Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Old dictators die hard

It's amazing how easily people remember the likes of 20th century Nicaraguan strongman Anastasio Somoza, and continue to invoke his unholy name alongside currently despicable characters.

Today in his column, Bob Kagan takes the Bush administration to task for failing to criticize Putin in Russia, charging that "Putin is imposing dictatorship the old-fashioned way, in the manner of a Ferdinand Marcos, an Anastasio Somoza or a Park Chung Hee." The Washington Post editorializes in a similar fashion, but credits Kerry with saying the right thing.

In his personal blog, David Corn notes that Putin wants to refashion the Russian political system such that Putin "would appoint all the governors in the country and Russians could only vote for parties, not specific candidates, in parliamentary elections. The net result: Putin would have the political system of Russia under his thumb; his foes would be shut out. Putin calls this "managed democracy." It's more akin to czarism."

It's also akin to the kind of system that El Salvador has, but which legislators will be earnestly debating and revising in the coming weeks.

Just for fun, also read his charging the Bushies with having "double-standards" (always nice when conservatives do us the favor):

Failure to take sides with democratic forces in Russia will cast doubt on Bush's commitment to worldwide democracy. A White House official commented to the New York Times that Putin's actions are "a domestic matter for the Russian people." Really? If so, then the same holds for all other peoples whose rights are taken away by tyrants. If the Bush administration holds to that line, then those hostile to democracy in the Middle East will point to the glaring U.S. double standard; those who favor democracy in the Middle East will be discredited. That will be a severe blow to what Bush regards as a central element of his war on terrorism.
Second, in listening to Marc Cooper's interview of Peter Kornbluh on RadioNation the other day, regarding Pinochet's secret bank accounts, Kornbluh noted that Pinochet has now lost his previously "clean" (in terms of corruption) reputation, to join the ranks of Somoza. Also notable on this subject is Ariel Dorfman's New York Times op-ed on September 11th -- also the date of the 31st anniversary of the overthrow of the democratically elected Salvador Allende.

(Admittedly, the Somoza reference is my lame excuse for trying to bring Central America into the spotlight of current affairs.)

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