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New Left Review 7, January-February 2001


Mexico’s new Foreign Minister discusses his country’s prospects under Fox, and explains the thinking behind the ‘BuenosAiresConsensus’ programme for LatinAmerica which will face its first major test there. What is in store for the country after eight decades of PRI rule?

JORGE CASTAÑEDA

MEXICO: PERMUTING POWER

What are the origins of the ‘Buenos Aires Consensus’, with which you are associated, as a programmatic alternative to the Washington Consensus that dominated Latin American politics in the eighties and nineties?

It started from the coincidence between arguments I set out in Utopia Unarmed and ideas that RobertoUnger had been developing for a long time, synthesized in his trilogy Politics, which came out in 1988. We were thinking and writing along very parallel lines, though we didn’t know each other at the time. It wasn’t until mid or late 1994 that we sought each other out, and we first began to meet regularly in early 95, when I was teaching at Dartmouth, which is close by Cambridge, where Roberto teaches at MIT. We quickly saw how similar many of our ideas were: on the kind of tax reform our countries needed, on the relations between ‘vanguard’ and ‘rearguard’ sectors of our economies, on the urgency of democratizing or ‘energizing’ our democracies, as Roberto would put it—building a ‘high-intensity politics’, in his terms. We agreed there was a clear paradigmatic vacuum, a void of new proposals in Latin America, and came to the conclusion that among the contacts, friendships and students he and I had developed over the years, we could probably bring together a group of people sufficiently representative and noteworthy to talk to some effect about these issues. Of course, for that we needed money. So we obtained funding from the governance budget of the United Nations Development Programme to assemble a set of Latin American politicians and intellectuals—but more politicians than intellectuals—to talk about these matters.

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