Why three Latin American dictatorships need their own 4th of July

This Fourth of July, Americans have much to celebrate.

Despite an inflationary economy and extreme polarization leading up to the November elections, the United States remains a model nation for the rest of the world.

That model can be traced back to the Founding Fathers, who established institutions that have allowed American democracy to stand the test of time. The Declaration of Independence called for freedom, free markets, and equality of law in 1776, as the British empire threatened to impose control and taxes over the 13 colonies. In 1789, the Constitution established an even better institutionalized system, with justice at the forefront. Two years later, the Bill of Rights enshrined civil liberties into law, securing individual rights and providing a blueprint for other emerging democracies, even though slavery remained a horrific problem.

Even when populism rears an ugly head in America, its institutional foundation is strong enough to reaffirm democracy. Whereas other systems often succumb to populist leaders who abuse their power, people in the United States have shown that individuals and institutions can prevent it from happening. 

For that reason, U.S. independence—the 246th anniversary of it—is still worth celebrating. Americans should be grateful for their freedoms and liberties, understanding that life could be much, much worse. Just south of the U.S.-Mexico border lie three somber case studies that reveal the other path.

In Cuba, the communist regime continues to repress any and all forms of dissent, punishing people who dare to speak out. Last year, thousands of Cubans took to the streets protesting their economic woes and government abuses, and hundreds of them have been imprisoned since. Some have been jailed for up to 25 years. Singers like Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo are imprisoned for singing “Patria y Vida” (“homeland and life”). Dissidents like Ruhama Fernandez live their lives in constant fear, facing intimidation from the Cuban government. Met with threats, the families of dissidents are similarly at risk of retribution.

In Nicaragua, the Sandinista government guarantees victory after electoral victory by shutting down objections and arresting dozens of regime opponents. President Daniel Ortega—in office since 2007—is set to lead the country until 2027, making him Latin America’s longest serving ruler. Nicaragua’s civil society continues to crumble, with the Ortega regime effectively shutting down non-governmental organizations to centralize his power.

The country is now home to nearly 200 political prisoners, with opposition leaders like Felix Maradiaga jailed and separated from their families. Maradiaga’s wife, Berta Valle, fights for her husband’s freedom on a daily basis, but to no avail yet.

In nearby Venezuela, the situation is perhaps even worse. Amidst an unprecedented social collapse under dictator Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s government-controlled, petroleum-based economy has seen rampant food scarcity and the second largest migration crisis in the world. Millions of Venezuelans lack access to food and basic services. A whopping 94 percent of people live in poverty. The situation is so dire that 20 percent of Venezuela’s population has left the country, as countless refugees take their chances elsewhere—anywhere.

For those who remain, tyranny is all too real. Maduro maintains his own drug cartel inside the Venezuelan army, known as “El Cartel de los Soles,” or, "The Cartel of the Suns," named so after the insignia on Venezuelan military leaders' uniforms. The country is essentially run by mafiosos and drug dealers. Economic depression is the way of life. Freedom and liberty are nowhere to be found—stamped out by a Maduro regime that presides over a wrecked economy.

To the north, Americans must continue to count their blessings. Because of the Founding Fathers and generations of Americans who followed, the tragic case studies of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela are far removed from the independence enjoyed at home. But the American way of life is only guaranteed if individual people keep historical perspective and understand the ugly alternative to independence in other parts of the world—some that are only 90 miles from Florida.

Tens of millions of Latin Americans look to the United States as the shining city on a hill, and for good reason. Americans are very, very fortunate to live in it.

Antonella Marty is the author of Capitalism: Antidote to Poverty. She serves as the director of public relations and influencer relations at Atlas Network.

Image: PXHere / CC0 public domain

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