Double Standards for Dictators

I almost did a double take when reading this editorial knowing it came from the Washington Post. Kudos to the staff of the editorial page for printing something very politically incorrect about deceased former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and acknowledging the horrible truth that Fidel Castro, the aging communist ruler of Cuba, has not been sufficiently denounced.

Castro-worship (and really Fidel is just a cipher for any leftist dictator) is an amusing thing. I once encountered a college professor who was so enamored of him, he even defended Castro's systematic murders and imprisonments of gay Cubans, despite having previously denounced the right for being anti-gay just weeks before. The further irony was, that this guy taught ancient political philosophy and history and yet was forever going on about how wonderful Fidel was.

And now to the excerpt:

It's hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15 years, Chile's economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its poverty rate has been halved. It's leaving behind the developing world, where all of its neighbors remain mired. It also has a vibrant democracy. Earlier this year it elected another socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, who suffered persecution during the Pinochet years.

Like it or not, Mr. Pinochet had something to do with this success. To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle -- and that not even Allende's socialist successors have dared reverse. He also accepted a transition to democracy, stepping down peacefully in 1990 after losing a referendum.

By way of contrast, Fidel Castro -- Mr. Pinochet's nemesis and a hero to many in Latin America and beyond -- will leave behind an economically ruined and freedomless country with his approaching death. Mr. Castro also killed and exiled thousands. But even when it became obvious that his communist economic system had impoverished his country, he refused to abandon that system: He spent the last years of his rule reversing a partial liberalization. To the end he also imprisoned or persecuted anyone who suggested Cubans could benefit from freedom of speech or the right to vote.

The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.

Hat tip: Kate McMillan at Small Dead Animals who has more examples of the Castro-Pinochet double standard.
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013