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Bitmob’s own “El Presidente,” Shoe, decided that it would be fun to test how the upcoming political management sim Tropico 3 (for PC and Xbox 360) treats different ends of the political spectrum. “Fun” in this case means that Shoe threw together Bitmob Managing Editor Jason Wilson and Omar Yusuf, one of Bitmob’s standout community members, in a test of political wills and philosophies. Jason took the left side of the spectrum, while Omar took the right.
Omar assumes the role of Voodoo Pizzaman, a son of a rich family. The only thing he’s ever done is be rich. He came to power in a scheme to turn the island nation of Tropico (it’s essentially Cuba) into a gambling Mecca, only his mafia partner ended up building this Mecca in the Nevadan desert. Like that’s going to succeed. Pizzaman possesses business savvy and has traveled the world (how else would he find a good place to squirrel away his country’s money?). He’s also a womanizer and a “Bible-thumper,” though it’s not known if his religious zealotry is in the service of the church or just his own best interests.
Jason’s El Presidente is El Pollo Diablo, a leftist author. He and his followers demanded change without a revolution, and wouldn’t you know it, the government capitulated, allowing him to set up the utopia of his over-educated dreams (with suspicions of being on the CIA’s payroll). Although he’s an intellectual and well versed in world markets, El Pollo Diablo is foolish enough to fritter his money away in every card room and casino on the island. Would he do the same with Tropico’s coffers?
Omar: I operated under the flag of a socialist leader — I regaled the population with deceptive measures while I embezzled their hard-earned capital and subjugated any dissenters to the worst punishments available.
In a sense, I was a Kleptocrat. I took all the country’s money. I dealt with the population in an authoritarian manner. I often gave speeches, but when it came down to brass tacks, I never treated them fairly
Jason: I was the most broke-ass ruler of a banana republic ever conceived. I ruled with compassion and honesty, attempting to bring education, prosperity, and dignity to the people of Tropico.
And while the people were well fed and I wound up beating the evil capitalists at their own game by buying the greedy Fruitas cooperation, Tropico’s coffers continually dipped into the red. We relied on handouts from the U.S. and the Soviets, and we barely scrapped by as an agricultural factory for tropical fruits and tobacco.
Omar: The state of my economy was tied to my position on foreign policy from the get-go.
You see, I went in the other direction in terms of foreign policy. My nation was completely isolationist. In fact, the rhetoric I used in order to demonize both the Soviets and Americans forced me as a leader to refuse handouts and trade. I ran an autarky.
As a result, I demanded that my people farm sustenance goods. Tobacco was out of the question, and so, we farmed bananas and cultivated sugar. What little trade we conducted was usually in desperation.
Jason: While I rhetorically shook my fist at both the United States and the Russians, it turns out that my plan to turn Tropico into an intellectual workers’ paradise needed to be subsidized by the great powers. Their tribute to my greatness wound up in the people’s pockets.
Omar: Your people took their strength from your generosity. My people took their strength from another source…a source in the sky.
That’s right! While the wages I provided to my farmers were offensively low, I gave them with enough spiritual determination in order to keep them complacent and quiet. The abundance of churches worked…for a while.
Jason: Regardless of how much I increased my people’s wages or how many schools or clinics or nice beachside apartments that I built, the people tolerated me at most.
Omar: Really? I built a cult of personality. While the game’s programming couldn’t necessarily articulate the relationship, I had almost become the deity of my people.
Jason: My people, like me, knew that god was just a myth to enslave the ignorant.
Despite my people’s rather apathetic attitude at the largess I grated them, I continued to hold office. I won every election — I didn’t even have to rig them, unlike other nations. We had fair and open elections.
Omar: I’ll be honest — I can’t claim a thorough familiarity with the Tropico series. But while I lack an acquaintance with the series, the past four years of academic study have left me with a close-to-complete understanding of political theory and international relations. I did my best to create a system that allowed me, as “El Presidente,” to become immensely wealthy, while the people complied with my wishes and in fact supported me.
For a while, this system worked flawlessly. I provided uplifting speeches that convinced the people that their daily plight was a small price to pay for the privilege of inhabiting our banana republic.
But as I mentioned, I’m a newcomer to the series. And so, economic uncertainty began to surround my regime and squeeze it like a vice-grip. My years of economic study failed me — I had no idea what to do.
What was once a relatively civil relationship between a thief — me — and his victims — the population — turned violent. My speeches and national addresses no longer worked. Once the protests began to swell, my quiet island nation turned into an authoritarian dictatorship overnight.
I no longer felt it was necessary to retain the image of peace within my shores. Elections stopped. Speeches stopped. And the military became the primary employer in the nation. Discontent and dissidence grew within the rank and file of the crop workers.
Jason: My people didn’t love me despite funneling the kind foreign aid into my people’s pockets. I didn’t have military on my shores. In my Tropico, learning, produce, and tobacco were our weapons. My people had money, food, housing, and learning — but they just tolerated me. I never could figure that out. Unless they were upset by my gambling loses…but that’s not my fault!
Omar: In retrospect, slight compassion toward my people may have taken me quite far as a leader. I’m certain that, with a little empathy, my small island could have avoided the unsavory situation it now faced. Did I need the Swiss bank account? No. Did I need to demonize outsiders? No. Did I need to subjugate my people to despotic rule? Probably not.
And yet, as a ruler, I rationalized that my needs as an individual superseded the needs of the nation.
Jason: I must’ve made history as the first leader of a banana republic to not put any funds into a Swiss bank account. I never put any money into it, despite even my top advisors recommending that I do so. Maybe that’s why the people of Tropico didn’t respect me — maybe they were hurt that I didn’t try to steal from them like any petty autocrat.
My books are much easier to figure out than my people.
Omar: I manufactured a docile population through the use of organized religion while I snuck out the backdoor with millions. Truth be told, our two nations were probably as dichotomous as possible. Yours seemed to be as close to a utopia as possible, while mine was a veritable dystopia — the type of stuff you read in alternative history novels.
Jason: My only desires were for good schools and good jobs for Tropico. While this kept our island nation on the brink of economic chaos for some time, I was able to juggle the accounting books just long enough to accomplish my agricultural goals — and take over the evil agricultural conglomerate when its financial mismanagement put it into bankruptcy.
And what did the people want? I don’t know. They were never happy despite repeatedly voting for me and supporting my policies.
Did you accomplish your beginning goals?
Omar: No. I failed to establish a stable administration which met the needs of its people. However, this is only because I chose to follow goals that I set for myself. These included the pursuit of wealth, influence, and power. And indeed, I succeeded.
But as a leader, I feel a sour taste in my mouth from having put my people through such a painful experience. In this case, success has to be viewed in its most rudimentary form. I accomplished my task, but something tells me that my legacy in the virtual world of Tropico 3 will not be that of a savior. I feel as though history may treat me with little pity.
Jason: History may end up portraying me as a bungler. While I accomplished my goals and helped the people of Tropico feed themselves, become better educated, earn good wages, and have social safety nets, for years our economy was at the whims and wills of the great powers — even as I lambasted them for their shortsighted policies.
We weren’t a puppet state; rather, my Tropico took foreign aid and applied it to Tropicans. I truly cared for my people, wanted them to have the education that I had, and earn good wages for breaking their backs in the fields each day.
For years, we were at the mercies of seasonal crops, but once we figured out a good variety of crops — and tobacco — and took control of Fruitas, our economic issues were behind us.
Omar: I could not care for my people. My world view did not allow that. I treated them as commodities. I used and employed them as though they were tools used to secure my place among the wealthiest and most influential.
Jason: Did you make it off the island?
Omar: The fate of my ruler was largely due to my absent-mindedness. I played Voodoo Pizzaman as a top-hat wearing despot. His strange appearance often made it difficult not to notice him. And yet, despite his outlandish attire, I completely forget that, as my military forces were stationed near a busy intersection, my avatar was standing next to a protest rally.
Without the strong-arm of my troops, the rally became unruly and claimed my despot — along with his hat.
Jason: My ruler’s fate was much kinder — the people never attempted to lynch me nor really protested much. When I reached my goal, I was still doing the same thing that I was doing at the beginning of my term — providing as best as I could for Tropico.
Jason — 3,121 and the complete apathy of his well-fed, well-educated people.
Omar — 1,750 and one lynching.