Friday, August 18, 2006

Comrade Bob in the news

Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe is showing no signs of slowing - or stepping - down in his old age.

In a week where he has publically threatened his political opponents and taken further steps to ruin his nation's already demolished economy, it's rumored that the 82 year old Mugabe took a little "me time" overseas.

The state run Herald published the photo (above) which fueled rumors that the elderly dictator has had a facelift. Mugabe, naturally, was unwilling to confirm or deny rumors that he's had frivolous surgery while his once prosperous nation continues its slow and steady slide into mayhem.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Alfredo Stroessner

Finally! Some dictator news that doesn't involve Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez.

Yesterday, the exiled former dictator of Paraguay Generalissimo Alfredo Stroessner, died of pneumonia at age 93 in Brasilia, Brazil.

Stroessner had been out of the political picture since his ouster in a 1989 military coup, but managed to control Paraguay with an iron fist for 35 years. After fighting in Paraguay's disastrous Chaco War, Stroessner rose metorically through the ranks of the Paraguayan military, attaining the rank of Brigadier General by the very young age of 36.

In 1954, Stroessner knocked out the president of Paraguay in a military coup, and proceeded to hold onto power for the next 35 years, a record only Fidel Castro has broken in the Americas. A dedicated anti-communist, Stroessner never attempted to explain his own political philosophy in very much depth, but the political style of his autocratic rule leaned towards state nationalism and fascism, which certainly may have explained his prediliction for offering political asylum in Paraguay to fugitive Nazi war criminals, including the Angel of Death himself, Josef Menegele.

On the foreign stage, Stroessner leaned towards isolationism. His anti-communist stance put him in America's good graces starting with the Eisenhower administration, but he found himself abandoned by the United States after presidents Carter and Reagan cut political ties with him over Paraguay's abysmal human rights record. On the domestic front, Stroessner has been grudgingly credited with making tangible improvements to Paraguay's infrastructure and economy, including greenlighting and financing Paraguayan participation in the massive Itaipu dam project that turned his impoverished nation into an energy exporter.

With Stroessner's passing, the age of the right wing South American generalissimo is quickly drawing to a close. Only Jorge Videla of Argentina and Augusto Pinochet of Chile remain alive (if deposed), and both are elderly and frail. Clearly, the era of strutting banana republic brasshats has ended. The new breed of dictators, epitomized by the likes of the like of Hugo Chavez, have changed the political and personal style, but the substance remains more or less the same.

Monday, August 14, 2006

All Castro, all the time

Are there no other dictators in the news lately? I almost feel that I'm being unfair to Fidel Castro, who spent his 80th birthday in a hospital bed, recovering from intestinal surgery.

Never one to miss a photo opportunity with the old man, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez flew to Havana to visit his ailing political role model and wish him well. It's nice to see that some romances, however loathesome, are built to last. Here's hoping that Godzilla rises from the sea and stamps both of them out like a cigarette butt.

Speaking of Chavez, would anyone like to speculate how the infusion of the Venezuelan petrodollars keeping the flyblown carcass of Cuba's economy afloat is going to complicate the fight for succession when Fidel kicks the bucket? No sane person would suggest that Raul Castro would risk losing Hugo's precious economic assistance by daring to ease political pressure on internal dissidents, liberalize trade, or seek better relations with the United States. More to the point, when the elderly Raul dies, who plays kingmaker? There is no apparent chain of succession after the younger Castro - a situation that puts Chavez in control until his oil money runs out, or better yet, is deposed in a coup himself.

Now seriously, I'm getting bored with the gruesome twosome. What has Robert Mugabe been up to lately?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Castro hangs on

One week after transferring power to his brother Raúl, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is still recuperating from surgery to repair intestinal bleeding. Christopher Hitchens is of the opinion that this transfer of power amounts to a soft military coup, but despite any simple comparisons to Poland's former dictator, it seems all but assured that Fidel will be coming back to power if and when he recovers from his mysterious illness.

Yet if Fidel dies, what comes next? Would his brother, who is also head of the Cuban armed forces, institute martial law? Would he seek detente with the west? Would Hugo Chavez, having bought his way into Cuba's political system, dictate the terms of succession? Would the US sit idly by in the case of a power vacuum in Cuba? Or will the creaky Soviet style totalitarian relic creak onwards, financed by Venezuelan charity indefinitely?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Finale for Fidel?

Could it be curtains for Castro? In an unprecendented move, Fidel Castro has temporarily ceded control of Cuba to his younger brother Raul (pictured above at right) while undergoing intestinal surgery for a "stress" related complaint. Castro, who will be 80 years old on August 13, has ruled Cuba since January 1, 1959, making him the longest serving dictator in living memory (having surpassed Kim Il-Sung's 46 year reign in North Korea).

It is worth recounting that Fidel once warned the CIA that Raul would take control of Cuba in the event of his death, and said ominously "and Raul is far more radical than I am". One wonders if old age has tempered Raul, but it doesn't seem to have done much to improve the elderly Fidel's disposition. Should Fidel kick the bucket, the future of dinosaur Marxism in the Americas will likely skip over Raul and go to Fidel's loathesome comrade, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.