To the Editors:
The American press and television are full of news and comment about Solzhenitsyn these days. I regret very much the actions taken by the Soviet government against Solzhenitsyn; but would you please allow me to doubt that the coverage given to him by Time Magazine and other American publications springs from an authentic concern for freedom of expression. The reason for doubting is the fact that no coverage is being given to the closing down of Marcha Magazine in Uruguay, which took place several weeks ago. Knowing the power and means of the American mass media I cannot believe that they have not noticed it. If they have not noticed it, it is only because they are not interested in looking at what is going on.
Marcha has been up to now one of the most important literary and political magazines in Spanish. The editor of Marcha, Carlos Quijano, a veteran journalist who could in some ways be compared to I.F. Stone, and who is now seventy-three, is in jail. So is Assistant Editor Hugo Alfaro. And also the writers Juan Carlos Onetti, now sixty-six, one of the most distinguished Latin American novelists; Nelson Marra, a poet and short-story writer; and Mercedes Rein. The literary critic Jorge Rufinelli is reported in hiding and wanted by the police.
The reason for all this is that Nelson Marra wrote a short story under the title of “The Bodyguard,” which describes the killing of a high police officer. Some people have interpreted this story as referring to Héctor Morán Charquero, a known torturer who was accused of being an assassin and probably a profiteer from prostitution. Morán Charquero was killed by the Tupamaro guerrillas four years ago. Onetti and Rein are in jail for giving the story a literary award and Rufinelli is wanted for the same reason. Marra is in jail for writing it and Quijano and Alfaro for publishing it. The reasons alleged by the government for the imprisonment of these writers and journalists are that the story uses obscene language and that it praises and encourages criminal activities. They are now being tried by a military tribunal, according to Excelsior of Mexico City, February 24, 1974. Many Mexican and Latin American intellectuals are protesting the trial.
One should realize the enormity of all this. Uruguay was for many decades a haven of democratic liberties in a continent racked by military dictatorships. Now this is over and the Bordaberry government, after it dissolved Parliament by force and arrested or forced into exile the main opposition leaders, has become a thinly veiled military dictatorship. Uruguay has achieved the disgraceful distinction of setting a precedent in repression. There have been cases in which writers or publishers were jailed because they wrote or published material offensive to the taste of people in power and authority, and this was bad enough. But so far as I know this is the first case in which members of a jury are being jailed because they gave a literary award that offended the authorities.
I submit that for the future of freedom in Latin America the Quijano-Onetti affair is more ominous and more important than the Solzhenitsyn case. If the North American press and television would show the same concern for what happens south of their borders as they do for what happens in the Soviet Union we Latin Americans would have reason for believing in their sincerity.
Mexico City, Mexico
April 4, 1974