A Tale of Two Dictators- By Emiliano Antunez -Price of Liberty
A Tale of Two Dictators
By Emiliano Antunez

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December 18, 2006

There are two types of people in this world, the dead and the dying. This past week General Augusto Pinochet joined the ranks of the dead at the ripe old age of 91, while in Cuba, Fidel Castro (who might be dead by the time you read this) a comparatively youthful 80, clings to the world of the living by a thread. The death of Pinochet and the imminent death of Castro, both controversial figures have provoked strong reaction and commentary throughout the world. But whatís important is not when or how they died but rather what they accomplished during their lives.

General Augusto Pinochet wrested power from Socialist President Salvador Allende in a coup on September 11th, 1973. Mr. Allende who was elected by only 36% of the vote had been trying to forcibly institute a socialist economy on his Chilean subjects. The results where predictable. Shortages abounded and Chileans where introduced to the great Cuban pass time of standing in line for basic necessities and listening to long winded speeches by Fidel Castro who spent an entire month in Chile in 1971 at the request of Allende.

Fidel Castroís route to power was longer and more storied than General Pinochetís; in 1953 he failed in his assault on the Moncada military barracks in Cubaís Oriente province. Castro turned himself in under the protection of the Catholic Arch Bishop of Santiago de Cuba, after which he spent about 2 years in prison before being pardoned by his predecessor Fulgencio Batista. Fidel went into exile in Mexico and returned with a few dozen armed men on a yacht named Granma in 1956. By 1958 a mythical character had been created of the bearded rebel who inhabited the mountains of the Sierra Maestra, and in January 1959 he triumphantly road into Havana on a tank.

Once in power it did not take long for General Pinochet to heed the advice of the ďChicago BoysĒ (a group of Chilean economist educated at the University of Chicago) and invite Milton Freidman to asses Chileís economy and make recommendations. Mr. Freidman told Mr. Pinochet that no dictatorship could survive a free market economy for long, General Pinochet was apparently not concerned with that since he implemented most of Mr. Freidmanís recommendations, creating the most vibrant and expansive economy in Latin America (even to this day). In 1980 a constitution was approved by a popular vote and in 1988 Mr. Freidmanís prediction had come to fruition and General. Pinochet allowed a plebiscite as prescribed in the 1980 Constitution, whose unfavorable results (at least for the General) he accepted and allowed free and fair elections in 1990 after which he stepped down. Most of those elected president after 1990 were left of center (and outright socialist), yet General Pinochet never used his influence over the Chilean armed forces to meddle in civil affairs (he didnít have too because he had laid a good (though not perfect) foundation for the protection of property, economic and civil rights in the 1980 Constitution).

It didnít take long for Castro to consolidate his power in Cuba, largely thanks to a majority of Cubans who fanatically and blindly supported the would-be tyrant. Mr. Castro wasted little time in commencing to confiscate private property and nationalize every major industry. Mr. Castro allied himself with the Soviet Union and adopted its communist economic model. The Cuban economy to this day has not recovered from Mr. Castroís actions; Cubanís are forced to struggle to subsist and are denied the most basic freedom to express themselves in ways that are seen as critical of the regime.

In every article written about General Pinochet, the almost 3,000 deaths that occurred under his rule are mentioned. Almost every life is precious and should not be considered lightly, but human events do not occur in a vacuum. Mr. Allendeís economic policies were disastrous and his arming of militias loyal to him along with his chumminess with Castro made many Chileanís weary of his ultimate intentions. It can be argued that General Pinochet actually prevented an all out civil war or a communist takeover of Chile; either would easily have resulted in thousands of more deathís than Mr. Pinochet is accused of.

In most articles written about Fidel Castro there is rarely any mention of the tens of thousands of deaths he has caused. Castro and his henchmen (including the revered Che) tortured and murdered thousands of Cubans and, subsequently, Castroís actions caused mass exoduses which have resulted in thousands of deaths in the Florida straights (before Castro, Cubanís rarely migrated to the US and those that did where able to do it legally since Cuba never got close to meeting its US immigration quotas). Castro has plunged his country into many foreign military interventions costing many young Cuban's life and limb. In 47 years Mr. Castro has yet to allow opposition to his one party system much less anything resembling a free and fair election.

In spite of all these facts Mr. Castro was praised by various presidents of South and Central American countries and countless ďjournalistĒ during his belated birthday celebration (which he couldnít attend), while no foreign dignitaries were present at General Pinochetís funeral and bile spilled from most of what was written about him. The voters in many South American countries have recently voted for socialist presidents who have promised pie in the sky economic schemes of wealth redistribution. Death can not come fast enough for Mr. Castro (as a matter of fact itís at least 47 years too late). Unfortunately, there are not many (if any) Augusto Pinochetís and Milton Freidmanís left to right the ship of Latin America and put in on a true path to economic and social freedom. We should all ask ourselves: if Castro and 3000 of his most fervent supporters had been ďmurderedĒ in 1961 and he had been replaced by someone similar to General Pinochet, who behaved as Pinochet did in Chile, how many lives would have been saved and how much misery avoided?


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