Ibsen Martinez at PostGlobal

Ibsen Martinez


Ibsen Martínez is a Venezuelan playwright and novelist. A former telenovela writer based in Caracas, he is now a freelance writer and regular contributor to a number of newspapers, magazines and websites in both Spanish and English. He writes a weekly column for the Caracas daily "Tal Cual." Spanish language newspapers such as Madrid's "El País" and "ABC" as well as Buenos Aires's "La Nación" run his articles on a regular basis. His essays on literary and political subjects have appeared in prestigious magazines such as "La Nouvelle Revue Françoise", Mexico's " Letras Libres", Washington's "Foreign Policy" and The Washington Post's "Outlook" magazine. He also writes a monthly column on Latin American economic issues for the Liberty Fund's website, "Econlib Library (www.econlib.org). Close.

Ibsen Martinez


Ibsen Martinez is a Venezuelan columnist, journalist, and award-winning playwright. more »

Ibsen Martinez Blog | Ibsen Martinez Archives | PostGlobal Archives

May 29, 2008 10:38 AM

Why Latin Americans Don’t Make the Cut

The Current Discussion: The American magazine Foreign Policy and British magazine Prospect have published a joint list of the world's Top 100 Public Intellectuals. The list includes several PostGlobal panelists. Who's missing from the list? Who would you take off?

It is striking to me that Latin Americans and Spanish intellectuals are so scant on the Foreign Policy and Prospect list.

Only five out of a list of 100! Those five include Enrique Krauze and Alma Guillermoprieto (Mexico), Fernando Henrique Cardozo (Brazil), Marios Vargas Llosa (Peru) and Fernando Sabater (Spain).

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May 1, 2008 11:47 AM

When Governments Become Pirates

The Current Discussion:Software and media piracy costs U.S. businesses as much as US$58 billion a year. Will the U.S.'s anti-piracy report announced last week do any good? If not, what will?

I am not at all surprised at the findings of the U.S. Trade representative's report that the U.S. loses $58 billion a year to software and media piracy. According to IIPA (International Intellectual Property Alliance), a private sector coalition that represents 1,300 U.S. companies involved in copyright-based industry and business, global trade losses to piracy in 2004 alone amounted to an estimated US$12.5 billion. China's piracy level of 95% is the world’s highest.

Compared with China's, Mexico's piracy levels averaged only 67.8% in 2004, but still caused US$862.2 million in losses, second only to Brazil (US$960.9 million in losses) among Latin American countries where massive copyright violations take place.

But the really unsettling fact is that 70% of Mexico's copyright piracy is done in just one barrio, Tepito, not very far from the Zócalo (Mexico City's main square), and the Palacio Nacional, the President's palace. Tepito's 72 blocks cover an area comparable to that of New York's East Village and are filled with remarkable historical landmarks. Founded on the outskirts of 18th-century Mexico City, Tepito grew to be the capital's artisan and guild quarter par excellence. Many street names in Tepito bear witness to those bygone colonial times, as in "Calle de los Panaderos" (Bakers’ street) or "Calle de los Plomeros" (Plumbers’ street).

But local police have ceded control of the district to ruthless drug gangs. Under-trained and poorly-paid police officers have chosen to join with powerful criminal mafias rather than fight against them. In the heart of Mexico's capital, Tepito is now something of a "protectorate" of the infamous Tijuana drug cartel, the unflagging archrival of the companies that IIPA represents.

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March 27, 2008 9:11 AM

Venezuela's Take on U.S. Recession

The Current Discussion:The global economy is quaking. Are we heading toward a global recession? Who's to blame?

I live in Venezuela, a Latin American neo-populist petrocracy. The prospect of a “global recession” looks a bit different from here.

For the last decade, my government's economic officials have pledged themselves to the "comprehensive, humanist, endogenous and socialist development of the nation", whatever that means.

Perhaps that gobbledygook just means that in Venezuela it is much easier to fetch a bottle of premium Scotch whisky at any low-income neighborhood's supermarket than a bottle of milk, a pound of sugar or a dozen eggs. Paradoxically, the local Audi dealership set an all-time Latin American sales record during 2007 by capturing a 22% share of the region's luxury car market.

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February 20, 2008 2:53 PM

Cuba: The Singapore of the Caribbean

The Current Discussion: With Castro gone, will Cuba become America's 51st state?

With Castro gone, Cuba might be poised to be the Singapore of the Caribbean.

It has a large, eager, young and educated population. Despite censorship and constraints on Internet access, Cuban youth are incredibly aware of what globalization means and of all the possibilities it entails for a country like theirs.

On the other hand, a big chunk of that youth is part of the rank and file of the officialdom (I don't think this is the right time to deem the elders Stalinist-minded bureaucrats). I do not mean that Cuba's government will swiftly establish democracy, but I don't see any reason for them to spurn the never-so-close chance to become a thriving business hub in industries ranging from tourism to off-shore oil drilling. Cunning Cubans are affectionately held in Latin American imagination as the shrewdest businesspeople of the Caribbean -- if they are given the chance. Cuba has accumulated better human capital any emerging economy in Latin America could dream of: a young population that is highly educated, mostly bilingual, full of economic motivation and eager to catch up with the rest of the world after fifty years of a stagnating, infamous dictatorship.

Democracy is not visibly at hand, but I would be surprised not to see a thriving Cuban market economy working full throttle by early next decade. That's what Cuba once was: a market, a frontier between the old Spanish Empire and the British colonies. If it's true that nowadays the world is flat, there is nothing that an increasingly free Cuban society cannot attain in less than a generation's time.

On learning the news of Castro's resignation, a Panamanian businessman who was having breakfast at the table next to mine in a Caracas five-star hotel this morning threw his hands on top of his head and exclaimed, "Now who's going to bankroll the Panama Canal's overhaul?!!!"

February 20, 2008 12:08 PM

Adios to Chavez's Guru

Was Hugo Chavez caught off-guard by Fidel Castro’s resignation yesterday? Is Chavez prepared, psychologically and politically, to face whatever comes next?

In all of his political crises, Chavez has reportedly called Havana for advice. Absent Fidel, who will answer Chavez’s frantic phone calls now? Chavez has politically polarized Cuba just as he has polarized his own society, splitting Cuban decision-makers into “chavista” and “anti-chavista” factions. Just who he consults now will depend on which of those factions prevails in the near future.

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January 6, 2008 1:17 AM

Dear Candidates: Lift the Cuban Embargo

The Question: The U.S. starts to choose a president this week. If you could send the candidates one message, what would it be?

If it should prove true that the times they are a-changin', how about trying out some fresh, new ideas on Latin America? Lifting the embargo against Cuba could be an inexpensive, non-bellicose move that would not only puncture but even erase most of the pointless, damaging anti-Americanism that sweeps the region. Mr. Chavez’s role as Cuba’s clinical support unit would certainly be diminished in the impending Cuban transition. And it would turn out all the more easy for an African-American president to accomplish.

November 24, 2007 8:48 AM

Populism Won't Bring the Change We Want

Next year, on Thanksgiving Day, I dare to say that most people in our region would feel really grateful if they could just witness a true, significant reduction in poverty and political unrest. The current vociferous and predominant anti-globalization strain of Latin American populism has proved to be fruitless when it comes to creating jobs and opportunities.

Personally, I would feel grateful to see the "Chilean way" of attaining economic growth without hampering democracy and individual liberties prevail over the ultimately ineffective "Chavista model." As for our "gringo" neighbors, I sincerely hope that on next year's Thanksgiving Day Americans will once again exult in the idea of their country as the global beacon for anyone striving for an open and pluralistic society.

October 30, 2007 3:50 PM

In Venezuela, Dollars Still Reign

If only I were Paul Krugman, I'd try to delve into the true, long-term meaning of that 16 percent loss against the Euro. Is the dollar fundamentally weakening? Or is this two-year long plunge just a seasonal malaise? I have no way to know.

What I can tell you is what the sight of a dollar - and by that, I mean an actual one-dollar bill - means to anyone living in this populist Caribbean petro-state as it moves toward 21st-century socialism.

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October 26, 2007 11:04 AM

Risk of World War III? Music to Mr. Chávez's Ears

**Editor's Note: Martinez's response to posted comments is below as an addendum to this post.**

CARACAS – As untimely and distressing as Mr. Bush's remarks about taking war to Iran may sound to a significant part of the American public, everyone down here knows Bush's words are heavenly music to Mr. Chávez ears.

There is widespread conviction among most Venezuelans - including many of President Hugo Chávez's followers - that the threat of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela is nothing but a Chavez ruse to justify the growing militarization of our country and to discredit political dissent by labeling all of Mr. Chávez's adversaries unpatriotic, treacherous, pro-yanqui plotters.

That's why whenever George W. Bush hints at a surge or a new twist in the U.S. war on terrorism - or for that matter, U.S. war on anything or anyone - many Venezuelans cannot help shaking their heads in dismay.

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August 17, 2006 10:34 AM

Simon Bolivar's Latin American Legacy

Caracas, Venezuela - [Pick: Simon Bolivar: A Life by John Lynch] This is a book for any American who truly wishes to understand what is behind today's Latin American turmoil.

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