Dear readers, tonight we are honoured to host a busy man, who nonetheless found the time to be with us. Please welcome President Almanzor to the interview couch!
Tell us about your childhood. What events helped shaped you to be who you are today?
That time seems so distant now, almost unreal. It was an ordinary childhood, I suppose. I cannot claim I lived in hardship: my parents were middle class, comfortably off. They were ambitious, and at first I was willing to follow the legal career they had mapped out for me. But there were a lot of poorer people in our neighbourhood, and I realised I could use my skills to help them. That was what set me on the long road that has brought me here, though I had no idea where it would lead at the time.
What first drew you to the revolution?
At first I was a campaigner rather than a revolutionary: I sought social change through protest and through the courts. But every faltering step towards progress was met by reactionary counter-measures, every demonstration by violent repression. I came to believe that peaceful means alone could not succeed. So I talked to the communists, and we all recognised that what we agreed on was more important than what we disagreed on. We became a broad church united in the goal of overthrowing the Velazco regime. Thus the Partido Socialista was born.
How did you feel through the rise to ultimate power?
Though films of my life do not acknowledge this, power came upon me almost by accident – I hope I am talking off the record here! In all honesty I had never expected to become the President – tacitly, we all acknowledged Raul as our natural leader. Nor was that day supposed to be the revolution itself, just one in an escalating series of peaceful protests that would bring the mass of people behind our movement. But when the presidential guards turned their weapons upon my comrades – and their backs to the column that I and Juanita were leading – I seized the opportunity that fate presented me. I have to say that on that day I felt more inspired, more alive than at any time before or since.
Tell us about how you first fell in love with Juanita
I had always liked Juanita and been attracted to her as a woman. But I have never been a ladies’ man. In the early days of our movement I was content to be her friend and never expected to be anything more than that. If she had eyes for anyone, it was for Raul, not for me. But on that memorable day, when Velazco was dead and we stood on the balcony of his – now our – palace, the whole world had changed and everything seemed possible. Juanita had witnessed what I had achieved, and now she saw me in a new light. To share the kiss she offered seemed the most natural thing in the world, and one thing led to another.
What happened between the two of you? Did the rigours of government intrude on your marriage?
Not at first. After the revolution, Juanita was not just my wife, my lover, but the partner of my labours. Of all the Revolutionary Council, she was the one who shared my vision, the one I could trust absolutely as my political as well as personal confidante. The split between us came much later, when harsh experience had taught me the need to temper idealism with pragmatism, to make hard decisions for the greater good. Juanita retained a naivety that I found perverse; she was seduced by those fools in the so-called Freedom and Democracy Party – and later by cynical counter-revolutionaries. And of course, it didn’t help that she refused to bear me children.
Do you still consider yourself true to the idealist liberal socialist dream?
I still have ideals. I believe in honest, efficient, progressive government. But I have learned from bitter experience that liberalism is a luxury which cannot be afforded when a state is beset by enemies within and without. And if by socialism you mean public ownership of the means of production, I discovered that it doesn’t work. I once put a communist in charge of the Departments of Industry and Agriculture. It was the biggest mistake I ever made, and nearly brought me – and the country – down.
If you retired and could go anywhere, do anything – what would that be?
The question is fanciful. I cannot possibly contemplate retirement: there is no one else in whose hands I would dare leave the stewardship of this nation. I will not stand by and watch my legacy be destroyed by those who think they know how to run this country but in reality know nothing at all. But if you are inviting me to indulge in fantasy, I would like to retire to my villa in the mountains and spend my days reading and taking long walks. Who knows, perhaps I would even write my memoirs.
What does the future hold for you?
As I have said, it does not appear to hold any prospect of respite from my labours. Who is there that I could trust to take over from me? Manuel, the Vice-President is efficient at what he does, but there is much that he does not understand. He seems more interested in his own power and prestige than in the good of the nation. People bleat about democratic elections, but that would bring the Freedom and Democracy Party to power, and those idiots would ruin the country within six months. So I must endure, until a worthy successor can be found, or until I work myself into the grave.
Tim Taylor lives in Yorkshire and divides his time between creative writing, academic research and part-time teaching. He also plays electric and acoustic guitar and a little piano, and likes to walk up hills. You can find Carlos Almanzor on the pages of Revolution Day.
Next week with us will be a young slave girl, who rose up the social ranks to hobnob with the emperor. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right), via Twitter or like our Facebook page to be notified when the next interview is posted.