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Authors: Mario Vargas Llosa

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In the new political jigsaw puzzle, after April 5, 1992, many of yesterday’s adversaries suddenly found themselves in the same trenches, and confronting the same losses. The APRA and the left, who opened the doors of the Presidential Palace to Fujimori, then became his principal victims, and their principal sources of strength, even when combined, did not amount to 10 percent of the vote in the municipal elections in Lima in January 1993. The great architect of the intrigues and maneuvers that paved the way for Fujimori’s triumph, Alan García, after half destroying Peru and depriving his party of all prestige for the remainder of its life, is now in exile, like a number of his friends and collaborators, being prosecuted in various court trials for theft and corruption. The United Left fell apart, broke into fragments, and in the last election seemed to be reduced to dust.

But the weakening of the political forces that between them made up the Democratic Front, among them the Freedom Movement, having been harshly punished for their resolute defense of the Constitution and their refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the April 5 coup, has been no less dramatic.

Subjected to arduous trials and tribulations when it first began to exist on its own, Libertad, born under the auspices of that multitude of August 21, 1987, and the spell of Szyszlo’s paintings, finds itself at a critical moment of its existence. Not only because the defeat of June 1990 reduced its ranks, but because the evolution of Peruvian politics since then has little by little confined it to a more or less eccentric function, like the other remaining political parties. Harassed or silenced by communications media which, with a few—admirable—exceptions, are tied hand and foot to the regime that they are serving, without resources and with a diminished militancy, it has nonetheless survived, thanks to the self-sacrifice of a handful of idealists who, against all odds, continue to defend, in these inhospitable times, the ideas and the moral values that brought us to the Plaza San Martín six years ago, never suspecting the great upheavals that would result for the country and for so many private lives.

Princeton, New Jersey
February 1993

By Mario Vargas Llosa

The Cubs and Other Stories

The Time of the Hero

The Green House

Captain Pantoja and the Special Service

Conversation in The Cathedral

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter

The War of the End of the World

The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta

The Perpetual Orgy

Who Killed Palomino Molero?

The Storyteller

In Praise of the Stepmother

A Fish in the Water

English translation copyright © 1994 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc.
Originally published in Spanish as
El pez en el agua
Copyright © 1993 by Mario Vargas Llosa
All rights reserved
Published simultaneously in Canada by HarperCollins
CanadaLtd

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Vargas Llosa, Mario.
[Pez en el agua. English]
A fish in the water : a memoir / Mario Vargas Llosa ; translated
by Helen Lane.—1st ed.
p. cm.
1. Vargas Llosa, Mario. 2. Peru—Politics and
government—1980—. 3. Authors, Peruvian—20th century—Biography.
4. Politicians—Peru—Biography. I. Title. PQ8498.32.A65P4913 1994 863—dc20 [B] 93-42603 CIP

ISBN: 978-0-374-15509-4

*
“Una montaña de cadáveres: carta abierta a Alan García,”
El Comercio
, Lima, June 23, 1986; reprinted in
Contra viento y marea, III
(Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1990), pp. 389–93.

*
In 1988, the deficit of public enterprises in Peru amounted to $2,500,000,000, the equivalent of all the foreign currency brought in that year by exports.

*
Contra viento y marea, III
, pp. 417–20.

*
In January 1983, eight journalists were killed in Uchuraccay, a remote village in the Andes. Vargas Llosa was one of the members of a commission appointed by Belaunde Terry’s government to investigate the killings. This was the only government position that Vargas Llosa had held. He wrote the commission’s report and came under fierce attack in the press. (
Trans, note
)

*
Lima, August 24, 1987.

*
The Frente Democrático, after joining with Acción Popular (AP) and the Partido Popular Cristiano (PPC), was often also called La Alianza (the Alliance). (
Trans, note
)

*
On July 8, 1992, in a ceremony that took place at the Rafael Hoyos Rubio barracks, in Rímac, in which all the leaders of the Peruvian Army supported the coup d’état of April 5 perpetrated by Alberto Fujimori, who until then had been the constitutional president.

*
Also widely known as La Alianza (The Alliance).
(Trans. note)

*
He was to demonstrate his democratic convictions once again, when he was past eighty, from April 5, 1992, on, following the “self-coup” by Alberto Fujimori, coming out publicly to wage a tenacious fight against the dictatorship.

† See “Sangre y mugre de Uchuraccay,” in
Contra viento y marea, III
, pp. 85–226.

*
Reprinted in Álvaro Vargas Llosa,
El diablo en campaña (The Devil on Campaign)
. Madrid: El País/Aguilar, 1991, pp. 154–57.

*
André Coyné,
César Moro
(Lima: Torres Aguirre, 1956).

† “En todas partes se cuecen habas, pero en el Perú sólo se cuecen habas.” (“They cook broad beans everywhere, but in Peru they only cook broad beans.”) (
Trans. note
)

*
Unlike the first four, whose loyalty I have no way of thanking them for, the moment we lost the elections Rocío Cillóniz hastened to put out a de luxe scandal sheet, whose goal, in the brief time that the disaffection of its readers enabled it to survive, was to serve as a mouthpiece for renegades from Libertad.

*
“La revolución silenciosa,” in Hernando de Soto,
El otro sendero
(Lima: Editorial El Barranco, 1986), pp. xvii–xxix; reproduced in
Contra viento y marea, III
, pp. 333–48.

*
See, as an example of de Soto’s cunning, the article in
The Wall Street Journal
for April 20, 1990, by David Asman, a journalist unwittingly taken in by his sly self-promotion, who attributes to him the organization of the Meeting for Freedom of August 21, 1987.

*
The tally of the second round of voting for the
departamento
of Piura was 56.5 percent (253,758 votes) for Cambio 90 and 32.5 percent (145,714 votes) for the Democratic Front.

*
In 1960, Peru occupied eighth place in Latin America; at the end of Alan García’s administration it had dropped to fourteenth.

*
In the 1960s, Peru’s income per capita from agriculture and cattle raising was second in Latin America; in 1990, it was next to last, superior only to that of Haiti.

*
In 1990, the book value of Peru’s one hundred largest private corporations was $1,232 million. This amount, divided equally among 22 million Peruvians, would give each person $56. (I am grateful to Felipe Ortiz de Zavallos and Raúl Salazar for these particulars.)

*
Of the 20,000 deaths caused by acts of terrorism up until mid-1990, 90 percent of those killed were peasants, the poorest of the poor in Peru.

*
The APRA is a specialist in this type of operation: on the eve of the launching of my candidacy, on June 3, 1989, anonymous voices phoned to warn me that there was a bomb on the plane that was taking me to Arequipa. After the emergency removal of the plane to an area of the airport far from the place where people were waiting for me to arrive, the aircraft was searched and nothing suspect was found.

*
A building such as a prison, hospital, library, or the like so arranged that all parts of the interior are visible from a single point. (
Trans. note
)

*
Before this trip, I had had interviews with other heads of state or of government, three of them European—the German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, in July 1988; the British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, in May 1989; the president of the Spanish government, Felipe González, in July 1989—and three Latin Americans: the presidents of Costa Rica, Óscar Arias, on October 22, 1988; of Venezuela, Carlos Andrés Pérez, in April 1989; and of Uruguay, Julio María Sanguinetti, on June 15, 1989. And I would do likewise later on with the president of Brazil, Collor de Mello, on February 20, 1990. In the publicity for the campaign we used photographs and films of these meetings to create for me the image of a statesman.

*
In July 1991, at the time of the international scandal concerning BCCI, the District Attorney of New York County, Robert Morgenthau, accused Alan García’s government of having caused his country to lose $100 million by ordering that it not intervene in BCCI’s negotiations to repurchase its fourteen planes through a country in the Middle East, thereby implying that shady dealings were involved.

*
I remember having had a discussion, in London, about Singapore with the writer Shiva Naipaul, who had just returned from there. According to him, that progress, the rapid modernization, represented a cultural crime against the Singaporeans, who were “losing their souls” because of it. Were they more authentic then, when they lived surrounded by swamps, crocodiles, and mosquitoes, than they are now, living amid skyscrapers? More picturesque, doubtless, but I am certain that all of them—all of the inhabitants of the Third World—would be ready to give up being picturesque in exchange for having work and living with a minimum of security and decency.

*
Data from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

*
Oiga
, Lima, February 11, 1985.

*
Written in exile, from 1929 to 1930, and published in several issues of the
Mercurio Peruano
. The first edition in book form appeared in Paris in 1930, with a second part on Leguía’s eleven years of dictatorship (1919–1930).

† Lima: Editorial Mejía Baca, 1956.

*
Jorge Basadre and Pablo Macera,
Conversaciones
(Lima: Mosca Azul, 1974), p. 13.

*
And for truth’s sake, it must be admitted that he was to maintain that attitude until Velasco’s dictatorship expropriated
La Prensa
and prostituted it by converting it into a mouthpiece of the regime. Pedro Beltrán would spend the last years of his life in exile, until his death in 1979.

*
Although, in his last public act as minister of foreign relations, he voted at the meeting of foreign ministers in Costa Rica in 1960 against the condemnation of Cuba, thereby disobeying instructions from Prado’s government, and as a consequence found himself forced to resign. He died shortly thereafter.

*
“La fobia de un novelista,”

, Lima, April 6, 1987.

*
I include among them Carlos Delgado, the civilian of greatest influence during the Velasco years and the one who wrote the majority of the speeches that the dictator delivered. A former Aprista and the ex-secretary of Haya de la Torre, the sociologist and political scientist Carlos Delgado resigned from the APRA when this party made a pact with the followers of Odría during Belaunde Terry’s first term as president. He backed the military revolution and contributed greatly to giving it an ideological cover, at the same time that he was the driving force behind a large part of the economic reforms—industrial co-ownership, the agrarian reform, controls and subsidies, et cetera—many of which were modeled on what had been the program for governing of the Aprista party. Carlos Delgado believed in that “third position” and his support for the dictatorship was inspired by the illusion that the army could be the instrument for instituting in Peru the democratic socialism that he defended. In Sinamos (Sistema Nacional de Apoyo a la Movilización Social: National System of Support for Social Mobilization), Carlos Delgado gathered around himself a group of intellectuals—Carlos Franco, Héctor Béjar, Helan Jaworski, Jaime Llosa, and others—who shared his position and the majority of whom, with intentions as good as his own, actively collaborated with the regime in its nationalizations and the extension of state intervention in the economy and in social life. But the criticisms that they deserve for this must be, especially in the case of Carlos Delgado, accompanied by a clarification: his good faith could not be doubted nor the consistency and openness with which he acted. He therefore always seemed “respectable” to me and I could disagree with him—and argue a great deal—without our friendship’s being broken. Moreover, it is obvious to me that Carlos Delgado did as much as he could to prevent, with all the influence he had, the co-opting by the Communists and those closest to them of the institutions of the regime and that he also used that influence to mitigate insofar as possible the abuses of the dictatorship. When the magazine
Caretas
was closed down and its editor-in-chief, Enrique Zileri, was persecuted, he secured me an interview with General Velasco (the only one I ever asked the dictator for) and supported me when I protested against this closing down and the persecution of Zileri and urged him to end them.

BOOK: A Fish in the Water: A Memoir
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