Che: Revolutionary, movie star, killing machine (Part 2)
Posted: 23 February 2006 05:53 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Cont. from Part 1.

This period saw the near-collapse of Cuba’s sugar production, the failure of industrialization and the introduction of rationing—all this in what had been one of Latin America’s four most economically successful countries since before the Batista dictatorship. By 1963, all hopes of industrializing Cuba were abandoned, and the revolution accepted its role as a colonial provider of sugar to the Soviet bloc in exchange for oil. For the next three decades, Cuba would survive on a Soviet subsidy.

In this harsh light, it’s worth reflecting on the historic fate of another Latin American nation and the role another young idealist of the previous century had in its economic development.

In the last few decades of the 19th century, Argentina had the second-highest growth rate in the world. By the 1890s, the real income of Argentine workers was greater than that of Swiss, German and French workers. By 1928, that country had the 12th-highest per-capita GDP in the world. That achievement, which later generations would ruin, was in large measure due to Juan Bautista Alberdi.

Like Che Guevara, Alberdi liked to travel: He walked through the pampas and deserts from north to south at the age of 14, all the way to Buenos Aires. Like Che Guevara, Alberdi opposed a tyrant, Juan Manuel Rosas. Like Che Guevara, Alberdi got a chance to influence a revolutionary leader in power: Justo Josť de Urquiza, who toppled Rosas in 1852. And like Che Guevara, Alberdi represented the new government on world tours and died abroad.

But unlike the old and new darling of the left, Juan Bautista Alberdi never killed a fly. His book, “Bases y puntos de partida para la organizacion de la Republica Argentina,” was the foundation of the Constitution of 1853 that limited government, opened trade, encouraged immigration and secured property rights, thereby inaugurating a 70-year period of prosperity. He did not meddle in the affairs of other nations, opposing his country’s war against Paraguay. And his likeness does not adorn Mike Tyson’s abdomen.

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