The Left’s Pinochet

Curb Your Relativism

Dear Castro Apologists: Your Ethical Relativism Is Inexcusable.

There was not a single reason to be surprised at Fidel Castro‘s death: he had been sick for a long time already.

A reason to stand in awe were certain reactions to his departure, ranging from Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau praising Castro for being a “remarkable leader” to EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker who tweeted that the Cuban dictator was “a hero for many.”

As a libertarian, there are certain things you get confronted with constantly, ranging from “Zimbabwe must be your dream country,” over “who will build the roads?” to Pinochet. Ah yes, Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean military dictator whose iron fist held his country hostage from 1973 to 1990.

Pinochet is responsible for 3,000 deaths

Pinochet’s rise to power was supported through the US-backed coup d’état on November 11, 1973. His legacy is that of unspeakable horror: the Chilean Army death squad Caravana de la Muerte (“Caravan of Death”) terrorized the population in order to suffocate political opposition. Pinochet is responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 people, as well as for disappearing journalists and the torture of over 25,000.

Pinochet is also known for effective free-market reforms: he privatized numerous state-companies as well as social security and got rid of tariffs. The so-called “Miracle of Chile” made the country more prosperous as ever before. By 1990, GDP had risen by 40%, all while neighboring South American economies were stagnating: Chile was observing its largest economic boom in history.

As much as I would like to see Pinochet’s market reforms to be implemented and economic freedom to thrive, praising his success in the light of his brutality is fundamentally immoral. Some libertarians are equally guilty of this line of argument: in a 2006 article, written on the occasion of the death of Pinochet, the Mises Institute relativized Pinochet’s terror:

“On Sunday, December 10, General Augusto Pinochet of Chile died, at the age of 91. General Pinochet deserves to be remembered for having rescued his country from becoming the second Soviet satellite in the Western hemisphere, after Castro’s Cuba, and, like the Soviet Union, and Cuba under Castro, a totalitarian dictatorship.”

The article continues to explain the dictatorship of Pinochet as a necessary evil against communism and praising his free-market inspirations. Yet, tyranny cannot be relativized.

Achieving peace and prosperity through perpetual war and destruction is immoral.

Switching a totalitarian dictatorship for another is not a defense of liberty. In contrary, it is this very state-induced pragmatism that leads to the rise of fascism in the first place. If we were to accept the utilitarian premise that the 1973 coup provided Chile with more economic and personal liberty, then were do we do draw the line for the moral foundation for non-interventionism?

Fidel Castro is responsible for the execution of hundreds

The apologists of recently deceased Fidel Castro need to face the same dilemma: achieving peace and prosperity through perpetual war and destruction is immoral. I have left the argument to others whether or not Cuban literacy rates, healthcare performance and overall happiness are indeed what many leftists make them to be.

Fidel Castro is responsible for the execution of hundreds, the imprisonment of thousands and the displacement of millions. His policies have led to food shortages and innovative stagnation.

The attempt to “understand” Castro, by that by the media or politicians such as Trudeau or Juncker, are an attempt to ethically relativize his murderous legacy, to contextualize it in time and space. Yet the context will always be that state violence, as is the initiation of force committed by individuals, is morally inexcusable.


This article first appeared on PanAm Post.