Democracy Essay, Research Paper

When I think of the word democracy, I think of Government. Democracy is a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. This means that Government must protect the basic rights, or liberties, of all people. This is the system of government that United States are base on.

The United States, Cuba, and Democracy

During the Clinton administration, the sentiment has been proclaimed on so many occasions by the president and other political leaders, and dutifully reiterated by the media, that the thesis: “Cuba is the only non-democracy in the Western Hemisphere” is now nothing short of received wisdom in the United States. Let us examine this thesis carefully for it has a highly interesting implication. During the period of the Cuban revolution, 1959 to the present, Latin America has witnessed a terrible parade of human rights violations — systematic, routine torture; legions of “disappeared” people; government-supported death squads picking off selected individuals; massacres en masse of peasants, students and other groups, shot down in cold blood; journalists critical of the government frequently assassinated. The worst perpetrators of these acts during all or part of this period have been the governments and associated paramilitary squads of El Salvador, Guatemala, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Uruguay, Haiti and Honduras. Not even Cuba’s worst enemies have charged the Castro government with any of these violations, and if one further considers education and health care — the United Nations’ “Universal Declaration guarantees both of which of Human Rights” and the “European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” – areas. In which Cuba has consistently ranked at or near the top in Latin America, then it would appear that during the near-40 years of its revolution, Cuba has enjoyed one of the very best human rights records in all of Latin America. If, despite this record, the United States can insist that Cuba is the only “non-democracy” in the Western Hemisphere, we are left with the inescapable conclusion that this thing called “democracy”, as seen from the White House, may have little or nothing to do with many of our most cherished human rights. Indeed, numerous pronouncements emanating from Washington officialdom over the years make plain that “democracy”, at best, or at most, is equated solely with elections and civil liberties. Not even jobs, food, and shelter are part of the equation. Thus, a nation with hordes of hungry, homeless, untended sick, barely literate, unemployed, and/or tortured people, who have loved ones, are being disappeared and/or murdered with state connivance, can be said to be living in a “democracy”. Its literal Greek meaning of “rule of the people” implying that this is the kind of life the people actually want — provided that every two years or four years they have the right to go to a designated place and put an X next to the name of one or another individual who promises to relieve their miserable condition. But who will, typically, do virtually nothing of the kind; and provided further that in this society there is at least a certain minimum of freedom — how much being in large measure a function of one’s wealth — for one to express ones views about the powers-that-be and the workings of the society. Without undue fear of punishment, regardless of whether expressing these views has any influence whatsoever over the way things are. It is not by chance that the United States has defined democracy in this narrow manner. Throughout the cold war, the absence of “free and fair” multiparty elections and adequate civil liberties were what marked the Soviet foe and its satellites. These nations, however, provided their citizens with a relatively decent standard of living insofar as employment, food, health care, education, etc., without omnipresent Brazilian torture or Guatemalan death squads. At the same time, many of America’s Third World allies in the cold war — members of what Washington still likes to refer to as “The Free World” — were human-rights disaster areas. Who could boast of little other than the 30-second democracy of the polling booth and a tolerance for dissenting opinion so long as it didn’t cut too close to the bone or threaten to turn into a movement.

Naturally, the only way to win cold-war propaganda points with team lineups like these was to extol your team’s brand of virtue and damn the enemy’s lack of it, designating the former “democracy” and the latter “totalitarianism”.

Civil liberties and elections are not trifling accomplishments of humankind. Countless individuals have suffered torture and death in their pursuit. In addition, despite the cold-war blinkers, this even today limits the United States’ vision of this thing called democracy. There would still be ample credit due Washington if, in fact, in the post-World War II period, the US had been using its pre-eminent position in the world, its overwhelming “superpower” status, to spread these accomplishments — to act as the unfailing global champion of free and fair elections. The historical record, however, points in the opposite direction.

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