What The Pope Knows
Francis I, the Pope of Rome, is currently spending a couple of days visiting Cuba, a political dictatorship. But it is a milder one than was the Argentine dictatorship under which he lived back in the 70s. Cuba jails dissidents but has yet to resort to the death squad policies characteristic of right wing tyrannies. For instance,the Argentine generals tortured their subversives in the most horrible ways and then, with nightly flights, tossed them, some dead, others still alive, into the Atlantic Ocean.
One big difference between the Cuban dictatorship and the one in Argentina is that the latter enjoyed the benediction and practical advice and aid of Washington and, in particular, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
The 70s marked the high point of American influence in Latin America. A hard working CIA, ONI and their like spawned and succored murderous military regimes across the continent so that the vast majority of Latinos suffered un-elected generals as their leaders. Without the drag of democracy, Washington and Wall Street were able to get whatever they wanted from their local Latin compradors. And that included such spiffy deals for U.S. oil companies as paying pennies a barrel in royalties for Venezuelan oil.
Blood flowed in torrents. In little Guatemala, a succession of American-advised tin pots slaughtered an estimated 200,000 indigenous people. In Argentina, 22,000 were disappeared and/or killed.
Thus life under brutal, U.S.-sponsored dictatorships is the common heritage of older Latin Americans, people of the Pope’s generation. Obviously, they are not impressed either by Washington’s claim to be a champion of democracy or its cynical accusations against Cuba.
Cuba and Fidel Castro, so reviled in the U.S., remain respected if not admired in Latin America. It’s not because Latinos favor socialism or a Cuban-style dictatorship, but because little Cuba has stood up for better than a half century against the colossus of the north that brought so much misery and grief to their nations.
The Pope, a Latin American, is suffused with this history about which we are willfully ignorant. A diplomat, he’s not likely to remind us of those bad old days on his trip here. Besides, he has other fish to fry. He’s got complaints against capitalism, our holy of holies. He had better be decorous about these as well, lest the CIA take up his case.