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LATIN AMERICA: Dictators, Fidel Castro

Linda Nyquist says: "I, for one, have never said that Fidel Castro is NOT a dictator. Most every government in Latin America is, in my opinion, run by dictators. What was so non-dictatorial about the PRI? The generals in various countries? And Pinochet? I know a lot of humble persons trying to get by in the Mexican countryside (and in the cities, for that matter). To a person, they really don't care if the head of government is a freely-elected president or a dictator, as long as their basic needs are being met. Those needs, of course, are housing, health care, education, and an ability, however limited, to participate to some degree in the economic life of the country and not be totally exploited by those at socioeconomic levels above them.

Dictator is such a dirty word for many Americans. I, personally, don't care if the person is a dictator or not if social conditions are addressed and poverty and suffering eliminated. Before someone starts screaming about Castro's inability/unwillingness to do this in Cuba, be reminded of the blockade. We trade with China; what's the problem in dealing with socialism in Cuba? Mexico has free elections (supposedly). How is that and how has that improved the lives of the peasantry?"

My comment: Yes and know. Linda is right about the word dictator, which acquired its derogatory meaning in World War II. Originally it meant a man who dictated policy which squabbling factions or politicians had been unable to do. I would not be surprised if a dictator emerged in Colombia or even Argentina. The trouble with dictators is that they do not master the complexities of modern societies and they stay on too long. Franco would have gone much earlier if the US had not supported him in exchange for bases.

Linda is also right in saying that people want to improve their lives, no matter who does it. The reputation of politicians has declined, and with it belief in democracy. I also believe with Linda that we must not dismiss Castro as a bloody dictator. Even many Cubans now in exile welcomed him and his promises, but he betrayed them and is now a pathetic, gaga individual.

I disagree with Linda for her attributing too much of Cuba's misery to the US "blockade". There are many countries with which it can trade. When I first went to Cuba, long before Castro, it impressed me together with Argentina the most prosperous countries in Latin America. Cuba lost many of its most talented people. Blaming the US for the woes of Latin America is too easy. Many WAISers say that Latin Americans must look to themselves. Incredibly, I applaud the spread of Mormonism in Latin America, not because of its doctrines (all religions have comparable shortcomings), but because it teaches people an exemplary way of life. My great passion is the creation of a just society, and Linda shares it. The difference is that I think it will infinitely more difficult than she realizes.

Ronald Hilton - 3/12/02