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Yesterday I had lunch Fernando Sulichin, a pretty successful Argentine movie producer. Here is his   filmography in IMDB. During our brunch I found out that Fernando Sulichin has made a career among other things out of producing movies based on interviews with an unusual collections of world leaders. Indeed during lunch Fernando told me that over the last year he had met with Rafael Correa, Cristina Kirchner, Evo Morales, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Ahmadinejad.  In the majority of cases these meetings took place as part of interviews together with Oliver Stone and Sean Penn. As those leaders happen to be a group that I particularly dislike and as we are both Argentine Jewish you can imagine that our discussion was intense. The high point was when Fernando told me he had seen Ahmadinejad more than 10 times in his life and described him as a “humble” person. I think it is relevant to state that both Fernando and I are Jewish as many of these presidents have expressed negative opinions towards Jews, starting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who finances two armies, Hezbollah and Hamas whose stated objective is not a home for the Palestinians which I greatly support but the destruction of the State of Israel. Moreover Ahmadinejad questions the holocaust (today is Holocaust Memorial Day), is in favour of other Islamists of women’s dilapidation and denies the existence of homosexuality in Iran.

Now I am not saying that we didn’t agree on anything with Fernando as there were many areas in which surprisingly, we thought alike. When we spoke about Bush’s 8 year government we agreed that his politics were bad for world peace and increased confrontations between anti-north American troops and the USA. We also agreed that Iran´s policies towards women and gays are repugnant. We agreed that it is true that Latin American leaders many times confront ruthless multinational corporations that have been accused of bribing. We also agreed that Israel itself was too aggressive and its invasions of Lebanon and the Gaza strip could turn out to be counter productive even for Israel´s objectives of self preservation. It is interesting that while Fernando frequently meets with enemies of Israel he does not hide the fact that he is Jewish and is in favor of the survival of the State of Israel.

But where we strongly disagreed is that Fernando truly believes that Hugo Chavez is a democrat just because he won the election. I instead insisted that democracy should be understood from the bottom up, democracy it is not just an election but the distribution of power throughout society: independent legislators, independent judges, honest mayors and governors, cities and state legislatures, freedom of the press. I was appalled when Fernando argued that the Venezuelan regime was akin to that of Norway. I was also very surprised when Fernando argued that we can be tolerant with corruption of the leaders he frequently visits as all presidents steal while in government. I said that I did not believe that Aznar or Zapatero, to name two Spanish presidents had Swiss bank accounts where they deposited the money they stole while in government while I was almost sure that his favorite global leaders did have them.

Having said all this it was a very interesting lunch and I guess the world can only be a better place if we not all agree. And in the end we were both hopeful that Obama and Hillary Clinton together are maybe able to pull off a miracle here and a new relationship develops between left wing Latin America, the Muslim World and USA.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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