Friday, August 04, 2006

History lessons

He is a strong-willed, sometimes-brutal, shrewd, vain dictator who has been the undisputed leader of his subjects for more than 30 very long years. He is old and not well but determined to die in power – because he thinks no one else could ever possibly do the job. Of course.

But all of sudden, the octogenarian dictator gets sick. Serious heart problems. So serious is his condition, he is forced into hospital and to cede power – temporarily – to his chosen, little known successor.
The dictator stays in hospital and then at home recovering for about two months. As soon as he is well enough - and afraid that things may get away from him - he takes over the reins of power again, telling everyone that everything is fine. Back to normal.

They aren’t. Barely 12 months later, the dictator is rushed to hospital again. This time it is really, really serious. He remains in a comma for nearly a month, dying a slow and possibly agonising death as the entire world watches fascinated and repulsed.

No, not talking about Fidel Castro.

I am talking about Francisco Franco, another gallego, who ruled Spain with an iron fist between 1939 (at the end of the Spanish Civil War) to November 1975, when he died, thinking (as dictators always do) that he had left everything in place – atado y bien atado.

Of course, the Spanish ending is a happy ending, with the newly-crowned King Juan Carlos quickly moving to transform the country Franco had once said was too immature for democracy into a multi-party, economically strong, democratically healthy, modern European state. Not perfect, I am sure, but not bad.

There are many differences between Spain in 1975 and Cuba in 2006, not least the fact that the Spanish press back then was a beacon of democracy and openness compared to the media in communist Cuba. And the Spanish economy built up by Franco and his technocrats was robust and growing. And ... many other differences. But it's still an interesting comparison.

Unfortunately, I can’t see Raul Castro in the Juan Carlos role.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am with you. Raul Castro is not Juan Carlos. Y por favor, no me compares a Fidel Castro con Franco. Por lo menos Franco dejo a Espana bien puesta.

8:54 pm  

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