Time for Departures in the Americas

Through a masterful play of geopolitics, the Cuban leaders managed to become the world's leading subsidized economy. The Soviet Union and then Venezuela playing the role of the supporter...

Spring is the season for new beginnings. Sunshine and life predominate on earth while people relaunch their projects dreams and aspirations.

It is a time of plans and projects according to Tolstoy.

It is also the time to shed skin, cocoons, coatings and crusts representing old ideas, behaviors and demeanors.

It is the time for the past to give way to the present.

The invisible hand of history impeccably staged the spring rite in the Americas as two departures took center stage.

First was the Castros’ farewell at the Communist Party Congress of Cuba. The next Cuban congress will most probably proceed without the presence of a leadership that succeeded at turning history back in our hemisphere.

Then there was Patricio Aylwin’s passage to immortality which has prompted his fellow countrymen to give weight to the transcendental contribution he made to the rejuvenation of Chilean democracy.

Interestingly enough, Cuba and Chile’s development histories depart from different points and march down opposite roads.

The first anomaly among them was development.

As the Caribbean gateway, Cuba enjoyed the best of trade flows from the 16th century onwards. This had turned its society into a learned nation capable of producing primary school text books for the rest of Latin America during the better part of the 20th century.

Chile, on its turn was considered to be “a poor and dangerous” place from the 17th century until the 18th century. Reforms to open its economy to free trade and extensive exploitation of salt and nitrates and later of copper and other metals progressively led the economy into abundance.

Today Cuba and Chile have reached opposite development destinations. Cuba is bankrupt. Chile is prosperous. The difference being the quality of their respective political leadership.

In Cuba, we have seen an ideologue regime led by two brothers who completely ignore the workings of economics while mastering every aspect of power control. This has led to the impoverishment of the society as a whole and the assassination of freedom.

In Chile, the denial of freedom brought about by political crisis led its leadership to build a strong democracy with separation of powers and above all based on the rule of law. This explains the so called “Chilean Miracle” which has led the country to triple its income per capita in 25 years and to reduce poverty by 30% over the same time period.

Patricio Aylwin’s greatest concern while at the helm of Chile was to leave the pillars of rule of law solidly planted.

In consequence, he created a commission to record the abuses committed during General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship so that, as democracy advanced, this report could serve the purpose of establishing the institutional framework to support its vitality and long life. He chose not to confront General Pinochet who was still Army Commander, as he understood that conflict could impair the development of democratic institutions which were essential to the country’s project.

When a Spanish judge succeeded in charging General Pinochet for his human rights abuses, Patricio Aylwin was among those supporting his country’s request to bring him back home to be judged in Chile. And while many of those standings were highly criticized when he was Chile’s head of state, time has shown the wisdom of his judgement that was driven towards creating and preserving the architecture for freedom.

In contrast, the Castro brothers’ affair with power has been all but creative.

Conceiving power as the method through which their leadership would overcome destroyed the already faulty institutional framework of Cuba. It was replaced by their volition.

The heretofore most prosperous economy in the Caribbean, where workers ranked eighth in the world in terms of compensation, slowly collapsed into a ramshackle economic system unable to feed its people.

Through a masterful play of geopolitics, the Cuban leaders managed to become the world’s leading subsidized economy. The Soviet Union and then Venezuela playing the role of the supporter.

After over half a century, the Cuban leaders have little to show except for a massive exodus of its people to the U.S. who were escaping their ruthlessness and now are key to returning Cuba to its Caribbean gateway status. Chileans, on the contrary have vanquished French wines and Scottish salmon all over the world and are about to become leaders in mining.