Mario Vargas Llosa


At the end of the 19th century, in the smoldering North-Eastern Brazilian states of Sergipe and Bahia, a charismatic preacher, the Apostle Ibiapina, led a peasant uprising against the decimal metric system. The rebels, known by the sobriquet of quiebraquilos, assaulted shops and stores and destroyed the new weights and measures -scales, kilograms and meters- adopted by the monarchy to bring Brazil in line with the system that prevailed in the Western World and promote trade. Father Ibiapina considered this modernization attempt sacrilegious, and many of his followers died and killed trying to prevent it. The quiebraquilos of our time are the thousands of young Latin Americans who, undoubtedly driven by a noble idea, demonstrated in Porto Alegre against globalization, a system so irreversible in our time as was the decimal metric system when the followers of the Apostle Ibiapina declared war on meters and kilograms.

Globalization is, by definition, neither good nor bad. It is a reality of our time that has resulted from a number of factors: technological and scientific development; the expansion of businesses, capitals and markets; and the interdependence that the latter have created among all the World’s nations. Much harm and benefit can result from this progressive dissolution of barriers that previously kept countries confined within their own boundaries -often in confrontation with other nations. The good or bad consequences of globalization depend, of course, not on itself, but on each country. Some, like Spain in Europe or Singapore in Asia, benefit from it splendidly, and the  colossal economic development that both have experienced in the last twenty years has resulted to a considerable extent from the massive foreign investments that both countries have been able to attract. I mention them because they are two exceptional examples of the extraordinary benefits that a society can draw from economic internationalization (Singapore, a Lilliputian city-state, has received  more foreign investments in the last five years than the African continent as a whole).



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