Devaluación y golpe de Estado

Devaluación y golpe de Estado

Después de leer la divertidísima “Día de los muertos“, decidí zambullirme en “Red jungle”, otra novela de Kent Harrington. El autor norteamericano nos propone ahora un relato de intrigas en medio de la selva guatemalteca, mientras Russell, el protagonista, intenta hallar una ruina maya que lo hará millonario.

Sin embargo, el personaje principal se ve envuelto en las políticas internas de Guatemala, un país que se enfrenta a un grave situación económica debido a la caída de los precios del café. Como asesor de un partido político que parece destinado a perder las elecciones, Russell expone su solución a la crisis económica:

“There’s going to be a
devaluation of the
quetzal. I just heard,”
Antonio said.
They had all met at De
La Madrid’s house, the
entire would-be cabinet,
including Senator
Valladolid. The senator
was scheduled to be De
La Madrid’s foreign
minister. Probably a
mistake, Russell thought,
glancing at the old man.
“Are you sure?”
Russell said.
“Yes. My brother just
called.” Madrid’s brother
was head of the Bank of
Guatemala. “It gets
worse. It’s going to be
eight to one,” Antonio
said, looking at him.
“Jesus!” (…).
Russell went to a space on
the couch and sat down
between the would-be
minister of the interior
and a young woman who
was slated to be minister
of defense. If Madrid was
elected, she would be the
first woman in
Guatemalan history to
hold the post.
Russell didn’t think
they had a chance now.
The political situation—if
there was a devaluation—
would be chaotic at best.
“Why now?” Russell
asked as he sat down.
“The government
can’t make the payment
on a dollar loan coming
due next week—five
hundred million,”
Antonio explained. “They
don’t have the reserves,
and they can’t borrow any
more because of the
coffee crisis. The World
Bank will provide a
bailout package, but only
if we submit to an IMF
restructuring. Devaluation
of the currency is the
center-piece of the plan,
of course. It’s supposed to
make our coffee more
competitive.”
“The whole country is
bankrupt!” Senator
Vallodalid said
cheerfully. “Pretty soon
we’ll be paying them to
buy our coffee.” He raised
his glass and smiled at
Russell. He was drinking
scotch out of a Waterford
tumbler and wore a pink
cravat. He looked like he
was going to Cap Ferret,
not facing a political and
financial crisis.
“We were wondering
what you thought we
should do, young man?
You seem to know all
about these financial
matters,” Valladolid said.
“I just think they want
cheap coffee.” All the
men and the woman
shook their heads in
agreement. “After all,
Europe and America are
having a recession,” the
senator said. “They want
a bargain.”
“It’s criminal. It
means we get even less
for our coffee,” the young
woman next to him said.
She was a young human
rights lawyer whom
Madrid had selected
because her good liberal
credentials would steal
votes from the more
radical left elements. “It
means the price for hard
bean superior would be. . .
.”
“About ten dollars a
kilo,” Russell finished her
sentence.
“That’s impossible. It
can’t be allowed,” Madrid
said.
“The unemployment
rate will go to fifty
percent if the IMF gets its
way,” Russell said. “It
will open the door again
to the Communists.”

The devaluation would
create a financial death
spiral, Russell knew. It
was essentially the same
thing that had just
happened to Argentina.
Once the international
currency speculators got
wind of the IMF plan,
they would drive the
currency down even
further. The government’s
bonds would be
worthless, and interest
rates would skyrocket.
Dollar reserves, so crucial
to any modern banking
system, would leave the
country almost
immediately as the rich
pulled their dollars out of
the country’s banks.

“My brother says that
President Blanco has
already approved,”
Madrid said.
They were all looking
at Russell. None of them
had trained as
economists.
“There has to be a
solution,” Madrid said.
“We can’t let the country
slip away again.”
There was silence.
Everyone in the room,
including Russell, had
lost someone in the war.
Russell looked at the
faces in the lamplight.
They were frightened. No
one wanted another
Argentina. No one wanted
the Communists to come
back as a political force.
No one wanted more
violence.

“The government
could declare a debt
payment holiday while
they try to renegotiate
with the creditors. Then
maybe they could build
reserves, defend the
Quetzal. But if you
declare a debt holiday,
Guatemalan bonds are
going to collapse. And
new loans will be
impossible to get, because
the IMF will blacklist
you. You can’t win….
There is no solution. The
IMF and the World Bank
hold all the cards. On the
other hand, if they
devalue there will be
massive inflation and
unemployment. I think
the war will start all over.
The reds are already
making noises,” Russell
said. “They’re probably
talking to Castro in
Havana right now. It’s
their big chance to make a
comeback. They’re
probably praying for a
devaluation.”

“It’s what the
Americans want, isn’t it?”
Valladolid said. “I mean,
they want Selva to win.
They don’t care if there’s
political chaos. In fact, I
think it serves their
purpose. When has peace
and prosperity served the
colonists?” the old man
said. “We’re finished. We
were finished a long time
ago.”

“Why don’t you stop
blaming the fucking
Americans for
everything? They didn’t
borrow the fucking
money from Citibank and
then steal it. They didn’t
send it to accounts in
Switzerland. And they
didn’t stop you from
investing here instead of
sending your money out
of the country for the last
hundred years,” Russell
said angrily. “That’s the
problem with you people.
You haven’t taken
responsibility for your
own damn country.
Where are the factories,
the highways, the
railroads? You’re as
much to blame as the
Americans are, for
Christ’s sake!”
The young woman
lawyer stood up angrily.
Madrid told her to sit
down.
“He’s right,”
Valladolid said. “He’s
right. All of you have
bank accounts in Miami. I
know I do. That’s the
horrible truth. We, the
class that mattered here,
when did we really
believe in the country?
The boy is right.”
Russell poured
himself a glass of wine
and went to the window.
He felt ashamed of his
outburst. The others
started to talk about party
politics. He listened for a
while. Their internecine
squabbles seemed
ludicrous in the face of
the economic crisis that
would sweep them all
away.

It was late. He drained
his second glass of wine
and walked back to the
couch. Everyone had left
but the Senator and
Madrid. There was no
consensus on how to face
the devaluation. It looked
as though Madrid’s
coalition would break
apart. A privatization of
the telephone company,
which had been the
centerpiece of their
platform, seemed
impossible now. Who
would want to buy it now,
with the country in chaos?

“There’s one
solution,” Russell said,
coming back to the couch.
“Well, go ahead boy,
don’t keep us in
suspense,” the senator
said.
“A coup,” he said.
“We get rid of Blanco and
take power. Ignore the
IMF’s suggestions. Do it
before the election. Then
you privatize the
telephone and the water
and electricity companies.
With the money you get,
you defend the quetzal.
It’s a gamble, but it might
work. The international
capital markets will love
the privatization, and
might just not sell the
country’s debt off once
they hear the plan. They
certainly won’t care much
about the coup, given how
bad things are anyway. As
long as we make it clear
the new government is
pro-business. . . . Interest
rates might actually go
down,” Russell said. “It’s
a big gamble. But you’ll
have to move quick.
President Blanco has to
go. And the army has to
be brought to heel.” The
two older men looked at
him, open-mouthed.

“It might work,
Rudy,” Madrid said
finally. “Jesus . . . it just
might work. We’ll hold
elections in a year after
the coup.”

“The embassy will
come to Blanco’s
defense,” Valladolid said.
“But I like it. Blanco is a
prick. I never liked the
man,” the senator said.
“I think the telephone
company alone is worth
maybe a billion dollars.
Let’s say in four months,
you have five or six
billion in the treasury.
That’s enough. You
wouldn’t have to
devaluate,” Russell said.
“You could start paying
on the defaulted loans.”
“All we have to do is
overthrow the military
government,” Rudy said.
“It’s child’s play . . .
really!” They all laughed.
“Of course—because
it’s Guatemala—they’ll
try to kill us first,”
Madrid said. “Because
nobody in this fucking
country can keep a
secret!”

(…)
“You know if we
decide to do this, we
might all be killed,”
Madrid said, looking at
him. “You realize that,
young man?”
“Yes. But we might
also save the country
from a civil war and
financial collapse,”
Russell said.
“Jesus. I love young
people!” Rudy said.
“They always are ready to
die. Personally, I love life
too much, I think. The
older you are, the more
you love it.”
Russell looked at
Madrid.
“He’s right, Rudy,”
Madrid said. “We have no
choice now. Do we?”
“No, I suppose not.
But I certainly hope we
don’t have to die. I
suppose we can’t do this
from Miami, young
man?”
“No,” Russell said,
and smiled. “You can’t do
it from Miami.”
“I didn’t think so. It
was just an idea.”
“Well, welcome to the
government,” Madrid
said, looking at Russell.
“I’m appointing you to
the provisional central
bank as of this evening.
You’ll have to run the
privatizations. . . . And
help us plan this coup.”
“Me?”
“It was your idea,”
Madrid said. “Anyway,
we can trust you, I think. I
don’t even trust Rudy.”
“Young man, if we
manage to get ten billion
dollars in the treasury,
you won’t even be able to
trust God himself,” the
senator said”.

“Red jungle” vale bastante la pena. Es una novelita de ritmo endiablado, lleno de escenas de sexo tórrido en medio de la selva (y a veces los cangrejos), tiroteos con guerrillas y maquinaciones tras bastidores.

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