Legacies bind Castro, Pinochet in their twilight

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Fighting serious illnesses in their old age, Cold War icons Fidel Castro of Cuba and Augusto Pinochet of Chile are united in stubborn adherence to their opposing and now largely unfashionable ideologies.

In Havana 80-year-old Castro, leader of Cuba for more than four decades, handed power to his brother on July 31 after an operation and has not reappeared in public. Despite official denials, many Cubans believe he is terminally ill.

Pinochet, 91, military leader of Chile from 1973 to 1990 and now pursued by courts for human rights and financial crimes, was recovering after a heart attack nearly killed him on Sunday.

Their Cold War battles shaped an era and they forged global reputations. Castro took power in 1959 in a revolution that overthrew U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Castro's Chilean ally, socialist Salvador Allende, was toppled by Pinochet's U.S.-backed 1973 coup.

Both have been called despots by their critics but Castro's passionate supporters admire him for standing up to U.S. imperialism while Pinochet fans say he saved Chile from Marxism.

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DeWayne Edward Benson - 12/12/2006

The difference between Castro of Cuba and Pinochet of Chile, is as different as day is to the night.
This world does not need dictators, nor those who make dictators necessary.