November 19, 2006December 23, 2006Meeting Report

December 1, 2006

Dr. Ada Roscoe

The Shadow of Fidel Castro
in Latin America Today

Dr. Roscoe was born and educated in Peru, did postgraduate work in Spain, came to the United Sates on a Fulbright fellowship and stayed to teach Spanish and Spanish American literature at Sacramento State University.

Dr. Roscoe began her talk with an account of the rise to power and rule of Fidel Castro in Cuba. She described his social reforms, his introduction of a police state and his coming out as a Communist. She said that his educational and medical reforms worked, but the economy was a much different matter. And of course there was political repression. Castro did gain some popularity throughout Latin America among left-leaning intellectuals, politicians and labor leaders during the 1960s. Peru, for instance, tried a land reform. Chile elected an openly socialist president in 1970. The introduced economic reforms often didn’t work out and the result in many countries was the overthrow of elected governments by military juntas, followed by severe political repression. Most Latin American countries had dictatorial governments in the 1970s. Some of the dictators embraced free market economics but in many countries corruption remained a serious problem. Things turned in the 1980s and 1990s and now most have functioning democratic governments although they are still plagued by tremendous disparities in the distribution of wealth. Often the countries were subject to so called neo-liberal economic policies as a condition of receiving loans.

Dr. Roscoe then spoke on the current situation on Latin America. Several countries have elected reformist or left of center governments but there are significant differences from country to country. She has good hopes for the governments of Chile, Brazil and Uruguay. Those countries have reformist governments but have free markets and are friendly to the United States. She looks on Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia as much less hopeful. She regards Chavez as a demagogue who has not been good for Venezuela.

He is popular with low income Venezuelans but is hated by the middle class. The press is controlled and there is no separation of powers. He has bought Argentina’s debt and provided financial support to favored regimes and political movements, such as Morales. She did express the opinion that Chavez lacks the drive and organization to be Castro’s successor. We shall see.

Dr. Roscoe’s presentation was followed by an enthusiastic question and answer session.

Report prepared by Wayne Luney, Recorder

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