MIAMI -- In 1974 Jean Francois Revel met Carlos Rangel in Caracas Venezuela, where they struck, by Revel’s own account, a long and lasting friendship and intellectual collaboration. Revel urged Rangel to go beyond a short essay he showed him regarding political history in Latin America and convinced a publishing house in Paris, Éditions Robert Laffont, to send a contract to Rangel. As Revel says: “This is the explanation for the paradox that the original edition of the master work on Latin-American political theory first came to be in French.” Revel further explains that by first appearing in a French, the book addressed the two audiences that seeded Rangel’s inspiration: that in Europe with romantic misconceptions about Latin America and that within Latin America with grandiose misconceptions about itself. Both misconceptions which, of course, carried also over to the US.
1976 saw the publication of the book that came to be known in this country as “The Latin Americans: Their Love-Hate Relationship with the United States” (Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1977). Over the last forty years, this book has become fundamental reading for understanding the political history of Latin America. Anyone that wants to understand the differences in development between the US and the rest of the continent south of the border, the rise of “caudillos,” and the embedded populist sentiment of the region needs to read this book which, more than history, reads like a manual.
Rangel was vilified by many, as his book saw the light in a period of political turmoil within the cold war. His argument that communism was an empty promise and an excuse to justify totalitarian regimes was not welcome in Latin America at the time or, for that matter, in the western intelligentsia. A critic in the US wrote “at least it was printed on recycled paper, so no trees were harmed.” His calls for strengthening institutions of liberal democracy as the best path to prosperity went unheeded as the socialist seduction took over the political landscape of the region.
While not celebrated or listened to in his day, historical perspective has vindicated the importance of Rangel’s contribution to political and social thought and has fixed him as a major contributor to liberal economic thought. The Venezuelan think tank CEDICE (Centro de Divulgación del Conocimiento Económico) has taken the initiative to name 2016 “Year of Carlos Rangel” and has sponsored events and publications commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the publication of Rangel’s seminal work.
CEDICE has joined with the Institute for Interamerican Democracy (IID) and Libro Enrique V. Iglesias, as well as supporting organizations CAMACOL, CINESA, Foro de Promoción Democrática Continental, Instituto Latinoamericano Democracia sin Fronteras, Latin American Herald Tribune, and University of Miami to bring an event to Miami to spread and discuss the legacy and ideas of Carlos Rangel. As the region swings back from the so called “Twenty First Century Socialism,” it is more crucial than ever to examine the foundations and path towards true democratic principles and economic prosperity.
The event includes the US premiere of the documentary “Carlos Rangel: Ésta es su Vida, Esta su Libertad,” a round table discussion with distinguished panelists from the US, Venezuela and Colombia and a lecture on Carlos Rangel by the renowned CNN analyst and author Carlos Alberto Montaner.
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