BOGOTÁ — Amid pomp and ceremonies befitting a Biblical ruler, Cuba has finally buried its late leader and the Western Hemisphere's most enduring dictator, Fidel Castro. His followers worldwide, a motley lot of left-wing extremists, "progressive" posers and shameless strongmen, have in turn shown their aversion to any moderation with all the praise heaped on the cherished cadaver.

They had a right to do it certainly, and may also continue to hide the shame of ignoring Cuba's suppressed freedoms behind their learned texts and tedious dissertations.

When it comes to their treatment of freedom and democracy, do dictators — both of the Right and Left — not have the same shameful standing? Yet the Left seems to see a gaping difference: While dictators of the Right have been, fairly, thrown into the hell of human judgment, those of the Left, partisans insist, "loved the people." They will tell you without blushing that Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung, East Germany's Erich Honnecker and their ilk gave their all for social justice and equality.

If they had to persecute opponents en masse and starve millions to death, it was the "price to be paid" to defend the socialist revolution, and save the party.

By all means

As if dictatorships were not all the same. They legitimize themselves and always claim to represent the people — that opaque mass cited to justify the worst horrors. They prolong their own lives and extend their power and wealth, all the while calling themselves liberators, saviors, defenders of justices. And yet this Leftist church of sanctimony feels bound to denounce the villainous excesses of conservative dictatorships and bless their overthrow by all means and in any place.

When the likes of Fidel and his brother Raúl run dictatorial outfits, they are portrayed as "heroic" enterprises. Their cruelty is justified as self-defense against external foes, and for their partisans, the legitimacy of war and peace always depends on who is fighting!

Castro's fans are keen to cite the "education revolution" the regime has brought to the island, providing a pretty screen to hide a litany of iniquities, so many desperate attempts to flee to the United States, the inefficiency and economic failures. Who could interrupt them as they sing the Castros' praises in unison, if only to point out that Singapore did the same under a right-wing dictatorship, and this alongside a resounding economic triumph.

It is not for democrats to praise any dictatorship's achievements of course, but what would Castro's supporters say about it?

The communist regime did not just pummel freedoms and democracy, but pushed millions — all those Cubans who couldn't flee — into poverty as it forced them to live through one command-economy project after another. To prolong its existence, Cuban socialism became parasitic, living off donations from the Soviet Union, then oil gifted by its Venezuelan pupil, Hugo Chávez. The full face of tragedy revealed itself in the final, forced rapprochement with the United States, the supposed cause of all its ills.

And we should all be clear that Colombia owes nothing to Castro and his allies for the "peace" said to be coming our way. Certain fast talkers here will try to wipe clean with theories and dogmas all that blood spilt by the communist guerrillas they admire, and the trauma these have inflicted on our rural population and society generally. Try as they might to sweeten with sociology the mischief done by the imitators of Castro and El Che, nobody could justify the communist "ideal" that has come crashing down for its own, inherent flaws.

Democracy in Latin America, in its precarious and incomplete state, is no beneficiary but a victim of these armed missionaries who have sown terror to "free the oppressed and exploited." As someone said in a recent column on Cuba: Castro was King Midas in reverse.

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