Op Ed: Latin America’s League of Socialist Dictators and the Call to Stop Romanticizing Socialism

Sometimes it is hard to comprehend the magnitude of what is being glorified. Socialist rhetoric and how it led to the demise of Bolivia. 

by Sofia Meador Sauto
Staff Writer

I cannot help but laugh at my friend as she throws her middle finger up at capitalism and proceeds to tell Alexa to turn off her alarm. Can’t help but chuckle at the stereotypical anti-capitalist rebel, walking down Library Walk with her Birkenstock sandals, preaching about the wonders of all the “free” stuff socialism has to offer. Nor can I help but roll my eyes and smirk at the memory of my professor last quarter who while conveying a talk replete with anti-capitalism and anti-neoliberalism sentiment, dropped his Mercedes car keys. Have these people not seen the detrimental state their socialist wonders are in? Oh, the sentiment of self accomplishment these heretics must feel when going against their dysfunctional capitalist system. 


The new generations in wealthy nations seem to be all about socio-economic equality and cultural integration, and while I am all for narrowing the huge wealth gap prevalent in these countries, I can never seem to fully support them. Socialism is not the solution. I, of course, can only speak from my own personal experience as a girl born and raised in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. 

Bolivia’s ex-president, Evo Morales, is the epitome of socialist rhetoric. Sworn into office in 2006, Morales represented and appealed to the vast majority of the population. Often considered the first indigenous president in Latin America, Morales became a sensation all over the world. Fixated on his indigenous and “authentic Bolivian” appearance, most people overlooked the fact that he did not even speak an indigenous tongue and did not partake in indigenous culture. His preaching about socio-economic equality and environmental protection resonated throughout Bolivia, whose indigenous communities make up for 71 percent of the population.    

During his socialist regime, Morales accomplished great things for himself and his political party Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS). From 2006-2019 Morales incarcerated, exiled, and killed hundreds of people who came to oppose his political agenda. He stole millions of dollars from the Indigenous Fund- a fund created by himself to aid the poor indigenous communities he claimed to represent- how ironic, right?- and the state to finance his luxurious lifestyle. Morales was one of the most altruistic presidents in Bolivia’s history. Money generated from heavy taxation on the population allowed him to go to every World Cup that happened during the span of his presidency and allowed him to buy a private plane so expensive even the Manchester soccer team could not afford it

Morales’ presidency was marked by constitutional referendums and alterations which disregarded popular consensus. In February of 2016 Morales, driven by his thirst for power, issued a referendum consulting the people if they wanted him to run for president in the 2019 election- this would have been unconstitutional as it would have been his fourth term. The results were fairly clear with 51 percent voting against Morales’ postulation in the upcoming elections. Not content with the result, Morales overlooked these and simply stated that not allowing him to run for president again went in direct violation of his human rights. 

His name appeared on the 2019 ballot and caused furor and indignation across the nation. The Bolivian people—indigenous and white alike— fed up with the oppression and corruption, ousted Morales from office. After years of what can be best described as a corrupt democracy, the Bolivian people are finally free from the tyrannical rule of Evo Morales and his corrupt officials. Since his overthrow, new evidence characterizes  the current state the country is in. A country with more soccer fields than hospitals. During his regime, the country took more steps backwards than it did forward.

Morales was only a puppet following plays from Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s handbook. Other Latin American leaders such as Daniel Ortega and Nicolas Maduro also belong to this group of socialist leaders. Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega made his debut into the political arena as the man who led the revolution against the Somoza dynasty. He liberated the people of Nicaragua and became an emblem of the revolution. Today, he represents the dictator he fought so hard to oust. Ortega has been able to keep himself in power since 2007 through political persecution and the abolishment of freedom of speech

Both photos taken on the streets of Bolivia by Bolivian photographer Kev Aleman.

The economic and humanitarian crisis is overwhelming in Venezuela where medicine and food are scarce. Inflation rates are currently at 3.1 million percent. For the Venezuelan people  it has become increasingly easier to purchase basic commodities such as soap and toilet paper on the black market than in grocery stores.  Unfortunately, it appears as though eating out of trash cans fits into reality more easily than eating bread for the Venezuelan people. Freedom is history’s oldest tale for them. 

These individuals are the perpetrators of misery in their countries. Bolivians, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans have been forced to vacate their home countries so as to escape the oppressive regimes of these “for the people” power-driven dictators. The word ‘socialism’ for us conveys misery and anti-democratic governments. The word ‘socialism’ for us has substituted the word ‘coco’as the name of the monster who would hide under our beds and whom we were terrified of. It is a word which looms in our subconscious and which makes our skin prickle. 

The argument used by Republican socialites and followers against socio-democratic ideology is one which will never cease to amuse me. The freeloader reasoning used by the Republican party in its anti-socialist rhetoric is one which I will never be able to support. But I have lived under a government whose use of socialist ideals have served as the perfect coverup for their corruption embedded policies. I have lived under a government whose appeal to the population lasted long enough to secure their position as the ruling party.  

I lived my entire life under a single president. I have seen Evo Morales build a museum to commemorate his life;  have seen him go to distant villages where running water and electricity are but a myth while showering his daughter with Gucci and Louis Vuitton clothing; have seen him preach about environmental awareness and protection while designing a highway across the Tipnis protected area in the Amazon and legalizing the slash-and-burn method that lead to the loss of 1.8 million acres of protected land in 2019; have seen him talk about racial equality while pinning the indigenous against the mestizos and vice versa. I have lived through a socialist regime, which is why I will never cease to roll my eyes at those rebels, proclaiming about the greatness of a socialism they know nothing about.       

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