Latin America Inside Out Blog
Javier Farje's Blog

Venezuela: the struggle to preserve a dream

Published on: Thu Feb 5, 2015
Author: Javier Farje
Venezuela: the struggle to preserve a dream

“If Maduro was here, this would not be happening”, shouted the woman outside the pharmacy. She was in her mid-60s, thin and very angry. She was one of the lucky ones. She was first in a long queue of people who had heard that a new supply of toilet paper had arrived in the shop, and they were patiently waiting for their turn to buy a limited number of rolls. It is impossible to gloss over the shortages of basic products in Venezuela today. The queues are there as an angry proof that this is a serious…

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Chile: the remnants of dictatorship are slow to fade

Published on: Mon Oct 20, 2014
Author: Javier Farje
Chile: the remnants of dictatorship are slow to fade

Former LAB editor Javier Farje writes from Santiago about how Chilean society is overcoming the remains of its turbulent past. Retired Captain Renán Ballas is a contented man, a short smiley pensioner with the look of a travelling salesman who has just closed a very good deal. An admirer of dictator Augusto Pinochet, Captain Ballas, a former Ambassador of the tyrant, is very happy to debate with anyone who dares to attack his hero. He does not lose his temper or resort to authoritarian arguments…

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Uruguay: Pepe Mujica, hero, populist, or demagogue?

Published on: Mon Oct 20, 2014
Author: Javier Farje
Uruguay: Pepe Mujica, hero, populist, or demagogue?

“What do you think about President Mujica?” I asked the taxi driver who took us from the airport to our hotel in the centre of Montevideo. “Best president ever” he replied without hesitation. I was not surprised. After all, Mujica's humility and his image as a father figure have, in many ways, put Uruguay on the map internationally. But not everyone seems to agree. A local businessman is not impressed. “I don`t like him”, he tells me, “he talks to us as if we were children or idiots, I can’t stand…

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Cuba: The new man or the new economy?

Published on: Tue Jun 3, 2014
Author: Javier Farje
Cuba: The new man or the new economy?

I am having dinner with Fernando Ravsberg, one of the most respected foreign journalists in Cuba. A Uruguayan, his blog, Cartas desde Cuba, is widely read by those Cubans who have access to the internet, and his opinions matter, something rare in a country where you generally have to be part of the system to be heard. He seems to be quite annoyed with people who come from solidarity movements in the West in search of a utopian Socialist paradise. He has lived in Cuba for almost 25 years and meets,…

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The Cuba Five -- when five minus two makes Five

Published on: Mon Jun 2, 2014
Author: Javier Farje
The Cuba Five -- when five minus two makes Five

The old lady came to us and asked, timidly, while she was pointing at the short moustachioed man who was talking to us: “Is that Fernando?”. “Yes, that’s him”, we told her. Her face lit up. She ran towards the group of women pensioners who gather in this central park in Havana every morning to do their daily exercises, and confirmed what we had just told her: “yes, it is Fernando”, she said, her voice trembling with emotion. Immediately, they stopped their morning routine, turned towards us and started…

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