Thursday, December 11, 2014

Enrique Krauze walked away from The New Republic, but he still has plenty to say to foreign readers

Enrique Krauze, Mexico’s pre-eminent historian and reigning public intellectual, was among the throng of contributors who recently joined staffers in bolting The New Republic — the liberal-turned-neocon-turned-whatever magazine.
    Their cause? That the newish owner is shifting the century-old mainstay of thoughtful commentary into an online receptacle of click-bait.
     Krauze shook things up early at TNR, contributing in 1988 a hit piece on none other than Carlos Fuentes, Mexico’s beloved novelist and pretty much the face of the nation at the time.
    Krauze and his pro-Contra TNR editors dedicated more than 8,000 words to the proposition that Fuentes was overrated and too slick by half as a writer, confused in his leftist politics and hypocritical in his lifestyle (the article’s title was “Guerrilla Dandy”).
    The piece ended the friendship between Fuentes and Octavio Paz, the Nobel Prize-winning poet who was Krauze’s mentor and predecessor as editor of Letras Libres-née-Vuelta.
    The two giants of letters stopped speaking to each other, but they continued to speak about each other, in print. It was a battle of heavyweights, a literary feud of the highest order. And it spanned three generations (Paz was born in 1914, Fuentes in 1928 and Krauze in 1947).
    It’s all over now. Paz and Fuentes have passed on, and for all intents and purposes, so has The New Republic.
    In a pleasant twist of fate, Krauze has taken over from Fuentes (and later Jorge Castañeda) as the go-to Mexican intellectual for explaining Mexico’s current events to foreign readerships, especially Americans. This he does primarily through op-ed pieces.
    His latest opinion piece ran yesterday in the New York Times, which you can read here. It’s essentially an explainer of the Ayotzinapa situation, and a clear and succinct one at that.
    In it Krauze has some unsolicited advice for President Enrique Peña Nieto, including cabinet changes and a thorough overhaul of the criminal justice system.
    Another is for the president to make a public apology for the “casa blanca” scandal in which the winning bidder for a high-speed rail mega-project just happened to be the builder of his wife’s luxury mansion.
    In his pieces for in-country consumption, mostly in Reforma, Krauze has been an avid supporter of the activist movement that has grown out of the tragedy in Iguala. He compares its potential for forcing significant reforms to that of the student mobilization of 1968, which led (eventually) to freer speech and greater political freedoms.
    The language and stances in these recent op-eds remind readers that despite his rejection of so many staples of the left (besides the Fuentes affair, he’s in constant conflict with the Proceso/Jornada wing and dismisses Andrés Manuel López Obrador as a caudillo), Krauze is not the conservative he's sometimes made out to be. He's a liberal, and he still has something of the soixante-huitard in him. He speaks about the 1968 protesters in the first person.
    He’ll be worth listening to as this drama unfolds.

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