Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The vagaries of leftness

Michelle Bachelet is visiting Cuba, the first Chilean president to do so since Salvador Allende. Now, I thought she was part of the "good" or "moderate" left, but does going to Cuba make you part of the "bad" left? Maybe you're good when you sign free trade agreements, but then you can be bad for a while, then become good again. Or it's like certain baseball records--maybe Bachelet is good left*.


boz 12:18 PM  

Thanks to some random person visiting my blog while searching Google for "international kickball games", I came across this post (with comments from Adam Isacson) from my blog in January 2006. It feels like a relevant response to your post this morning and it's also an interesting read three years later.

Greg Weeks 1:15 PM  

I think that was around the same time I was complaining about the way the U.S. media used the term "leftist." We are still waiting to see how the Obama administration frames it all.

Russell 2:10 PM  

Maybe we'll get to see her speak. Allison lived in Chile for almost two years so it'd be interesting for her.

Interestingly, Chile is the focus of this year's Feria de Libros, which we'll be attending.

We all know that relations between countries is often based on potential for mutual gain rather than ideological purity. Hence Mexico having decent relations with Cuba under conservative governments.

Anyhow, I'm using Firefox live bookmars to follow this and a select few other blogs over our slow connection (which we are incredibly lucky to have at all, I fully acknowledge).

Justin Delacour 11:38 PM  

We all know that relations between countries is often based on potential for mutual gain rather than ideological purity. Hence Mexico having decent relations with Cuba under conservative governments.

Indeed, this sort of thing can play well politically on various fronts. On the one hand, it could be seen by some as a business opportunity. On the other hand, paying homage to Cuba can also serve as an easy way for centrist governments to placate their left flank.

Gabriel,  7:42 PM  

She's giving support to a 50 year old dictatorship, one longer and much, much worse than Pinochet's. So I'd guess that makes her a 'bad' leftist.

Greg Weeks 7:49 PM  

Since all the "good" leftists deal with Cuba, are they all "bad"? Not even the Bush administration went that far, as it labeled Chile and Brazil as "good."

Gabriel,  8:14 PM  

I'd say so. I mean, it depends on what you mean as bad. I find Lula and other leftists that support Castro, even indirectly, terrible hypocrites. I can understand why even Bush didn't want to alieanate all of them but I am under no such limitations.

The right in Latin America has been terrible, the only thing worse appears to be the left.

I grew up in a Latin dictatorship, and that only lasted a few years. Cuba has been a dictatorship for decades. is it too strong to say that I hope all those that still support Castro in 2009 rot in eternal hell?

Just my opinion.

Greg Weeks 9:08 PM  

Then everyone and everything is evil. It does have a nice consistency.

Russell 10:34 PM  

I don't think I can have any kind of fruitful conversation with someone who says Cuba now is worse than Chile under Pinochet, but I admire Greg for trying.

In the interest of consistency I certainly hope that Gabriel has never indirectly supported dictatorship by buying anything made in China.

Gabriel,  1:27 AM  

Not everyone and everything. Not everyone supports Cuba so not everyone is evil. Cuba is a 50 year old dictatorship, I mean who in their right mind still supports that regime?

Russell, I suspect you never lived under either regime.
Of course Cuba today is worse than Pinochet. Both are monsters but at least Pinochet finally allowed democracy. His dictatorship only lasted 16 years. Cuba's is more than 3 times lengthier.

Gabriel,  1:31 AM  

By the way Russell, no, a study abroad does not mean living under the regime. You'd need to be Cuban with their restrictions. Just like an expat iin Chile under Pinochet would hardly know what the average Chilean went through.

Gabriel,  1:42 AM  

Ahh, what the hell, it's late and I'm awake in my hotel room. So let's ask.

By what possible measure could Cuba's still-ongoing-after-50-years dictatorship be considered more benign than Pinochet's 16 years?

By number of years?
People killed and lives lost?
Families destroyed?
Economic growth and development?
Institutional strength?

I can't think of a single one where Pinochet, a monster if there ever was one, doesn't look better than Castro.

I guess you could argue that Castro's policies have led to the world's most educated prostitutes, but is that really something to brag about?

gabriel,  8:39 AM  

OK, one last one and I promise not to abuse your hospitality any more!

I know many people still support Pinochet but I most certainly am not one of them. I find conservatives that think highly of him and then talk of Bush promoting democracy both idiotic and hypocrites.

And I I realize there's a certain meta element to discussing which dictatorship is worse. Sort of like arguing which serial killer was nicer.

But I also have a big problem with the Latin left support for Castro. For a region historically racked by undemocratic governments it's incredible people still support a dictatorship in 2009. If Ortega in Nicaragua or Chavez in Venezuela decide to go the same route I suspect many of the same people will support them as well. What's worse, they will claim they think it best for 'the people'.

Finally, if we do want t compare dictatorships it's hard to come up with an metric by which Castro isn't much, much worse than Pinochet. Particularly (but not limited to) the length of time, give the impact that has on people and society.

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