Dear Latin America: Sorry about the Washington Consensus. Our bad. Please take back Louie Vega. He’s still making a terrible racket up here. Best, America Upstairs. Under recommendation from Washington, free-market reforms swept Latin America during the ’90s, with economists and politicians promising a new era of prosperity and stability for the perpetually struggling region. Democracy and free trade would roll into town in matching champagne-colored SUVs, making entrepreneurs and socialites of every last pauper. A decade later, Alvaro Vargas Llosa raises his hand to interject: “Hey jerks, it didn’t work!” His book, Liberty for Latin America, explains why. An exhaustive survey of the past 500 years of economic strife there, with a special examination of the last decade, the book points a finger at the relationship between legislation and customs. It seems that capitalism, in all its righteous glory, cannot succeed in a culture whose value systems don’t jibe with the system’s basic principles, and institutional change alone cannot a free society make. Iraq, anyone? Llosa reads at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Kara McPhillips)