July 24, 2007

At Least Cuba Has Beaches

Okay, so next week we fly to beautiful Miami, Fl, for some well-deserved vacation. While I'm looking forward to seeing some friends and family, I know eventually the conversation is going to shift to the inevitable comparisons between Fidel Castro and Bolivia's Evo Morales. Some of my Cuban friends will say something like "So, how's Bolivia doing? You know, that's how Castro started...." And not wanting to be rude I'd say something like, "Yeah, Bolivia is going from bad to worse...."

But in fact, these comparisons to Fidel Castro drive me nuts. BOLIVIA IS NOT CUBA. While I'm no fan of dirty communists, there is good reason why Evo got elected. In Bolivia there is massive social inequality and, for all practical purposes, it is (or was) an apartheid-like state. Does any one really believe that South Africa under P.W. Botha did not deserve to change? These facile comparisons with Cuba ignore Bolivia's horrible social and political history and deny the great injustices that need to be addressed in order for the country to crawl it's way out of the bottom of the South American barrel.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of Evo. I think that cheeky bastard is doing great harm to that country. What Bolivia needs is strong democratic institutions, not his slow but steady dismantling of them. While I sympathise with Morales's "social justice" argument and his desire to advance "indigenous" causes, I really believe that in the end he will do more harm than good because, after he is finished, Bolivia's will be as far away from democracy as, dare I say it, Cuba is now. I support Evo's social vision, but I lament the way he is going about it.

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