I read this article from El País (in spanish) in which El Houssine Majdoub, a Moroccan journalist, blames the West and its “repugnant role” for the suffering of Muslim citizens in their own countries.

When I was growing up in Argentina these types of accusations were common. Whatever was wrong in our countries we only had the “yankees” to blame for. This theme was especially dear to military dictators who frequently played the nationalist card while trained in USA. But then look at what happened. Latin America, a region supposedly controlled by the US, liberated itself. In most countries a better, independent local leadership emerged. In others, such as Venezuela, the military rebranded itself and continued its “Arab dictator like habits”. But overall I would consider today the leadership of Latin America much better, more democratic than that of the Muslim world. And I think that the Muslim world is now, where Latin America was in the 70s. Latin America then was a region dominated by nationalist, dictators who invoked “patria”, “familia” and “religion” to stay in government. Now it is mostly democratic, not perfect but much freer and better.

So if Latin American could liberate itself from its own dictators, Arab countries can do the same. But first its citizens need to stop blaming the West for its problems and focus on their own dictators. Muslim nations are not dictatorships because EU and USA like them so. They are not democracies because their citizens put up with “repugnant” local leaders to use El Houssine Majdoub language. Leaders in EU and USA have to deal with these dictators because they have no other choice. Moreover EU and USA have historically tried to get rid of some of them such as the Taliban, Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi but the results were mixed. If you think USA liked collaborating with Ben Ali you are wrong. USA’s dislike of Ben Ali was made clear thanks to Wikileaks’ cables: “Tunisia is a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems”. In short, not an ideal partner.

So the solution in the Arab world has to be home grown and it is to get rid of their dictators as Latin America did in the 80s. To replace them with leaders who are honest, who govern transparently and who defend their country’s rights and needs. Leaders like Lula of Brazil or Michelle Bachelet of Chile.

Tunisians have finally rebelled on their own, but there are many, many other corrupt and barbaric dictators left in power in the Muslim world. These leaders are great at exploiting their people and telling them how they “protect” them from the West. These were common tactics in the time of General Galtieri in Argentina for example, Falklands invasion included. But just as Latin America nations such as Chile and Argentina, have gotten rid of populist leaders the Muslim world can do the same. The Muslim countries can do it on their own. They may try to export terrorism, as Latin America did, but that will fizzle out as Muslims earn their human rights and self determination.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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