Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On the path to a more equitable and just society bearded dictators aren't needed. 

For the past several weeks it has seemed as if nothing could push the Isaeli/Lebanon war from the top spot of the news. But the news of Fidel Castro's illness managed to do just that.

Castro indeed probably is very sick for him to have turned over power. The crowds in Miami are already celebrating what they hope is his immenent demise. I don't wish death on anyone, even if they are a ruthless dictator.

But the topic of Fidel Castro is important, all the more so because of Cuba's and Venezula's close relationship. That relationship leads some to believe that Cuba and Venezuela are the same, that Castro and Chavez are the same, and that their political systems are the same. In reality none of that is even remotely true.

In Venezuela we have a country where all human rights - freedom of speech, of association, of the press, of religion, of travel and on and on - are respected by the government. It also posses a government which gains its legitimacy from free elections. In turn that government is trying to build a more just and equitable society with a higher standard of living and more opportunity for its citizens.

All of that stands in marked contrast to Castro's Cuba. That country has no personal liberties, no respect for many human rights, no free elections and has now had the same self-selected leader for almost 50 years. Yet, in something that is extremely ironic, that government enjoys the support of some on the left in Venezuela and throughout the world. I have to say, I have never really been able to grasp what that support is based on.

Yes, the Cuban government over the years has done some things to help the poor - yet the country as a whole is still very poor. Yes, Castro helped overthrow a terrible U.S. backed dictatorship - but I don't see how that should entitle him to establish his own dictatorship. Sure, Cuba is famous for its literacy campaigns - but what is the point of teaching people to read but not letting them think or express themselves freely? In looking over the past half century it's hard to see how anyone thinks the positive achievements of that "revolution" still outweigh its very obvious failures.

What is more, Castro has caused tremendous harm not only to the Cuban people but to many others throughout the world. He has done this by causing so many people to equate progressive ideas and "socialism" (however we define that) with political repression. This is a disaster for the left. Once Cuba becomes a democracy it will probably be generations before the left will be able to make any inroads there as people will still link the ideas of the left with the horrors of the Castro regime.

Those on the left who have backed that dictatorship have made a huge error. First, in backing a dictatorship they give up the moral high ground and wind up in the sub-basement. Second, we shouldn't lose site of the extreme irony involved in those on the left turning away from democracy when poor and working class people are the majority the world over. If the left can't win one person one vote elections then it needs to look in the mirror and adjust it's program, not snuggle up to dictators. And even if some on the left don't see that those on the right sure do:

Many years ago, Roger Maris, member of the Nacional Security Counsel of the U.S. said: “Henry Kissenger considered Allende a much more dangerous threat than Castro. If the consciousness of Latin America was awakened some day it wouldn’t be because of Castro. It was Allende that was the living example of social reform and democracy in South America. There were ocurring disasterous events in the world at that time, but only Chile frightened Kissinger”

The economic success, democracy, and social justice of Chavez's Venezuela is the future, not the failed Castro dictatorship. The sooner that failed model of "socialism" disappears to be replaced with the new one being build in Venezuela, the better.


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