Thursday, April 07, 2011

Václav Klaus visited glaciers in Patagonia

Last week, Czech President Václav Klaus visited Argentina. Here is a translation of an interview in Lidovky, a leading Czech daily.

Klaus standing by glaciers: Nature can treat us the way She likes

BUENOS AIRES (from an Argentinian LN correspondent) - President Václav Klaus is learning about the beauties of Argentina during his official visit to South America. He also sailed to see the glaciers of Patagonia. "The idea that the man could command the wind and rain, or the temperature and the climate in general, it is a genuine human dream," he told Czech journalists.

Last Wednesday, Czech President Václav Klaus arrived to Latin America, for his more than one-week-long visit of Argentina and Chile. What are his impressions? Is Czechia known among the Latin Americans?

How did you like yesterday's (Saturday) visit of a typical Patagonian farm, the so-called estanci?

Patagonia is a marvelous place and it is certainly one of the most unique places in the world that I have had the pleasure to see so far, so it is a very valuable experience to be here.

The farm was a somewhat tourist farm but it could still offer visitors like us a glimpse of the meaning of the words such as Argentina, sheep, pampas, lakes, and glaciers.

You have said that you were going to perform an inspection of the glaciers, so what is the outcome, Mr inspector?

The inspection has certainly ended with good results. Yes, the idea that Man may command the wind and rain, or the temperature and the climate in general, is a genuine human dream of someone. When we're here, we can see that Nature treats us the way She finds appropriate.

Your visit to Argentina will end soon. Could you please evaluate it?

One aspect of the question is to judge Argentina but I think it is not our task here - even though some things may be instructive or inspiring in good or bad sense of the word. Another aspect of the question is whether our visit is fulfilling its role which is undoubtedly to make the Czech Republic more visible and to produce some new momentum in our relations at various levels. And I hope that this goal has surely been accomplished.

Argentina is a country which is in the state of motion, which is dynamical, which has overcome the giant staggering it has experienced a decade ago, and it is no stagnating country of the type we know from Europe.

Read also: Klaus opened the door. Argentinians are interested in Czech weapons.

You had the opportunity to talk to Czech compatriots in Argentina who have literally encircled you at the embassy because they wanted to talk to you. What did they say?

The siege was nearly dramatic because when the temperature outside is 85 °F and you're being squeezed by 50 people, the effective temperature increases to 125 °F.

I don't know. On one hand, those compatriots are a certain form of representatives that keeps the Czech Republic brand in the state of motion.

Whether all these people are happy over here and how they evaluate their decision in the distant past to stay here - I wouldn't try to offer an oversimplified answer. I am not quite sure whether the positive sign is completely prevalent.

What do the local people think about the Czech Republic as a brand, how is it being perceived?

It is surprising that they do know the Czech Republic - it's a fact that has to be articulated clearly. It's another question whether there are many people who live here but who have visited Prague and who can remember one corner or another. My third point is that certain events in our history are familiar to them. My fourth observation is that they know something about our culture.

It's a fact that everyone talks about Kafka here and they want to organize conferences about him, among other things. In my opinion, it can't be a bad thing.

North and South America is mostly dominated by presidential systems while parliamentary systems prevail in Europe. Do you think that the dynamics and self-sufficiency in countries such as Argentina may have something to do with this difference?

A certain kind of duality between the president and the prime minister which is known in many European countries is unknown in Latin America. Over here, the president is the dominant person and he is not only a head of the government but a full-fledged president with all attributes we may think of.

From the viewpoint of political science, it is interesting to appreciate how old the local constitutions are. They are a century older than ours. I will never forget about my visit to one of these countries in which the chief of the Supreme Court proudly told me that their constitution had been unchanged since 1812.

Read also: In the Pink House, Klaus was fascinated by the female president of Argentina.

And I was saying: but during those long years, you have tasted dictatorships, coups, and diverse regimes - which may imply that the constitution is ready to shield everyone and it is not such an important protection of democracy.

In my opinion, it is another interesting thing. Even though they have used constitutions of the U.S. type for 200 years, it is not obvious whether this historical fact has substantially affected the reality.

The whole Latin America is drifting to a rather left-wing direction. Do you view it as a problem?

Well, I can't see a problem in it. Instead, I would ask whether this trend is the best possible one for those countries and I would think it is not. But their left-wing politics is one of a curious type: it combines populism, a certain social dimension or sociability, and some nationalism. This mixture gives presidents of those systems far more power than any European president or prime minister may have.

Read also: Klaus: I will fight against the enemies of the nuclei.

Those are strange systems. For example, the Argentine Peronist system is just one of its type and I think that those systems bring problems for those countries. But whether they would be better off if they virtually moved to a completely different economic or social continent and whether it would mean a quantum leap forward? I don't dare to speculate.

This possible separation between the laws and the reality could teach us a lesson about our current attitudes towards Northern Africa. We may be inclined to think that if those peoples managed to be sensible and clever enough to adopt our system overnight, they would live in a paradise on Earth from the following morning. The problem is that they wouldn't.

Questions by Ms Tereza Šupová, translated by L.M.

On April 6th, President Klaus and his wife also visited the Paranal Observatory in Argentina, the site of a planned E-ELT of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) which will be the world's largest optical and near-infrared telescope when it's ready around 2020.

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