In 1635, the Spanish dramatist, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, staged his masterpiece, Life is a Dream. In this drama, Calderón proposes that, in an age of European absolute monarchical power, the struggle between King Basilio and his son Segismundo was to be framed within the dynamic relationship of just monarchical rule vs. people’s revolt against unjust rule. Closer in time, the Nobel-Prize-winning Guatemalan writer, Miguel Ángel Asturias, published in 1946 his landmark novel, Mr. President, where he exposes the negative social consequences of political repression. Asturias’ novel is unique in that it suggests that the dictator also is a victim of the climate of terror that engulfed Guatemala during the long lasting dictatorship of Manuel Estrada Cabrera. Since then, Latin America has had to endure more tyrannical rule as shown in the following partial list of dictatorships: the Anastasio Somoza (father and son) in Nicaragua, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in Dominican Republic, Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay, François Duvalier in Haiti, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Manuel Noriega in Panama, Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina, and Fulgencio Batista and the Castro brothers in Cuba. Although the power and number of Latin American dictatorships had diminished by the end of the 20th Century, and despite the fact that most tyrants escaped the hand of justice, there were a few who either had to face judicial proceedings against them (Pinochet, Noriega and Videla) or paid for their crimes with their own lives (the Somozas, and Trujillo).
It is with this Spanish and Latin American historical legacy of tyrants who wield absolutely corrupted and self-serving government power, in spite of their peoples’ suffering, that current events in the so called Arab Spring offer a sobering example to the remaining Latin American repressive regimes; foremost among them, the government of Fidel and Raúl Castro. Coincidentally, an October 21, 2011 article titled “The Ends,” the Cuban dissident blogger, Yoani Sánchez comments in her blog, Generation Y, on the death of Muammar Qaddafi, and in doing so she echoes the fear at the top with which Asturias had haunted the tyrant of his El Señor Presidente. She says, “They always have a hidden door, a secret passage through which they can scurry away when they sense danger,” and she adds, “[…] they fear that the same people who applaud them in the plazas can come for them when they lose their fear.” Ms. Sánchez goes on to argue for the need to hold trials for tyrants such as Qaddafi, instead of allowing them to escape as martyrs with their claims of legitimacy unchallenged. In case someone misses the real point of her article, she insists that, “Better that they survive, that they stay and realize that neither history nor their people will ever absolve them.” This, of course, is a clear linkage of the Libyan dictator’s fate to Fidel Castro’s defense following his trial for attempting the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship. The title of Castro’s speech is History will absolve me.