The outburst of sorrow that has taken Latin America for this transformation can only be explained in terms of Maradona’s ability to snapshot the essence of the Latin American soul. The continent perhaps is one of the most creative places in the world. The region’s contribution’s to music, visual arts and literature are undeniable and ground breaking. But they have failed to ignite the spark of development discipline. Or put in other words Latin America seems to have lost more development opportunities than any other region in the world. This pops out in any historical series you run on the region. Taking the 1950s as a base period for instance one finds that Latin nations doubled most Asian countries in income per capita and GDP. Today it not only is the opposite but nations such as South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are by all measurements developed countries while in Latin America the lonely development star that is Chile is all set out to reverse course and equalize itself to the rest of an underdeveloped region.
Same story describes the life of Maradona. His truly genial approach to soccer has defined the games strategic thinking. His innovative design of soccer passes more often than not served the purpose of hiding the core of his strategy to rivals. On other occasions his passes just crushed defense lines. But he never cared to record these ground braking methods let alone to build a team around his strategic creations. Deep in his mind he must have thought procedural creation to be the duty of others. And so went about life living the myth without replenishing its foundations. When time and health failed he began cheating.
Maradona’s life path resembles the development timeline of Latin America. At the outset of colonialism the region became the single most important contributor to the growth of European GDP through trade. And as trade reshaped political institutions in Europe the tenets of Enlightenment took hold. Reason displaced religious beliefs as the key to understand reality and improve the living conditions of human beings. Tested knowledge displaced guess work and information began to flow through the printing press. In Latin America independence while allegedly triggered by the Enlightenment truly served he purpose of preserving corporativist structures that can only be led by caudillos and be sustained by protected economies that harbor monopolistic rent extraction. Under these conditions development is a failed proposition. And here lies the explanation as to why development eludes the region in spite of its participation into most multilateral agreements to secure competition and growth. These agreements are denied implementation through cozy relations between government officials that need financing for their political campaigns and noncompetitive business concerns. I short, when dealing with the world Latin America takes the Maradona approach: if you cannot compete just cheat. The jetinho in Brazil; la coima in the Southern Cone and la mordida in Mexico are all expressions of the same disease:15th century corporativism.
Consequently, the avalanche of grief for Maradona’s passing is in essence a requiem for a region that is about to lose yet another historic opportunity when the rebuilt world supply chain favors Asia in the aftermath of covid19.