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The Latino Nostalgia for Authoritarianism in Latin America

Published October 7, 2021 in Personal Stories & Opinions - 0 Comments

When I was in Argentina years ago, I had to travel to some small town in Posadas to do some interview with a few folks at an agrarian cooperative.

Here's a photo of the place.

Anyway, I did the interviews and recorded them for some thesis I was writing.

When I got back to Buenos Aires, I remember having an Argentine chick named Tami helped me with a few small bits of the recordings.

She was some chick I was hanging with and sometimes hooking up with as you can read here.

We probably knew each other for maybe 2 or 3 months?

And, as she sat down with me to listen to a few bits of the recordings, she made a few condescending comments regarding the men I interviewed.

Mostly in regards to their political views.

There was one moment where she disagreed about their political views with some Argentine President.

I think it was Macri but I don’t remember perfectly right now.

And also there was a disagreement she had regarding the Argentine dictatorship that you can read about here.

Basically, Tami believed that the Argentine dictatorship did some good in Argentina or that, at the very least, these guys didn’t know what they were talking about in regards to the dictatorship.

That they exaggerated how bad it really was basically.

And also I remember her commenting on how, in her opinion, the Argentine dictatorship did a better job supposedly handling the problem of domestic terrorism that Argentina saw before the rise of the military junta.

Terrorism, according to her, that had to do with peronists on the left and right as you can read about here.

"Upon Perón's arrival at Buenos Aires Airport, snipers opened fire on the crowds of left-wing Peronist sympathizers. Known as the 1973 Ezeiza massacre, this event marked the split between left-wing and right-wing factions of Peronism. Perón was re-elected in 1973, backed by a broad coalition that ranged from trade unionists in the center to fascists on the right (including members of the neo-fascist Movimiento Nacionalista Tacuara) and socialists like the Montoneros on the left."

Though, on the flip side, a lot of the people killed were not necessarily terrorists and many were just those on the political left as you can see here.

Now, to be fair, I don’t have any opinion on that dictatorship.

I’ve heard horror stories about what they did so I don’t have any positive impression to be fair.

Though, on the flip side, I also sometimes do consider the potential benefits for society at large when it comes to more authoritarian party systems of governance.

But I won’t horrify anyone right now with my political opinions.

Maybe next Monday I will.

Regardless, that was the first and one of the few times I have ever seen a Latino in Latin America make a positive comment regarding any of the former dictatorships.

I can’t remember any earlier example on top of my head right now.

Since then, I have seen other folks though idealize certain characters in Latin America.

As I wrote here, it’s not entirely uncommon for gringos to do the same by idealizing certain cunts like Castro who I do think was, in many ways, a disaster for Cuba.

Similarly, you have folks who have idealized characters like Pablo Escobar or the cartels that exist today in general.

And while I don’t like the idealization of some of these characters like Castro and think some of the gringos who idealize someone like him to be an idiot…

On the flip side, I also find it interesting to say the least whenever I see a Latino (usually on social media these days) idealize dictatorships down here also.

It’s one thing for a gringo who has spent very limited to no time down here talking about something that he has no fucking relation to.

But it’s another for a Latino in Latin America to have similar idealizations for far left or far right characters that killed lots of people.

Of course, it should be said that not every Latino who does this would even remember those characters either.

Tami was around my age and would definitely not remember the dictatorship in any circumstance.

So her idealization also comes from, perhaps to a lesser degree than the inexperienced gringo, a point of naivety.

Still, let’s get into some examples of when we see this play out.

And make sure to use this table of contents to help navigate the article if you wish with my more important conclusions near the end under Final Thoughts.

So let's jump right in!

The Good Ol’ Pinochet Years of Chile

In Chile, they had a leftist President named Allende who was dealing with a bit of a social and economic crisis under his leadership.

And there were soon efforts by the CIA, the Chilean military and others to basically undermine or bring down Allende in some fashion.

That isn’t to say that Allende didn’t have any responsibility for the mess under his tenure but there were efforts to bring him down ultimately.

Anyway, there was eventually a coup against Allende led by a man named Pinochet.

Allende died and Pinochet became a dictator who even made his own constitution that Chile is now trying to replace.

During Pinochet’s rule, a lot of people died.

To this day, I’ve seen people say that Pinochet should’ve killed more people.

That he didn’t finish the job of killing all the people necessary to make Chile even better.

And, in justification for what Pinochet did, you have this narrative that he made Chile “the best country of Latin America.”

Now, to be fair, Chile is one of the more successful countries in Latin America right now.

Before he came into power, Chile was arguably quite a mess of a country in many ways.

So I do think, at least from my novice opinion, that Pinochet did bring some successful measures in helping improve the country economically.

Though Chile has its own economic problems today like inequality, it’s still definitely one of the better countries to be born in Latin America if you just had to be born down here.

And the recognition of Pinochet’s contribution or those associated with him isn't lost.

As you can see here, there was a tribute made to a man known as Miguel Krassnoff.

Who was a Chilean military official who worked in the coup against Allende to bring Pinochet to power.

So his legacy hasn’t gone away and there are folks who admire what he did despite the bad shit he did also.

The Brazilian Dictatorship

Next, you have this interesting article here of Brazilian President Bolsonaro talking nicely of the former Brazilian dictatorship with some quotes I'll lay out below from him:

"During the dictatorship, they should have shot 30,000 corrupt people, starting with the (then) President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, which would have been a great gain for the nation."

"For the memory of colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, the terror of Rousseff... my vote is yes!" -- After voting in favor of impeaching then-president Dilma Rousseff, a former guerrilla who was tortured under the military dictatorship, Bolsonaro dedicated his vote to retired colonel Ustra, the former head of the military dictatorship's intelligence services accused of having killed at least six people under torture."

"The dictatorship's mistake was to torture but not kill."

Similar to the discourse about Pinochet, you can see there is this idea that the dictatorship should’ve killed even more people than it did.

With the right people killed, the idea being that society would be better off without their negative influence.

Not endorsing the idea but you do have some people who agree with that idea.

Even powerful people like Bolsonaro.

Admiration for Porfirio Diaz of Mexico

To be honest, this is an historical figure that I can get why some people like him.

From my basic understanding of Mexican history, you basically had a lot of chaos in the country in the decades after its independence from a power vacuum as I understand it.

Then a powerful dictator named Porfirio Diaz rose to power and managed to stay in power long enough to implement changes.

Did he kill any innocent people? Of course! Plenty of them.

But, in the context of all of the instability before his tenure, you can argue that he was a breath of fresh air in some respects.

Less civil conflict than before maybe.

And, on top of that, he industrialized the country in very significant ways that brought Mexico ahead by many decades economically.

On top of that, he also had the strategic understanding that Mexico eventually needs to be less dependent on the US and do more business with European countries for investment.

Now he didn’t achieve that very well but he had the foresight to predict that it would be necessary.

Of course, there’s a few black spots (to say the least) on Porfirio’s legacy.

For one, if you were indigenous in Mexico, you were about to get ass fucked during his time in office with lots of indigenous folks basically being put into near slave labor on plantations.

Granted, you could flip it around and say “well, Mexico has historically never been favorable to indigenous people. So, relatively speaking, Porfirio isn’t that bad.”

Maybe true to a degree?

But two wrongs don’t make a right on that one.

And everything is relative – how bad the indigenous had it though during his tenure versus before is another question that I can’t answer completely though.

So I’ll leave it alone – it’s simply an argument I’ve heard against that point.

The other argument to be made also against Porfirio Diaz (outside of other human rights violations) was how you could make the case that he set Mexico up for the intense violence that happened after his tenure.

Where given his inability to satisfy a certain percentage of rising elites who believed the door to be shut from Porfirio’s inner circle that ran the country…

To also the immense socioeconomic inequality that was exasperated under his rule and ignored also.

Among other points of tension under his rule that ultimately contributed to the Mexican Revolution.

At the end of the day, said revolution happened right after his tenure and was what forced him from ruling Mexico any longer from 1911 onwards.

The buck stops with him ultimately as to who deserves a bit of the blame for causing the Mexican Revolution to happen.

Which was one of the bloodiest conflicts in the Americas during that century that lasted a decade with so many killed and economic ruin.

So, in a way, I get the appeal of Porfirio given his successful push for industrialization but I also think that the broader historical context with the Mexican Revolution needs to be remembered when we judge his success as a leader.

Anyway, you can find popular videos on the internet made about the guy's positive impact on Mexico like these videos here.

Infrastructure Development of Venezuela

Similar to Mexico in some respects, you also had a dictator in Venezuela who was known for an economic boom and industrializing the country more than what it was before.

That dictator known as Marco Perez Jimenez.

Here’s a video discussing some of the positives of his legacy.

"El 23 de enero de 1958 Venezuela vio caer la dictadura de Marcos Pérez Jiménez. En ese momento el país suramericano contaba con una economía robusta, sólo detrás de Estados Unidos, Reino Unido y Francia. El producto Interno Bruto había crecido de 18 mil millones de dólares en 1950, a más de 32 mil millones de dólares en 1957. Tras dos gobiernos relativamente estables, con Carlos Andrés Pérez llegó la debacle."

With some comments in favor of the guy in the comment section of that video:

" JAJAJAJAJA hasta los zurdos admiten que el general fue el mejor presidente del país"

" El mejor Gobernante de Venezuela en su historia... Marcos Pérez Jiménez"

To keep it simple, you have people who look back favorably on this guy simply because of the economic boom experienced in Venezuela at the time.

And also because the guy invested nicely into the infrastructure of Venezuela.

Building roads and all as you can see here.

Though, from my understanding, his dictatorship wasn’t perfect obviously.

There were issues with a lack of freedom of speech and also a corrupt military that shot people or stole from others at times apparently.

The Stronistas of Paraguay

Le’ts bring up a slightly less important country of Latin America, shall we?

Well, one that many don’t talk about.

In Paraguay, you had the dictatorship of Stroessner.

Similar to Porfirio Diaz, you’ll hear positive arguments in favor of him regarding the economy.

How he helped build the largest hydroelectric dam in the world at the time known as Itaipu Dam as you can see here.

And, as you can in that last source here, brought in huge economic gains for the country.

On the flip side, he also contributed to the death of a lot of people.

When I visited Paraguay years ago, I even saw firsthand the documents regarding the people he killed at the Archives of Terror in Asuncion, Paraguay. 

Plenty of them killed under “Operation Condor” as you can read here.

Which, similar to the Brazil case, you also have some love for Stroessner for his efforts working with other South American nations to kill leftists.

Anyway, the stronistas have not gone away as you can see with this article here and video about the people who still love Stroessner in Paraguay.

Fighting Terrorism with Terrorism in Peru?

To be fair, I have a more limited understanding of the Fujimori leadership in Peru.

But, on this subject, the topic of Fujimori does come up often as another good example.

In which you had a person named Fujimori running Peru that some look back positively on.

Such as how Fujimori managed the economic crisis of inflation reaching levels of 3000% or so apparently.

To also his ability to tackling a domestic terrorist group called Shining Path.

Similar to the Argentine example above, there are some people who look back positively on said government because of its ability to tackle either crime or domestic terrorist groups.

Though, on the flip side, you can argue effectively that the state became the new terrorist with all the people it killed.

Which was, from my understanding, one of the major reasons why Fujimori was imprisoned ultimately as you can read here:

"In April 2009, Fujimori was convicted of human rights violations and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for his role in kidnappings and murders by the Grupo Colina death squad during his government's battle against leftist guerrillas in the 1990s. The verdict, delivered by a three-judge panel, marked the first time that an elected head of state has been extradited to his home country, tried, and convicted of human rights violations. Fujimori was specifically found guilty of murder, bodily harm and two cases of kidnapping."

Still, there are people who clearly look back positively on Fujimori from my impression as his daughter nearly won the last election and even celebrated her release from prison once.

However, you could argue that not everyone who voted for his daughter did so because they liked her dad or even her candidacy.

But I’m sure some voted for her simply because they didn’t trust the current leftist president that they might fear will make “another Venezuela” out of Peru.

Either way, given she was one of the top contenders for the presidency and nearly won, I think that’s indicative of some folks looking back positively on Fujimori.

If you have anything to add though, drop it below in the comments.

A Stadium for a Dictator in Honduras?

Next, we have the Honduran dictator Tiburcio Carias Andino who ran the country from 1933 to 1949.

Similar to other dictators, it’s my impression that some look back favorably on him because of his approach to security and keeping a firm hand on crime.

Among other reasons I’m sure.

Still, I figured to bring this one up despite knowing less about this particular dictatorship simply because you have the second biggest stadium in Honduras named after him as you can see here.

Not a bad recognition of his legacy!

Maybe not as cool as having the first biggest stadium though….

The Desire for a New Trujillo in the DR

Finally, you have the love for former Dominican dictator Trujillo.

With those who loved and hated his time in office when he was around.

You can see a video here of the legacy left behind regarding Trujillo with streets named after him in the Dominican Republic. 

From what I can understand doing some research online, some of the reasons for the nostalgia for Trujillo are mostly based in economics.

Which, if you couldn’t tell by now, seems to be one of the most common threads among the support for most of these dictatorships brought up in this article.

With Trujillo, some of the favorable economic conditions that people like have to do with a lack of government debt and the local currency having a much stronger position against the dollar.

On the flip side, you had human rights violations with people being killed.

And you also had restrictive measures like people not being able to leave the house at 3 AM at times to apparently homes needing a picture of the dude inside with the words “en esta casa manda el jefe.”

Among other weird things about his dictatorship that weren’t so good.

Still, to be fair, it doesn't seem, at least from my impression, for there to be that many people who speak fondly of him today relative to the other dictatorships mentioned in this article.

But that's just my impression.

Final Thoughts

Though the context of each of these dictatorships was quite a bit different (from Porfirio to Pinochet), I do think we can see some commonality among some of the folks who speak fondly of then.

While you do have folks who speak kindly of leftist dictatorships like Castro as mentioned before, this article obviously mostly focused on right wing dictatorships for a change.

Especially as I already wrote about some of the leftist ones in this article here.

Still, at least among the admiration for the right wing dictatorships, some of the commonalities I see are the following.

First, there’s a discussion of the economic conditions. How these dictatorships were able to more effectively inspire investment and economic growth.

Industrialization in the case of Porfirio Diaz of Mexico.

To me, this makes sense.

It’s my personal opinion that right wing dictatorships tend to promote more free market policies usually that favor economic growth and investment.

Also, at the same time, they (like a dictatorship of any political leaning) have less care for human rights.

Therefore, the rights of indigenous people under Porfirio to those under Stroessner of Paraguay will be less taken into account in favor of economic policies that favor the country as a whole.

Be it industrialization in Mexico to building huge hydroelectric dams in Paraguay.

Or promoting better agricultural policies that might fuck over small scale rural producers.

And there might be other reasons for why right wing dictatorships tend to be better at promoting economic growth and investment.

Though, as we saw with someone like Porfirio Diaz or Pinochet, that doesn’t mean all economic conditions are favorable as we tend to see things like socioeconomic inequality get worse.

Anyway, with the belief that economic conditions are better said previous dictatorship, many might look back with nostalgia.

Second, you have the discussion of crime and terrorism.

That former dictatorship was better at handling issues like crime or terrorism.

The country was safer!

A tough man in office who brought “law and order” to the country.

Third, you have folks who look back favorably at these dictatorships because they killed leftists.

If we’re being honest, there is a certain group of people who wish for leftists to be killed.

Similarly, I’d say you have some leftists who think the same of right wing people.

This exists in plenty of countries though – not just Latin America.

As politics becomes more polarizing, people pick sides and even demonize the other.

It’s sad but some people are like that.

Anyway, given that these right wing dictatorships like the one under Brazil did kill some lefitsts, you have those who wish they could bring back that behavior.

Which brings up the next point….

Fourth, you have some who talk fondly of these dictators because they believe that said dictator helped “save us from communism.”

Fifth, I wonder sometimes about the demographics of people who would look back at said dictatorships with nostalgia?

Part of me thinks that, at least from what I have seen online, some of these folks are simply upper-class Latinos who long for more free market policies and less taxes.

And so someone like Pinochet might seem favorable.

I do think it’s important to question the motivations of why someone would support Pinochet and if there is any class bias regarding that where our own interests influence who we support politically.

Just like in any country.

Still, it’s just a question to keep in mind. I’m positive not everyone who has nostalgia for these dictators has their own class interest at heart here and the support for each one is likely different in its own respects.

Like those who simply fear communism for example as I said before.

It’s something to consider anyway when it comes to other motivations like class bias or whatever else.

And that’s it!

If you have any comments to add, drop them below in the comment section.

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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