TCS Daily

Che vs Pinochet?

By Fredrik Segerfeldt - April 19, 2005 12:00 AM

A friend of mine went to Cuba, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt. It was one with this classic Che Guevara picture, with beret and all. Revolution, romanticism and a sexy-looking young man. That is all you need to be cool these days, it seems.


I have never worn it, though. Not that I do not want to look cool, I have just always been appalled by popular cultures choice of icons. I dont have a problem with icons, or with popular culture for that matter. It is just that I do not understand the idolization of murderers. Every time I see a picture of Che I ask myself: how would I look in a t-shirt picturing Augusto Pinochet?


Most people are shocked by the comparison. One man is dragged in front of courts in a wheel-chair, and his crimes are reported in the press over and over again, whereas the other one is the lover boy of, what it seems, much of an entire generation. Most recently he was portrayed in the blockbuster film Motorcycle Diaries.


Let us therefore look back at the legacy of the two men. Both Che and Pinochet are obviously murderers and in favour of dictatorship. But one helped installed a dictatorship that has led to poverty whereas the other one ran a dictatorship that brought wealth and stability to the country. In 1975, the Chilean GDP per capita, adjusted for purchasing power, was $1,321 (current international dollars). In 2003 it was $10,206. The average income of Chileans has thus been multiplied by almost eight in 28 years. Chile is now a stable democracy and the most prosperous country of South America. Cuba has gone in the opposite direction.


(True, Che Guevara did not run Cuba, but he was a buddy of Castros and a proponent of the same kind of economic system and dictatorship. And, if you dont like the comparison, exchange Che for Fidel, who is also pictured in popular culture contexts around the world, however to a lesser extent).


So, leftists would say, economic growth is not everything. Cuba still works when it comes to health and education, for example. But Chiles economic growth has brought the country well ahead of Cuba in the UNDPs Human Development Index, the ranking most Cuba lovers tend to use to play down the worldwide success of capitalism.


I hate oppressors. And I have no mercy for dictators. And I dont like to be forced to choose between two evils. But if I had to, it would be an easy choice: Murder, torture and poverty versus murder, torture and poverty eradication? Therefore I plead to clothing manufacturers around the world: who wants to sell me a Pinochet t-shirt? I would not wear it with pride, but it would be a pleasure to provoke people and to display the absurdity of the Che idolatry.



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