Which is the lesser of two evils…

This is a tough one. For many on the left the most indelible mark left by the date 9/11 is undoubtedly that date in 1973, when General Pinochet took over the reigns of government in Chile. In the years that followed, according to the Rettig Commission, approximately 3,000 people are known to have been executed, 27,000 were imprisoned and, in an unknown number of cases, tortured. And yet, as the Washington Post points out:

It’s hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15 years, Chile’s economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its poverty rate has been halved. It’s leaving behind the developing world, where all of its neighbors remain mired. It also has a vibrant democracy. Earlier this year it elected another socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, who suffered persecution during the Pinochet years.

Like it or not, Mr. Pinochet had something to do with this success. To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle — and that not even Allende’s socialist successors have dared reverse. He also accepted a transition to democracy, stepping down peacefully in 1990 after losing a referendum.

By way of contrast, Fidel Castro — Mr. Pinochet’s nemesis and a hero to many in Latin America and beyond — will leave behind an economically ruined and freedomless country with his approaching death. Mr. Castro also killed and exiled thousands. But even when it became obvious that his communist economic system had impoverished his country, he refused to abandon that system: He spent the last years of his rule reversing a partial liberalization. To the end he also imprisoned or persecuted anyone who suggested Cubans could benefit from freedom of speech or the right to vote.

Leaving aside the undoubted burden of punative US sanctions on the latter, the prolonged and severe curtailment of human rights in Cuba provokes questions about which regime was the more destructive of political and personal freedom within their own respective countries.

Hat tip to the Instapundit!