The Wall Street Journal’s “Remembrances” column notes the death this week of Alfredo Stroessner this way:
Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, the military strongman who ruled Paraguay from 1954 until 1989. Among 20th century Latin American leaders, only Cuban President Fidel Castro has served longer.
Why is Stroessner a “military strongman” while Castro is “Cuban President”? Both came to power through bullets, not ballots, and ruled with an iron hand. Stroessner actually held elections every five years, sometimes with opposition candidates, though of course there was no doubt of the outcome. Castro dispensed with even the pretense of elections. Both ruled with the support of the army. In Cuba’s case the armed forces were headed by Castro’s brother, and indeed he has just turned over power to his brother who heads the military. So why does the Journal not give Stroessner his formal title of “president,” and why does it not describe Castro accurately as a “military strongman”?