Soldado De Fortuna
Tropico, May 3, 1988
All of Tropico today mourns the passing of Senor Manuel Ybara, who died of a heart attack at his home in San Cristobal. He was 77 years old.
A native of San Cristobal, Senor Ybara was well traveled and well-educated. He obtained a bachelor’s degree from the United States Military Academy in 1932, and returned to Tropico to serve as an officer in the Presidential Guard. In 1939, Senor Ybara took a leave of absence from the Tropican army to serve as a medical corpsman in Great Britain. He returned once again to Tropico in 1945 after distinguished wartime service in Crete, North Africa, and Italy.
Ybara served as head of the palace guards after the war, until 1954 when the new Presidente dismissed him. Friends of Ybara say that he welcomed the opportunity to start a new career as a physician at the San Cristobal Free Clinic. In a letter to one of his wartime friends in London, he wrote, “My body has, I believe, passed its peak, but my mind is still sharp and this island has need of my experience. How much more satisfying it is to be delivering new babies and fighting disease, instead of repairing the senseless carnage of war!”
Senor Ybara’s satisfaction with his new career was rapidly eclipsed by his impatience with Presidente Duke’s economic development campaigns in the 1960’s. Another letter, to a former West Point classmate in New York, lamented, “When I hear the accounts of how much wealth is to be made in the free market, my only regret is that my own country has not chosen to take advantage of this opportunity. Many times I have written to the Presidente that industrial development would bring even more benefit to the people than our current agrarian economy. Pineapple exports are all well and good, but our children should be able to look forward to being more than farmers. Unfortunately our Presidente seems not to pay attention to the needs of his people. He is so out of touch that sometimes I think he must be drugged into a stupor. I had hoped that the people would make their needs heard at the ballot box, but after one canceled election and one shamefully fraudulent one, I despair of ever seeing true democracy on this island. Some of my friends have been saying that I should stand for election myself, and if conditions do not improve, I may take them at their word.”
The next decade saw Ybara’s prediction come true: he became more active in politics, and rose to leadership of the Capitalist Party. He made frequent speeches about the need for a stronger economy, and ran for Presidente in the 1974 election on a platform of “Industry for Prosperity”. Preliminary polls showed him far ahead of Presidente Duke, but the final election results, as released by the Government Election Commission, resulted in a slim majority for the incumbent. An independent audit of the ballots was conducted, but the results of this audit were never released on Tropico.
Nevertheless, Ybara felt that his words had been heard at last, as the 1970’s saw the opening of Tropico’s cannery and jewelry factory. As these industries began employing skilled workers and producing lucrative exports, Ybara’s stance changed from Duke’s rival to one of his most vocal supporters. He retired in 1976 from medicine, but not from politics, continuing to head the Capitalist Party. He was instrumental in delivering his party’s bloc of votes to Duke in the 1982 elections. The latter campaign is regarded as the most honest and least rancorous campaigns in Tropico’s history, due in no small part to Senor Ybara’s leadership.
In the final years of his life, Senor Ybara was almost a national monument in his own right, and was always warmly greeted by his fellow Tropicans on his daily strolls through the streets of San Cristobal. Although he never married, Senor Ybara was quite popular with the women of the island, and every one he passed on the street was favored with a bright smile and a wink. Carmen Montero, a dancer at the Paradise Cabaret, described him as “Always a friendly, attentive, and generous man.”
Presidente Duke gave a brief eulogy in English at Senor Ybara’s funeral, saying, “We’re all sad to lose this guy, umm… what the hell is this name? Barry? Can’t any of these greasers spell? Who was he, anyway? It’s hot out here. I need a drink.” The Presidente’s aide-de-camp and translator, Miss Huan, said that Duke regarded Senor Ybara as a dedicated friend of the people and honorable statesman, then said that the Presidente was overcome by his emotions at the occasion and needed to retire for refreshment.