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Monday, December 11, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Michael Shifter (Vice President of the Inter-American Dialogue and author on US-Latin American relations) has an interesting piece in today’s WaPo on Pinochet and Castro:  The Best of Both Dictators:

The parallels are striking: Two ruthless dictators who sacrificed human rights for political aims. Two men idolized by their followers and despised by the exiles they drove away. Two archetypes of the Latin American strongman, one in dark sunglasses, the other with that ever-present cigar. For the past half-century, no two leaders have so defined Latin America’s political scene as Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Chile’s Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

They ruled from opposite ends of the spectrum — Castro on the far left, Pinochet on the hard right — their regimes similar only in their harshness and in the intense passions they evoked.

The piece highlights the way in which Castro tapped into the real social woes of the region, as Pinochet did to the needs for market reforms and concludes with the following:

In Latin America today, the public wants the market-driven growth that draws on the Pinochet experience and the focus on social equality inspired by Castro — but in a democratic context, without the terror and autocratic rule that marked the two regimes.

It wants, in short, the best of both.

Indeed.  And here’s to wishing for both without brutal dictatorship ever resurfacing in the region.  The good news is that even seeming Castro wannabes such as Hugo Ch├ívez may have adopted much of Castro’s style and rhetoric, they have not engaged in bloody repression.  Further, the militaries in the region seem to have decided that governing is no fun.

Back to Pinochet, the following jumped out at me and is worth special attention:

With the abduction, torture and killing of thousands of opponents — in the name of ridding the country of Marxist influence and creating order out of chaos — his regime helped turn the word “disappear” into a transitive verb.

Indeed.  And a horrifying one at that.  It was not an unusual practice in the military dictatorships of Argentina, Brazil and Chile for state agents (normally sans uniforms and in unmarked cars) to arrive at the house of a suspected “subversive” and haul that persons away, in front of husband, wives, children and parents, never to be seen or heard from again.  They were “disappeared.”

It is a grave and dangerous thing when a government decides that many of its own citizens are enemies simply because of the possibility that they hold ideas that the state finds problematic.

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One Response to “The Legacy of Dictatorship in Latin America”

  • el
  • pt
    1. MSS Says:

      Don’t forget Uruguay, which Stepan referred to as the South American dictatorship that was closest to being totalitarian at the peak of its power.


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