Sunday, May 20, 2018

3 Leaders Who Brought Development and Misery to Their Country

They brought both economic development and repression to their country that they stood as controversial and polarizing leaders in history. 
Dusk Cityscape with Seoul Skyline and Changdeokgung palace in South Korea

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­3. Park Chung Hee

The man responsible for the Miracle of the Han River, General Park Chung Hee came from a humble background, born in 1917 in Taegu City. He fought in the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II and the Korean War before finally becoming a full general in 1958.

In May 16, 1961, he staged a coup that toppled the Second Republic in the midst of political chaos. So began his presidency that lasted until 1979.
Park Chung Hee during the May 16, 1961 Coup
During his presidency, he brought political stability and public order. He then stirred Korea towards an export-led industrialization strategy embodied in his government’s five year plans. The government took an active role in the economy supporting large family conglomerates called chaebol. Park supported the establishment of Korea’s integrated steel mill in Pohang which overcame early skepticism of its success. With steel, Korea developed its heavy industries and began its path towards becoming a leading manufacturer of electronics and automobile. He also led the improvements in the life of those in the countryside through the Saemaul Undong or New Community Movement.

Behind the miracle story, however, came stories of brutality of Park’s regime. With the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), Park placed opposition politicians under surveillance before sending them to prison with some experiencing torture while others faced execution. Human rights went down the drain. Workers conditions in factories stood in dismal situation and strikes crushed violently by the police.

In 1979, President Park was assassinated leaving Korea polarized in viewing his rule.

2. Porfirio Diaz

President of Mexico twice, first in 1876 until 1880 and finally in 1884 up to 1911, Porforio Diaz came from a poor peasant family born in 1830. He became a soldier and fought in the numerous wars that Mexico had. In 1876, he staged a coup that led to his first term as President before stepping down and taking the oath of office once again in 1884.

Under President Diaz, Mexico transformed from a dysfunctional state to a developing country. He welcomed foreign investors who poured money to Mexican industries, especially mining, that led to rise in exports. Then the Mexico’s infrastructure developed with railroads and telegraph wire expanded their coverage. Under Diaz, Mexico saw growth and stability that it failed to feel for the since it gained its independence.
A viaduct for a railroad in Metlac
Against this miracle story, however, laid stories of a brutal authoritarian regime. Diaz’s government trampled civil liberties and stifled any dissent ruthlessly. The local militias called Rurales and the army abused their power with extreme brutality. He and his inner circle called the Cientificos looked down upon Indian Mexicans, even seeing them as a nuisance and liability for Mexico, and worked none to improve their lot. Peasants and workers also toiled with terrible working conditions in the hands of foreign investors, hacienderos, and factory workers. Any form of movement to demand improvements failed to materialize in fear of the government’s possible bloody repression.

In 1911, a Revolution ended Diaz’s regime, he went to exile and passed away in 1915 leaving a legacy of both progress and cruelty.

1. Augusto Pinochet

Born in 1915 in Valparaiso, Chile, he graduated from military school in 1936 and appointed as commander in chief of the army in 1973. With the support of conservatives in Congress, Pinochet staged a coup that killed President Salvador Allende and propelled himself to power.

President Pinochet accepted the advice of economist Milton Friedman and Chileans educated in America – the so-called Chicago Boys. Pinochet reversed the socialist policies of late President Allende and implemented neo-liberal economic policies, removing price controls, welcoming investment, and reducing government interference in the economy. The arrival of foreign investment resulted to higher exports of its greatest price commodity - copper. Income grew along with standards of living. He brought economic stability and growth to Chile.
President Salvador Allende
However, as the Chilean economy grew, his government earned notoriety from its brutality and abuse. His regime arrested 130,000 people, some sent to prison camps to be tortured and executed. Most victims included liberal and socialist politicians.

In 1990, President Pinochet stepped down from the Presidency. In 2000, he began to defend himself from legal battles against his regime’s human rights abuses. He passed away in 2006 leaving a divided opinion of his rule.

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