Thursday, January 15, 2004

BROADBENT AND CASTRO

Yesterday Prof. Broadbent told us an interesting anecdote about a visit he once had with Fidel Castro.

In 1992 Broadbent went to see Castro in Cuba on behalf of various social democratic and left-leaning European governments. The situation was that Spain was holding big celebrations in honour of the 500-year anniversary of the Columbus expedition. They were inviting representatives from all Latin American countries to Spain for the party, but specifically not the United States. Spain wanted to invite Castro but some other nations wanted to take the opportunity to try and get serious concessions out of Castro, in fact to get him to give up his dictatorship altogether.

Broadbent made the offer to Castro that he step down as dictator-for-life and open up the country to free and fair elections in which Castro himself could run. In exchange various European countries would pledge substanial foriegn aid to Cuba no matter who won, and Castro would get the token of being invited to the big celebrations in Spain without the U.S.

Braodbent put the argument to Castro that while he may be in control of Cuba now, he would not be able to predict what would happen to Cuba after he died(i.e U.S policy). Broadbent suggested that opening up the country to elections would allow a basic economic system Castro desired to be perpetuated in Cuba more legitimately after he was gone. Broadbent also made the point that Castro would nearly assuredly win the first election and proabably subsequent elections.

Castro, apparently spent an hour and a half saying 'no' to Braodbent. He reasoned (probably correctly as Broadbent noted) that he may be able to win the first election and even the second but he could not guarantee his perpetual reign, which is what he really wanted.

This seems to be a first hand lesson that dictators crave power above all else and will do anything necessary to hold on to it. Compromise is rarely an option for them.

There may also be a more complex lesson about how to deal with dictators but I'm not entirely sure what it is.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:42 PM