Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Pots and kettles

You have to love Fidel Castro's latest article in Granma, which as usual wanders all over, from distant memories to the recent Copenhagen meetings. With no apparent sense of irony, he talks about fighting dictatorship and "the ardent flames of our battles for freedom." But it gets even better when he criticizes Barack Obama for a speech that was a "combination of sweetened words seasoned with theatrical gestures" that for Fidel was "boring." Later he talks about how all this is known on "internet web pages," carefully chosen by the Cuban state.


Will Shetterly 10:30 AM  

Huh. I understand being amused by Castro's long speeches and hating some of his positions, but it seems to me Batista, who Castro fought, was a dictator who was worse for the Cuban people than Castro.

Anonymous,  10:34 AM  

Hard to imagine how Batista was worse, considering how long Castro's dictatorship has lasted. Plus, is that relevant in any way? Is Castro excused in any way simply because his dictatorship is not the worst possible?

Will Shetterly 11:20 AM  

Well, it's just that Castro has fought dictatorship and did bring about some freedom--life for the average Cuban improved once the US's pet dictator was out of office. I don't mind bashing Castro for his failings--I love democracy as much as anyone who knows Tom Paine's name--but it seems like Castro's entitled to credit for what he did. Compared to some monsters that the US has supported, and in some cases, has overthrown democracies to install, Castro's not so bad.

Anonymous,  11:31 AM  

Castro's not so bad? Wow.

I mean, yes, Castro's not Hitler. In that sense he's better, much better. But even compared with other dictators in the hemisphere Castro is pretty bad. Think of Pinochet. Pinochet is better than Castro in almost every possible measure. More people have died or been exiled under Castro. Castro's control of the population was greater and has lasted longer than Pinochet's, much, much longer. And let's not forget that Pinochet left an organized and growing country, his economic policies were kept by the Concertacion and are the basis of Chile moving to 'developed country' status. Castro on the other hand presided over an economy so bad its main accomplishment appear to be the world's best educated prostitutes.

And you don't even need to compare to Chile. Just look at how Bahamas has fared. It's practically Switzerland compared to Cuba.

boz 12:20 PM  

Pinochet is better than Castro in almost every possible measure.

I think we should coin a "Latin corollary" to Godwin's law that says all discussions of democracy in Latin America will eventually descend into a debate about Pinochet and/or Castro. Preferably both.

Anonymous,  12:33 PM  

Well, in this case the discussion is not about democracy so much as it is about comparing dictatorships. In that context comparing Pinochet and Castro is pretty relevant.

On the other hand if you want to simply say that all dictatorships should be avoided I will agree, and then we can return to Greg's point, that as a dictator Castro is not in a position to criticize anyone.

But why do so many people claim to care about democracy but are so willing to support dictatorships at the same time? Although said support is almost always offered while living in other places

Will Shetterly 12:38 PM  

Boz, ditto. I started to answer Anonymous, then decided that, as is too often the case with political discussions online, this is really a religious matter, and in my political religion, what matters is a form of democracy that allows for meaningful change--as in, at least a form that's better than what Honduras has.

Will Shetterly 12:41 PM  

Anonymous, we crossposted. I'll answer this: "But why do so many people claim to care about democracy but are so willing to support dictatorships at the same time?"

Because too often, the alternatives are war or cold war that make the situation worse.

Greg Weeks 1:11 PM  

I am not sure where all these comparisons came in. My very simple point was that dictators should not criticize dictators, and long-winded speech-makers should not make fun of long-winded speech-makers.

Anonymous,  8:47 PM  

Instead of arguing over how Castro is better or worse than Batista, perhaps we can reminisce about their connectedness.

Fidel Castro accepted $1,000 at his first wedding as a gift from the then former president. Fulgencio Batista was after all from Banes, the eastern company town of the United Fruit Company. Fidel's wife and her family, Marta Diaz Balart, were close to the Batistas and her father eventually joined his cabinet in the 1950s. A great catch for an aspiring politician who was wealthy but lacked social status.

Fidel's first son thus has two uncles in the US Congress who enjoy spending time talking about Fidel. Fidel of course accepted the cash with gratitude, and, along with tens of thousands of dollars from his wealthy father, enjoyed an extended and luxurious honeymoon in New York.

Will Shetterly 10:30 PM  

Anonymous, I love stories like that, but, well, it's kind of like knowing that Ulysses S. Grant owned slaves during the Civil War through his wife, at a time when Robert E. Lee had freed his--it's relevant to the bigger picture how?

Anonymous,  8:38 AM  

Ideology is not everything, eh? It might be relevant because we might remember that political animals like Batista and Castro share some common personal characteristics, when measuring tyrants differing ideologies often mask commonalities, and that the argument" who is worse?" is a dead end. Mostly I posted it to be an irreverant counterpoint to a predictable debate.

leftside 11:06 PM  

My very simple point was that dictators should not criticize dictators, and long-winded speech-makers should not make fun of long-winded speech-makers.

Both points are off base. Castro was not making fun of long-winded speech makers. He only said Obama's speech was boring for political junkies like him who must watch all his speeches (they are - as almost all sanitized US Presidential speeches are).

And I'm sure most would consider it irrelevant but Fidel Castro (and now Raul) was elected time and again by overwhelming margins in his home district (Santiago's 7th District) and then again in the National Assembly (both in secret ballots). It is called a Parliamentary system - albeit one with Revolutionary (and self-defense) attributes

Fidel's comments about the so-called "representative and pure democracy" that prevailed in Cuba before the Revolution are widespread and well known. He has never been shy about saying clearly what he thinks about liberal capitalist democratic models that are necessarily beholden to the interests of the powerful. Cuba chose a different model. But to call it a dictatorship and try to draw ironic parallels with Batista's Army (and capitalist class) granted coup regime is simply poor analysis.

leftside 11:07 PM  

Fidel's speeches may be long, but they are rarely boring - at least when they get going.

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