Mario Benedetti vs Mario Vargas Llosa: The political discussion between two great letters

Friendship between Mario Benedetti, Uruguayan author who is commemorated one hundred years of birth this September 14, and Mario Vargas Llosa emerged in the mid-sixties, during a visit by the Peruvian writer to Uruguay.

It was the time of the cuban revolution, whose ideals were endorsed by several Latin American intellectuals who later divided as a result of the Padilla case. A division that, according to Vargas Llosa, cooled his relationship with Benedetti, who decided to support the government of Cuba.

Between January and June 1984, however, both writers agreed again, but this time on the pages of the diary The country, where they starred in a fiery exchange of letters in which each one defended their political ideals.

Next, we recall some passages of this heated controversy that unveiled the political positions of two pillar names for Latin American letters.


The controversy between Benedetti and Vargas Llosa had its origin in an interview that the Roman magazine Panorama did to Nobel Prize in Literature on January 2, 1984. With the title of “Corrupt and content“, The Peruvian author rebuked his Latin American colleagues who have not reconsidered their left-wing ideological schemes and remain conditioned”like Pavlov’s dog”.

He saved from this classification Octavio Paz, Jorge Edwards and Ernesto Sabato, but when the journalist questioned him about those “conditioned intellectuals”, Vargas Llosa did not hesitate to answer: “Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Benedetti and Julio Cortazar“, Who incidentally described as the” most illustrious “among so many thinkers” medium and minor.

To this statement, the author of “Poems of the office” replied on April 9 with the column “Neither corrupt nor happy”. In it, she accused. Vargas Llosa to take a “spectacular” political turn, then, beyond his defense of freedom, “15 years ago he was enthusiastically supported by the Latin American left, and today he is flattered and embraced by the right”.

They are signs to keep in mind“Said the poet. “The left tend to err in their fervor; rights, almost never”He added. And then he alluded that the true conditioner was the author of “The Green House”, for not noticing that underdevelopment in the Latin countries was the product of imperialism rather than the “literate and evil intellectual”.

Quite a revelation, although it is difficult for us to imagine that Carpentier The Neruda are more guilty of our miseries than United Fruit or Anaconda Copper Mining“, he added, but not before asking Vargas Llosa” a minimum seriousness in the political proposals “and sharing that his” flurry of grievances “seemed quite disappointing.

Finally, he drew attention that his colleague from Arequipa should not resort to “the cheap shot, the illicit game to reinforce his respectable arguments.” “Fortunately, the work of Vargas Llosa it is clearly located to the left of its author, and will continue to be read with relish by Pavlov’s zombies, robots and dogs”, He concluded.


A few months later, on June 14, Vargas Llosa counterattacked the arguments of Benedetti with an opinion piece titled “Among namesakes”. After praising his creative “boldness and freedom”, he noted that Benedetti he owned a “puzzling conformism in the ideological domain“By endorsing” more dubious dogmas “and” mere slogans of propaganda. “

He then took the cases of Pablo Neruda and Alejo Carpentier to illustrate the conditioning of left-wing intellectuals: on the one hand, the radicalism of the Chilean author, whose “vision of the world, as a politician and writer was Manichean and dogmatic,” and on the other, that of the Cuban writer, an “official” of the Revolutionary government that never was against.

For him author of “The city and the dogs”, the civic role of both writers was reprehensible because they resigned “to the first duty of the intellectual: to be free”. And, in that sense, he implied that he opposed dictatorships regardless of political overtones. “What do we replace them with? With democratic governments, as I would like? Or with other dictatorships, like the Cuban one, that he [Benedetti] defends?“, he finished.

To these words, Benedetti he replied four days later. According the author of “The truce”, Vargas Llosa He was not able to understand that any Latin American writer supported “revolutions like the Cuban or Nicaraguan” freely. “Personally, I have a better opinion of my colleagues”He wrote, then added that he did not seek to label anyone as corrupt, cynical or opportunistic.

He also reproached Vargas Llosa that there were several artists killed by the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, To who Fidel Castro overthrew with his revolution. And he mentioned in passing: “the revolutionary government has not killed any writer”.

In this sense, he ironically stated that his “namesake” was no longer seduced by revolutions or made the effort to understand them due to his defense of democratic reforms that could serve as make-ups for dictatorships. “The electoral requirement of Vargas Llosa instead includes rulers like Somoza, Stroessner, and other ‘vermin’ who never forgot that formal requirement”, He indicated. “So there is semantic democracy for all tastes,” he added.

And to conclude, Benedetti rescued the good literature of Vargas Llosa, although he concluded: “I believe that for the process of economic, social and political liberation in Latin America, the enemy is not exactly the USSR, but definitely the United States”.


Leave a Comment