Anastasio Somoza Debayle was one of the infamous Somoza dynasty, started by his father Anastasio Somoza García, that devastated the country of Nicaragua. According to Encyclopedia.com, Somoza Debayle was educated in the United States, graduating from West Point in 1946, under the urging of his father. Upon the completion of his education, he was appointed as a high-ranking official in the Nicaraguan National Guard. Over time, Somoza Debayle was able to use his power to make himself the president of Nicaragua in 1967. Part of Somoza Debayle’s plan to keep total control of Nicaragua hinged on the imprisonment and stripping of power of his political opponents. A rigged election guaranteed him a six-year presidency starting in 1974, which he did not finish. Somoza Debayle was forced to flee from Nicaragua as his government crumbled, eventually being assassinated in Paraguay.
Augusto Pinochet was the brutal Chilean dictator who lead a coup against President Salvador Allende in 1973. After toppling the government that had helped him rise politically, Pinochet led the country into great economic growth, according to The New York Times. However, the short gains were marred by the death of more than 3,000 prisoners and the countless thousands more Chileans who went missing, were tortured and were exiled. People who disagreed with Pinochet were the ones jailed and their jailing was used to motivate towns and villages to submit to the military’s rule.
Fidel Castro rose to power in the 1950s by overthrowing the dictator Fulgencio Batista and set about nationalizing all U.S.-owned business on the island, prompting the embargo. Under Castro, political dissent was treated as treason, with thousands of Cuban being jailed for decades for expressing political ideologies that did not align with Castro’s Cuba. According to History.com, Castro’s government jailed all political dissidents, abolished private businesses and got rid of newspapers that printed stories opposing the Castro regime. According to a personal essay in The Washington Post, Cubans faced prisons sentences for “fidelity of our conscience” for things as small as not having a “I’m with Fidel” sign on desks.
Nicolás Maduro is the leader of the economically crumbling Venezuela. Maduro has been rejecting any foreign assistance as the world watches the South American country fall apart as food and basic medicine becomes scarce. The governmental system of Venezuela that has led to this severe economic problem was started by Hugo Chavez. Since Maduro’s presidency began, it has gotten worse. According to The New York Times, Chavez had about a dozen political prisoners during his rule and that number has now risen to 100. The New York Times also reports that another 2,000 Venezuelans are still at risk of being imprisoned as political prisoners.
Manuel Noriega started his rise to power when he helped General Omar Torrijos take control of the Panamanian government in 1968. His loyalty to Torrijos helped for him to gain more notoriety and clout in the National Guard, eventually landing him on the CIA payroll for intelligence. But it wasn’t long until things took a brutal turn, with political opponents being imprisoned and, in one extreme case, decapitated. When Torrijos suddenly died in a plane crash, Noriega took power of Panama and continued to be a brutal dictator. Eventually, Noriega was arrested by U.S. officials for drug trafficking in the U.S.