, compared Europe's construction with a cathedral, the emblem of European civilization. We Mexicans know from our own experience that building a cathedral can take centuries. The cathedral on the Zocalo, the central plaza of Mexico City, was begun in 1573 and completed in 1813. Political structures need their time. Europe has been in development since the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

The loss of Rome's unity divided Europe. The political unity that the Carolingian empire embodied for some time could not prevail against the only real unity of the middle Ages, Christianity. However European democracy developed out of the conflicts between worldly and spiritual power as between emperor Henry IV and pope Gregory VII.

Thus the West could avoid the fate of the successive Russian states. The Caesaro-papist autocracy, the mixing of worldly and spiritual power, found its continuation with Lenin in the blending of party and state.

The conflict between worldly and spiritual power waged in Europe as an investiture dispute made possible the genesis of national legal systems in which all political actors were subject to state laws. Europe could develop international law through this legal interpretation of state and nation.

Five centuries ago the world experienced a tremendous expansion. The sun
displaced the earth from its illusionary center. The understanding of this change led to a stronger merging of the world. Thus the Europe of the 16th century was the pioneer of the first globalization whose problems were not very different from the globalization problems of our epoch.

What Europe attempted in the course of the first globalization was the same thing that the globalization of today needs: a new legal order for a new reality. This globalization was vehemently opposed in the streets of Seattle, Prague and Genoa. The Europe of the Renaissance "invented" international law. The principles for the cooperative life of states formulated by the Dutchman Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) were based on the ideas of the Spaniards Francisco de Vitoria (1485-1546) and Francisco Suarez (1548-1617) that normatively anchored the conduct of civilized nations and the rights of aboriginal people.

At that time, the fate of Europe and America - especially Spain and Latin America - came together on the plane of politics and legal institutions. Vitoria granted the same status of legal persons to Indians and the inhabitants of Sevilla and established international law from the universality of human rights. The Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon appealed to the same principle when he sought to prevent Augusto Pinochet and his cronies from remaining exempt from punishment.

The countless evils of colonialism will never darken the legal blessings of the Jus Gentium which though mocked a thousand times created a framework of humanity and legitimacy to which many of America's indigenous people still appeal today.

With their independence and the loss of their bonds to Europe, the countries of Latin America often felt the influence of the new hegemonial power of their own continent, the United States of America. Seeking new relations, new alliance partners and new political possibilities is an urgent command for us since the darkest figures of the imperialism of the 1970s and 1980s have re-emerged out of hiding in the milieu of George W. Bush. Where else can we find them other than in Europe and with Europe? No region is more similar to Europe than Latin America!

We Latin Americans are very familiar with the fatefulness of geography. But capitulating to that fatefulness would be faint-hearted and cowardly. We must live with the North Americans. This requires negotiating with skill and dignity.

No such fatal conflicts and tensions persist with Europeans. The chance exists of working together in a reasonable way and learning something. We must look to Europe because the dominant economic models there are superior to the supposedly universal model that has only narrowed Latin America. We learn from Europe that the idea that wealth spreads automatically from top to bottom - denounced by Bush senior in his term in office as voodoo economics - is in no way the ultimate capitalist wisdom.

We already practiced wild capitalism in the 19th century in Latin America. We know that wild capitalism makes the rich ever richer and the poor ever poorer without leading to increased productivity. Therefore we need a stronger economy oriented in the model of the European Union with its social components - like joint determination of the work force and collective wage negotiations - and based on the conviction that societies are unjust and make people poor in the long run without a close relation between employment, wages and productivity.

Latin America needs a balance between the public and private sectors. Only the civil society with its organizations can accomplish this. Europe offers us the alternative to the narrow-minded and egotistic models of ultra-liberalism. Europe encourages us to diversity and reminds us that the market economy is not an end-in-itself but a means for gaining social and individual prosperity. When the market becomes the enemy of the people, as the former French Prime minister Lionel Jospin once said, the people become enemies of the market.

We are the heirs of Europe's best sides. We are the best of Europe outside Europe. To quote my friend Massimo dAlema, Italy's former prime minister, the European civilization created a political world founded on nation states, institutions, parties and norms and a moral world supported by culture and art, intelligence and talent.

This mixture makes Europe unique and a rebirth possible despite deep violations burning her soul, the two fratricidal wars and the tragedy of the holocaust. Our Europe is the Europe of which dAlema speaks.

Therefore our souls are grieved when the forces of hostility toward foreigners, chauvinism, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Arabism, religious fanaticism, proto-fascist nationalism and the stigmatization of work migrants, particularly work migrants from Latin America, become stronger.

What can a Latin American worker in Europe do other than give much without taking anything? What can he do other than "pay back" a conquest to old imperial Europe in order not to worship America under which he suffered and ultimately also profits? This conquered Latin American brings her labor, her culture and her people to Europe and its overly aged society today. Latin America brings what Europe once brought Latin America: mestization, the encounter of races and cultures.

As alliance partners in a globalized world, Europe and Latin America must set an example. The free circulation of capital and goods is not everything. Globalization doesn't deserve its name if it doesn't include the unhindered contacts of people and the division of labor across borders benefiting those offering work and those accepting work.

Europe in the words of Jacques Derrida is what was promised in Europe's name. To that end, Europe must banish the demons of the Cold War and open herself more outwards, turn to a world that doesn't want to see Europe as an administrator of relics of colonial or fascist policy but as the bearer of common shared responsibility for economic cooperation, cultural exchange and the creation of a legal order for the new millennium.


(1) Enrique Baron, "Investment in the Future".
(2) Grotius is regarded as the "father of international law." His main work was "De jure belli ac pacis."

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